Cinco de Mayo Specials

In the spirit of Cinco de Mayo, I thought I would share some of my favorite Mexican recipes with you. The best part – all of them are super healthy! So break out the Coronas, mix the margaritas, and get cooking. Let’s start with the basics first: guacamole.

My Los Gol Inspired Guacamole is the perfect start to any Mexican dish. Serve it with chips for an appetizer (or make it healthy by serving it with celery or carrots), use it to top tacos, burritos, or any other delicious dish you decide to make. In my opinion, it wouldn’t be Cinco de Mayo without it.

The trick is to get a nice, thick tortilla chip. Those flimsy, mass-produced chips just don't cut it. Get the real deal from the Mexican section of your market.

The trick is to get a nice, thick tortilla chip. Those flimsy, mass-produced chips just don’t cut it. Get the real deal from the Mexican section of your market.

Next up on the menu are my Southern California-Style Steak Tacos. Healthy, quick, and delicious, these are a great main dish. If the weather is nice, grill the flank steak! You can also swap out the steak for chicken if you’d prefer.

These fresh and light steak tacos take me back to the beaches of Southern California, even in the middle of blusterous Chicago.

These fresh and light steak tacos take me back to the beaches of Southern California, even in the middle of blusterous Chicago.

Or, check out just the pico de gallo and use it to top fish for an extremely healthy dish.

The cilantro is what makes this dish extra special. Not to mention, it's almost all veggies so this dish is super healthy!

The cilantro is what makes this dish extra special. Not to mention, it’s almost all veggies so this dish is super healthy!

For another fish alternative, try my Mango Salsa over Mahi Mahi.

It's spicy, sweet, fresh, and simply delicious. The fact that it's healthy is just an awesome afterthought.

It’s spicy, sweet, fresh, and simply delicious. The fact that it’s healthy is just an awesome afterthought.

Or, like the guacamole, the mango salsa can be eaten with just chips or veggies for a delicious appetizer. The mango salsa would also be delicious over chicken as a standalone or in chicken tacos, too.

This is delicious with fish, chicken, pork, or simply with tortilla chips as an appetizer. It's a fun twist on a favorite.

This is delicious with fish, chicken, pork, or simply with tortilla chips as an appetizer. It’s a fun twist on a favorite.

My Garlicky Shrimp Fajitas with Guacamole are another main dish favorite and are super easy to make.

This delicious dish only takes about 15 minutes to make!

This delicious dish only takes about 15 minutes to make!

Lastly, try my Skinny Spicy Buffalo Shrimp Dip for another dip with Mexican flavors. This dip has quick a kick from sriracha (though you can swap out sriracha for tapatio for extra Mexican flavors) and gets its gooey-ness from Mexican cheese. This dip is delicious with chips or veggies.

Cheesy, gooey goodness. You've never guess it is healthy!

Cheesy, gooey goodness. You’ve never guess it is healthy!

To make any of these dishes extremely healthy (one step past super healthy), use celery or carrots instead of tortilla chips for the dips, and swap out flour tortillas for wheat. These dishes will taste super delicious either way!

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Skinny Spicy Buffalo Shrimp Dip

I absolutely loved this dip when I made it for the Super Bowl a few weeks ago, so I’m bringing it back for March Madness! The “skinny” part is deceiving in this gooey, cheesy, rich dip that tastes especially decadent with the shrimp. With only 120 calories per 1/3 cup, you’ll save enough calories to have an extra beer in the second half of the game. You can make this dish as hot as you want by adding more or less hot sauce. So instead of snacking on buffalo chicken wings, try out this tasty dip.

Cheesy, gooey goodness. You've never guess it is healthy!

Cheesy, gooey goodness. You’d never guess it is healthy!

What you’ll need:
4 ounces reduced fat cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup reduced fat sour cream
1/2 cup hot sauce – I used sriracha
1 tsp white wine vinegar
2 cups cooked peeled large shrimp, diced
3/4 cup reduced fat Mexican blend cheese

What you’ll need to do:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly spray an 8×8 baking dish, or any dish of an equivalent size.

Combine the cream cheese, sour cream, hot sauce, vinegar, and 1/4 cup of the cheese. Mix until smooth.

**Tip: Add the hot sauce little by little until you achieve your desired hotness.

Add the shrimp to the dip and mix. Add it to your baking dish.

Keep the chunks of shrimp bite-sized so you can scoop up a bit in every bite.

Keep the chunks of shrimp bite-sized so you can scoop up a bit in every bite.

Bake in the oven until hot, or about 20 minutes.

Remove from the oven and top with the remaining cheese. Add it back to the oven for about 5 minutes or until the cheese has melted. Let the dip cool for a few minutes before digging in.

Bake until the cheese bubbles on top.

Bake until the cheese bubbles on top.

Serve this with carrots and celery to keep it extra skinny, but it’s also delicious with baked pita chips. If you like this dish, try my Tangy Yogurt Veggie Dip!

Enjoy!

Tangy Yogurt Veggie Dip

In my opinion, veggies by themselves can be pretty boring – especially if you eat them every single day (as you should). In the interest of being healthy, I make it a point to snack on veggies every day for either my morning or afternoon snack. They’re easy to throw in with my lunch for work, and they’re great to snack on while I’m sitting at my desk. But I always need a little something else, something to go with the veggies that adds a little richness and makes my afternoon snack slightly more filling and satisfying. This is where my Tangy Yogurt Veggie Dip comes in.

Rather than dip my veggies in Ranch dressing – which believe me, I’d love to do – I have this dip to satisfy my craving. Ranch is too fattening, processed, and high in sodium to qualify for a healthy snack; it cancels out the veggies. Instead, this dip has all the creaminess of Ranch, but it’s not processed and it’s high in protein, which adds nice balance to the fiber-rich veggies. Plus, I added lemon juice and a little cayenne pepper for a little zing. It’s easy to make little containers to pop in your lunches for work, or even bring to a BBQ or serve at a party.

This one was inspired by my favorite health expert – Bob Harper.

What you’ll need:
2 tablespoons nonfat, plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Dash of cayenne pepper

**This makes the perfect serving size for a snack, but increase the amounts based on how much you need. It’s just two parts Greek yogurt to one part lemon juice. Add cayenne pepper to add a little heat.

What you’ll need to do:

Take all ingredients and mix. Simple as that!

I have these little containers that I throw these ingredients in, then seal the lid and shake.

Serve with any kinds of veggies. My favorites are baby carrots, celery, slices bell peppers, broccoli, or cauliflower.

Los Gol Inspired Guacamole

When I was about 12 years old, my brothers and I each got to pick a tree to plant in our backyard. Daniel, chose a peach tree, Kevin chose a apricot tree, and I chose an avocado tree. Sure, my mom told me that avocados probably wouldn’t grow on the tree until I left for college (it turned out to be grad school, by the way), but I was determined. I love, love, love avocados. I could eat them like apples. So it’s no surprise that guacamole is my all-time favorite snack food.

My favorite guacamole of all time comes from this little hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant in my hometown called Los Golondrinas (affectionately known by locals as “Los Gol”). After moving away from Southern California, I was left to my own devices to recreate this tasty guacamole (kind of like what I did for my SoCal Steak Tacos).

The trick is to get a nice, thick tortilla chip. Those flimsy, mass-produced chips just don’t cut it. Get the real deal from the Mexican section of your market.

What you’ll need:

4 ripe avocados
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 onion
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 tablespoon salt

What you’ll need to do:

Start with ripe avocados. You’ll know they’re the perfect ripeness if they’re about the same density as if you press on the pad of your hand. Use your knife to cut your avocado all the way around length-wise, dragging your knife tip around the pit and being careful not to puncture it. Twist your avocado like an Oreo to release it. Then, use your knife to chop into the pit to get a grip on it, then twist your knife to release the pit (see picture). Don’t worry too much about it being perfect, your avocado will be mashed anyway!

You have to use a little force when bringing your knife down on the pit so that you can get a grip on it. Once the pit lifts out of the avocado, it’s easy enough to get off your knife and into the trash can.

Use a spoon to scoop out your avocado into a medium bowl. Mash your avocado with a fork, making sure to leave some bigger chunks of avocado still in there. Immediately mix in your lemon juice with the avocado to avoid it turning brown (lime juice would be better, but I always have lemon juice in my kitchen staples).

I could eat a giant spoonful of the avocado and lemon just like this!

Chop your onion and cilantro, then add to the bowl with the salt and garlic.

Some people like to put tomato in their guacamole, and honestly, Los Gol’s guac has it in theirs. However, I find tomatoes tedious to work with when adding your guacamole because it can make it too watery if you don’t do it right. And in keeping with the honesty, I don’t think it adds enough flavor to make the hassle worth it. But if you do want tomatoes, make sure to remove all seeds first and then slice thinly and add to your guacamole.

Make sure your guacamole is well combined, but still leave some big chunks of avocado if you can. I generally taste test along the way to make sure I don’t need to add more salt or lemon juice. If you’re a guac-lover like me, you’ll know if and how much of which you’ll need to add.

I added some of my guacamole to simple chicken tacos for a tasty, easy dinner. Just cook your basic chicken, and add some sliced tomato, lettuce, and guac to a warmed tortilla. Yum.

Guacamole can be healthy, too! Scoop a little on a chicken sandwich, add some to fish tacos, or even eat with veggies (avocados have healthy fats when eaten in reasonable portions). However, there’s nothing better than sitting down with a big bowl of guacamole, tortilla chips, and a beer on a lazy Sunday afternoon. And since it’s avocado season, I am frequently whipping up this treat.

Kale Chips

A few days ago I talked a lot about the deliciousness and nutritiousness of kale when I made citrusy kale salad with canned peaches. So I’ll reiterate – this superfood is simply awesome. Because it’s so high in fiber and low in calories, this is basically a “free” food; you can eat tons and tons of it without feeling guilty.

Kale chips are the best way to cure any craving for a salty, crunchy snack without feeling any of the guilt. They’re a super easy post-workout treat because you can pop them in the oven while you get in a quick shower. Or, pop them in the oven when you get home from work to give yourself a few minutes to unwind. Either way, you can’t go wrong with this super easy, guilt-free snack.

There’s a reason why I always save a few stalks of kale when I make my citrusy kale salad!

What you’ll need:
1 bunch kale
Cooking spray
Salt

What you’ll need to do:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray.

Tear the leaves of your kale in big pieces, and throw on the cooking sheet.

After your kale leaves are on the cooking sheet, spray them with cooking spray and then sprinkle with salt.

Pop your baking sheet in the oven and cook for 10 minutes.

Enjoy!

Tuna Salad Stuffed Tomatoes

Nothing beats a beautiful beefsteak tomato, and nothing’s easier than whipping up a simple tuna salad. I love tuna stuffed tomatoes because of how simple it is, so it’s a perfect go-to when you really don’t want to put forth any effort. For under 200 calories and in less than 5 minutes, you can have a delicious summer lunch or snack.

The acidity in the tomato works great with the tuna.

What you’ll need:
1 beefsteak tomato
1 can light tuna in water (not oil)
1 tablespoon light mayo
1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish

What you’ll need to do:

Open your can of tuna and drain out the water. In a regular bowl (the bowl you’ll eat this in so you save a dish), mix together your tuna, mayo, and pickle relish with a fork (again, the fork you’ll eat with so you save another dish) to make your tuna salad.

You can use any tuna salad recipe you like, but this is my favorite, most simple go-to. I sometimes throw in onions if I have them.

Slice your beefsteak tomato in thin slices and position around the edge of your bowl. Make sure you have a hole in the middle so you can scoop up tuna salad with a slice of tomato.

And enjoy! It’s as simple as that.

Greek Yogurt with Blueberries and Honey

Greek yogurt is my one of my favorite snacks in the whole world. It’s loaded with protein (about 22g per cup) which makes it very filling, and at the same time it’s relatively low in calories and a delicious vehicle for fresh berries. It’s a little tart, a little sweet, and it fills my craving for creamy goodness.

This is the ideal post-workout snack because it’s so high in protein. Fitness and nutrition experts recommend eating a protein-heavy snack within the “golden hour” after a strenuous workout to replenish your energy stores and rebuild your hurting muscles, and I’ve found that Greek yogurt is perfect answer. Not only that, but Greek yogurt is also great for breakfast or even right after I get home from work (because it’s so filling, it curbs my ravenous desire for an entire bag of chips). There’s a reason it’s in my kitchen staples!

My favorite simple, super nutritious go-to snack.

What you’ll need (1 serving):
1 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
1 handful (or 2) of fresh blueberries (or strawberries or mango or kiwi or whatever looks good at the market)
2 tbsp of honey (for even less calories, I use my favorite no-calorie sweetener, such as Stevia)

What you’ll need to do:

Step 1: Put yogurt in bowl.

Step 2: Put one or two handfuls of your favorite fresh berries on top of yogurt.

Step 3: Drizzle with honey (or scoop on no-calorie sweetener).

Step 4: Enjoy!

It’s that easy! And so delicious. Total time to assemble: About 2 minutes. Total calories: Around 200 (depending on berries and honey vs. Stevia). You can’t beat this tasty treat.