Tuesday, April 29, 2014

DIY Dining - Taco Salad

The Range Office "Alien Hive"

DIY is a great concept (except for perhaps brain surgery) and with a little practice, especially in the kitchen, you can cut your food budget by quite a bit.

Case in point.  Taco salad night.  I had just grabbed essentials at the store as far as perishable items after being away three weeks and wanting to finish the shopping after my work week. So tonight, it was just lettuce, chips, cheese and meat.  But feel free to add corn, olives, beans, cherry tomatoes, etc.  Half the fun is just making it up as you go along, but a good seasoning is essential, as not everyone likes boring and bland.
They 75 year old Range range.  There lies a treaty of
 mutually assured destruction between us, that so far seems to be working.

The prepackaged taco seasoning can run from fifty cents to $2.  A package of the generic store brand at the local grocers here is $1.29.  That sounds cheap but it adds up over time.  You can buy generic spices, which can be used in many other dishes, and make your own, for about 15 cents a serving, buying in bulk.

Most people tend to think, "I don't want to go to all that work just to save a buck."  Well, apply that practice to much of what you do in the kitchen and that buck turns into hundreds of dollars; money in the bank or money that allows you to occasionally splurge on other items if you are so inclined. Prepackaged mixes and convenience foods are expensive.

Plus you don't have all of the mystery ingredients in the packaged items, such as whey, maltodextrin, autolyzed yeast extract (their clever way of saying MSG), cellulose and "natural" flavor (if it's natural, why not tell us what it is?)
Now, how about some dressing on that Taco Salad.  My Mom always used Kraft Catalina salad dressing for both taco salad, regular salad and a couple yummy chicken and pork recipes that I still make. It will definitely bring back memories of the 70's for many of you.  I'm not a fan of French type dressings for my salad, but Catalina was always wonderful with the spice and the crunch of taco salad for a lot of folks. But brand name salad dressing is not cheap and that particular one contains high fructose corn syrup, modified food starch, phosphoric acid, xanthan gum, potassium sorbate, calcium disodium, EDTA, citric acid, guar gum, "natural flavoring" again, red 40, yellow 6, and blue 1.  Add electricity to that and pretty soon you'll have some villagers with torches and pitchforks on your porch.

The DIY Catalina?  Oil, honey, vinegar, onion, Worcestershire sauce and some spices you likely already have on hand.  That's it. It's not as thick, but it has the same wonderful flavor and the remaining dressing will marinade a cheap skirt steak for grilling later in the week.

Then go down and enjoy some time in the shop with the tools you bought with the money saved in the kitchen.


  1. Maltodextrin ===> A dark and windy night. It is a delicate topic, but many cannot fully digest maltodextrin although there are flora and fauna in our guts that feast on the stuff.

    If I am going to experience (enjoy?) all of the benefits of maltodextrin then I want it to come out of a bottle of IPA.

  2. Bookmarked. Thanks!

    And our favorite bulk grocer is next to Harbor Freight. Yay!

  3. Now, we had Catalina used as salad dressing in Mom and Dad's house, but I would never have imagined it used on tacos/taco salad. Hmmm... Now your recipe for the dressing sounds interesting.

  4. A squirt of fresh lemon, a shake of salt,(for those who can take salt), a taste of balsamic vinegar.
    Good to go.

  5. I have to admit, Litehouse Jalapeño Ranch Dressing is the one I go to all of the time.


  6. I know I'm weird, but I like Thousand Island on mine... :-)

  7. I'm envious of the 75-year-old stove. None of the electronic nonsense that's on modern gas ranges; all one needs is a match, most likely. I'd like to find one in useable condition as a back-up with propane adapters!

  8. Dressing? On taco salad? *theatrical shudder* That's what salsas are for. Do you want the black bean one, the tomatillo one, the mango-lime one, the "this isn't so hot ow, ow!" one . . .


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