Tasty Taco Rice Salad is one of those “go to” recipes. You know — the ones that you turn to when you are you are in a hurry and you don’t have time to search for recipes. It’s easy, versatile and almost everyone likes it. Plus it’s packed with nutrition — whole grains, vitamins, minerals and protein.

Did you know that you are more likely to get food poisoning during the summer months than any other time through the year? Do you know why?

According to the USDA, bacteria are present throughout the environment in soil, air, water, and in the bodies of people and animals. These microorganisms grow faster in the warm, humid summer months. Given the right circumstances, harmful bacteria can quickly multiply on food to large numbers. When this happens, someone eating the food can get sick.

Second, outside activities increase. More people are cooking outside at picnics or barbecues and on camping trips. The safety controls that a kitchen provides — thermostat-controlled cooking, refrigeration and washing facilities — are usually not available.

Fortunately, people seldom get sick from contaminated food because most people have a healthy immune system that protects them from harmful bacteria on food. But, certain groups of people more likely to get sick from contaminated food and, if they do get sick, the effects are much more serious. These groups include children under the age of 5, pregnant women, cancer patients and those with diabetes.

Here are four simple steps to safer food in the summertime.

Clean: Wash hands and surfaces often. Unwashed hands are a prime cause of foodborne illness. Wash your hands with warm, soapy water before handling food and after using the bathroom, changing diapers and handling pets.

When eating away from home, find out if there’s a source of safe water. If not, bring water for preparation and cleaning. Or pack clean, wet, disposable washcloths or moist towelettes and paper towels for cleaning hands and surfaces.

Separate: Don’t cross-contaminate. Cross-contamination during preparation, grilling, and serving food is a prime cause of foodborne illness. When packing the cooler for an outing, wrap raw meats securely; avoid raw meat juices from coming in contact with ready-to-eat food. Wash plates, utensils, and cutting boards that held the raw meat or poultry before using again for cooked food.

Cook: Cook to safe temperatures. Take your food thermometer along. Meat and poultry cooked on a grill often browns very fast on the outside, so be sure that meats are cooked thoroughly. Check them with a food thermometer.

Chill: Refrigerate promptly. Holding food at an unsafe temperature is a prime cause of foodborne illness. Cold, perishable food like luncheon meats, cooked meats, chicken, and potato or pasta salads should be kept in an insulated cooler packed with several inches of ice, ice packs, or containers of frozen water. Keep the cooler in the coolest part of the car, and place in the shade or shelter, out of the sun, whenever possible.

Tasty Taco Rice Salad is easy, versatile and almost everyone likes it. It’s also one of those recipes you can make without a kitchen. All you really need is a skillet/electric skillet.

Tasty Taco Rice Salad

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1-1/2 cups instant brown rice, uncooked
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup onion, chopped (about 1 medium)
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 3 cups chopped tomatoes (see note)
  • 1 seeded jalapeño (chopped finely)
  • 2 cups spinach or romaine lettuce
  • 1 cup shredded 2% fat cheese

Cook ground meat in a large skillet until brown (160 degrees F). Drain off fat. Rinse meat with warm water to remove the grease.

Add rice, water, onion and chili powder to meat in skillet.

Cover. Simmer over low heat about 15 minutes to cook rice.

Add tomatoes and jalapeño. Heat for 2 to 3 minutes.

Place layers of spinach or romaine lettuce, rice mixture and cheese on plates. Serve at once.

Makes 8 servings.

Note: If you don’t have fresh tomatoes, use 2 (14.5 ounce) cans of Mexican-style tomatoes. This does increase the sodium.

Nutrition information per serving: 230 calories, 10 g fat, 210 mg sodium, 19 g carbohydrates and 3 g fiber.

Recipe from: Iowa State Extension

Cami Wells is an Extension Educator for Nebraska Extension in Hall County. Contact her at (308) 385-5088 or at cwells2@unl.edu. Visit the Hall County website at www.hall.unl.edu

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