Taco salad night is a big deal in our house.
At least for my husband and me…the kids haven’t learned to appreciate lettuce and the hodgepodge of yumminess we throw on it. Taco salads are eaten in our home usually once a week, and for good reason! Not only is it a yummy and satisfying dish, it’s ridiculously easy. Like…seriously easy. But let me back up for a minute, and tell you how we came to know and love the taco salad in all it’s glory.
The year is 2008. My husband and I, only-been-married-a-year, decided to take a road trip for our anniversary, to see the lovely sights of New England. We packed up our Jeep with all sorts of camping and hiking gear, and headed out one dark morning, before the sun had even come up. (obviously this was pre-children, and the world was our oyster! Who needed sleep?!)
We drove 13 straight hours (remember…no children) until we arrived at my husbands cousins home, in Vermont. My handy husband had made a beautiful desk for them, and we used the delivery of it, as our excuse for the road trip.
(this is the view on top of Camel’s Hump in Vermont…his beard was so much…less beard)
Our first night there, his cousin and her husband made us a yummy taco salad, and I’m embarrassed to say that I had no idea how to construct one. I mean, in my defense, Chipotle wasn’t a big deal yet, and this was not your “typical” Mexican style taco salad. So we ate… and had seconds… and both my husband and I fell in love with the easiness of this dish, and knew it would be a good, healthy addition to our weekly menu. At that time, we were not super conscientious about what we put into our bodies. So every little bit counted.
Over the years, we made some slight changes, but the overall dish is the same as when we first tried it all those years ago.
So without further ado, I give you the ever glorious, and always amazing Venison Taco Salad!
Ah…but what if you’re not big on the taste of venison? That’s the beauty of this dish…it’s so versatile, that you can sub in pretty much any ground meat you like! (for you veggie eaters, I’m sure there is a meat substitute that could be crumbled, cooked and seasoned) We’ve made this dish with beef and ground turkey as well and it’s never let us down. We use mainly venison now because it’s so good for you and let’s be honest…you can’t get much more organic / free-range, than wild game!
What you need:
- 1 lb. ground venison (or ground beef, ground turkey, etc)
- taco seasoning (please don’t buy the packet! They are so full of chemicals and it is SO easy to make your own…I’ll post my recipe below)
- washed and cut green leaf lettuce (sometimes we mix it up by adding red leaf lettuce or baby spinach)
- salsa (find the recipe here…or you can buy a good brand with very few ingredients)
- ranch dressing (again, not a super healthy thing to buy, but you can find a descent organic brand. We make our own. I’ll post on that later)
- freshly shredded cheddar cheese
- Corn chips (yes, I know this is not healthy at all…but live a little – we love Que Pasa brand corn chips)
- any additional toppings (black olives, jalapeños, etc)
Here’s a super easy and tasty DIY Taco Seasoning recipe, that’ll keep you from ever wanting to buy the store bought packets!
Step 1: Brown meat over medium heat
Step 2: If using a fattier meat like beef, drain the fat. If cooking venison or turkey, there should be little to no fat to drain. Add in about 2-3 tbls water and taco seasoning. Stir well to combine.
Step 3: Construct your salad. I like to layer mine in this order: Lettuce, a handful of crushed up corn chips, seasoned meat, shredded cheese, ranch, then salsa.
Step 4: Eat and enjoy!