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eHow Video: Taco Salad (and some words on craving the familiar)

My mother is an excellent cook and one of my favorite dishes of all time was her taco salad. It was colorful and fun, and so delicious that I always had countless servings each time we had it for dinner. Her recipe called for ground chicken, so it’s been quite a while since I’ve had it. For a long time, I avoided attempting to make vegan versions of non-vegan dishes I loved because I knew I would always prefer the original. This isn’t because the original actually tastes better; it’s simply because it’s familiar. We humans are designed to be wary and skeptical of difference and change. Sticking to the familiar doesn’t feel risky; it’s safer and more comfortable.

BUT, if we give change a chance, if we can get out of our comfort zone just a little bit and give ourselves time to readjust, what was once unfamiliar will eventually become familiar. This applies to all aspects of life, not just food, so keep it in mind next time you find yourself making comparisons between the known and the unknown or feeling hesitant about trying something new.

Anyway, since it has been quite a while since I’ve had my mom’s taco salad and I knew I wouldn’t have the attachment to its familiarity that I would have had years ago, I decided to give a vegan version of this recipe a go. Instead of ground chicken, I used ground tempeh, and I added corn in lieu of the shredded cheddar cheese she would sometimes add. Everything else was the exact same.

Well, I was totally impressed with how it turned out! I’ll just be blunt: it was spectacular. The ground tempeh was absolutely delicious. Which makes sense because, after all, I applied the exact same seasonings as she would with ground chicken. And as I always say, humans don’t crave the taste of plain flesh; we crave the seasonings, and those seasonings are plant-based! I really liked the corn, too. I had added it mostly for color but it provided pops of delicious sweetness that went really well with all the lime juice and the salsa. I probably make this once a week because now it is so tasty. And just like before, my stomach seems to hold serving after serving after serving. Thank goodness!

(Serves 4–unless you are an extremely big eater–ahem–in which case it would serve 2-3)
1 package tempeh, grated
1 large onion, chopped
2 1/2 cups of black beans (1-15 oz can + 1 cup)
1-2 tablespoons taco seasoning (I prefer 2 tablespoons)
2 heads of romaine lettuce, chopped
1/2 cup cilantro
1 cup of halved baby tomatoes
1 cup of sweet corn
1 cup of salsa
Lots and lots of limes!
1. Saute the onions and tempeh with a tablespoon of water until brown, about 10 minutes.
2. Add 1 can of black beans and the taco seasoning, and saute for another 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool until room temperature.
3. Place the romaine, cilantro and baby tomatoes into a large salad bowl. Add 1 cup of black beans, the corn, salsa, and tempeh mixture and toss. Serve with lots of lime wedges to squeeze just before serving.
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