Perfect Vegetarian Tacos

Layering technique matters
A few days before I found out I was pregnant, I had my first sign. I didn't even realize it was out of the ordinary. I had the incredibly strong craving for crunchy, fresh, fully stuffed, flavorful tacos that perfectly contrasted textures, flavors and hot vs. cold. It was more than in my head, or in my gut, it was in my jaw. My jaw wanted to crunch down on tacos like you wouldn't believe. Much like the urge to pop bubble-wrap.

I began frequenting Chipotle despite the long lines. I powered through messy taco-eating frenzies over my desk at work. I made tacos at home, too, forcing the subject on my husband (a somewhat willing participant, but only the first couple times). I even left work to go to the mall one day, less for shopping, and more because I knew there was a Taco Bell there. I couldn't get enough.

The cravings turned to emotional eating. I don't even know what the emotions were. Anxiety mostly. But I can't even begin to describe how wonderfully happy and at peace I felt from inside out, from top to bottom, each time I stuffed myself with tacos.

On the day I decided to make a taco bar at home, I used vegetarian "meat" so my husband could eat them too. I threw in absolutely everything I could get my hands on to make them a rainbow of flavors and textures. They were truly the perfect vegetarian tacos.

Components of a Perfect Vegetarian Taco:

1. Corn Taco Shells / Kit (I like Old El Paso brand taco kit, because there are no meat products in the seasoning)

Warm the taco shells in a 350F oven for a few minutes.

2. Black Bean Filling

1 T butter or oil
1 small onion, diced
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
Adobo seasoning (or onion & garlic powder)
salt & pepper

In a skillet over medium heat, sauté onions in butter for a few minutes. Add the black beans and season with a dusting of Adobe, salt and pepper. Cover and reduce heat to med-low for about 10 minutes.

3. Vegetarian "Meat" Filling
1 T butter or oil
1 package frozen meat-free textured protein crumbles - Morning Star Farms (soy protein/wheat gluten) is great and easy to find, Quorn brand (soy-free - mushroom protein/wheat gluten) is good too.
1 packet of taco seasoning from the taco kit

In another shallow pan, heat oil over medium heat and add frozen protein crumbles. Cover for a few minutes, stirring frequently, until it thaws. When heated through, add seasoning packet. Cook a few minutes and then taste to see if you need to add salt. Uncover if the mixture becomes wet, to evaporate the liquid. Cooking should take about 8-10 minutes total.

4. Simple Guacamole
2 avocados
1/4 C lime juice
salt & pepper
*diced jalapeño optional

Mash the avocados and add lime juice, salt and pepper to taste. 

5. Other Toppings
8 oz (1/2 lb) chopped fresh tomatoes
1/2 C cilantro, rinsed, dried and chopped
4 limes, cut into wedges
8oz sour cream
1/2 C shredded taco cheese, jack or cheddar
hot sauce from taco kit, or favorite brand

Assembling the tacos as the diagram at the top of the page should ensure the least soggy shell. Making each taco right before eating it helps also. But it is, after all, a taco bar. It is supposed to be fun and awesome. Add and subtract ingredients as you wish!

Leftover fillings make great nachos
I found I had a ton of filling left over. Since I couldn't get enough tacos, I was happy to eat them in nacho form the next 3 days. Just sprinkle some cheese on the chips, pop it in the microwave for about 15 seconds and top with whatever you have. Non-stop deliciousness.


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