Sunday, January 15, 2012

Taco Salad to Fool the Kids

I am not one to fool my children into eating things they normally don't like; I am more of a briber, cajoler, or outright demander when it comes to eating. I want them to learn that foods that they've never tried should be, lest they are missing what might become a favorite, or at least an experience, and that suffering through something you don't love is okay. Short of actually serving something they consider gag-worthy, which luckily for me is rare, I expect my children to eat what I put in front of them. I worry that tricking them to eat a food they don't like, or think they don't like, may actually reduce their willingness to try a new taste when and if they discover the cover-up. So many times my children will announce that they don't like something (fully knowing they've never tried it) but after trying their "no thank you" helping, realize they really do enjoy it. No tricks.

That said, I have no issues with how others get their kids to eat. Every child is different and I do not pretend to have all the answers. And, I guarantee you that my son does not pick the healthiest option in the school lunch offerings. So, when the opportunity came to pack delicious, healthy ingredients into a school meal, I jumped.

Our public school system is looking to expand their lunch menu to include foods from other cultures and have asked for submissions. Keja and I are always up for a challenge so did a little brainstorming and came up with something tasty, packed full of veggies and protein, and named something that we hope will sound yummy enough to make it onto the lunch tray: Tacos in a Bowl. My kids were the taste testers and it passed with flying colors. 

Tacos in a Bowl

serves 6

1 large onion, ~ 1 1/2 cups, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 TBSP olive oil
1 lb. ground beef (or turkey)
1 teas. salt
1/2 teas. ground black pepper
1/2 teas. Mexican oregano
1/2 teas. cumin
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 small or 1/2 large green pepper, chopped, ~ 1 cup
1 1/2 cups canned pinto beans, drained
2 cups Romaine or other crunchy lettuce, chopped
1/2 lb. corn tortilla chips

Optional toppings:
chopped cilantro
chopped avocado
grated cheese
sour cream or plain yogurt
tabasco sauce
salsa


Heat a medium-sized frying pan over medium heat for 3 or 4 minutes. Add oil and onion and garlic and sauté for ~ 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add ground beef and cook until browned, ~ 10-15 minutes, stirring a few times in order to break meat up into small pieces. When cooked through, add salt, pepper, oregano, and cumin, stir in well, and take off heat.

In a large bowl, add meat mixture, tomatoes, green pepper, beans, lettuce, and chips. Using tongs, stir well, gently breaking up any chips that don't break on their own as you stir.

Serve with any or all of the optional toppings (we recommend everything!).