A Mexican buffet? At a yoga center?
Now there's a chef with a sense of humor.
Back in January, I spent a few days at the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Lenox, Massachusetts, and the lunch spread on Tuesday was an all-you-can-eat Mexican buffet. I had turkey tacos, seasoned black beans, corn & kale, Mexican rice, roasted tomato soup, tomatillo salsa, and guacamole — I was in heaven!!! As was everyone else.
We all had contented grins on our faces for hours following the feast. Well... at least until later that afternoon anyway, when an impromptu symphony of bodily gases filled the yoga studios. As I held my pose in downward dog, aimed like a cannon at the poor girl behind me, I couldn't help but giggle as I pictured the executive chef laughing maniacally at our intestinal misfortunes, his laughter bellowing throughout the halls...
Of course it wasn't his fault that we had all gorged ourselves silly a few hours earlier. But c'mon — the Kripalu dining hall is phenomenal. They focus on plant-based whole foods (but include some animal proteins) which supports just about every diet out there. They use organic, local, and sustainable products whenever possible. They compost all their kitchen scraps. And even though meals are served buffet-style (which are so scary for those with food allergies!) they make every effort to be mindful of cross-contamination. And the best part? They label every dish with a list of ingredients, highlighting any common food allergens. Every dish. Every meal. Those of us with restrictions can cruise along and make confident choices. Hello bliss!
Back to the chef with a sense of humor...
If you get a chance to visit Kripalu, you've got to go to a cooking demonstration with the executive chef Jeremy Rock Smith. He's a riot. Not only will you learn healthy cooking techniques, but your cheeks and belly will hurt from laughing so much. And seriously, he's one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. I was able to steal a few minutes of his time to tell him about what I'm doing here with the blog and he honestly couldn't have been sweeter. I would love it *fingers crossed* if he would share a recipe or two with us someday.
These are a few pics taken outside of the grounds of Kripalu. Out of respect for everyone's privacy, they don't allow you to take photos of guests or inside the building (which is pretty cool if you ask me).
The temperatures were in the single digits so I only took a few photos, but I thought I'd give you a glimpse of what it's like to visit in January...
But on to the recipe...
Okay, so we all need a little help sometimes and I'm certainly no exception. This is one of my go-to meals when I'm feeling uninspired or rushed. And in all fairness, it's not really a recipe, but would be better labeled as a 'time saver' or 'recipe-hack'.
Garden of Eatin' has taco kits, pictured here, which are free of all eight major food allergens. If you'd like to follow the directions on the box I'm sure they'd turn out great. But if you'd like to pump up the nutritional content I offer a few easy suggestions below.
Tacos are a great delivery system for veggies because the spices tend to overpower any 'offensive' veggie taste.
Thanks to these tacos I am able to get my 6 year old to eat kale and zucchini without any resistance! It's beautiful!
Like mushrooms? Chop some up and add them in when you brown the ground beef. Have any oddball veggies like jicama or daikon radish in your CSA? Cut them into long slivers and throw them on top of your tacos for a nice crunch. Have fun with it! My one word of caution is that it all comes together very quickly, so I find it best to have all of my ingredients chopped and prepped before I start cooking.
*This recipe can easily be made 8SAFE if you follow the original recipe and only use processed ingredients that are free of gluten & the top eight food allergens.
The 8SAFE processed products I used for this recipe were: Garden of Eaten yellow corn taco kit, Napa Valley Naturals extra virgin organic olive oil, Eden Organic black beans, and Muir Glen Organics diced tomatoes.
1 Garden of Eaten taco kit
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 lb of protein of your choice* (ground beef, turkey or chicken; or one can Pinto or Black beans)
1 (16 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 cup of frozen corn, thawed
2 cups of finely chopped kale or swiss chard
1 cup of chopped or shredded raw zucchini or summer squash
Heat the oil over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add the onions and a pinch of salt. Cook until soft, about 5 minutes.
Add your protein, cooking any ground beef, turkey or chicken until no longer pink inside. The beans just need to be heated through.
Add the spice packet to the pan. DO NOT MIX IT WITH WATER FIRST OR ADD WATER TO THE PAN. Not yet anyway. By adding the seasonings dry, the oil in the pan will 'wake up' the flavors of the dried herbs and spices. Stir a few times to make sure eveything is coated well.
Then add any vegetables (from the 'add-ins' list) and stir, cooking for just a minute before you...
Add 2/3 cup of water to the pan and scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the pan, stirring it back into the mix.
Add the can of chopped tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then lower heat, and let simmer for about 5 minutes to thicken a little bit. Remove from heat.
Build your tacos with whatever toppings you choose, or serve over a big bowl of lettuce and have taco salad.
Always use safe handling practices when preparing an 8SAFE recipe:
Wash hands with soap and water (hand sanitizer does not remove allergens).
Wipe down all surfaces; use clean equipment; and
Avoid cross contamination of ingredients not called for in the recipe. Be mindful that allergens can become airborne in flour or powdered form. Preparing 8SAFE recipes before ‘regular’ recipes will help prevent cross contamination. Do not share equipment among recipes (For example: If you cook regular pasta alongside 8SAFE pasta, use a dedicated spoon for each. Do not use one spoon to stir both pots.)
Clean your grill thoroughly beforehand (or use a clean grill pan or tin foil on the grill) when preparing an 8SAFE recipe.
Dedicate individual serving utensils for each dish. Allow food sensitive guests to serve themselves first to reduce risk of cross contamination from serving utensils.
When in doubt, snap a photo of the ingredient list of any processed items you use for an 8SAFE recipe. You can then share the information with your guests to confirm that it’s safe.
While I do my best to keep 8SAFE product suggestions up to date, please keep in mind that manufacturers change their ingredients and formulas from time to time (it's also human nature to make a mistake now and then, and I'm no exception). So be sure to double check all products to be free of gluten and the top eight food allergens before preparing an 8SAFE recipe.