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Today is October 25, 2020

Featured Cookbook

Plated with Rebecca Turner

By Rebecca Turner

Plated with Rebecca Turner

April showers bring May flowers and Cinco de Mayo! Cinco de Mayo, celebrated May 5, isn’t widely recognized in Mexico; however, it commemorates an underdog military victory and provides Americans a great excuse to eat tacos and toast with a margarita. But Americans don’t need a national celebration to feast on fajitas or burritos.

Taco Tuesday has already become a popular staple in households and restaurants. While you might not think of Mississippi as having Mexican inspired agriculture, our summer harvest is ripe with tomatoes, corn, hot peppers and fresh herbs galore. Don’t forget the Mississippi Delta’s delightful rice and grains.

Mexican cuisine isn’t typically associated with being nutritious. Commercial Mexican menu items are notorious for being fried and greasy with full-fat sides and enormous portions sizes. Most customers don’t realize that for every tortilla chip that gets eaten, it is a gram of fat. Mexican restaurant food can indeed be a trap for calories, fat and sodium. Healthier Mexican dishes include chicken fajitas, bean burritos, grilled entrees with peppers and onions, hold the cheese, and reach for a soft taco. But, preparing your favorite Mexican fare at home opens up the opportunity to control the ingredients and boost nutrition without losing any of the flavors.

Take the traditional taco kit up a notch by adding in sautéed vegetables, such as bell peppers and onions. Add a touch of Mississippi by including yellow squash and zucchini to your fajita sauté. Make your ground meat go further with fiber and protein-rich beans like pinto beans or black beans. Skip the cheese dips and let your homegrown Mississippi tomatoes shine by making fresh salsa. Roast or grill whole sweet corn for a tasty side or cut it off the cob to add to Santa Fe salads or tacos. When choosing canned vegetables or pre-packaged spices, opt for lower sodium options, it makes a real heart-healthy impact.

While the taco shell — whether soft, hard or fried — is connected with Mexican cuisine, it’s the flavors and spices that make it a family favorite. Bypass the wraps or shells altogether and use rice or quinoa as a whole-grain base for a Mexican casserole or meatloaf, utilizing herbs like cilantro, chili powder, cumin and cloves with garlic, onion, sweet and hot peppers.

Mexican food doesn’t have to be off-limits when you are trying to live healthier. Give these flavor-packed, nutritious recipes a try at home.

 

RECIPES:

MEXICAN MEATLOAF

INGREDIENTS

1 ½ pounds ground meat
1 cup crushed tortilla chips
1 cup shredded cheese
1 small onion, diced

1 taco seasoning packet, low-sodium
2 eggs beaten
½ cup milk
¼ cup mild red taco sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine beef, tortilla chips, cheese, onion and taco seasoning in a bowl. Whisk eggs, milk and taco sauce together in a separate bowl. Add to the meat mixture and mix well. Press mixture into a 9x5-inch loaf pan and top lightly with taco sauce or salsa. Bake in the preheated oven until internal temperature reaches 160F at the deepest point and browned on top, 45 to 60 minutes.

 

FRESH TOMATO SALSA

INGREDIENTS

5-6 fresh tomatoes
½ cup loosely packed fresh cilantro
¼ cup red onion
¼ cup sweet onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 teaspoon salt
1 pinch granulated sugar

Wash tomatoes and cut out the core, slicing into fourths. Use a spoon or your hands to gently remove the seeds from tomatoes. The tomato pieces will look empty and that’s ok! Slice onions into 1-inch chunks. Lightly chop the fresh cilantro. Add tomatoes to a food processor or high-powered blender. Top with cilantro, onion, garlic, lime juice and salt. Place the lid on and pulse 5 to 10 times. Pulse till you reach a desired consistency of salsa, more for thinner, or less for chunkier salsa. Transfer salsa to a Mason jar. Refrigerate for at least 2 to 3 hours before serving. Salsa stays fresh refrigerated in an airtight container for one week.

 

ENCHILADA CASSEROLE

INGREDIENTS

1 cup cooked brown rice or quinoa
2 cups cooked chicken shredded (or rotisserie chicken)
1 ½ cups salsa
1 (4 oz.) can chopped green chiles, or ½ cup chopped fresh sweet or hot peppers
½ cup corn kernels, canned or roasted
½ cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
½ teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste, as needed
1 cup shredded cheese, divided
Optional garnish; diced avocado, tomato and fresh cilantro

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray an 8x8 baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine whole-grain of choice, shredded chicken, salsa, green chiles, corn, black beans, all the spices and 1/2 cup shredded cheese. Spread mixture into the prepared baking dish. Top with remaining 1/2 cup shredded cheese. Bake uncovered until bubbly and cheese is melted, about 15 minutes. Serve immediately, garnished with avocado, tomato and cilantro, if desired.

 

Rebecca Turner is an author, registered dietitian, radio host, television presenter and a certified specialist in sports dietetics with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. A lifelong Mississippian, she lives in Brandon and has spent the last decade offering no-nonsense nutrition guidance that allows you to enjoy good health and good food. Her book, “Mind Over Fork,” challenges the way you think, not the way you eat. Find her on social media @RebeccaTurnerNutrition and online at www.RebeccaTurnerNutrition.com.

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