Give alternative protein a chance in vegan tacos

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Tacos. Oh, how I love tacos! They are a busy person’s best friend for weeknight meals. They are a quick and easy way for dinner to be ready and on the table in under 30 minutes. And they are delicious.

What I really appreciate about tacos is their flexibility; they have endless variations and configurations. The tortilla shell can be corn, flour, whole wheat, or gluten-free.

The filling can be meat-based like chicken, beef, pork, fish, or shrimp. Or the filling can be veggie-based like beans, potato, grilled peppers, eggplant, or mushrooms.

And then there are the toppings. Those are endless! Lettuce, cabbage, onions, cilantro, tomatoes, cheese, sour cream and a variety of salsas and sauces. Whew. It’s dizzying.

I spent part of my childhood in Texas and New Mexico, so I grew up eating tacos of all kinds, but all authentic. The tacos in New Mexico, like so many dishes in New Mexico, had green chile sauce. Red and green chiles are a major agricultural crop in New Mexico.

On a recent visit to Orange County, I happened upon a grocery store that had a giant steel roasting drum and packing crates of chiles under a tent in a section of the parking lot. A crew of men were roasting Hatch green chiles from New Mexico and selling them right there on the blacktop. So, of course, I had to buy some. Those chiles have been a welcome add to my morning eggs.

Texas tacos, from what I remember, were heavy on the beef and cheese usually folded in a flour tortilla. I have many fond memories of enjoying the Texas signature dip, chili con queso, with tortilla chips. Tex-Mex cuisine is a whole different animal from California Mexican cuisine, but I enjoy both.

You may remember that my culinary goal this year was to add alternative proteins to my family’s meals. Instead of meat-based proteins, meat-less proteins have been in heavy rotation at my house.

Protein builds and repairs tissues in our bodies and is essential for normal cell structure. Because protein is not stored in the body, it constantly needs to be resupplied in relatively large amounts.

Nutrition experts recommend getting protein from a variety of sources, not just meat. Plant-based proteins include nuts, seeds, beans, grains, vegetables, soybean products like tofu and tempeh, and grain products.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends two servings of protein daily. For active women and most teens, the recommendation is six ounces. Active teen boys and men should be getting seven ounces daily.

Since tacos are a normal dinner item for us, it was easy for me to substitute our normal meat-based filling for a meatless one. I had seen recipes for toasted quinoa or crumbled tempeh subbing in for ground beef, but I wanted to try something different.

In stepped soy chorizo. Found in most grocery and health food stores, soy based protein substitute is a natural sub for ground meat. It can be crumbled, heated in a skillet with spices and a little broth, and ready to eat in a matter of minutes.

I actually made these tacos for a quick lunch one day and found it to be fast and tasty. The recipe is from Bon Appetit magazine and can be found on their website. Have fun with this alternative way to enjoy your protein intake.


Healthy Vegan Tacos

 

Yields: 6 tacos

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons choppted seeded jalapeno
  • 1 12-ounce package soy chorizo (sometimes labeled Soyrizo), casing removed
  • 1 15.4-ounce to 16-ounce can vegetarian refried black beans
  • 12 corn tortillas, warm
  • Diced onion
  • Chopped fresh cilantro

Directions:

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Saute onion and jalapeno for 10 minutes or until tender. Brown soy chorizo in the same skillet, stirring often, until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Heat beans in a small saucepan over low heat until heated through, stirring occasionally.

To assemble, stack two warm tortillas, spread 2 tbsp. beans over tortillas. Top with soy chorizo mixture, dividing equally. Sprinkle with diced onion and cilantro. Repeat for remaining tacos.

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Betty Williams