Nothing personifies happiness like a warm wrap smothered in spicy beef and cheese, or a plate a tortilla chips piled high with all the fixings. We write songs about them (It’s Raining Taco’s), dedicate days of the week to them (Taco Tuesday!!!), and if your me, dedicate at minimum one meal a week to them because they are the best leftovers and midnight snacks on the planet. How do you not the love Mexican version of a sandwich!?!? It is also the easiest way to get picky eaters to eat vegetables since the color and flavor is covered up with the seasoning. With its versatility they can be made with beef, chicken, or seafood, and the vegan version is easily applied with diced eggplant, zucchini, and mushrooms.
Skipping out on the gluten in the season and wraps posed a problem for me, so I started making my own seasonings, salsa’s, and guacamole. I have yet to find a good homemade corn tortilla wrap recipe, and also haven’t experimented much with it since I’ve found in the EU corn meal isn’t as readily sold… It’s out there, but sparse, and I’m still finding the international shops in my area that might have some. AKA it’s on my list of things to work on in 2021. I usually substitute with a bed of lettuce or rocket anyway and have a “taco salad”, but sometimes you just need the crunch of the chip!
I got this recipe off of Pinterest from Whole New Mom, but there was so many pop ups and ads that it drove me crazy, and in true fashion I never actually follow recipes and just sorta dump ingredients together till it tastes right. If you don’t have an ingredient (like onion powder or garlic grains) you can use the real thing when you cook instead, which makes substituting easier and gives the final meal some bulk. I usually put all my spices in a container or jar and have enough for several meals/servings, and don’t add much salt or pepper in my seasoning mix because my ingredients can vary by what I have for spices and what is in the fridge at the moment. Different meal combinations I find don’t needs as much salt for flavor enhancing.
- 2 Tbsp chili powder
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1/2 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 Tbsp cumin
- 2 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp pepper
Mix it all together in a jar and give it a good shake till it is well mixed. For a kid friendly version I would only cut back on the chili powder and red pepper flakes since they are the only really hot spices, or you can look for mild versions of chili powder. Everything else is depth and creates the typical taco flavor we all know and love.
Since I prefer a bit more spice, I’ll add cayenne pepper to the mix for some extra kick, and a smoked paprika makes for extra depth. Fresh vegetables add bulk and more depth of flavor with the mix. Good ones I find are:
- Bell Pepper/ chilli pepper
If you get really sneaky some of those greens like broccoli, spinach, or bits of Bak Choi cabbage can mix in really well without picky eaters noticing!
When you brown your meat/vegetables add enough seasoning to give it some color, about 2-3 Tablespoons to a Pound of meat, then increase or decrease the amount of seasoning according to your pallet. I like to mix everything together with a drizzle of oil and cook covered on medium heat until the meat is thoroughly cooked and the veggies are well steamed. By covering, this holds enough moisture in to allow for even cooking and balances out the seasonings flavor, but if you need to add a little water to make steam, feel free to do so. Then, just before I am ready to serve, I uncover the pan and let the excess moisture cook off for a couple minutes.
It’s worth stating here that different types of beef/meat will cook differently. Cheaper high fat beef will need to be browned and the fat drained before adding seasonings. Frozen chicken breasts or shrimp, will often be bulked up with water and salt, drastically changing the water amounts, cook-off time, and the overall flavor. I prefer a good quality moderately lean beef, between 8-12% fat (less than 5% I find to dry, but I am not avoiding fats for health reasons) and if you can find it, NO ADDITIVES/ FILLERS! Your local butcher will normally be able to provide you with the best quality and most affordable meats, but don’t be afraid to experiment with budget friendly frozen options, or a vegetarian vegetable substitute.
DIY Summer Salsa:
This can be as versatile, simple or complex as you make it and if you watch Neflix’s Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, you can get some great blend ideas there. Another rule of thumb I follow is to use the peel/zest for extra flavors/toppings instead of just throwing it away. Waste not, want not. This is also great on top of scrambled eggs, as a chip dip, or added to any other meal you want to jazz up.
The main combo is:
- 1/2- 1/4 cup Citrus juice (lemon, lime, or orange, etc)
- Don’t forget to zest your citrus!!
- 1/4 of an Onion diced
- 1-2 medium Tomatoes diced/chopped
- Diced fresh herbs to taste (and color.) Basil and Cilantro are my favorites. (Dried herbs can be used, but it doesn’t have the same effect and needs to rehydrate in the salsa mix overnight for the flavor to really come through.)
- 1/4-1/2 hot peppers diced (sweet bell pepper is also a color appealing alternative for the kids)
How much tang you want, is going to determine your citrus type. Lemon’s and lime’s are the strongest and will need to be balanced with a bit more tomato. I like to combine them with a bit of fresh orange for the sweet and tangy effect.
My favorite container for this job is a small 8-12oz Doritos style salsa jar. It is just enough for me to get used by the end of the week before it starts to go off.
Start by zesting your citrus until you have a tablespoon (approximately) and keep that aside. A small hand held cheese grater works GRATE for this. (Pun intended, I couldn’t resist) Then, to make juicing easier you can roll it around on the counter top, applying pressure to break up the juice inside. Then cut it in half and squeeze it in a bowl if you don’t have a hand juicer, and remove any seeds. Dice and add the rest of your ingredients to the main jar before giving it a good shake to mix. Top up with as much of the juice to cover the ingredients and add as much zest as you want for extra flavor.
Top as generously as you like on your tacos or any other dish and enjoy!
Avocados are probably the hardest thing to choose for ripeness on the planet… all the memes about them either being unripe or over ripe are 1000% true, and you really only have about 24-48 hours to eat them at peak perfection. The only way to pick them is really with practice and trial and error, but choose one that is just starting to soften on the outside, yet still firm. Super soft or brown avocados are for the trash as they are sour! If you don’t know how to cut them THIS VIDEO perfectly sums it up.
All you need is:
- 1 Avocado
- Fresh cilantro or basil if available
- Lemon juice and zest
Some recipes call for mayo or yoghurt, but that ruins it for me as I find it changes the color and texture completely, as well as the flavor.
Simply cut up your avocado, mash it with a fork in a bowl, add a bit of zest, a few sprigs of minced cilantro, and just enough juice to make the mixture smooth and creamy while still having a firm texture. Since acid is a type of preservative, this also preserves the color and keeps it from going brown on you on the fridge.
Dollop, dip, and smother as you wish!
The Final Touch
When it comes to food there are no rules. But considering that food is a major player in the senses, we can remind ourselves to eat with joy. Adding a variety of colors, flavors, and textures literally sends pleasure sensors to the brain and also encourages digestion!
My favorite toppings to do this are:
- Your favorite cheese!!!
- Fresh greens, like Spinach or Rocket
- Black Olives
- Yoghurt/sour cream
- Fresh tomatoes
- Sweet Peppers
- A touch of homemade sauerkraut or other pickled vegetables
What are you favorite Taco toppings? Favorite way to eat them? In a wrap, or on a plate of tortilla chips, or in a bowl? Meat or Vegan style?
Post a picture of your tacos and share your combinations below!