It’s May, people!
May is probably the busiest month of the year for me. If not, it’s coming in a close second to December and the Christmas holidays. First comes my Stepmother’s birthday, Mother’s Day for three, then my husband and my brother-in-law’s birthday (they’re twins), then my Mom’s birthday, and finally my 14th wedding anniversary.
Are you as tired as I am after reading that? And, oh yeah, did I mention the Pandemic?
Do you know what would make my life easier? A theme. Yes, a theme. When time is short and meal prep is key, a theme simplifies matters even further. I had a friend suggest once that, as a busy parent and teacher, she would love to be able to make one trip to the store, buy a slew of similar ingredients and be able to make multiple dishes from those things. I dedicate this one to her.
In honor of Cinco de Mayo, let’s make our theme Mexican food! Or, arguably, Tex-Mex. This is Texas, after all.
Mexican food can be one of the hardest things to live without when you’re desperately trying to be a saint. Restaurant Mexican food is loaded with cheese (fat), refried beans (fat, again), rice (alas, simple carbohydrate) and is topped with an incredible amount of sodium. The food is delicious, of course, and I miss it so.
Here are some of my favorite Mexican food recipes from some amazing bloggers, with a few comments of my own.
- Slow Cooker Cheesy Enchilada Quinoa Bake by Chelsea’s Messy Apron. Find the recipe here: http://www.chelseasmessyapron.com/slow-cooker-cheesy-enchilada-quinoa/ I can’t get enough of this one! Prep is minimal and is done in three hours on high in your Crock Pot. You could start this up on your lunch break, and it would be ready by the time you got home from work. A plus is that your house will smell freakin’ fantastic.
- Vegetarian Taco Soup by I Heart Vegetables. Get the recipe here: http://iheartvegetables.com/2016/08/29/vegetarian-taco-soup/. This one comes out looking just as delicious as the picture and tastes incredibly flavorful. Prep is only 10 minutes and cook time only 30. Not only that, the recipe yields six servings. Translation: a lot of soup. It freezes well for later.
- Vegetarian Black Bean Enchiladas by A Cedar Spoon. Get the recipe here: https://www.acedarspoon.com/vegetarian-black-bean-enchiladas/. My husband will eat these. Is that convincing enough? At home, I cook almost exclusively for myself. That’s how I know if things freeze well, by the way. These take a little extra prep, but can be made ahead of time and then popped in the oven to heat.
So here are the ingredients you’ll need for these dishes:
- Ground turkey
- Look for the leanest ground meat possible. Also, after cooking, drain to remove the excess. Two out of the three dishes above are vegetarian, but you could easily add ground meat to the dish.
- Quinoa is super versatile. Use it as a replacement for rice.
- Black beans and pinto beans specifically. These recipes call for canned beans, so look for low sodium and rinse before using.
- Diced tomatoes
- Have you tried fire-roasted diced tomatoes? They go perfect with the Mexican food theme.
- Not much to say about corn. I tend to skip it in my dishes. I already have starchy beans, so I don’t miss it.
- Enchilada sauce
- Choose according to spiciness to control the heat of your dish. I’m strictly a mild kind of girl. If you have time, you can make your own.
- Onion and bell peppers
- I got a bag of frozen, diced onions and bell peppers from the frozen section a few days ago. It was like a dream come true. I had to do absolutely nothing except measure out what I needed.
- Taco seasoning
- I’ve noticed low-sodium packets of these hitting the shelves. Keep an eye out.
- Vegetable broth
- Swanson is making organic vegetable broth these days for roughly the same price as the regular stuff.
- Swap flour for corn tortillas. The enchiladas don’t hold up as well, but taste just as good.
- These dishes call for quite a bit of cheese, which adds calories up quickly (except for the feta used in the taco soup). I get around this by adding cheese sparingly to individual servings. Kraft makes a Mexican cheese blend with 2% milk that I use.
- Enjoy your avocado in moderation. It’s deliciously high in calories because of healthy fat.
- Enjoy your salsa. It’s incredibly low in calories. For those of you watching your blood pressure, the jarred stuff can be full of sodium. Proceed with caution.
- Sour cream
- I don’t actually buy sour cream anymore. I swap it for 0% fat plain Greek yogurt instead. They taste amazingly identical, but with less fat, fewer calories, and more protein.
- Chili powder, cumin, and minced garlic
Enjoy the Mexican flavors for a fraction of the cost, not to mention the calories. I hope this helps simplify your life as much as it does mine. Enjoy!
Brittany Hall is the owner of Brittany Hall Certified Personal Training and Health Coaching LLC. She is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer (ACE-CPT), ACE Certified Health Coach (ACE-CHC), and ACE Mind Body Specialist, all earned with the American Council on Exercise (ACE). She also holds an advanced certification with the Cancer Exercise Training Institute (CETI) as a Cancer Exercise Specialist (CES). She was an attendee at the Active Lives: Transforming Our Patients and Ourselves conference presented by The Institute of Lifestyle Medicine at Harvard Medical School as well as the IDEA World Fitness Convention presented by the IDEA Health and Fitness Association. Her latest venture is as a POP Pilates instructor.