Homemade Taco Seasoning [Low Sodium]

I like tacos alot. Actually, I love tacos. And all other forms of Mexican food, both traditional and Tex-Mex/Southwest. For a long time I thought you had to buy a packet to make tacos… that the seasoning was some foreign, mysterious substance that you couldn’t possibly replicate at home. Well, turns out that’s not exactly true. There are mystery things in some store-bought versions of taco seasoning but it turns out that I CAN make a version at home that we love, and we are better off for it.

Homemade Taco Seasoning [Low Sodium] | thepajamachef.com

Why? It’s cheaper, healthier, and more convenient. No more do I have to remember to buy taco seasoning at the store when I want to make tacos. I already have it in bulk in my spice cupboard, ready and waiting for when the mood strikes. And let me tell you… the mood strikes often. This taco seasoning has become my multipurpose Mexican seasoning. I use it in quesadillas, in black beans, in chicken salad, in quinoa, in rice. I use it all the time!

Homemade Taco Seasoning [Low Sodium] | thepajamachef.com

I hate having to pay people to do something I can do better myself and I cringe when I think of all the money we’ve spent on fancy low-sodium taco seasoning packets and jars. Neither Ben nor I have been put on a low-sodium diet or anything, but as I’ve mentioned on the blog before I’m not really into salt. I like salty foods of course but am really sensitive to it in restaurant food, processed foods, and the like. I know it ‘enhances’ flavors but for me, it almost ruins them. So I rarely add salt to things. I figure many ingredients naturally have salt in them anyways so what’s the point?

Homemade Taco Seasoning [Low Sodium] | thepajamachef.com

This taco seasoning isn’t a true sodium free spice blend because most commercial chili powders do include salt. That’s something new I learned while writing this blog post… interesting, huh? But I call this low-sodium because it doesn’t have any extra salt. It gets all its flavor from a variety of herbs and spices. Like all homemade spice blends, its totally customizable based on what you like. We like a little kick so I add crushed red pepper or red chili flakes for some heat, but feel free to adjust as you like. I’m so glad I found this recipe. It’s been a staple in my kitchen for about two years and I practically have it memorized. I decided now was the time to share it with y’all! Enjoy!

Homemade Taco Seasoning [Low Sodium] | thepajamachef.com

one year ago: Double Chocolate Strawberry Shortcakes
two years ago: Dark Chocolate Crumb Bars
three years ago: No-Bake Reese’s Bars

Homemade Taco Seasoning [Low Sodium] [adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe]
click to print

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons chili powder*
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • four pinches of cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch of crushed red pepper or red chili flakes

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a mason jar or other airtight container. Shake to combine and store in a dark place to use as needed.

To make tacos, add 3-4 tablespoons to a pound of cooked ground beef or turkey along with a 1/2 cup of water. Simmer 4-5 minutes or until liquid is reduced.

Seasoning is also great with chicken or black beans!

Time: 5 minutes.
Yield: roughly 3/4 cup.

Linked up with: Real Food Fridays.

About these ads

SRC: Black Bean and Rice Soup

This month for the Secret Recipe Club I was given the wonderful Sarah’s blog, Things I Make (for Dinner). Note that the URL of her blog reads “oreos and cool whip.” How fun! Be sure to read her about page for an explanation of that! :) Sarah’s blog is full of tasty recipes, which isn’t a surprise since she has such a great name! She lives in Ontario with her husband and loves challenging herself to try new recipes, especially from magazines. As always I found many many recipes to try, but had to choose one–this awesome Black Bean and Rice Soup! If I had had more time, I would have made this Strawberry Cream Cake Roll. If I had needed to make an appetizer, these Buffalo Chicken Wontons look incredible. And when peaches are in season, this Peach Cobbler will definitely be on my table!  But back to this soup.

Black Bean and Rice Soup | thepajamachef.com

If you follow my blog, you’ll know that we often eat black beans and rice for dinner. It’s easy, fast, inexpensive, and we almost always have the ingredients on hand. Plus, if you add some salsa and taco seasoning, it’s basically Mexican food, right? And I love love LOVE Mexican. So naturally I had to make this soup, even though it’s been in the 80s here in Nashville. Naturally.

Black Bean and Rice Soup | thepajamachef.com

This soup is just as good as it sounds. I changed up Sarah’s recipe a little to exclude chicken [because I didn't have any cooked] and to include some extra rice [wild and white]. All in all, this is a hearty, flavorful soup that gets better with each bowl you enjoy for leftovers. In her post about it, Sarah mentions that her husband wanted to put cheese on it but she thought it was flavorful enough without. For the record, I totally agree with you, Sarah! You definitely don’t need cheese with this soup. We enjoyed it with some english muffin bread and were more than satisfied. Thanks for the great recipe, Sarah!

one year ago: Blueberry Burgers
two years ago: Parmesan Garlic Rolls
three years ago: Lemony Kale Pasta

Black Bean and Rice Soup [from Things I Make (for Dinner)]
click to print

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil [I used the Mediterranean Chili Pepper Oil from Star Fine Foods]
  • 1 large onion, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 7 cups chicken broth
  • 3 cups black beans, drained and rinsed [about 2 - 15 ounce cans]
  • 2 cups salsa
  • 2 1/2 cups cooked rice [I used 1 cup white rice + 1 1/2 cups wild rice]
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • cilantro, for topping
  • green onions, for topping

Directions:

In a large Dutch oven or stock pot, heat oil over medium heat. When hot, add onion and saute until soft. Add garlic and cook for about 30 seconds or until fragrant. Then add chicken broth, black beans, salsa, rice, cumin, and lime juice. Stir together, cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and then simmer until heated through, at least 20 minutes or longer if possible. Serve with cilantro and green onions.

Time: 30 minutes.
Yield: 8-10 servings.

Check out other SRC recipes in group A by clicking below!

Mystery Dish: BBQ Chicken Salad with Jalapeno Basil Ranch Dressing

Today I have the BEST SALAD EVER to share with you!! I am so psyched, I can hardly wait to tell you about it [even though it is not original at all. But that's okay.] But first, this recipe qualifies for not just one, but two challenges. Woohoo! First of all, I created this recipe for Mystery Dish. But since it includes a fantastic homemade ranch dressing, it also helps fulfill one of my 30 before 30 goals. Score!

BBQ Chicken Salad with Jalapeno Basil Ranch Dressing | thepajamachef.com #mysterydish #salad #summer

This month for Mystery Dish, Chez Catey Lou is our host. Cate is so sweet and gave us such a creative list to work with! We had to use at least two ingredients from this list: raspberries, peanut butter chips, edamame, lemon, yeast, whole wheat pastry flour, bacon, buttermilk, basil, and zucchini. There were a thousand ways I thought about going [I probably say that every month...sorry] but my craving for a salad won out in the end. I used a few of Cate’s ingredients [lemon, buttermilk, and basil] to make an awesome Jalapeno Ranch Dressing to dress up a BBQ Chicken Salad.

BBQ Chicken Salad with Jalapeno Basil Ranch Dressing | thepajamachef.com #mysterydish #salad #summer

I have long searched for a good homemade ranch dressing. I’ve made this recipe once before and let me tell you..it’s a keeper! It’s creamy, spicy, and best of all… clean! No weird mystery ingredients in the powder, thankyouverymuch. The key to this recipe is the jalapeno. It just elevates this creamy, herby dressing with a bit of spice. Oh so good!

BBQ Chicken Salad with Jalapeno Basil Ranch Dressing | thepajamachef.com #mysterydish #salad #summer

You know what else is good? This salad! I know a zillion restaurants have variations of BBQ Chicken Salad and this was mine. I just used seven ingredients so it’s pretty basic: lettuce, chicken, BBQ sauce, corn, tomatoes, black beans, and ranch dressing. You could also add avocados, onions, bacon, or anything else that strikes your fancy.

BBQ Chicken Salad with Jalapeno Basil Ranch Dressing | thepajamachef.com #mysterydish #salad #summer

I kept it simple though so the flavors could really shine. You will really want to make it again and again. One bite of this and Ben was swooning. Seriously! This is a man’s salad, and definitely fancy enough for a restaurant. Hope you enjoy it as much we do!

BBQ Chicken Salad with Jalapeno Basil Ranch Dressing | thepajamachef.com #mysterydish #salad #summer

one year ago: Strawberry Muffins
two years ago: Sweet-Tart Quinoa Salad
three years ago: BAST sandwich

BBQ Chicken Salad with Jalapeno Ranch Dressing
click to print

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cooked chicken [leftovers from a roasted chicken work great]
  • 1 cup bbq sauce [I used Sweet Baby Ray's]
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 2 cups black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 cups fresh corn, cut from 3 ears of corn
  • 1 head romaine lettuce
  • Jalapeno Ranch Dressing, recipe below

Directions:

Stir together chicken and bbq sauce in a skillet set over medium-low heat. Heat for 5-7 minutes or until heated through, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, toss together romaine lettuce and Jalapeno Ranch Dressing in desired amounts. Divide lettuce between four plates, then top each with a quarter of all ingredients: chicken, tomato, black beans, and corn. Toss together and enjoy!

Time: 10 minutes.
Yield: 4 meal-size salads or 8 side salads.

Jalapeno Ranch Dressing [slightly adapted from The Lively Kitchen]

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk [for this I use real buttermilk, a substitute could be kinda weird]
  • 4 green onions, chopped, with white bottoms removed
  • 1/2 of a chopped, deseeded jalapeno [~2 tablespoons]
  • 3 tablespoons  fresh parsley, chopped [or 1 teaspoon dried parsley]
  • 1/3 cup fresh Thai basil, chopped [or cilantro, basil, etc.]
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste

DIrections:

Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and pulse until smooth. An immersion blender works great!

Dressing thickens in the fridge so add some extra buttermilk before serving leftovers as desired.

Time: 5 minutes.
Yield: 2 cups.

Please check out the other awesome recipes from this month’s Mystery Dish!

May Mystery Dish Collage

1. Raspberry Lemon Sweet Roll Cake with Buttermilk Glaze – Baking a Moment
2. Twice Baked Zucchini Boat – Chelsea’s Messy Apron
3. Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Raspberry Mint Compote – Blahnik Baker
4. Lemon-Raspberry Bundt Cake – I Dig Pinterest
5. Peanut Butter Chip Cookies – The Dessert Chronicles
6. Mini Coconut Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting – I Want Crazy
7. Zucchini Noodles with Meat Mushroom Tomato Sauce – Joyfully Healthy Eats
8. Baked Wonton Cups Filled with Edamame Corn Salad – The Well Floured Kitchen
9. Easy 30 Minute Orange Rolls – Yummy Healthy Easy
10. BBQ Chicken Salad with Jalapeno Basil Ranch Dressing – The Pajama Chef
11. Mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cupcakes – Culinary Couture
12. Zucchini Muffins with Lemon Glaze – The Weary Chef
13. Lemon Bundt Cake – Chez CateyLou

Zin-Zen Chicken

I don’t even want to tell you when I made this stir fry originally. It’s too embarrassing. But it is what it is, and even though time has gone by since this dish graced our table, its goodness hasn’t gone away. [Did that make any sense to anyone but me?] ANYWAYS…. Ben, especially, loves stir fry. I can’t say that it was my favorite dinner as a kid, but I’m starting to appreciate it more and more these days since it’s quick, healthy, and flavorful.

Zin Zen Chicken | thepajamachef.com

What makes this stir fry SO good is the combination of the orange-flavored rice with the gingery and garlicky chicken and vegetables. Ya know, the zin/zen thing. Rachael Ray was up to something with her recipe title, I do believe. :) Another good thing about this dish? It uses up some of that Chinese five spice powder that’s probably languishing in your cupboard. Please tell me I’m not alone in that. Mmmmkay, thanks. As always, enjoy! :)

one year ago: Guacamole Salsa
two years ago: Peanut Butter Pretzel Granola Bars
three years ago: Oreo Truffles

Zin-Zen Chicken [from Rachael Ray]
click to print

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup white rice
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • zest and juice of 1 orange
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into chunks
  • cracked black pepper
  • 3 cups chopped bell peppers [I used red, orange, and yellow]
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 inch grated gingerroot [or 1 teaspoon ground]
  • 1 red or yellow onion, minced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 cup Zinfandel wine or chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons Chinese five spice powder
  • 4 scallions, sliced on the bias

Directions:

Combine rice, chicken broth, and orange zest in a medium pan. Set to high heat, then bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until liquid is absorbed.

In a separate large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute chicken, seasoned with black pepper, until golden brown, about 6-8 minutes. Remove chicken to a plate and cover with foil. Place bell peppers, garlic, ginger, and onion in the pan and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the veggies to the chicken, then melt butter in skillet. Whisk in flour and cook for 30 seconds. Then add the wine/chicken broth, soy sauce, and five spice powder and stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium low. Put the chicken and veggies back in the skillet and simmer until thickened, about 3 minutes.

After the rice is cooked, add scallions and orange juice and fluff with a fork. Serve the chicken and vegetables over the rice.

Time: 30 minutes.
Yield: 4-6 servings.
Note: For four, this amount of rice is perfect. For six, doubling it would be best.

Linked up with: Weekend Potluck.

Grapefruit Arugula Salad

Once I tasted a bite of this awesome Grapefruit Arugula Salad, I knew I had to photograph and share it, even though it was late and I was making this salad when all the natural light had already bid Nashville farewell. [translation=indoor photography :(] My sister and brother-in-law were visiting, and this salad was the perfect accompaniment to our roasted chicken and vegetable dinner.

Grapefruit Arugula Salad | thepajamachef.com

I know there are a million variations of grapefruit arugula salad out there, and this is the first version I’ve ever had, so I can’t say it’s the best, but I can say it’s MY best. :) How’s that? Well, it’s just so much yumminess in one bowl! You’ve got your juicy citrus, your tangy feta, and your peppery arugula all dressed in a lemon vinaigrette dressing. Basically an explosion of flavors. I totally wish I had made bigger salads so don’t make the same mistake I did. This is one salad I know I’ll be coming back to time and time again. Enjoy, friends!

one year ago: Herb, Tomato, and Cheese Crackers
two years ago: Smoky Fried Chickpeas
three years ago: Pantry Pasta for Two

Grapefruit Arugula Salad
click to print

Ingredients:

  • 1 large grapefruit
  • 3 ounces arugula
  • 1 ounce crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • lemon pepper
  • salt

Directions:

Using a sharp paring knife, section the grapefruit into segments. I tried to do this without a tutorial and it didn’t go so well, so check out this tutorial and your grapefruit will look better than mine. :)

Divide arugula between four bowls, then divide grapefruit between the bowls as well. Top with feta cheese.

Whisk together oil, lemon juice, and balsamic for the dressing. Add lemon pepper and salt to taste, then drizzle over salad immediately before eating.

Time: 5 minutes.
Yield: 4 servings.