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Healthy Eating: Vaca Frita con Salsa Verde (Tomatillo) & Brown Rice Recipe

How many of you have resolved to eating healthier this year? If not healthier per se, what about eliminating certain foods from your diet? I stay far, far away from such commitments, because ultimately, I know that I’m not that good at avoiding things I love. I’m a glutton for pain.

But, back in September, when I started losing a few pounds due to eating something bad while traveling, I started rethinking what I was putting in my body. I evaluated my diet and and started finding all kinds of reasons why this, that and the other should go! Among the list was my 3 daily eggs, daily cup of milk (even 2%), 6 tablespoons of honey, 4 cups of café con leche, and my nightly glass of Spanish dessert wine.

Oh, and white, starchy, yummy rice.

In a matter of weeks, I dropped 10 pounds. Boobs were depleted (something a Latina should never have to suffer through), hips trimmed by an inch, “man friend” complained the booty was flattening (something a Latina should never, ever have to suffer through), but hell if my abs and arms weren’t looking good! I was pleased and content with how I was feeling. I wasn’t bloated and craving other non-mentionables…

Once I took a good, hard, in-depth look at what I was eating and how effective the complete elimination turned to be (which I know comes with criticism), I looked at what I could eat that would still satisfy me and not cause withdrawals.

I needed to replace my rice. Brown rice, quinoa and other grains were obvious choices. Only problem is that brown rice is far from being part of my mostly Latin diet. And, quinoa? “¿Qué es eso, mija, mami?” Mami would ask. But, this time, I was determined to better my body and relish in seeing a sexier image…

In a concerted effort to eat leaner, I’ve come up with some go-to meals that are easy, simple to make and continue to bear qualities of goodness and fullness.

Since eliminating red meat is not even a considerable option, I simply had to find a suitable balance of enjoying carne with starches and simple carbs. Vaca frita is Cuban staple, but I seldom make it and honestly can’t remember the last time I even enjoyed it. In essence, it’s seared flank steak. I marinade it the same way I would to make ropa vieja. It’s incredibly good and the one time eating quasi crunchy steak is totally acceptable and not deemed unsophisticated.

But you have to know how to properly make it.

I was excited in making it when I went for this attempt at having red meat with brown rice. I seasoned the hell out of it and then paired it with salsa verde, or tomatillo salsa — to give it a different kinda kick. Plus salsa verde is good and another super simple side to make that complements meat really well. If you’ve not made that, do yourselves a favor and pick a huge bag of tomatillos and make this goodness.

What resulted was a simple bed of brown rice atop a pool of thinner salsa verde, I topped the rice with a few strips of the fried steak and garnished it with a bit more salsa. You know that wasn’t enough. The hidden secret…I’ll tell you! Par-seared steak underneath the salsa!

Genius! It worked on my first try and left me quite satisfied with having enough protein and flavor. Initially, I was missing the white rice, but I got over it as soon as I realized I had less calories to burn the next day.

No need to tell you the pictures here depict a smaller portion, nothing I’m interesting in implementing! It was for picture’s sake! Don’t be fooled, friends. This chica here can grub!

Eat well, love unapologetically, pray with true intention, and take care of yourself.

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Vaca Frita con Salsa Verde (Tomatillo) & Brown Rice Recipe


  • 2 cups cooked brown rice (follow manufacture’s instructions)
  • 1/2  lb. flan steak
  • Juice from one lemon or lime
  • 1/4 cup white onion, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 packet of Sazón Goya
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 stems parsley
  • salt to taste
  • Canola oil for frying
  • 1 gallon of water for boiling
  • 2 cups tomatillo salsa

Method (for Vaca Frita):

In large dutch oven (or pressure cooker) bring steak to boil, add bay leaf  and salt. Cook until tender or about 45 minutes.. Remove from heat and transfer steak on to plate. Allow to chill. Shred steak into 1/2″.  Season with garlic, onion, juice from lemon or lime. Cover and let marinate for 1 hour. Remove excess liquid from marinade and reserve. In large skillet, heat canola oil. Add steak to skillet and fry until browned, about 5-6 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer onto plate. Squeeze any reserve lemon, lime marinade.

To plate, place 3/4 amount of steak on bottom of dish. Top with 2 tbsp. salsa verde, then brown rice. Arrange a few strips of the vaca frita and top off with a dime amount of salsa. Garnish with parsley.

48 thoughts on “Healthy Eating: Vaca Frita con Salsa Verde (Tomatillo) & Brown Rice Recipe

  1. You know what I think about you losing so much weight, so I won’t go there. Suffice it to say, your man-friend was right!!
    Ah, vaca frita; YES. I wish I had it more often. I’m not sure about brown rice, but your pairing it with salsa verde surely looks like a hit. Nice pic…and yes; too small a portion; definitely not for me. 🙂

  2. Try whole wheat couscous too or bulgar wheat for rice substitutions too. I’ve never been big on white rice unless I was eating Thai sticky rice or pairing basmati with Indian or Thai. That’s not to say my parents didn’t make it all the time. ha I love the substitutions for white rice though. They always make me feel better about my meal. Do what makes you feel good, but don’t deprive yourself of the good stuff you like!

  3. Oh Bren , this look so good…love how the beef looks, and together with the tomatillo sauce…yum!
    Thanks for this yummie recipe and hope you are having a great week 🙂

  4. Rosa: Thanks, girlie! It’s quite delicious.

    Eliana: Me, too! I need to eat like this more often. Preaching to the choir.

    David: Oh pls! Don’t hate! It’s okay that I’ve lost some pounds. I needed to. And vaca frita is soooo good! It’d been so long since I’d made it. Que rico. This was a good balance of healthy and yummy… not to say healthy can’t be yummy!

    Joan Nova: Thanks! The whole vaca is soo good. Well, most of it.

    DuoDishes: Well I do like whole wheat couscous but not the biggest fan of bulgar. I loooove white rice, girl. Don’t get it twisted! Ha. I’m Latin. That’s our staple.

    Leslie: Hahahaha. I require a much bigger portion myself! It was simply for the picture. Trust me. That small amount would never satisfy me either.

    Presley’s Pantry: One day we’ll break bread one day soon! Chile is sooo good! 🙂

    Peru Delights: It was good! Very good.

    Juliana: Thanks hun. It was a good portion; enough to fill me — enough to want more!!! lol.

  5. I need to find inspiration to eat healthier too. I love all kinds of carbs, meats and candies. We all have room to grow that’s for sure. Happy youve made some changes your content with. But im with you– Latinas shouldn’t look all skinny and frameless! 🙂 great looking dish. I’ve never had vaca frita but it does look good.

  6. I’m not a big fan of brown rice, probably becuase my husband is Mexican and it’s not eaten at all in their culture, but you make it look so yummy with that vaca frita. I’ve had flank steak, but not seared like that. Nice work!

  7. vaca frita que rico ese plato luce muy rico el arroz brown uno de mis favorito y esa salsa todo se ve delicioso

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