Create a healthy taco bar for an elegant lunch with friends

Old El Paso was the primary sponsor of Invigorate Retreat, this post and the embedded video. The expressed opinions and ideas are my own or my colleagues. Thank you for supporting brands that support Invigorate Retreat & Half Her Size.

A healthy taco bar is an easy recipe for a weekend party. Use fresh ingredients & simple touches to turn a rustic taco bar into an elegant lunch buffet.

A healthy taco bar is an easy recipe for a weekend party. Use fresh ingredients & simple touches to turn a rustic taco bar into an elegant lunch buffet.

A few months ago my instant messenger pinged with a question from my blogging colleague Diana. That initial ping launched a flurry of messages over the next six weeks between Diana, myself, Diana Johnson of EatingRichly, Bobbi Burleson of Bobbi’s Kozy Kitchen, and Dani Meyer of The Adventure Bite.


Diana had an idea for a weekend getaway with a few near-by members of our same mastermind (mentorship) group. Now, Diana is very smart; she didn’t ask if we might want to sometime maybe get together. She made it happen. Her first message explained that she wanted to spend a weekend sharing our talents in educational retreat. Even more importantly the weekend would include relaxing and building our friendships. She had a location ready to go with two available weekends. All we had to do was accept the invitation and pick a date.

I don’t remember having a moment of hesitation. I already enjoyed working with my mastermind colleagues and what woman doesn’t need a weekend away with her girlfriends? I don’t know any. Busy moms especially need regular breaks for self-care and relaxation. We all chimed back a resounding ‘yes!’ and Invigorate Retreat was born.

The creative ideas flowed at high speed in the short weeks before the retreat.

In the weeks prior to our retreat the instant messages flew as we brainstormed daily. We had so many things we wanted to do and share and a limited time to fit it all in. Our top goals were to feel relaxed and well, invigorated after that we wanted to learn Dani’s seemingly effortless approach to food styling and photography and Diana and her husband’s expertise with video production. We planned to fill the spaces in between with brainstorming, tip sharing, and lots of laughing.

A healthy taco bar is an easy recipe for a weekend party. Use fresh ingredients & simple touches to turn a rustic taco bar into an elegant lunch buffet.

We couldn’t have been more excited when Old El Paso agreed to be the primary sponsor our retreat. We love cooking, which is why it is such a big part of our jobs, but with relaxing as our number one priority we wanted to spend more time learning and bonding than cooking and cleaning. Creating a healthy taco bar featuring Old El Paso’s easy Mexican food products nailed our goal to keep the cooking quick and easy with delicious results.

By the time we had everything planned we were so excited we wanted to share the fun – so we made a video! 

Invigorate Retreat – Behind the Scenes

When the weekend finally arrived, our retreat was everything we wanted and more.

Friday we browsed an antique shop in adorable downtown Enumclaw where I indulged in a number of impulse purchases including 3 additions to my vintage jar collection. Before ordering dinner at The Historic Mint I tried my first fried pickle (then I tried a few more!) and we ordered cocktails made from ingredients like craft whiskey, ginger beer, muddled herbs, and a variety of pretentiously unpretentious ingredients – my favorite. (Psst! You can see pictures of our Friday fun in Diana’s post about our weekend)

Having Old El Paso on board gave Dani and Diana a fantastic way to share their talents for food styling, photography and video production and give us all a hands on learning experience. We planned our Saturday activities around shooting a video featuring our easy-breezy lunch. Diana and her husband, Eric Johnson, along with Eric’s assistant, Joel Miller, made up the video production crew. While Dani, with her assistant Holli Butterfield, took the lead on creating a stunning set for us to showcase all the food.

Putting our best faces forward on camera meant a full morning of preparation!


We were up bright and early on Saturday (actually, it was so early the bright came later).

Sunrise over Mt. Rainier from Enumclaw Washington

We piled into Holli’s van (I can’t remember the last time I was in the third row of a minivan!) and made our way to a local diner, Sun Break Cafe, for a pre-production meeting with our crew, many cups of coffee, and enormous helpings of their legendary banana bread.

From there we headed to Tre Sorelle Salon for hair and make-up. Between the four of us and the two salon owners we gabbed, gossiped, and giggled through the next few hours. When we arrived at the salon we were already working (as you will see in our video) however, it was some of the most fun I have ever had on the job – and I have a lot of fun doing my job.


Preparing our taco bar lunch was as easy as we hoped it would be.

A healthy taco bar is an easy recipe for a weekend party. Use fresh ingredients & simple touches to turn a rustic taco bar into an elegant lunch buffet.

Bobbi used Old El Paso’s Restaurante Baja Fish Soft Taco dinner kit to make some lightly pan fried cod. I don’t cook fish on the stove top very often so I was very curious to see her technique. I kept peeking over her shoulder while she worked, it didn’t take long and she made it look so easy. The cod turned out light, flaky and perfectly seasoned. I am definitely going to be adding fish to our taco night menu rotation.

A healthy taco bar is an easy recipe for a weekend party. Use fresh ingredients & simple touches to turn a rustic taco bar into an elegant lunch buffet.

Diana provided the turf alternative to Bobbi’s surf. Her recipe was another super simple taco bar entree. Friday night she started a roast in the crock-pot, by lunchtime it had become a super tender Barbacoa beef. I’m pretty sure we all nibbled a full portion of the spicy shredded beef while waiting for the cameras and lighting to get in position.


More recipes from the Invigorate Retreat bloggers you can make with Old El Paso products:

When it came time to serve Dani expertly continued the easy & elegant theme with an outdoor buffet.

A healthy taco bar is an easy recipe for a weekend party. Use fresh ingredients & simple touches to turn a rustic taco bar into an elegant lunch buffet.

Thanks to a streak of unseasonably warm weather we set up our healthy taco bar on the deck. It was a delightful change of pace to give the usual taco bar fare an elegant treatment. Sure it is nice to serve an attractive meal at home but there is something about setting a beautiful table for your friends that makes extra effort fun.


I took my time at the taco bar creating two distinctive tacos in the Soft Tortilla Taco Boats. I have never gotten the hang of wrapping a soft taco shell but I like the flavor. The taco boats were exactly what I have always needed. Keeping the meal light and healthy was easy thanks to all of our fresh ingredients. To the Baja fish and Barbacoa beef, I layered shredded cabbage, seasoned corn, pico de gallo, dabs of fresh guacamole, and a sprinkle of cojita cheese. When the boats were comfortably full I added extra veggies on the side to create a simple salad.

After a full day of showing off our easy lunch it was time to relax!

I already mentioned how smart Diana is but let me give you another example. She arranged for massage therapists from Bodhi Logic to arrive just in time for the end of our long day of video production. Ending a work day with a full hour massage is a job perk I am eager to repeat!

Not that it was hard to relax with all the beautiful scenery.

Mountain View Manor Wedding Venue in Enumclaw Washington

I have to take a moment to tell you about our incredible location for the weekend. The accommodations combined, with superb weather, so far exceeded my expectations I was left a bit breathless.

We were guests of Mountain View Manor in Enumclaw, Washington where iconic Mt. Rainier (or simply The Mountain to locals) is so close you want to reach out and touch it. The private estate, owned and operated by the most generous family, is just starting its first full year as a wedding venue. Its grounds, surrounded by picturesque farmland against the backdrop of the mountain, are immaculate down to the tiniest detail. There are even on-site bride and groom suites both with kitchenettes and comfortable spaces for relaxing. The bride’s suite includes a full salon space while the groom and his men get to hang out in a man cave complete with leather, dark wood finishes, and a bear’s head mounted on the wall. I was ready to get married all over again!

A micro-conference fosters collaborative learning between colleagues and friends

I can’t get over how much fun we had on our retreat. From the first moments of meeting in the real world to the final wave in the driveway, we brainstormed ideas for launching our goals to new heights. I learned a multitude of tips that I am already incorporating into my daily work. I feel blessed beyond measure to have Diana, Bobbi, and Dani in my life. They inspire me with the work they do, the challenges they continue to overcome, and their generosity of spirit. These women are not only some of my favorite colleagues they are dear friends and pillars of my tribe.


  1. Though everyone decided to not shed tears, ultimately emotions started flowing and we said goodbye with a heavy heart. Further, she added that the show has received so much love and admiration, so everyone is hoping that KHKT returns with season 2 soon.

  2. What a fun weekend & it looks like some amazing food with that healthy taco bar – I got some great ideas to try! And you went to my friend Jenn’s salon – how cool!

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