Category Archives: salsa

Healthier Taco Bowls

I had fun using several of my kitchen gadgets to make my healthier version of taco bowls. First, I “fried” the taco shells in my new Power Air Fryer oven. I cooked my chicken breast in my Instant Pot Duo Mini 3-quart, shredded it using my Cuisinart, and heated my cheese sauce in my microwave oven. The payoff was a delicious and filling meal that counts only 3 Weight Watchers SmartPoints.

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Serves 4


  • OLE tortillas
  • ½ pound chicken breasts (Fresh or frozen)
  • 1 can Ro*Tel (you pick heat level)
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can corn kernels, rinsed and drained
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 jar Tostitos Queso con Salsa (or similar brand)
  • Fresh cilantro (optional)


  1. Form each tortilla into a bowl using a mold or oven-proof bowl.
  2. Air-fry at 370°F for 12 minutes.
  3. Place chicken breasts and contents of a can of Ro*Tel into the pot of a pressure cooker. Cook under pressure 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow pressure to drop on its own.
  4. While chicken cooks, prep beans, corn, onions, and cilantro and combine.
  5. Carefully open pressure cooker and remove the chicken (replace lid to trap in the heat). Shred chicken and return to cooker.
  6. Stir in beans, corn, onions, and cilantro mixture with the shredded chicken. Cover and allow residual heat to warm the beans and corn.
  7. Pour Queso con Salsa into a heatproof measuring pitcher and heat 2-3 minutes in the microwave oven, stirring occasionally.
  8. Place taco bowl shell on a plate, fill with 1/4 of the mixture, and then drizzle with 2 Tbsp. of the queso con salsa. Serve immediately.

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Filed under beans, chicken, Healthful Eating, kitchen equipment, Mexican, Recipes, salsa

Salsa Time!

I’ve posted in the past about making salsa in my Vitamix. Today I have a special guest who offers a flavorful twist to salsa. As soon as I pick up a fresh bunch of cilantro, I’m making this recipe. I grow my own jalapeño peppers and herbs but fail miserably at keeping cilantro alive. 😦

Today’s recipe is a guest post by Kristin, a writer for PAM and other ConAgra brands. She resides in Chicago, IL and enjoys trying new recipes on the weekends. Her favorite dishes include poached eggs in the morning, throw-whatever-is-in-the-fridge salads for lunch, and vegetable-heavy stir fries for dinner. She’s always on the hunt for unexpected yet delicious food combinations.  Please welcome food blogger Kristin Kruk:

August is the Sunday of summer. Friends and family are making the most out of their last few weeks of sunshine and blue skies before fall kicks in. When you get an invitation to that last minute summer barbeque, come prepared with a zesty appetizer to surprise everyone’s taste buds. Bring a bowl of grilled tomato salsa with a bag of your favorite tortilla chips as an appetizer to the party.

On a time crunch? Don’t worry about grilling outside. A cast iron pan will do the trick because it gets hot and retains heat.

How to grill inside:

  1. Evenly spray PAM Grilling Spray on the cast iron pan.
  2. Place pan on stove top on medium-high.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium-low once the pan gets hot.

Now you’re on your way to a quick grilled tomato salsa!


  • PAM Grilling Spray
  • 1½-2 pounds of tomatoes (try an assortment), sliced in half
  • 1 jalapeño , sliced in half
  • 5 green (or red) onions, chopped
  • ¼ cup of cilantro, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • Optional ingredients: ½ can of black beans or corn kernels 


  1. In a medium bowl, mix cumin, garlic salt, onions and cilantro. If optional ingredients were used, combine as well. Set aside.
  2. See “How to grill inside” instructions above.
  3. Once the burner is set to medium-low, grill tomato and jalapeño slices.
  4. Rotate so each side is grilled for 3 minutes. When each side is slightly blackened, remove from grill.
  5. Chop tomato and jalapeño slices into cubes. Dump into the medium bowl (Step 1).
  6. Refrigerate until ready for use.

This quick and simple appetizer complements any picnic or outdoor outing at the end of summer. Enjoy!

(Cheryl note: I do all my indoor grilling on a Lodge cast iron grill pan (sprayed with PAM). It’s affordable, retains heat, and leaves nice grill marks on food–just like an outdoor grill but without the mess!)

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Filed under Appetizers, Cilantro, condiments, Healthful Eating, Mexican, Recipes, salsa, tomatoes, Vegetables

Creative Leftovers

Those who know me, know I’m all about cooking ahead.  I have at least two meals (often three!) in mind when I cook one.  This is a great creative outlet for me, but it also saves money.  Times are as tight as they’ve been in years and years, so read on even if you don’t like to cook.

Leftovers don’t have to be last night’s dinner warmed in the microwave oven, or what I call cuisine deja vu. 😉 My favorite leftover recipes are burritos.  I don’t limit us to Mexican burritos, either.  (The difference between a burrito and a wrap–as I see it–is hot and cold.  A wrap is like a sandwich rolled in a tortilla; a burrito is like a hot casserole rolled in a tortilla.)  One of my favorite recipes is the Hoppin’ John Burrito.  It’s Cajun, and here’s the sequence.

Meal One: I make a Cajun dinner.  I cook lots of brown rice and black-eyed peas, about twice the number of servings I need for this meal, along with some greens, cornbread, and blackened catfish.  If you don’t mind a little spice, season the catfish with lots of Cajun spices.

Meal Two: I make dinner the next day with green beans, steamed kernel corn, grilled chicken breasts, and Hoppin’ John.  After dinner, stir the leftover corn into the Hoppin’ John and refrigerate.

Meal Three:  Two or three days later–you don’t want to wear out the Cajun cuisine’s welcome by having this meal on the heels of the first two–mix the Hoppin’ John and corn with a cup of salsa (or a can of green chilies and diced tomatoes) in a two-quart saucepan.  Add a cup of diced onion.  Bring all ingredients to a simmer over medium-low heat until heated through.  Meanwhile, warm eight whole wheat tortillas in the microwave oven.  Remove Hoppin’ John mixture from heat.   Divide the mixture into eight equal portions.  Spoon one portion into each of eight whole wheat tortillas, add 1 ounce of shredded Monterrey Jack (or any cheese you like) to each,  fold tortilla over, and serve.

I have many variations of the burrito theme, but let’s move on to another cuisine: Italian-American.

Meal One: Make veal Parmesan with breaded veal cutlets covered with your favorite recipe pasta sauce (I usually make my own) and serve over whole wheat spaghetti cooked al dente. Make at least a cup more of the pasta sauce than you’ll need and refrigerate.

Meal Two: Place four whole wheat tortillas on cookie sheets.  Brush on two ounces of the leftover pasta sauce.  Add toppings of your choice, including shredded mozzarella cheese.  Bake in a 400° oven just until cheese melts, approximately ten minutes, depending on the type of pan used.  Voilá!  You have four individual pizzas.

You’ll notice I use whole grains, but that’s my choice. I like the taste of brown rice over white, and whole wheat pasta over semolina, but use whatever you like. Also, don’t forget the more obvious leftover dishes, like stir-fry, stew, and vegetable soup. My husband and I once brought back leftover steak from a restaurant dinner. The next night, I cubed the steak and made fajitas, another dish using the tortilla wraps.

Regardless of who does the “cooking ahead,” use your imagination and develop dishes for leftovers. Your family won’t know, or if they do, they won’t mind!

(originally appeared June 22, 2009, as a post for the Clever Divas)

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Filed under black-eye peas, Burritos, cooking, Healthful Eating, Recipes, salsa, whole wheat

Jalapeño Patty Melt Burger

Delicious and spicy, the jalapeño patty melt burger!

We love burgers, but we limit our red meat to one serving per week. Consequently, I look for alternatives to the juicy beef burger. (Boca Burgers and MorningStar Farms aren’t an option for me right now because they contain soy, which interferes with medication I take; however, veggie burgers are a good alternative if your doctor agrees)

I buy lean ground turkey for making my own sausage, pasta sauce, etc. and I’ve experimented with ways to make it more palatable as a burger. The problem is the taste. Turkey has a tendency to be bland, so it’s necessary to bump up the flavors. One solution is my recipe that’s a knock off of a popular beef burger at a fast food chain, the jalapeño patty melt burger. It has a kick, especially if the salsa is hot. If you aren’t a fan of spicy hot food, you can vary the recipe with milder cheese, salsa, and peppers.

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  1. ½ pound lean ground turkey
  2. dash of salt and pepper
  3. 1 jalapeño pepper, thinly sliced
  4. 2 Tbsp. salsa, divided
  5. 1 bunch fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
  6. 2 ounces pepperjack cheese, divided in fourths
  7. 2 whole wheat burger buns


  1. Preheat a cast iron grill pan, outdoor grill, or contact grill.
  2. Combine ground turkey with the salsa, chopped cilantro, salt and pepper. Do not overwork the meat.
  3. Form turkey mixture into two equal patties (make a bit thinner in the centers to prevent burger bulge)
  4. Cook for five minutes on hot grill or grill pan, turn, and cook opposite sides of burgers five minutes.
  5. While burgers cook, separate the bottoms and tops of the buns. Place on fourth of the cheese on each bottom.
  6. Remove burgers from heat and place on the cheese on the bottom portions of the buns. Add a fourth of the pepperjack cheese, and the jalapeño slices.
  7. Place burger, bun and all, back in the grill pan or on the grill. Weight the burger down and cook one minute or until cheese melts. (If using a contact grill, no weight is necessary)
  8. Carefully remove jalapeño patty melt burger from the grill and serve.

Yield: 2 burgers

Variations: Mix the salsa with 1 Tbsp. sour cream and spread on each bun before adding the cheese.

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Filed under Burgers, Cilantro, Healthful Eating, Mexican, Recipes, salsa, turkey, Turkey Recipes


Healthy Mexican: Fajitas

You can use frozen veggies to make this dish, but it’s summer. Take advantage of the colorful bell peppers and Vidalia onions to make fajitas. Bonus: Cook this dish in a cast iron skillet and add iron to an already healthy meal. A slideshow follows the recipe.



  • 1 Tbsp. peanut oil (or canola oil)
  • 8 ounces chicken, pork, steak, or shrimp
  • 4 large or 6 small whole-wheat tortillas
  • 2 cups julienne-cut bell peppers (assorted colors)
  • 2 cups julienne-cut onions
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, thinly sliced (optional)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 1 Tbsp. taco seasoning (or chili seasoning mix)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • (optional) fresh cilantro sprigs


  1. Preheat skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add oil.
  3. Cut meat into bite-size pieces and add to the skillet. (If using shrimp, wait to add until vegetables are cooked)
  4. Cook meat for 5 minutes. Stir.
  5. Add onions and peppers in batches to keep the skillet hot. Toss frequently with cooking tongs to cook evenly. (The vegetables will cook down and make room for more)
  6. Cook for 10 minutes or until peppers and onions are cooked yet firm.
  7. Add jalapeño pepper, garlic, seasoning, salt, pepper (and shrimp, if making shrimp fajitas). Toss with the peppers and onions for one minute.
  8. Meanwhile, warm the fajitas in a damp towel in the oven or microwave oven.
  9. Remove skillet from heat and serve directly from the skillet. Make each fajita by spooning salsa on a tortilla, adding chopped fresh cilantro (optional), filling from the skillet, and folding burrito style.

Yield: Makes 2 servings

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Filed under Cilantro, Healthful Eating, Mexican, Recipes, salsa

Salsa Reloaded

Salsa has become the #1 favorite condiment in American households, and no wonder! It’s delicious, healthful, and versatile. I get a lot of e-mail about salsa, and there are many varieties.

Homemade salsa is so much better than jarred, even if you use canned tomatoes as I did in an earlier post. It’s easy to make it fresh, especially if you use a Vita-mix. Here’s another salsa recipe:

4 ripe plum (or Roma) tomatoes, cut in half
½ sweet onion (Vidalia if available), cut in half
1 clove garlic
½ jalapeño pepper, seeded*
 ½ tsp salt
1 tsp. sweetener
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
½  cup fresh cilantro leaves (optional)


Combine all ingredients in the Vita-mix container and pulse on low (setting 3 or 4) just until blended. Use the tamper to push food into the blades. The process takes only a few seconds. Don’t overblend unless you prefer picante sauce instead of chunky salsa.

Refrigerate. Keeps for 4-5 days.

*If you like hot salsa, use the entire jalapeño pepper, seeds and all. For mild salsa, substitute a milder pepper for the jalapeño. Be sure to wear plastic or rubber gloves when removing the seeds and membranes of a jalapeño (or any hot) pepper.


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I typically add cilantro but didn’t have any the day I made these photos. Tasted just as good, so I now declare cilantro “Optional.”

©2011 Cheryl Norman

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Filed under Cilantro, Healthful Eating, Recipes, salsa, tomatoes

Cinco de Mayo Fiesta

I’ve said it before: At my house, anytime is chili time, with or without beans. With Cinco de Mayo comes another excuse for a week’s worth of Mexican-themed dishes, starting with turkey chili:


Tasty Turkey Chili

Serves 4-6*


1.3 pounds ground turkey breast
1 yellow onion, diced
1 10 oz. can diced tomatoes and green chilies

1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
1 oz. chili powder (I use Bloemer’s®)
1 small can chili beans (optional)
1 can or bottle beer, any kind
Redneck Pepper® Jalapeño (to taste)
¼ cup fresh chopped cilantro leaves (optional)


Brown ground turkey and onion over medium-low heat in a covered 4-quart pan. Gradually add the remaining ingredients except for the cilantro. Bring to a boil, then cook, uncovered until the liquid reduces and chili is thick. Don’t rush it. This reduction can take from 20-45 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in fresh cilantro and serve.

Store leftovers in a covered container or freeze in an airtight bag or container.

Products to make great chili

Products to make great chili

These aren’t paid endorsements, just my favorites. Bloemer’s® is a product out of Louisville, Kentucky, my hometown, and I order their chili powder by the case via the Internet; Redneck Pepper® is in Lake City, Florida, not far from where I live. Each company makes a great product, so I hope you’ll give each a try.


Enchiladas Suizas Bake

Serves 4-6


1 pound ground turkey breast or lean ground turkey
1 small onion, diced
1 16 oz. jar salsa verde or tomatillo salsa
4 oz. sour cream
8 oz. skim milk
½ cup shredded 2% or low-fat swiss cheese
1 cup shredded 2% or low-fat Mexican blend or Colby-Jack cheese
8 whole wheat tortillas (approx. 8″)
8 oz. frozen corn kernels (or fresh if available)


Preheat oven to 350°F. Brown ground turkey and onion over medium-low heat in a large skillet. Meanwhile, combine the sour cream, milk, and salsa verde (Green Salsa) and blend, either by hand or with a blender.

Pour approximately ¼ cup of the sauce into the bottom of a 9X13 baking dish. Spread to coat lightly. Arrange half the tortillas in the bottom of the dish, overlapping or cutting as needed to fit. Add half the browned ground turkey, half the corn kernels, and 1/2 cup of the combined cheeses. Drizzle one cup of the sauce over the whole layer, then repeat by layering remaining tortillas, turkey, corn, 1/2 cup cheese, and remaining sauce. Finally, sprinkle the top with the remaining cheese.

Bake, uncovered, for thirty minutes. Makes six servings. (In our case this will last a couple days because the leftovers are great, too!)

When it comes to appetizers, I prefer quesadillas because I can use whole wheat tortillas (More fiber and complex carbohydrates). Empanadas are made with a dough, and tostadas use corn tortillas. Also, quesadillas are quick. You can make two servings in a matter of minutes in your skillet or on your grill or griddle.


Easy Chicken Quesadilla

This is a lightened version of a favorite.


Nonstick cooking spray
2 whole wheat tortillas, approximately 8″ in diameter.
¼ cup chunky salsa, either jarred or homemade
2 oz. cooked chicken (or any leftover meat) shredded
¼ cup shredded 2% or low-fat Mexican blend cheese


Preheat a griddle or skillet over medium-high heat. Spray with nonstick cooking spray. Meanwhile, spread the salsa over one tortilla. Sprinkle chicken or meat, covering well. Sprinkle the cheese over the chicken. Top with the second tortilla. Carefully place stacked tortillas on the griddle or into the skillet. Press slightly. After three minutes, carefully turn using a large spatula. Again, press the stacked tortillas and cook two additional minutes.

Using a large spatula, move the quesadilla to a cutting board and cut into fourths using a sharp knife or a pizza cutter. Each serving is two pieces. Or for an appetizer, cut into sixths.

Chicken Quesadilla

Chicken Quesadilla

Enjoy these recipes this week or anytime for a hasty tasty Mexican meal!

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Filed under Burritos, casseroles, chicken, Chili and Stew, Cilantro, Healthful Eating, Quesadillas, Recipes, salsa, Tostados, turkey