Taco Salad For One + Using Props in Photos

by Angela (Oh She Glows) on February 19, 2011

We had such a warm, Spring-like day yesterday! The temperature reached 11C and it was sunny for most of the day. Spring fever is officially in full force. Sun 

[Sadly, as I type this, a cold front has moved in and a snow storm is due tomorrow. A little piece of me just died inside.]

But since I am writing this post a day late, I am going to pretend this is today’s weather.

A lot of the snow and ice melted…and we can now see patches of grass.

Note: patches of grass. I’ll take what I can get…


I went outside for a 2 mile run to celebrate the warm weather. It turned out to be the perfect mid-day pick me up during a busy work day (I was out and back in under 20 minutes!).

Then I chowed down on this awesome Taco Salad. This salad is definitely a keeper and will add a fun change to your lunchtime routine!



Taco Salad For One (Vegan + Gluten-Free)

Crunchy, refreshing, filling, and feisty, this taco salad will have you looking forward to salads at lunch once again. If you are packing this salad for lunch, you can keep the sauce in a separate container and then add just before use for maximum freshness.

Adapted from Itsy Bitsy Foodies. Recipe originally from Cooking Light.

Yield: 1 serving


  • Romaine or spinach (~1 cup, chopped)
  • 1/3 cup Chopped tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup Chopped bell peppers
  • 1 small avocado, sliced
  • Taco ‘Meat’ (I processed 1 cup of bean medley with 3 tbsp walnuts, see below)
  • 1/4 cup chopped carrots
  • Cilantro-lime vinaigrette (see below)


Directions: In a large bowl, toss the cilantro-lime vinaigrette with the rest of the ingredients. Serve with tortilla chips, crackers, and/or salad toppers.

Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup chopped, seeded tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro (optional, I didn’t have any but it was still great)
  • 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp zested lime
  • 1 Tbsp lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp-1/4 tsp garlic powder


Directions: Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor or high-speed blender and process until smooth.


The first thing I did was make the Cilantro-Lime Dressing by processing the following ingredients:


It makes enough for 1 serving.


Now, in the same processor bowl (no need to rinse!) add in 1 cup of bean medley and 3 tbsp of walnuts.


The original recipe was not vegan, so I thought this would be a great way to make a veggie ‘meat’. The walnuts gave it an amazing texture so make sure not to over process them.

The Taco ‘Meat’ turned out DELICIOUS- much better than ground beef in my opinion. ;) One serving of this packs in over 17 grams of protein and over 14 grams of fibre too.


Grab your other veggies for the salad…whatever your little heart desires.


Mix everything together and serve. Easy as that.


This was a great lunch and a fun change from normal salads.


Serve with crackers, tortilla chips, or salad toppers.


Using Props with Food Photography

Lately, I have been making an effort to create a scene when I shoot my food photos. In the professional world, this is called Food or Prop Styling.

In my amateur world, it is called playing around with my photos. ;)

Prop styling is basically a way to:

1) Fill up empty space in your photo

2) Create a realistic scene at a table

3) Add dimension and depth

4) Make the photo come ALIVE!

If you are interested in reading more on this subject, there is a great article on Prop Styling here.

Here is one of the first shots I did for this Taco Salad:


It is a boring and blah photo, eh?

Nothing in the background = empty space!



Then I tried to fill up the empty space using a few ‘props’. (I dislike using the word prop when the things I used were actually things that I used for lunch!)


By just adding a simple bowl of crackers and a bright dish towel, I was able to fill up some of that boring empty space.


Side by side:

Before                                                                                 After

IMG_1224 IMG_1188

Big difference!

I also filled up some empty space in my Garbanzo Bean Soup photos.



That one didn’t start off incredibly bad since I already had a second bowl of soup in the background and a napkin, but there is still a huge amount of empty space in the shot.


Then I added a colourful placemat in the background (on a diagonal), a lemon zester, a few lemons, and some paprika.


The photos came alive!


Looking at the photo today, I actually think it might be a bit too busy. A good rule of thumb with Food Styling is to remove one prop before shooting. You know the saying that you should remove one piece of jewelry after getting dressed? Well, the same applies here. ;)

Before                                                                                   After

IMG_0273 IMG_0291

You can also see in this Avocado-Lime Black Bean Salad that I used 2 simple props to add dimension: an avocado and 2 limes. It really made the pictures pop!


In the Vegan Alfredo, I used some herbs scattered about and a rustic looking placemat. It was SO simple and so effective.


In my vegan nog recipe and High Protein Split Pea Soup, I used a holiday theme with a couple bulbs, a red placemat, and some garland.

IMG_6261 IMG_6704

Generally, I ask myself what about the recipe jumps out at me and then I use that as my inspiration!

  • What flavours are prominent?
  • What colours pop out?
  • What are the main ingredients?
  • What is the theme of the dish (i.e., is it Christmas, Halloween, Birthday, etc)?
  • Type of cuisine
  • What tools were used in the preparation


Of course, sometimes all I want is a beautiful close-up to highlight a dish as in my Red Quinoa Salad!


The point is to have fun with your photography and experiment, above all. :) Get creative and don’t be afraid to take some bad photos (I have LOTS that I should probably delete off my hard drive…or so my husband tells me…lol)

Missed my other photography posts? Check out How to make a Light Box and How to make a Light Reflector in 1 minute flat.

Let's get social! Follow Angela on Instagram @ohsheglows, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, and Google+

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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Page 3 of 3«123
Richelle February 19, 2011 at 11:13 pm

I bet that taco meat is really good. I loved the walnuts in your Ultimate Vegan
Lentil Walnut Loaf, so I am sure they’ll be just as good in the taco meat.

You take such beautiful pictures of your food.


Jillian Babbel February 19, 2011 at 11:56 pm

This is soo helpful! I just launched a new healthy blog (http://getfitsisters.com) and have been posting a ton of pictures. These tips are really helpful and I can’t wait to try out some of the tips!

Thanks again!


Jessica February 20, 2011 at 1:31 am

It’s time. I must try the Vegan Alfredo. Wednesday night date night coming up with a bit of deliciousness. And I love what you’re doing with the photography. Always good to push yourself a bit.


Justeen @ Blissful Baking February 20, 2011 at 1:48 am

I totally making that taco salad for dinner tomorrow!! Mmmm!


Sarah (Flavoropolis) February 20, 2011 at 2:04 am

Thanks for the photo tips! My prop styling is literally nonexistant, and I know it’s the biggest thing I need to work on photography-wise. It’s just tough as I just moved to the other side of the country and it’s my first time having my own unfurnished apartment. I own no tablecloths, napkins, place mats, etc., and only one set of dishes. I guess it’s something you have to build up over time, huh?


Maria February 20, 2011 at 6:50 am

I love your blog! Everything you write is so interesting and I can easily relate to so many things in your life. Im also very curious about food, healthy living, exercise, relationships and learning to love myself etc. You are my inspiration! Thank you Angela!

I’m also a newbie in photography but very keen on it, so thanks for the shooting hints :) Have a lovely Sunday!

Maria from Finland


Maria February 20, 2011 at 6:54 am

I found your blog a little while ago and I love it! Everything you write is so interesting and I can easily relate to so many things in your life. Im also very curious about food, healthy living, exercise, relationships and learning to love myself etc. You are my inspiration! Thank you Angela!

I’m also a newbie in photography but very keen on it, so thanks for the shooting hints :) Have a lovely Sunday!

Maria from Finland


Angela (Oh She Glows) February 20, 2011 at 10:31 am

Thanks Maria!


Michelle February 20, 2011 at 8:18 am

Angela- a piece of me hit rock bottom too when the wind picked up Friday night! Thursday it got to 15 here in Niagara!! Yesterday we did a 25 km out and back along the north shore to train for Around the Bay. It was so cold and windy! Bring on spring for me too! That being said- your layouts look spring like and happy!!


Angela (Oh She Glows) February 20, 2011 at 10:31 am

Rock on, you are awesome for running that distance! It was SO windy too!


Debbi February 20, 2011 at 9:18 am

Angela, love the pics, but I have a question – where did you get those fabulous “Twiggy” utensils? Dish, please!


Angela (Oh She Glows) February 20, 2011 at 10:30 am

The twiggy spoon and knife I have are from Anthropologie :) summer 2010


Rachel (tea and chocolate) February 20, 2011 at 9:37 am

Great idea for using beans and walnuts as taco meat. I’d never have thought of that!

Thanks for the photography hints! Now I just need to work on finding props.


Kathleen @ KatsHealthCorner February 20, 2011 at 10:00 am

Oh WOW! The placemats and “props” really do make a difference!!! I love it! :D


Katrina (gluten free gidget) February 20, 2011 at 10:02 am

Great tips! Thank you!


eryn February 20, 2011 at 10:19 am

You dont actually tell us how to make the bean meddley!!! Can you tell me for the tacos please?????????? love your site!


Angela (Oh She Glows) February 20, 2011 at 10:30 am

Oh it was a can of organic beans called bean medley :)


Traci(faithfulfoodiefashionista) February 20, 2011 at 11:45 am

Two words for my favorite blogger…..You Rock :)


Liz @ iheartvegetables February 20, 2011 at 4:33 pm

Thanks for the photography tips!!! I’m always looking for new ways to make my photography come alive!

Oh and that taco salad looks amazzzzing!


Emily February 20, 2011 at 5:02 pm

This recipe was RIGHT up my alley! I made it for lunch today. First, it makes a BIG salad, and although it’s not super quick because of all the washing and chopping, it is easy. It was a great lunch, but I felt like something was missing. Next time (which will probably be tomorrow), I might double the olive oil to make the dressing a little richer, or add a few extra walnuts (which really do add a great texture). Oh and don’t forget some salt! Helps the seasoning.

Angela, I had no idea your photos take so much time and effort! I’m so impressed by your creativity. Keep it up!


Angela (Oh She Glows) February 20, 2011 at 9:01 pm

thanks for the feedback! :)


Paulina (One Smile Ahead) February 20, 2011 at 7:16 pm

Your tips are amazing! I used them today and my photos came out a 100 times better. Thank you! I also build a light reflector following your instructions and I could see a huge difference right away. It’s awesome seeing an improvement in my photos! I have lots of things to learn about food photography :D Please keep these useful tips coming!


Angela (Oh She Glows) February 20, 2011 at 7:53 pm

That is great you saw an improvement…I never think my tips will help anyone. :) Glad to know it helped!


Michelle @ Turning Over a New Leaf February 20, 2011 at 10:52 pm

That taco salad looks good! It reminds me that I should make things like that more often! I tend to forget about the simple dishes I used to have at home (like taco salad), but really, they’re easily packed with nutrition and a ton of flavor! And I’m not one for meat substitutes, but I love your tip about the mixed beans and walnuts! Just another reason I love your blog: REAL food! No processed soy pseudo-meat.

I recently started getting into staging and propping my food. I picked up some placemats on clearance for 10 cents each at the store, and I pulled out some pretty dish clothes and managed to set a pretty good photo. I haven’t gone so far as to buy particular dishes exclusively for blog photos, but it’s on the list!


Megan February 21, 2011 at 4:03 pm

Thank you for those wonderful food photo tips! Your pictures are always beautiful, and those tips really do make them pop :)


Eco-Vegan Gal February 22, 2011 at 2:40 am

Thanks for all the great food styling tips. Your photos always look wonderful and inviting. I’ve been trying to get more into it with my site, and your advice is really helpful.


Zestful Lou February 22, 2011 at 9:41 pm

Love the taco meat idea! My boyfriend and I are going vegetarian (and maybe vegan…) for Lent, so I need some good salad protein additions! That dressing looks like it rocks, too!!!


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