That taco salad your mom totally made when you were a kid


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tacosalad1Yours made it too, right?
My favorite part was getting to help crush up the tortilla chips to go with it.
She always used her gigantic yellow Tupperware bowl, and we'd eat leftover salad for days, unless she was making it to take to a church potluck or something.
And I'd totally forgotten about it, until Max's tee ball picnic last weekend, when another kiddo's mom brought it.
I took one bite, and was instantly transported back to our house on Andalucia, the dog running laps along the back fence, the pool reflecting moving shapes on the dining room ceiling, and me trying to pick the tomatoes out, or at least eat around them, without my mom noticing.
It's one of those comfort foods that had simply slipped my mind, until it showed up at the potluck.
Neither Jamie nor I could get enough of it, and may have gone a little overboard, not taking into account that whole “1000 Island dressing has like 150 calories in 2 tablespoons” thing.
So when we were both craving it again the next day, we knew we could do something to make it lighter.
I'm not going to say it's low calorie for a salad, but it's certainly better than what it was, and sometimes, you just can't get those cravings to go away until you fulfill them!
It's SO easy to make! Here's what we did:

  • 1 lb. browned ground turkey, seasoned (We used bottled Taco Seasoning; we use it all the time)
  • 1 can Kidney Beans
  • 1 head Iceberg lettuce, shredded/torn into bite size pieces
  • Handful of shredded cheese (We used reduced fat because while it doesn't melt as well as regular, that wasn't a concern for this, and we thought it a fair trade off for the calorie-savings)
  • Sliced/chopped/cherry tomatoes
  • Handful or 2 of tortilla chips, broken into pieces (Baked if you can find them)
  • Bottle of Catalina or 1000 Island dressing (We used a fat free Catalina and it worked well; you may have different preferences)

Mix the cooked turkey, beans, and cheese together, and put in the fridge to cool. (Drain the beans; no one likes bean juice on their salad!)

Dress the lettuce separately. (This is the trick) We used only 1/4 cup of dressing for half a head of lettuce, so it worked out to 2 servings of dressing; only 100 calories, and we ate less than half the salad each)

Once the lettuce is evenly dressed, add the meat, cheese & bean mix, the tomatoes, and the chips.

Toss to combine.

Proceed to stuff your face with the delicious, and reminisce about Strawberry Shortcake and Garbage Pail Kids.

Because we had already seasoned the meat while cooking, it wasn't necessary to THEN add the high-fat salad dressing on top for moisture. This saved a ton of calories, and made (IMHO) the salad a little more refreshing, since everything wasn't drenched in the dressing. You could also cut your dressing with some salsa, if you're concerned about it.

Bonus Secret Confession: I still pick out the tomatoes, I just don't have to listen to my mom harass me about it! Max LOVES raw tomatoes, so I keep them in, but I'm still not a fan. Pretty sure it isn't gonna change.

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  1. Was undecided on tomorrow’s dinner, but I can do this! And I have all the ingredients at home! Thanks Lizzy!

  2. Can’t say I remember this but it did bring back memories of my mothers taco burritos she used to make. I’ll have to make both (though not at the same meal 🙂

  3. I didn’t grow up with a mom that cooked very much. Certainly nothing like this. I’m drooling at my desk right now and totally going shopping for the ingredients!

    1. Ooh! I might have to try it with Doritos next time! (And we used Thousand Island too, sometimes… but in an effort to keep calories down, Catalina was a better choice. :))
      Thanks for stopping by!

  4. We had a very similar salad growing up. Differences were that we used Ott’s Dressing – it’s a Midwest thing but very much like a Catalina. Our chips were always Doritos those – so yummy! Mom made this for picnic pot lucks often in the summer. Yummy!

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