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Stick to your New Year’s resolutions with out-of-this-world tacos


It’s been two years since a team of Austin bloggers made vegan tacos go viral.

“The Taco Cleanse” cookbook came out at the end of 2015, but the idea for a monthlong vegan taco challenge came up over margaritas among bloggers a few years earlier. After Wes Allison, Stephanie Bogdanich, Molly R. Frisinger and Jessica Morris started writing about their “taco cleanse,” the idea took off, and they sparked a veritable craze over tacos that are, by virtue of being meat- and cheese-free, healthier than traditional tacos.

The Taco Cleanse: The Tortilla-Based Diet Proven to Change Your Life” is a tongue-in-cheek guide that is a fun way to get creative about cleaner eating, something many are trying to do in January to start the new year off on the right foot. Some people use meat substitutes, but not all tacos must feature something that resembles pork, beef or chicken.

We’ve gathered three vegan taco recipes to fuel your monthlong cooking challenge, whatever it might be.

Not all specialty diets allow legumes, but it’s hard to argue that they aren’t a healthy choice, especially if you’re trying to find lean (and inexpensive) sources of protein. Black beans and butternut squash are a classic pairing, but so are chickpeas and mangoes. The super crunchy tofu tacos require a little prep work to get those delightful cubes crispy, but it’s worth the effort.

A pro-tip from someone who is on a 30-day cooking challenge: You might get tired of tortillas if you decide to take on something similar, so think about your favorite tacos (and these taco recipes) as components that you can break out and use elsewhere. Any of these taco fillings or slaws would be excellent in a sandwich or salad, and the sauces could be used as a dressing or veggie dip.

Super Crunchy Tofu Tacos

Don’t skip pressing the tofu. In order to get a crispy, browned exterior, the excess water needs to be removed by pressing the tofu between sheets of paper towels. If you skip pressing it, you’ll end up with a softer texture and minimal browning.

— Cooking Light editors

1 (14-ounce) package water-packed extra-firm tofu, drained

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons canola oil

2 tablespoons unsalted cashews

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar

3 tablespoons water

1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

1 1/2 cups julienne-cut (2-inch) carrots

1 1/2 cups julienne-cut (2-inch) peeled daikon radish

2 tablespoons canola mayonnaise

1 1/2 teaspoons Sriracha

1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar

8 (6-inch) corn tortillas

1/4 cup diagonally sliced green onions

Cut the tofu lengthwise into 2 (1-inch-thick) slices. Cut each slice lengthwise into 4 (1-inch-thick) strips. Place the tofu on several layers of paper towels. Cover the tofu with additional paper towels; top with a cast-iron skillet or other heavy pan. Let stand 15 minutes, pressing down occasionally. Remove the paper towels.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the tofu with the salt and pepper. Add the canola oil to the pan; swirl to coat. Add the tofu to the pan; cook 10 minutes or until browned, turning to brown all sides. Remove the tofu from the pan, and drain on paper towels. Add the cashews to the pan; cook 30 seconds or until the nuts are just beginning to brown. Remove the nuts with a slotted spoon, and coarsely chop. Cut the tofu strips crosswise into 1-inch cubes.

Combine 1/4 cup vinegar, 3 tablespoons water and sugar in a small saucepan; bring to a boil. Remove from the heat; add the carrots and radish. Let stand 15 minutes; drain. Combine the mayonnaise, Sriracha and 1 teaspoon vinegar in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk.

Working with 1 tortilla at a time, heat the tortillas over medium-high heat directly on the eye of a burner for about 15 seconds on each side or until lightly charred. Arrange about 1/4 cup carrot mixture in the center of each tortilla; top with 4 tofu pieces, about 1/2 teaspoon cashews, about 1 teaspoon mayonnaise mixture and 1 1/2 teaspoons green onions. Serves 4.

— From “Everyday Vegetarian: A Delicious Guide for Creating More Than 150 Meatless Dishes” from the Editors of Cooking Light (Oxmoor House, $21.95)

Toasted Chickpea Tacos with Mango Relish

Sweet and zesty, smooth and spicy, these are incredibly flavorful and playful. If you’ve eaten tacos all week and want a change of pace from tortillas or wraps, you could serve the toasted chickpeas on a large bed of salad greens with the tahini sauce as a dressing.

For the toasted chickpeas:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon garam masala

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Pinch of salt

For the tahini sauce:

1/3 cup tahini

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

For the mango relish:

1/2 mango, peeled, pitted and cubed

2 teaspoons cider vinegar

2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh cilantro

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Pinch of salt

For serving:

Corn tortillas

Handful of arugula

1/2 red onion, sliced

1 avocado, pitted, peeled and sliced

Red pepper flakes

Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat, add the chickpeas and spices and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes; set aside. In a small bowl, stir together all the tahini sauce ingredients along with 1/4 cup water and set aside. In a separate bowl, mix together all the mango relish ingredients. Warm the tortillas in a dry skillet or directly over your stove-top burner. Top the tortillas with arugula leaves, toasted chickpeas, mango relish, red onion and avocado slices. Drizzle with tahini sauce, sprinkle with red pepper flakes and serve. Serves 3.

— From “Power Vegan Meals: High-Protein Plant-Based Recipes for a Stronger, Healthier You” by Maya Sozer (Page Street Publishing, $21.99)

Black Bean and Butternut Squash Tacos

Vegan tacos for meat lovers! Honestly, I prefer these to all other tacos — they’re so unique and packed full of flavor. I first tried butternut squash tacos from a food truck in Southern California. There were three tacos to choose from — pork shoulder, chicken and butternut squash — so naturally I got one of each. I was pleasantly surprised to find I enjoyed the vegan tacos the best, and I’ve been making my own ever since. So try them out, and if you must have some animal protein in your tacos, add some shredded chicken.

— Audrey Johns

For the taco filling:

1 teaspoon olive oil

2 cups (1/4-inch-cubed) butternut squash

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed

For the slaw:

1 cup thinly sliced purple cabbage

1/4 red onion, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

Pinch of kosher salt

Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

For assembly:

8 (6-inch) whole wheat tortillas

1 avocado, diced

Chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

Hot sauce (optional)

Make the taco filling: Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the squash, chili powder, garlic powder, cumin and salt and pepper to taste and toss together to coat. Cook, stirring often to avoid burning, until the squash is soft and slightly caramelized, 15 to 20 minutes. Add the beans and cook for 5 minutes or so to heat them up.

While the squash cooks, make the slaw: Place the cabbage, onion, cilantro, lime juice, oil and vinegar in a medium bowl, season with salt and pepper, and toss.

Spread out the tortillas on one or two baking sheets and bake on your oven’s lowest temperature (ideally 200 degrees) for 2 to 5 minutes, just until they’re warm.

To assemble the tacos, spoon some taco filling onto each tortilla and top with slaw, avocado and more cilantro (if you really love it like I do) and some of your favorite hot sauce (if you’re feeling spicy). Dig in and enjoy — licking your fingers is fine, but try to avoid licking your plate.

— From “Lose Weight by Eating: Detox Week: Twice the Weight Loss in Half the Time with 130 Recipes for a Crave-Worthy Cleanse” by Audrey Johns (William Morrow, $25.99)



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