LAYERED TACO SALAD

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Family taco night just got a little easier! Instead of stuffing those taco shells, whip up this Layered Taco Salad instead. It’s just perfect for lower-fuss taco night prep, or for whipping up a tasty salad for a crowd!

I remember back as a kid I used to love when Mom made tacos for dinner. I just loved the flavor combination of tasty taco ingredients, and the crunch of biting into that crispy taco shell. I mean, we’re pretty hard-pressed to find a kid who doesn’t love tacos, right?

So when I became mom to a 5 year-old a while back, I followed in my Mom’s footsteps and put tacos on our regular dinner meal rotation. And just like me as a kid, our sweet Little Miss H. just adores tacos, too.

INGREDIENTS:
Dressing:
1 c. sour cream
1/4 c. mayonnaise
1/4 c. prepared salsa
½ tsp. taco seasoning mix {from a 1 oz. packet}

Salad:
1 lb. ground beef
1 (1 oz.) packet taco seasoning {use 1/2 tsp. of this packet for the dressing above}
2/3 c. water
6 c. chopped iceberg lettuce {about 1 small head … or Romaine works too, if you’d prefer}
1 (15 oz.) can black beans, rinsed & well-drained
12 oz. prepared salsa
1 (12 oz.) package frozen corn, thawed & well-drained
1 (2.25 oz.) can sliced black olives, well-drained
1/2 c. to 1 c. finely chopped red onion
3 Roma tomatoes, seeded & chopped
2 c. (8 oz.) shredded Colby cheese {I shred my own because I think it has better flavor}
1 or 2 avocados, peeled & cubed

INSTRUCTIONS:
PREPARE THE DRESSING: In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, mayonnaise, salsa, and taco seasoning. Set aside.
PREPARE THE MEAT: In a saute pan, brown the ground beef; drain any fat. Stir in taco seasoning and water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until thickened, about 4 minutes. Stir frequently.
Set seasoned meat mixture aside to cool.
PREPARE THE SALAD: In a glass serving bowl, trifle bowl or 9×13″ baking dish, layer the lettuce first, then black beans, and seasoned meat. {Do not toss.}
Pour salsa evenly over the seasoned meat. Do not spread the salsa all the way to the very edge of the meat layer ~ if you do, liquid from the salsa will drip down the edge of the salad container and collect in the bottom. Keeping the salsa back from the edge minimizes this.
On top of the salsa, layer the corn, black olives, and red onion. Spread the dressing mixture evenly over the onion layer.
Top the dressing mixture with a layer tomatoes and then a layer of cheese.
Cover and refrigerate for up to 12 hours.
At serving time, top with cubed avocado. Serve with chopped fresh cilantro and more salsa, if desired.

TRACEY’S NOTES
Adjust ingredients and amounts to suit your personal tastes. For example, use more salsa if you’d like. Or add in chopped cilantro with the dressing or sprinkled on top of the salad. Or substitute kidney beans for the black beans. Whatever you’d like for your taco salad!
Purchasing a 16 oz. jar of salsa will give you the 12 oz. for the salad layer itself + the 1/4 cup used in the dressing.
Colby cheese is similar to cheddar, but is softer, moister, and milder in flavor. Longhorn cheddar, or mild or medium cheddar can be substituted.

Drying the lettuce very well after washing it and making sure all ingredients are very well-drained is key to being able to make this salad ahead of time. If everything’s not well-drained, a watery mess will collect in the bottom of the salad container … and will take some of the salad’s flavor along with it. If everything is extremely dry when it goes in the container, it can be refrigerated okay for more than 12 hours … but make sure it’s all SUPER dry!
Once cut, avocado will begin to turn brown. Cube the avocado and add it to the top of the salad just before serving. If the salad needs to sit out for any more than about 30 minutes, I recommend tossing the cubed avocado with a little fresh lime juice to coat. The acid from the lime juice will help deter the color change for at least a little bit.
You can use homemade taco seasoning, if you’d prefer.

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