Quinoa Tacos

So, in the name of a good cause, my friend Sarah offered to participate in her work team's fundraising project, a taco lunch for about 250-300 employees of her company. She told me about this weeks ago, and apparently the planners were rolling along with a completely meat-based menu. Thoughtful Sarah spoke up and mentioned that at least 20 percent of that group could, potentially, be vegetarian or vegan, and would (obviously) prefer a non-meat option. I'm so proud! Sarah, being a fine meat-eater herself (one of the low-carb variety, even), still thinks of others-- what a great friend. She offered to provide the vegan option for the event, planning to serve up to 70 people.

When she texted three weeks later to remind me that she needed my recipe for fabulous vegan tacos, I was reminded of the affair and inspired to help her chef it up (as my friend Mich and I like to say). I sent her a recipe, she picked up the goods, and we cooked for a crowd at my place. It was great fun.

After I sent the recipe to Sarah, I was reminded (by her, sort of) that the original recipe I wanted to send was from Appetite for Reduction, a taco recipe with black beans, zucchini and black olives. This recipe is really fantastic...but the one we made was just as good, I think, though more traditional without the olives and without the amazing garlic-yogurt sauce that accompanies the dish. With that in mind, I learned a couple things during this project about cooking for the masses:

  • Simplicity does have a place!
  • If it is close to the same recipe for each batch, it will all pan out in the vat-o-food
  • Not everyone likes jalapeno as much as me...
  • While fresh and homemade is always my preference...taco seasoning really can get the job done in a pinch!
In any case, we had a great time cooking together. Here's what we made. I figure this recipe serves around 10 people 2 tacos each...maybe a little more, depending on the crowd.

1T Olive Oil (or slightly less, if you prefer)
1 c. diced onion
1 T minced garlic
1-2 T finely chopped jalapeno
2 c. chopped mushroom
1 c. small dice zucchini
2 big handfuls of fresh spinach (2-3 cups)
1/2 of a 16 oz can black beans
2 cups cooked quinoa
1 packet of taco seasoning or 2-3 T. of seasoning blend below

Heat the olive oil over medium high heat in a skillet. Once hot, add the onion. After the onions begin to look translucent (3 minutes or so), add the jalapeno and garlic. Saute for another minute or so, until it's all very fragrant (sniff it!). Add the mushrooms to the pan. Stir and toss a bit. Let cook until the mushrooms begin to release their liquid. At this moment, add the zucchini and stir. Let it all cook until the zucchini is tender and the mushrooms are totally cooked down, 4 minutes or so, I think. At this point, add the spinach and toss until it wilts a bit. This shouldn't take more than 3-5 minutes, likely on the lower end of that. Once the spinach seems to be wilted or nearly there, add the quinoa and beans. Stir until everything is pretty well combined and reduce the heat slightly if you haven't already.

At this point, you've hopefully decided whether you'll take the easy or more challenging (not really) route. If you bought a package of taco seasoning, add it along with 1 c. water and stir until all of the filling is coated, the sauce/spice evenly distributed and the liquid absorbed. 

If you want to make a taco seasoning from the spices in your cabinet, which I recommend, mix the following together before you begin cooking: 

2 t. cumin
2 t. chili powder
1 t. ground coriander
1 t. oregano
1 t. garlic powder
2 t. dried onion or 1 t. onion powder
2 t cornstarch or arrowroot (optional, I think...)
1/4-1/2 t. cayenne
1 t. paprika
1 t. salt

This recipe may be slightly more than you need for this recipe...but add as you see fit, starting with 2 tablespoons of the mix and adding more if needed after you mix the first dose in.

Once you're finished, this taco filling is ready to go. Enjoy and please-- for the love of Pete-- serve your tacos with fresh avocado. It's the only way to go! Enjoy...

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