Jul 29, 2015


A Guide to Healthy Simple Mexican Food

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The New Latina Guide to a Fabulous 2011 Year! is a collection of insights and tips from a group of talented Latinas (and one Latino) on how to live life to the fullest.  Today, we feature Yvette Marquez-Sharpanack’s piece, on cooking – delicious, healthy and simple.  To download the free New Latina Guide, click here.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve made one of the following two resolutions: to eat healthier, and spend less time cooking — or both! I’ve got just the trick that will help you stay committed to your resolutions. Look no further than your slow cooker.

As a working mother I need all the help I can get. After a long day at work, the last thing I want to do is spend hours in the kitchen. With two little ones, homework, afterschool activities, and the dreaded piles of laundry; I want a dinner that is delicious, healthy, and most of all, simple.

If you have never tried slow cooking before, I recommend you start. Be careful though, you might get addicted! When you get home the aroma will envelope you — Your family will think you slaved for hours. All you need to do is add a couple of side dishes and voila, a wonderful meal is ready. I love it; it takes all the stress out of cooking.

My secret is to put all the ingredients into the slow cooker the night before and let it marinate in the fridge overnight. If your family is anything like mine the minute the alarm goes off in the morning we hit the ground running. Setting up the slow cooker the night before is a major timesaver. The next day just plug it in and let it do all the work. One of my family’s favorite slow cooker recipes is shredded brisket tacos – The best part is you’ll have plenty of brisket for leftovers.

Try my tender smoky brisket tacos along with a colorful black bean salad as a side dish. Spice up the tacos with a simple salsa verde. If you really want to impress your familia make the mango salad and the fresh fruit kabobs. The recipes are easy and use healthy and fresh ingredients, creating an authentic Mexican flavor. I guarantee your familia will beg you for a repeat performance.

Print the recipes and shop for all the ingredients at your local supermarket…Fácil! You will have a Mexican spread your familia will love.

As a working mother I love preparing dishes that keep on giving for a couple more meals. Fresh out of the slow cooker you have tacos, the next day you can have tortas or sandwiches, and finally flautas. I enjoy the ease of cooking brisket in a slow cooker all day and coming home to a great meal. Every Tuesday is Taco Tuesday in my home and as a working mother of two very picky eaters, brisket tacos is one of our favorites.

My kids love tacos with a variety of toppings especially crema Mexicana and I love them topped with homemade salsa. Add a side dish and you have a meal your mother would be proud of.





Slow-Cooked Shredded Brisket Tacos

Corn tortillas are a low-fat, low-sodium food and provide potassium, calcium, and fiber in less than sixty calories per serving. Contrary to popular belief, tortillas will not make you fat if they are part of an adequate diet.

For a lighter version of this dish be sure to serve on warm corn tortillas and eliminate naughty cheese and creams, and instead top with a tasty homemade salsa and avocado slices.



2-4 pounds beef brisket, fat trimmed

2 ounces/pound of liquid smoke (recommend Claude’s Brisket Marinade Sauce)

2 bay leaves

1 (12-ounce) light beer

Corn tortillas

Salt to taste

Pepper to taste

Topping Options

Grated cheese

Crema Mexicana



Avocado slices



Place all the ingredients into the slow cooker and marinate overnight.  Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours.

Remove the brisket and shred the meat. Warm corn tortillas, add shredded brisket, and garnish with your favorite toppings.



Side Dish

Black Bean Salad

Black beans, like other beans, really pack a punch when it comes to protein and fiber.


The ease of making this salad is second only to its taste. This is such a tasty salad and is the perfect healthy side dish. My kids love it all by itself or as an appetizer with tostada chips. As a mom I love it too because I know everything in it is healthy and oh so good for them. I especially enjoy telling guests how easy this salad is to prepare.


2 (15 ounce) cans of black beans, rinsed and drained (or 4 cups of freshly cooked black beans)

1/3 cup of red wine vinegar

1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil

1/8 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

1 lime, juiced

1 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

4 roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped

½ red onion, finely chopped

Handful cilantro, chopped

1 (15 ounce) can of corn

½ serrano pepper, finely chopped (optional)

1 avocado, cubed (optional)


Drain the bean juice and rinse the black beans in cold water and place into a large bowl.  In a separate bowl combine the red wine vinegar, olive oil, cumin, coriander, lime juice, salt, and pepper and stir.

Add the tomatoes, red onion, cilantro, corn, serrano pepper (optional) and the liquid mixture to the beans. Add avocados (optional) at the end and toss gently. Chill salad for about 30 minutes or overnight to marinade.

Mix one more time before serving.

Salsa Verde

Salsa is always a smart choice when watching your waistline. Most salsas have little to no fat in them and are low in calories.

This light and fresh salsa compliments so many dishes. One batch lasts about one week in my home. We enjoy it over eggs for breakfast or tacos for dinner. Try it over nachos topped with queso fresco for a snack. The peppers add just enough bite to satisfy those of us who enjoy spicy food.



3 cups water

8 tomatillos, husks removed and rinsed

2 serrano peppers, stemmed and roughly chopped

1 jalapeño pepper, stemmed and roughly chopped

2 garlic cloves

¼ onion, chopped

Handful of cilantro

½ teaspoon salt


Boil tomatillos for about 15 minutes. Remove tomatillos from the water and allow them to cool before blending.

Roast the garlic cloves in their skins in a dry pan until skin is charred, about 10 minutes. Cool and remove skins.

In a blender place the cooled tomatillos, chopped peppers, garlic, onion, cilantro, and salt and blend for about 1 minute.

Salsa should be chunky. Add more salt if needed.




Mango, Jicama, and Cucumber Salad

A nice change from the standard green salad. This salad has a fresh crunch and spicy kick. This refreshing side dish incorporates chopped mango, jicama, cucumber, freshly squeezed lime juice, and a dash of salt and spice. The longer the salad sits, the more flavorful it becomes. A perfect complement to any dish.

2 yellow small mangos, peeled and cut into ½ inch cubes
2 red/green mangos, peeled and cut into ½ inch cubes
1 medium jicama, peeled and cut into ½ inch cubes

1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into ½ inch cubes
2-3 tablespoons lime juice
1/8 teaspoon chile powder

Dash of cayenne pepper

Salt to taste

In a mixing bowl combine the mango, jicama, cucumbers, lime juice, chile powder, cayenne pepper and salt. Toss well, cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.



Tropical Fruit Kabobs





Lime wedges



Peel and cut your choice of fruit.

Alternately thread the cut fruit onto 12” wooden skewers.



Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack is a mother and wife who has a fresh take on Mexican food and is dedicated to sharing simple and authentic recipes. These south-of-the-border dishes capture not only the recipes but also the cultural background and family memories that come along with them. The compilation of recipes has evolved into a three-generation cookbook with authentic Mexican flavor, titled Muy Bueno: Three-Generations of Authentic Mexican Flavor. Whether serving a home-cooked dinner to her family or entertaining friends and family, Yvette brings to the table fresh flavors that fit all tastes. To read more about Yvette’s delicious recipes, visit her website, Muy Bueno Cookbook.

All photos by: Jeanine Thurston

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Angélica Pérez-Litwin

Angélica Pérez-Litwin

Dr. Perez-Litwin is the Founder & CEO of ELLA Leadership Institute, a multi-platform professional development organization designed to advance the careers and leadership of women. She's the creative force behind the LATINAS THINK BIG™ national tour, sponsored and live-streamed by Google.

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  1. Those recipes sound delicious! I haven’t fully ventured into slow cooking, but you certainly have inspired me to! I depend on freezer meals I make ahead of time when I know I have a busy week or month coming up. I also keep certain staples on hand in my pantry, fridge and freezer (e.g. whole wheat pasta, vegetables and fruits, chicken breasts, halibut), so I can whip up a satisfying, healthy meal at a moment’s notice without having to make a last-minute trip to the grocery store. It sounds like I can put many of my staples to good use with slow cooking. Thank you for the great tip!

    There is a misconception that all Hispanic food is unhealthy and full of fat and lard. The truth is Hispanic food is full of whole grains, antioxidants and “super foods.” What most people don’t realize is that you can make most Hispanic dishes very healthy by cutting down on the lard and oil, grilling and baking instead of frying, substituting chicken and turkey for beef and steak whenever possible, and always using the whole grain option, such as corn tortillas instead of flour tortillas and brown rice instead of white rice. I run a healthy living website for families and ever since I accomplished the daunting task of making mi mamá’s tamales for the first time (and making them much healthier than her traditional recipe), I’ve been reworking her traditional Mexican recipes into healthy versions, and I hope to inspire others to do the same!

  2. Hi,
    I blog about Mexican food and recipes and I have to say that I love seeing posts on healthy Mexican food. A lot of times Mexican cuisine gets a bad rap for being high in fat and not very nutritious, when in fact it can made to be loaded with vitamins and minerals and be a part of a varied diet. Thanks for sharing this with everyone, I’m glad that like me, you realize that Mexican cuisine is delicious AND healthy! Have a great day! Maria


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