Main Dishes, Other, Recipes

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.

Main Dishes, Other, Recipes

Tasty Mexican Lentils

These lentils have no business being this good. No business at all. I mean, lentils aren’t exactly exciting food, now are they? Well, I think these lentils are. I seriously can’t get enough of them. I can’t remember where I saw this recipe linked originally, but I am so glad I did because they have become a new family favorite. Healthy, versatile, good, simple, delicious.

Tasty Mexican Lentils | thepajamachef.com

These lentils definitely support their “tasty” title. They are smooth and flavorful, a perfect vegetarian Mexican meal. You can make burritos or tacos or burrito bowls or nachos with them, or eat them by the spoonful. [Oh wait–that might just be what I do!] They’re a little reminiscent of pinto beans [maybe refried beans] texture-wise, but flavor-wise they are absolutely incredible!

Tasty Mexican Lentils | thepajamachef.com

In the recipe below, I suggest using red lentils. Brown or green lentils can certainly use used instead, but the cooking time may be different. Red lentils are just my fave–according to The Kitchn they are sweet and nutty. They also cook super fast, making these lentils a great weeknight dinner. I hope you give ’em a try soon! P.S. Don’t skip the avocado or guac as a topping–avocado + lentils=looove!

Tasty Mexican Lentils | thepajamachef.com

Oh–before I forget! Ben loved this dinner too. He was a bit skeptical [tacos without meat?!?!] but was soon won over. I bet he’d even eat them on his birthday…which just so happens to be today! Yup, that’s right. He’s a St. Paddy’s Day baby. 🙂 Cake recipe coming soooooon. It was so good. 🙂 Happy Birthday to my love!

one year ago: Chipotle Black Bean Soup with Avocado Cream
two years ago: Alice’s Vanilla Tea-Infused Granola
three years ago: Roasted Tomato and Black Bean Soup

Tasty Mexican Lentils

  • Servings: 4
  • Print

from allrecipes.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 2/3 cup onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2/3 cup dried red lentils, rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon taco seasoning
  • 1 2/3 cup chicken broth [or vegetable broth]
  • 2/3 cup salsa
  • tortillas or rice, for serving
  • lettuce, tomato, guacamole, avocado, sour cream, cheese, etc. for serving

Directions:

Heat oil in a skillet set over medium heat. Add onions and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in lentils and taco seasoning and cook for one minute.

Pour chicken broth into lentil mixture, then bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low, simmering until lentils are tender [about 12-15 minutes].

Stir in salsa and heat uncovered, mashing slightly, until thickened [about 3-5 minutes].

Serve lentils in tortillas or over rice with desired toppings.

Linked up with: Tuesday Talent Show.

Main Dishes, Other, Recipes

Quick & Healthy Pineapple Fried Rice

Lately I’ve been really into quick but still healthy meals. Working full time is great… but when I get home from a long day and an even longer commute, half the time I want to just curl up on the couch with my soft blanket and my Kindle, and the other half of the time I want to bake doughnuts, cookies, and muffins and skip dinner entirely. No idea why this disparity, but dinner is usually not my highest priority. But ya gotta eat, right? So I’ve been turning to quick meals that are still healthy and that make loads of leftovers to eat all week long, like this fabulous Pineapple Fried Rice. This crave-worthy dinner can be made in about 20 minutes so it’s awesome for busy or lazy nights when you just want something yummy but not heavy.

Pineapple Fried Rice | thepajamachef.com- a 20 minute quick and healthy #dinner #STARFineFoods #vegetarian

I started off this dish with the Asian Cuisine Cooking Oil from STAR Fine Foods which they graciously sent me to try out. If you can’t find this at your local grocery store, just add a little ginger [fresh or ground] and some extra soy sauce as the veggies are sauteing. Normally I wouldn’t think of using special infused oils on an ordinary weeknight, but I’m beginning to change my mind. They really make an ordinary dish shine–and cut down on my prep time so I can get back to my book sooner. 🙂 #librarianalert

Pineapple Fried Rice | thepajamachef.com- a 20 minute quick and healthy #dinner #STARFineFoods #vegetarian

For this batch of fried rice, I used garlic, carrots, edamame, peas, and green beans, but feel free to use whatever veggies you want. I’m thinking some sugar snap peas and broccoli would be good to try next time. What we especially loved about this vegetarian fried rice was the subtle sweetness of the pineapple with the salty soy sauce and sesame oil. Oh man, what a combo! This dish was hearty enough without meat [I totally think fried rice is one of those dishes where meat isn’t missed] but if you gotta have some, pork or shrimp would be good. Chicken is too predictable, methinks. Oh, and don’t forget the chopped honey roasted peanuts on top. Crunch crunch! 🙂 Cilantro would be a good addition too! TTYL 🙂 [I can’t believe I just wrote that. LOL! Hahaha.] Enjoy!

one year ago: Lemon Cranberry Muffins
two years ago: Camp Tecumseh Baked Oatmeal
three years ago: Pork Chops with Red Wine Sauce

Quick & Healthy Pineapple Fried Rice
click to print

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons STAR Asian Cuisine Cooking Oil [extra virgin olive oil infused with soy and ginger]
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2/3 cup frozen edamame
  • 2/3 cup frozen peas
  • 2/3 cup frozen cut green beans
  • 20 ounce can pineapple tidbits in pineapple juice, drained [reserve 1/4 cup pineapple juice and save the rest to drink or for something else]
  • 4 1/2 cups cooked, cold rice [day old if possible]
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • sesame seeds, for serving
  • chopped honey roasted peanuts, for serving

Directions:

Add cooking oil to a large skillet or wok set over medium-high heat. When hot, add carrots and saute for 5 minutes or until crisp-tender. Add garlic and saute for about 30 seconds, until fragrant. Stir in edamame, peas, green beans, and pineapple. Cook for a minute or so until they just begin to soften.

Add rice and soy sauce to vegetables, then stir continuously for about 4 minutes, until rice is hot and begins to crisp up.

Push all the rice mixture to one side of the pan and pour the eggs in the empty spot. Quickly stir the eggs on the hot surface until they just begin to cook, then whisk them into the rice mixture. Pour in toasted sesame oil, then stir to combine.

Remove from heat, and serve fried rice with sesame seeds and chopped honey roasted peanuts.

Time: 20 minutes.

Yield: 5-6 servings.

Disclosure: STAR Fine Foods sent me a complementary package of their new cooking oils and some other goodies to try out. I had no obligations to blog about them or provide positive feedback. I’m glad I had the opportunity to try them though! Thanks to Ruby and all the other great people at STAR Fine Foods for their generosity.

Linked up with: What’s Cookin’ Wednesday.