Simple Salsa!

Sometimes you just need a little fresh salsa in your life! I threw this recipe together on a busy Monday night and it couldn’t have been easier. Another bonus: you can eat this with just about anything. I first served this fresh goodness on top of a grilled steak and then the next morning over my egg frittata. Yum!

Simple Salsa

  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 jalapeño pepper, finely chopped
  • 1/2 shallot, minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Let sit for several minutes before serving so the flavors blend and get happy! Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

img_4376Simple Salsa: Tara Tested, Tara and family approved! I love making my own salsa. You can’t mess it up! This is a very basic recipe which is nice because you can use it as a base and add as many other ingredients as you like – sweet peppers, black beans, mango, or pineapple! Salsa is also a low-calorie and nutritious snack option (just be careful of what you choose to eat it with)! How do you like to make your own salsa?

Roasted Black Radishes

Have you ever tried a black radish? I didn’t know black radishes existed until the other day when I spotted them in the produce section. I’m used to brightly colored red radishes and was surprised to see these dark, dirty looking vegetables among the other colorful selections. With a little help from Google, I learned that black radishes can be roasted in the oven and decided to give them a try with that night’s dinner.


Roasted Black Radishes with Snap Peas:

  • 4 black radishes
  • 1 lb snap peas
  • 1/4 c green onions, sliced
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Wash the radishes, ( I wanted to scrub off that black-ness so badly, to no avail) and chop them into large pieces. I halved the radishes, halved them again and then once more to get bite-sized pieces. Trim the snap peas, toss them with the radishes in a bowl, and drizzle the vegetables with olive oil. Spread the vegetables onto a baking sheet, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast in the oven for 12-15 minutes. Top the vegetables with the sliced green onions and serve.

Black Radishes: Tara Tested, Tara and family approved! When I first bit into the roasted radish, I couldn’t quite put my finger on the flavor. After another bite or two, my parents and I determined that they tasted a little like brussels sprouts – a favorite of ours! Radishes are a great source of vitamin C and are also high in potassium, iron, and magnesium. Try adding these radishes to your next dish – they can be served raw in a salad, roasted, sautéed, or prepared like turnips.


Sunday Night Salmon…featuring Roasted Black Radishes and Snap Peas with Quinoa

Goat Cheese Meatballs


Goat Cheese Meatballs

  • About 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/4 cup flax seed, ground
  • 1/4 cup goat cheese
  • 1/4 onion, diced
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Combine the ground beef, flax seed, goat cheese, diced onion, salt, and pepper in a bowl. With clean hands, mix all of the ingredients together until well incorporated. Grease a skillet with non-stick cooking spray and heat over medium heat. Form the meat mixture into balls about the size of a golf ball and place into the pan. Cook for 15-20 minutes, turning the meatballs every once and while to ensure they are cooked through. Serve with your favorite meatball accompaniment! Makes about 12-14 meatballs. 

Goat Cheese Meatballs: Tara Tested, Tara and family approved! Another successful meatball recipe experiment in the books! These meatballs are easy to make and the recipe can be adjusted to your specific flavor preferences. You can try substituting the goat cheese with feta or bleu or any other crumbly cheese that you enjoy. I used flax seed in this recipe instead of breadcrumbs- flax seed is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, and when ground, has a similar consistency to breadcrumbs, you won’t even notice a difference! I served these meatballs up with zoodles (zucchini noodles) and asparagus for a delicious and healthy dinner. Enjoy!

Ooodles of Zoodles

A couple weeks ago, I convinced my dad to purchase what I like to call a “zoodler.” It’s a little kitchen gadget shaped like a hourglass timer that you use to spiralize vegetables to create long strands of veggie. Hence the nickname: zucchini + noodle = zoodle, device used = zoodler. This is a fantastic tool for anyone trying to eat more vegetables on a regular basis. Zucchini noodles are an excellent substitute for pasta; you can serve it exactly as you would regular noodles, and you don’t even have to wait for water to boil! IMG_2068

I was itching to use the zoodler last night so I found this great recipe on Better Homes and Gardens website (Garlicky Zucchini Noodles – BHG).

Garlicky Zucchini Noodles

  • 2 medium zucchini
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled, and sliced lengthwise
  • 1/2 cup walnut pieces
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 4 thin slices prosciutto, torn into pieces
  • 1/2 small green apple, thinly sliced
  • 2 oz crumbled goat cheese

Use a zoodler (or vegetable spiralizer of your liking) to cut the zucchini into long strands: your zoodles. If you don’t have a spiralizer, you can use a vegetable peeler to create zucchini ribbons. The strands can become pretty long, so use a knife to cut them so that they are easier to serve and eat. Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add the garlic. Cook for about 2 minutes or until soft and almost browned. Add zoodles to the skillet and toss with tongs, cooking for about 1-2 minutes, then transfer to a serving bowl. Add the walnuts to the skillet, stir for 1-2 minutes or until toasted, then add to the bowl of zoodles along with salt and crushed red pepper. To the skillet, add the remaining 1 tbsp of oil and prosciutto, and cook for a few minutes until browned and crisp. Add the apple slices and prosciutto to the zoodles and mix together, top with crumbled goat cheese.

Garlicky Zucchini Noodles: Tara Tested, Mother and Tara Approved! You may be able to trick friends and family into thinking that you spent hours preparing this dish, when in reality it only takes about 20-25 minutes. The flavors in this dish were different from what I usually use in cooking but they worked well together – ease up on the crushed red pepper if you don’t like spicy, but the apple and goat cheese added some sweet and tangy elements to the dish. Of course you can prepare zoodles simply by cooking them in a little bit of olive oil and eat them plain like that, but if you’re looking to try something a little more advanced, give this recipe a try!


Garlicky Zucchini Noodles served up with a small portion of grilled steak

Zesty Grilled Eggplant


New summer love: grilling. Since being home I’ve been making a lot of dinners for my family and I love to experiment with new recipes on the grill. Here is a quick and easy recipe for some tasty eggplant:

Zesty Grilled Eggplant

  • 2 medium eggplant
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp italian seasoning (or other herb of your choice)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Slice the eggplant into slices (about 1″ thick). Place eggplant slices into a large Ziploc bag and add the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and spices. Seal the bag and shake it around to be sure that all of the eggplant get some of the marinade action. Set aside. When your grill is ready and hot throw on the eggplant and grill for about 3-4 minutes on each side.

Zesty Grilled Eggplant: Tara Tested, Tara and Family Approved! This grilled eggplant is very tasty and versatile. I decided to chop some up and add it to a salad, while my Mother used a slice or two in a sandwich. You could add it to a pasta dish or even combine it with other grilled veggies on a kabob. The summer is a great time to load up on fruits and vegetables, and if you don’t eat much eggplant, I suggest you give this recipe a try! (recipe adapted from

El Salvadorian Eats

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to spend a week in El Salvador through my dietetic internship at Missouri State University (MSU). It was the trip of a lifetime and such a rewarding experience! We worked with an organization called Convoy of Hope; a faith-based, international, humanitarian-relief organization based in Springfield, Missouri. While in El Salvador with Convoy we visited several schools, an orphanage, a nursing home, Mother’s Clubs and other organizations with donations, food, and supplies. We also had the opportunity to try A  LOT of traditional El Salvadorian cuisine…


Mother’s Club Lunch

One of my favorite meals we had on the trip was prepared by one of the Mother’s Clubs. The women in the Mother’s Clubs learn a skill or trade that they can convert into a business to support themselves. We ate lunch at one of their restaurants and were served a delicious meal of chicken, pico de gallo, rice, vegetables, and tortillas. The pico de gallo was the best I have ever had – so fresh and perfectly seasoned, and the chicken was cooked to perfection.


Another favorite dish we had on the trip were pupusas! Pupusas are thick handmade corn tortillas that can be filled with cheese, loroco (a green similar to spinach), beans, or meat (typically pork). We had these on several occasions and they hit the spot each time. My favorite combinations were the cheese and beans, and cheese and loroco.


I also got to try a BIG glass of horchata! Horchata is a traditional beverage that in El Salvador, is typically made with morro seeds. It tasted a little different at each place I had it, but this one had a subtle peanut butter flavor – fine by me!

El Salvadorian Eats: Tara Tested, Tara Approved! I could go on and on about this trip and what an amazing experience it was, but to stick to my Tara Tested ways, I thought I would just give a little snapshot of the new foods I got to try in this new place! I had packed peanut butter snack packs and granola bars for our hotel room thinking I might be hungry – silly me! I don’t think I have ever been full for so many consecutive days than I have on this trip. I must give credit to our host and guide, Edith, who introduced our domestic palates to these new tasty dishes (and expanded our waist lines). 🙂


Chicken & Kale Autumn Stew

Hooray! It’s prime time crock pot season! I just whipped up this recipe today and it’s a winner. I was out of town earlier this week (hanging out with cattle…internship field trips are the best) and finally got to catch up on my grocery shopping today. I decided to play around with the crock pot and use some seasonal ingredients. Beef stew was tempting, but after meeting adorable calves like the fella in this picture, chicken wasbaby cow the choice today.

Chicken & Kale Autumn Stew

  • 1-2 lbs chicken breast
  • 1 sweet potato, cut into cubes (skin on)
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 can kidney beans, rinsed
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms
  • 1 cup water (optional)
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1-2 bay leaves
  • dash of thyme and oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 cups chopped kale
  • brown rice or whole wheat noodles (optional)

Place chicken breast, sweet potato, onion, tomato paste, kidney beans, mushrooms, water and/or broth in the crock pot. If you want a soupier stew use both the water and chicken broth. Add the spices, and more if you want to experiment! Set the crock pot on high for about 3 hours. Remove the chicken, shred with a fork, and return to the crock pot. Add the chopped kale and rice/noodles if desired. (I had some leftover brown rice that I threw into the mix to thicken things up a bit). Let the kale cook for another 30 min – 1 hour on low and serve!

FullSizeRenderChicken & Kale Autumn Stew: Tara Tested, Tara Approved! One of my favorite things about crock pots is that you can throw almost anything together and it will turn out great! This dish is hearty and filling – I took a portion with me to class and it kept me full all night. The sweet potatoes and onions were nice and tender, and the kale added a bright contrast of color. You could jazz up this stew by topping it with some melted cheese or tossing in some crispy bacon pieces. Enjoy!