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Compose Yourself

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Layered Taco Salad

I’ve been about the farthest thing from composed today.  In fact, I’ve been…I’ve been…well, I’ve been (and remain) a blithering ninny.  Going about my day with tissue wad in hand and sobbing at the drop of a hat, I’ve bent the ear of any friend (or stranger) who has regrettably (for them) hazarded a guess at the reason for my bloodshot eyes and tearstained cheeks.

Had you seen me, you likely would have said (because you’re nice) something sweet like, “Oh you poor thing!  What could it be? A death in the family?  A wretched illness?  Gangrene?  Rickets?  Lyme disease?  What could possibly be bringing you to tears here in the produce department?!  And on Facebook!  And in the middle of the cul-de-sac?!

I’ll tell you, even as I tear up now, why I’m a wreck today.  I’ve made my peace with it, and if you think I’m crazy, that’s all right with me.  Call me what you will, you can’t make me feel any worse.

No Thank You Boy left this afternoon for a week in Washington, DC with his 8th grade class.  No biggie, right?  Their trip is a culmination of a yearlong study of American History and U.S. government.  We parents have received emails and attended informational meetings throughout the year about this trip.  Each time it’s been discussed, the trip has been billed as ‘an amazing experience to cap off a fantastic year of learning’, and ‘the last time our group will be together like this before high school’, and (the kicker) ‘the grand finale of 8th grade’.

The end of 8th grade.  There you have it; hence, the waterworks.

I’m not sad because NTYB has gone away for a week.  C’mon, the kid is 14; hanging out with him is not exactly a day at the beach.  And as far as the DC experience goes, I’m thrilled he’s having the opportunity.  What better way to gain an appreciation for our nation’s Capitol and all its historic value than with your uber-enthusiastic Social Studies teacher and your fellow Young Historians (as said teacher refers to them)?

What absolutely wrecks me is how much this trip represents a rite of passage for my oldest kid.  The end of a fantastic middle school experience, and high school looming large just over the horizon.  Time marching on.

“Living in the moment” is a term that’s bandied about a lot, and is a good motto to live by.  “Don’t wish your life away” is my husband’s personal favorite.  Synonymous phrases that each sound so simple.  But living in the moment was not easy or simple today.  * le sigh * Would someone please change the subject?!

Let’s talk about the salad, shall we?  Because you don’t come here to listen to me prattle on about my issues (although I appreciate that you do), and I’m ready to pull myself together – that is to say, compose myself.

A composed salad (nice segue, right?!) is usually served as a main course.  Think Cobb, Chef, Nicoise, or today’s Layered Taco Salad.  In a restaurant, a composed salad would be served with all of the ingredients artfully arranged, and all of the components on one plate.  Gorgeous fresh vegetables, a protein, cheese, and starch; and finished off with a lovely dressing.

This salad rocks.  In an ironic twist, it went over especially well this evening because of NTYB’s absence.  This would be lovely for dinner on a hot summer evening or for a ladies lunch – it’s cool, filling, delicious…

And composed.

LAYERED NACHO SALAD
Serves:  6 as a main course

Source:  modified from epicurious.com

  • 2 large, ripe avocados, peeled and pitted
  • 2 c. or more thick salsa, divided (Muir Glen Organic Salsa is on sale)
  • 1 lime, halved
  • 2 T. cilantro, chopped
  • 1 head red leaf lettuce*, torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 3 c. shredded cooked chicken** or turkey (Farmland Turkey cubes or strips are on sale)
  • 3 c. broken tortilla chips
  • 1 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 4 scallions, chopped (on sale)
  • 1 small green pepper, small dice
  • 1 c. packed shredded cheddar cheese (Sargento is on sale)

Red wine vinaigrette or buttermilk dressing for serving (Girard’s Dressings are on sale)

Place avocados in a medium bowl.  Add 1/3 c. salsa, a squeeze of fresh lime juice, and the cilantro and mash to chunky guacamole consistency. Season with salt and pepper.

Layer half of lettuce, chicken or turkey, chips, beans, green onions, bell pepper and cheese in a large glass bowl.  Top with half of guacamole mixture and half of remaining salsa.  Repeat layering with remaining ingredients.  Use additional salsa to cover top if desired.  Serve salad, passing a buttermilk dressing or red wine vinaigrette at the table.

A COUPLE OF NOTES:

(*) romaine lettuce is on sale and would make a fine substitute for the red leaf

(**) I had chicken breasts on hand that I needed to use up.  I marinated them in a mixture of ½ c. beer, ¼ c. soy sauce, 2 T. olive oil, several dashes of Tabasco, and a hefty pinch of chopped cilantro.  I grilled the chicken over medium high for about 5 minutes per side, cooled it off, and diced it for the salad.  If you go this route, Just Bare Boneless Chicken Breasts are on sale!

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Leah Damron is an avid home cook who believes in using the freshest ingredients available, and she challenges herself weekly to create meals out of (mostly!) sale items. If Sendik's ever gave a title for "Biggest Fan", she believes she would win, hands down. Leah lives in greater Milwaukee with her husband, three children, and her big black lab, Daisy."

  • Nicole426

    We had this for dinner tonight, sitting out on the patio with friends. It was absolutely delicious! What an amazing combination. I love guac and cilantro (basically anything Mexican). Can't wait to make it again. Hubby said, “Thank Leah for me!”

  • racheldickman

    Yum! We just finished having this and it was awesome! My girls assembeled it and even ended up eating the guac and black beans – yeah for recipes that get my kids to eat new things!

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