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  • Heather Bainbridge EdM, MA, RDN

Enough Taco Recipes for One Heck of a Taco Fiesta!

This week we had taco night and I thought how about we give everyone two more delicious recipes we relished at my 3 year old son's birthday party that we themed "Cooper Loves Tacos". Since parties for Cooper are still only family with most being adults we decided to serve up 3 different dishes: basic tacos for the "kid in you" type of taco lover, pork carnitas for the "food truck lover" and shrimp ceviche (the "v" is pronounced as a "b" for those of us brushing up on our Spanish) for the "sophisticated" taco lover. I always get nervous hosting a party and these were all a hit and pretty easy to prepare because one of them cooks in a slow cooker and the other uses precooked shrimp.

For the Kid in You taco lover, I found this winning recipe in Skinnytaste's Cooking Fast and Slow. The many winning aspects this recipe offers is that it has less sodium than box taco mixes, includes vegetables and it cooks in the slow cooker. You first cook the meat and veggies in the skillet, which typically bothers me when slow cooker recipes do this, but the outcome is so good and whether it's during the week or at a party the bonus of not having to worry about it getting cold or burning on the stove top is lifesaver. I'm either free to be with my kids or socialize with my guests this way. For this recipe I make my typical adaptations by using the entire red bell pepper, sometimes will add 1 diced portabello mushroom and use 93% lean ground turkey.

One of my husband's many specialties is the pork carnitas borrowed from David Lebovitz's Sweet Life in Paris memoir (I take credit for finding this gem). It's not the leanest, but somewhere in the middle, is high in the B vitamin thiamine and Guy Fieri would totally endorse this dish. We started serving it at our annual New Year's Day Brunch when we were childless in the City and never had leftovers. Serve it on corn, white or whole wheat small tortillas with thinly sliced radishes and avocado/gauc. And remember those radishes-I'm telling you the crunch and bite of the radish cut through this savory dish that is so appealing to the senses. Plus it's a veggie! He cooks it in a large cast iron pot called a Dutch oven, which doubles as a serving dish to keep the pork warm.

Lastly the shrimp ceviche idea was my husband's brainchild, which is genius for a party because we didn't have to worry about keeping it warm. The avocado serves up a dose of healthy MUFA fat and this recipe uses cooked shrimp, which is probably why they titled it Seviche-Style Shrimp and Avocado Tacos . Although the traditional preparation method is to use citrus juice to "cook" raw seafood, I like to play it safe for parties and children with precooked shrimp to avoid food poisoning. The other benefit using shrimp is that it's a light and bright dish that complements the heavy flavors of our other two choices (even though the beef/turkey tacos aren't high calorie). In fact many of our guests forwent the tortilla and ate the shrimp without. You will love this and it's quick to make.

I really try to strike a happy medium between healthy, lower calorie options with "fun or treat food" (at home and parties) with the aim of it all being deliciously satisfying yet creating an overall balance that leads to being well-fed without feeling overstuffed!

To your health,


Borrowed & slightly modified from Skinnytaste Cooking Fast and Slow

Serves 8

Prep Time: 15 minutes


  • 2 pounds 93% lean ground beef or turkey

  • 1 tablespoon cumin

  • 2 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 2 teaspoon chili powder

  • 2 teaspoon paprika

  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano

  • 1 small onion, minced (I used medium)

  • 2 cloves crushed garlic

  • 1/4 cup minced red bell pepper (or the whole pepper)

  • 1 diced portabello (optional)

  • 1/2 cup water

  • 1 cup tomato sauce

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 16 corn taco shells


  • 2 cups shredded romaine lettuce

  • 1 cup shredded cheddar

  • 2 plum tomatoes, diced


  1. Brown the beef or turkey in a large nonstick skillet over high heat, breaking it into smaller pieces as it cooks. When no longer pink add 2 teaspoons of the cumin along with the remaining dry spices, onion, bell pepper, mushroom (if using) and garlic, stir and cook 2 to 3 minutes until soft, then transfer to the slow cooker along with 1/2 cup water and tomato sauce. Cover and cook on high 3 hours or low 6 to 8. Discard the bay leaf and add the remaining teaspoon of cumin.

  2. Heat the taco shells according to the directions, then assemble placing 1/4 cup beef in each shell, topped with lettuce, 1 tablespoon cheese and tomato.

Pork Carnitas

Serves 8

Adapted from The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz


  • 4-5 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 5-inch chunks, trimmed of excess fat

  • 1 tablespoon coarse sea salt

  • 2 tablespoons canola or neutral vegetable oil

  • water

  • 1 cinnamon stick

  • 1 teaspoon chile powder

  • 1 teaspoon ancho chile powder

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly-sliced


1. Rub the pieces of pork shoulder all over with salt. Refrigerate for 1 to 3 days. (You can skip this step if you want. Just be sure to salt the pork before searing the meat in the next step.)

2. Heat the oil in a roasting pan set on the stovetop. Cook the pieces of pork shoulder in a single layer until very well-browned, turning them as little as possible so they get nice and dark before flipping them around. If your cooking vessel is too small to cook them in a single-layer, cook them in two batches.

3. Once all the pork is browned, remove them from the pot and blot away any excess fat with a paper towel, then pour in about a cup of water, scraping the bottom of the pan with a flat-edged utensil to release all the tasty brown bits.

4. Heat the oven to 350F (180C) degrees.

5. Add the pork back to the pan and add enough water so the pork pieces are 2/3rd’s submerged in liquid. Add the cinnamon stick and stir in the chile powders, bay leaves, cumin and garlic.

7. Braise in the oven uncovered for 3½ hours, turning the pork a few times during cooking, until much of the liquid is evaporated and the pork is falling apart. Remove the pan from the oven and lift the pork pieces out of the liquid and set them on a platter.

8. Once the pork pieces are cool enough to handle, shred them into bite-sized pieces, about 2-inches (7 cm), discarding any obvious big chunks of fat if you wish.

9. Return the pork pieces back to the roasting pan and cook in the oven, turning occasionally, until the liquid has evaporated and the pork is crispy and caramelized. It will depend on how much liquid the pork gave off, and how crackly you want them.

Originally published in Cooking Light July 2005 by Lorrie Corvin

Borrowed and slightly modified from

Serves 6


  • 3 limes

  • 1 cup chopped seeded tomato

  • 1/2 cup diced red onion

  • 1 cup diced peeled avocado (about 1 avocado)

  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

  • 3 garlic cloves, minced

  • 1 pound cooked peeled medium shrimp (thaw precooked, cleaned and peeled frozen)

  • 12 (6-inch) corn tortillas


  1. Finely grate rind from limes to measure 1 tablespoon; juice limes to measure 1/4 cup. Place rind and juice in a large bowl. Add tomato and remaining ingredients except tortillas; toss well to combine. Cover and chill for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  2. Heat tortillas according to package directions. Spoon about 1/2 cup shrimp mixture down center of each tortilla; fold in half. Serve immediately.

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