|Fish Taco Salad (aka, deconstructed fish tacos) with Avocado Chipotle Dressing – recipe in post|
I don’t know about you, but after the holidays I start craving salads. Partly because I love salads, and partly because I feel a little guilty about all the
crap wonderful stuff I’ve been eating. That’s all fine and dandy, but the problem comes right at the end of the year, when I go: alright, body, no more gorging on sweets and snacks, time to be healthy!
What’s wrong with getting back to a healthier diet, you ask? Nothing. Except the 180° turn I expect myself to make each year. All through December, I tell myself to relax… it’s the holidays! It’s winter!… I let myself go, with full permission. Then comes the New Year, and I make this resolution: I’m going to be fit, healthy, and gorgeous!
Raise your hand if you’ve been there.
The problem with this mindset is that it is destined to fail… after the feasts and celebrations, most of us are in the habit of eating a little less healthy than we’d like. Our tastes are geared towards sweet, fatty, butter-laden and gravy-drenched foods… then we go and make a strict decision to change our ways in a matter of minutes. Starting tomorrow, no more greasy foods! We go cold turkey. No more. Nada. I may have just eaten my body weight in bacon-wrapped-hunk-of-meat, but now I’m going to go vegan!
Let me break the news for you – and I say this with love, because I care, and I’ve been there – it rarely works. Then, to make matters worse, the moment we stray from our determined path, we punish ourselves! I can’t believe I ate that second bowl of ice cream last night… I better be even more strict today!
Again, raise your hand if you’ve been there.
So this year, my suggestion for myself is to take it easy. Don’t try to cut out every little thing I deem to be less-than-healthy, and don’t try to limit myself to minuscule portion sizes. Not just yet.
I know my body, I do, and I owe it this one. I need to ease into a healthy routine, eat when I’m hungry, and pay attention to when I’m full. And if I falter, don’t stress – it’s not the end of the world. So I had a late night left-overs binge? It’s okay, just move on. Eat a big hearty breakfast to fill me up, keep me focused, and try for a better tomorrow.
This is one of my resolutions this year. To listen to my body. You can have what you need, body, we just need to discuss this whole ‘want’ situation. There’s a process to getting healthy, and as much as I’d like to think, it doesn’t happen overnight. It happens with little changes, which become easier with time, which become habits. Who’s with me?
|Tortilla Crusted Fish|
There are a few different things I turn to when I need to hit my reset button. Fruits and veggies are one – big bowls of fruit with yogurt, or cottage cheese, are a common breakfast for me, and can easily satisfy a sweets craving. Or, if I’m looking for something hot, some oatmeal will fill me up nicely. I also really love salads topped with some kind of protein, and in the dead of winter I am just longing for something fresh. Thank goodness for having veggies year-round!
Whenever I’ve been eating heavy, I start to crave fish and avocado for the lean proteins, healthy fats, and omega-3’s. These are a great way to satisfy my cravings and fill me up, while reprogramming my tastebuds to something a little healthier.
I made this salad on a whim, to use up some budget-friendly ingredients like black beans, cabbage, and salsa, while incorporating some nice lean white fish and avocado. I liked the idea of making a ‘deconstructed fish taco’, so I coated the fish in crushed tortilla chips. Maybe not the healthiest thing, but as I said before, I’m taking things slow. If you’d like to make a lighter version you can skip the tortillas all together and simply grill or pan-fry the fish, however you like it.
I also made the black beans from scratch, which is not only inexpensive and easy, but crazy flavorful. These are the best black beans I’ve made, and can be used up in dozens of tasty ways!
Recipe Notes: Making your own black beans is easy, flavorful, and cheaper than buying canned. You’ll only need a little bit for this recipe, but I like to make a whole pound of beans and keep them in the fridge to be used up later. There are plenty of tasty uses for them, and you can find the recipe for one of my favorites here: Huevos Rancheros Breakfast Burrito.
Easy and Flavorful Black Beans
1 lb. dried black beans, rinsed and picked over for any pebbles or debris
1 TBSP olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/8th-1/4 tsp. cayenne, or red pepper flakes, to taste
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick (or 1/4 tsp. cinnamon added with the rest of the spices)
1 TBSP granulated sugar
1/2 lemon, juiced (about 1-2 TBSP)
1 tsp. salt, or to taste
pepper, to taste
3-4 cups water
1. Rinse and sort the beans, then cover with cold water and let soak for 6-8 hours, or overnight, before cooking. This will help to mitigate the not-so-happy-side-effect that beans can sometimes have. After soaking, rinse the beans thoroughly until the water runs clear.
2. In a large pot or dutch oven, add the olive oil and saute the onions over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes, or until lightly browned. Add the garlic, cumin, coriander, and cayenne, and stir for 30 seconds to toast the spices.
3. Add the prepared beans, oregano, bay leaf, and cinnamon stick. Add 3 cups of fresh water and increase heat to boil. Once boiling, cover and reduce the heat to simmer. Let cook 30 minutes.
4. Uncover the pot and cook for another 35-45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender. Add more water as needed.
5. At the very end of cooking, add the sugar, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. (Do not add salt or acidic ingredients at the beginning of cooking, as they will cause the beans to be tough/dry). Finished beans can be stored in the fridge for up to a couple of weeks.
Recipe Notes: I loved the idea of making a deconstructed fish taco, and decided to bread my fish with crushed tortilla chips. For a lighter dish, feel free to omit the tortillas all together, and simply grill or pan-fry the fish as you like.
I made this recipe up on a whim, writing down ingredients and amounts as I went along. Some of the measurements aren’t exact, so use your judgement on the spices, to taste.
Fish Taco Salad with Avocado Chipotle Dressing
For the fish:
1 lb. cod, tilapia, pollock, mahi mahi, or other white fish (I used cod since it was on sale, but others would work just as well)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cracked pepper
2 large eggs
2 TBSP milk
2-3 large handfuls tortilla chips, finely crushed (about 7oz. by weight)
1-2 TBSP fresh chopped cilantro
1/4-1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
1/2 tsp. salt
For the avocado dressing
1 ripe avocado
3 TBSP sour cream
1 TBSP chipotle peppers in adobo, or to taste
1 clove garlic
1-2 tsp. honey or agave
1/4 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. salt, or to taste
1/2 lime, juiced (about 1 TBSP)
2-4 TBSP olive oil, to taste
For the salad
Black beans (recipe above)
Iceberg lettuce, finely sliced/shredded
Red cabbage, finely sliced/shredded
Sweet corn, fresh or frozen
Salsa, homemade or jarred
Fresh pineapple, cut small
For the fish
1. Preheat oven to 400f., and thoroughly grease (or spray with non-stick cooking spray) a wire rack. Place the rack on top of a baking sheet, and set aside.
2. In a shallow dish or a zip-top bag, mix together the flour, cumin, chili powder, 1/2 salt, and pepper. In a separate dish or baggie, crush the tortilla chips to very fine bits, and mix in the chopped cilantro, crushed red pepper flakes, and another 1/2 tsp. salt. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk.
3. Cut the fish into fillets (if it isn’t already) and dredge in the flour mixture (I like to use zip-top baggies for this, so I can add the fish and just toss everything around). Shake off any excess flour, and dunk the fish in the egg mixture. Then place the fish in the crushed tortilla mixture, coating thoroughly. Lay each fillet onto the prepared wire-rack, and bake on the center rack for 10-15 minutes, or until the fish flakes. Cook time will vary depending on your fish, and the thickness of your fillets – check it early, and be sure not to over-cook!
For the avocado chipotle dressing
1. Combine all the ingredients except the olive oil in the bowl of your food processor, and blend until smooth. While blending, drizzle in the olive oil to thin to desired consistency (I liked mine quite thick, more like a sauce, but that’s just me).
For the salad
I decided to layer my salad, kind of like a regular taco salad would be – beans on the bottom, then the shredded lettuce and cabbage, topped cilantro, salsa, pineapple, and any other ingredients/add-ons, and finished with the fish and avocado dressing. I served mine with some lemon and lime wedges to squeeze over the whole thing, and extra tortilla chips around the bottom to eat up all those yummy black beans. Feel free to mix up any or all of these ingredients, as you like.