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Today is September 16, 2021

Featured Cookbook

Plated with Rebecca Turner: Mexican night with a dash of homegrown Mississippi flavor

By Rebecca Turner

Plated with Rebecca Turner: Mexican night with a dash of homegrown Mississippi flavor

Mississippi Inspired Pan Chicken Fajitas

Everyone loves taco night! It’s a quick, inexpensive meal that the whole family enjoys. Who doesn’t like Mexican food? But typically, families rely on the pre-packaged kits for seasonings and shells. These can be full of unnecessary salt, additives and leave little room for recipe creativity or fresh vegetables. You can spice up your Mexican night by using homemade taco seasoning and adding Mississippi fresh produce to traditional dishes. Mississippi-grown onions and bell peppers can make fresh, traditional fajitas. But don’t be afraid to branch out and add summer squash, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, or a variety of peppers (not just bell peppers) to your fajita saute.

Most of us buy store-bought taco seasoning for convenience without realizing that the main ingredients are already in our spice cabinets. By making taco seasoning at home, you can skip any additives that don’t fit your health goals, like added salt or sugar and customize your season blend to suit your family’s taste buds. Traditional Mexican cuisine has a distinct taste thanks to a few flavors like onions, garlic, chili powders, paprika, cumin, and oregano. Once you find a seasoning combination you enjoy, it only takes a few minutes to mix up a big batch and store it in an airtight container. Then use two tablespoons of your homemade seasoning with a . cup of water in place of one storebought packet.

There is more to Mexican food than tacos. Some of the most popular Mexican ingredients are beans, rice, and corn — all Mississippi staples! Sometimes, I like to bypass the tacos altogether and utilize rice grown in the Mississippi Delta to make a one-skillet beef and rice casserole. No storebought kits required! Bonus: this easy weeknight meal is a delicious way to get the whole family to eat spinach. Think fresh when you think of toppings for your tacos or Mexican cuisine. Instead of more cheese, pile on various nutritious options like avocado, pico made with tomatoes, onion, peppers, spices, and cilantro. Cilantro is often referred to as Mexican parsley, as it is a fresh herb commonly found in and on many Mexican dishes. Cilantro smells amazing and is simple to grow at home or found at your local grocery.

Next time your family screams for tacos, broaden their horizons and bring the taste of Mississippi fresh produce into your Mexican night at home.

 

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.

 

HOMEMADE MEXICAN SEASONING

 

INGREDIENTS

1 tablespoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon sea salt (optional)

1 teaspoon black pepper (optional)

 

In a small bowl, whisk together chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes, oregano, paprika, cumin, salt and pepper. Store in an airtight container.

 

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MISSISSIPPI INSPIRED SHEET PAN CHICKEN FAJITAS

 

INGREDIENTS

2 teaspoons chili powder

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 teaspoon paprika

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips*

1 zucchini, cut into half-moons

1 yellow squash, cut into half-moons

1 onion, cut into wedges

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves (optional)

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

6 (8-inch) flour or corn tortillas

*Or use chicken strips and slice lengthwise.

*Sub spices with 2 tablespoons of homemade Mexican seasoning.

 

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Prepare a baking sheet with nonstick spray.

In a small bowl, combine chili powder, cumin, oregano, paprika, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper.

Place chicken, squash, onion and garlic in a single layer onto the baking sheet.

Drizzle olive oil and sprinkle seasoning mixture over chicken and vegetables; gently toss to combine.

Place into the oven and bake for 25 minutes, or until the chicken is completely cooked through reaching 165 degrees and the vegetables are crisp-tender.

Stir in cilantro and lime juice.

Serve immediately with tortillas and desired toppings.

 

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HOMEMADE PICO DE GALLO

 

INGREDIENTS

6 Roma (plum) tomatoes, diced

1/2 red onion, minced

3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced

1/2 lime, juiced

1 clove garlic, minced

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1 pinch ground cumin, or to taste

salt and pepper to taste

 

Stir the tomatoes, onion, cilantro, jalapeno pepper, lime juice, garlic, garlic powder, cumin, salt, and pepper together in a bowl. Best to refrigerate several hours or overnight before serving.

 

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ONE SKILLET MEXICAN BEEF AND RICE CASSEROLE

 

INGREDIENTS

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 pound extra-lean ground beef or turkey

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon paprika

2 cups prepared brown rice

1 cup salsa

1 (10-ounce) package fresh spinach

1/2 cup shredded low-fat cheddar cheese

 

Place a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil, then the chopped onion. Cook until the onions start to soften.

Add the meat and the spices and cook until the meat is browned. Stir in the cooked rice and salsa, then reduce heat to medium and place the spinach on top. Cover and cook for 2 minutes, until the spinach has wilted. Stir in the cheese and serve immediately. Top with fresh cilantro, chopped avocado, if desired. (Serves 6)

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