Crunchy Chicken Taco Salad for Healthy Solutions Spice Blends Recipe Challenge

It has been a long time since we’ve entered a recipe contest. However, this one sounded too intriguing to pass up. Food bloggers were invited to try one of Healthy Solutions Spice Blends and create a health-conscious, family-friendly recipe using it. We received a sample packet of their “Authentic Chili/Tacos” seasoning blend, and found a way to use it not just once, but four different ways in our recipe.

Our recipe is inspired by the taco salad, the delicious but usually quite unhealthy dish found on the menus of many restaurant chains in the U.S. Was it possible to create a healthy taco salad that was crave-worthy in its deliciousness? That was our mission, and to do so required packing in as much punch as possible. Thankfully, the spice blend is filled with an abundance of fragrant herbs and tongue-tickling spices such as chili pepper, garlic, onion and cumin. Thus, we incorporated it into all the levels of our salad, from the protein to the garnishes to the dressing.

First, we used the blend to season the Greek-yogurt-based marinade for our crunchy baked chicken fingers.  Then we sprinkled it on some corn tortillas we cut into strips to make a crunchy salad topper. We threw a teaspoon of it into the black bean layer that sat atop our salad as well. And finally, we created a zesty chili/taco flavored vinaigrette to give it one last kick.

The robust flavors and varying textures of this fresh dinner salad made it a huge hit at our table, and we dare say, it would be at yours as well. The seasoning blend is mildly spicy, and therefore not too much for the tummies of the little ones. You'll notice we only used about 4 teaspoons of it; feel free to add more or less to taste. The packets are resealable! And (bonus!) this simple salad can be made from scratch in about 45 minutes.

Crunchy Chicken Taco Salad
Serves four


Your favorite salad ingredients for four 
6 ounces plain Greek yogurt
1 pound chicken breasts, cut into strips ("fingers")
1 cup panko (Japanese-style breadcrumbs)
4 corn or flour tortillas, cut into narrow strips
1 15.5-ounce can black beans
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Juice of 2 limes

Use your favorite salad ingredients to make a dinner-sized salad for each member of your family (we used shredded lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers). Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the yogurt in a shallow bowl or baking dish and stir in one teaspoon of the spice blend. Coat the chicken fingers with the yogurt and set aside to marinate. Meanwhile, spread the tortilla strips in one layer on a cookie sheet and sprinkle with one teaspoon of the spice blend; bake for 8-10 minutes, until golden brown and crunchy. Dip each chicken finger on all sides in panko and place on a cookie sheet; bake for 15 minutes, flip, and bake another 15 minutes, until golden brown. While the chicken is baking, heat the black beans with one teaspoon of the spice blend in a small saucepan and place as a layer on top of the salad ingredients. To make the dressing, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar and lime juice with a teaspoon of the spice blend. Place the chicken fingers on top of the salad, drizzle with the dressing and garnish with the crunchy tortilla strips.


About the Taste of Manchester 2016

Perhaps you read the recent post on Mike's Pizzeria and your interest was piqued. What is the Taste of Manchester and how does it work?

The Taste of Manchester is a single-night fund-raising event that supports the Manchester Dog Owners Group and is run entirely by volunteers. Your ticket offers you the opportunity to explore, in pub-crawl fashion, the flavors of Downtown Manchester, and support the local businesses in the City of Village Charm.

Each participating business will have a "Tasting" area set up either at their own location, or at one of the joint locations on Main Street, where they will offer a taste of their menu items. You can start anywhere along the route, and travel by foot or take one of the shuttle buses that will be available. Visit as many businesses as you like, but make sure you end up at the Army & Navy Club for the after-party and raffle drawings! 

This year's event will be held on Tuesday, May 10th from 5:30 to 9:00 p.m. All the information you need, from purchasing tickets to finding out more about the participating restaurants to volunteering for the Taste of Manchester, can be found at one or more of the following sites:

Twitter Handle: @tastytownct  
This year's hashtag: #TOMCT2016

Get those tastebuds revved up and ready by reading about a few of the 2016 Taste participants below, and BUY YOUR TICKETS NOW!!!


Taste of Manchester: La Via Del Gusto

As part of the Taste of Manchester 2015 Marketing Committee, Amy has volunteered to write short features on the participating restaurants and share them via our blog here.This year's Taste of Manchester will be held on Tuesday, May 12th from 5:30 to 9 p.m. See the TOM webpageFacebook page, or Twitter @TastyTownCT (#TOMCT2015) for more information. 

La Via del Gusto on Broad Street

Think you need to go to Franklin Avenue to purchase great Italian meats, cheeses, espressos and pastries? Think again. In the Strano Bakery building on Broad Street, you'll find a hidden treasure - La Via del Gusto, an Italian cafe, bakery, deli and market, right here in Manchester, CT. The Italian name means "The Way of Taste," and this business is Manchester's way to the old world tastes of Italy. They will be participating in the Taste of Manchester 2015, their second year. 

Owner Claudio makes a cappuccino

Frothy, sweet, and delizioso!

CAFE: Business owner and ever-the-welcoming-host Claudio makes a mean espresso, or a cappuccino, if you prefer. Sip on one as you listen to Italian music and browse the multiple pastry cases in search of the choicest accompaniment to your caffeine fix. And speaking of pastries...

Fresh Bread

Creamy, crunchy cannoli

Lobster-Tail Pastry

BAKERY: One step into the building and the tempting aromas give it away -- La Via del Gusto specializes in freshly baked Italian breads and rolls, flaky pastries such as ricotta-stuffed sflogliatelle and cream-filled "lobster tails," cannoli (plain or chocolate-dipped) and assorted Italian cookies. All of these can be ordered in individual servings or by the dozen (pastries) or pound (cookies), to eat in the cafe or to take away. Just like their deli items...

Italian Cheeses

Sweet Sopressata, Sharp Provolone, Scamorza Garlic Bread, and Meatballs in sauce 
- the at-home feast of foods we bought at La Via del Gusto

DELI: Italian meats, like prosciutto, capicolla, salami and sopressatta are among the deli choices at La Via del Gusto. But what is meat without cheese in the old world? Parmigiano-Reggiano, scamorza, Grana Padano, provolone - take your pick. You're sure to find one that is crumbly, stinky, salty, smoky, or nutty enough to suit your needs. If you need a quick breakfast or lunch sandwich, look no further. Claudio's Classic Italian Combo is the way to go - ham, Genoa salami and sopressata with your choice of cheese, veggies, and special housemade roasted pepper cream, or any other combination for a grinder or panini you can think up, will be magnificently stuffed with freshly sliced Italian-style formaggi and carni.   

Serving up a hefty sandwich

MARKET: La Via del Gusto also has a market area with shelves overflowing with imported pastas of every shape, bottles of olive oil and vinegar, tomato sauces and other Italian specialty items. They also sell their own items such as meatballs, spaghetti sauce, soups and more. Which means you can buy the best ingredients to make your dinner from scratch, or get that dinner ready-made to simply heat and eat. 

Oils, vinegars, tomatoes, sauces

 Homemade Meatballs are vacuum-packed and ready to heat 'n eat

Pastas of every shape

So, Manchesterians, next time you are craving the culinary delights of Italy, rather than wrestle with traffic on I-84 into Hartford, keep it truly local and travel "the way of taste" to La Via del Gusto

The Menu

La Via del Gusto is located at 255 Broad Street, in the old Strano Bakery Building. They are open Monday-Saturday from 9:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. and Sundays from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. Their phone number is 860-432-2122, and you can eat in the cafe, take items to go, and/or purchase catered platters and trays.  

La Via Del Gusto on Urbanspoon


Luck o' the Irish Cereal Treats

It's time for St. Patrick's Day and we had our annual corned beef and cabbage dinner with the neighbors over the weekend. We saw this twist on the Rice Krispie treat all over the Internet and thought they'd be perfect for the kids. We were right. N, who is 5, surely loved them, but (shhh!), so did we.

Luck o' the Irish Cereal Treats


cooking spray
5 tablespoons butter
1 10-oz. bag large marshmallows
5 cups Lucky Charms cereal
1 8-oz. bag white chocolate chips
3-4 drops green food coloring

Coat a 13x9-inch pan with cooking spray. In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add marshmallows and stir with silicone spoon or spatula until melted. Stir in cereal until everything is mixed together. Press into prepared pan with wax paper and allow to cool. Melt chocolate chips over low heat in a small saucepan or in the microwave. Add food coloring and spread chocolate over the treats. Cut and serve.

Here are a few more St. Patrick's Day Ideas: