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Breakfast is such an important part of our day! It gives us something to look forward to when we just don’t want to get out of our bed. It brings life to a sleepy house by infusing it with comforting smells and arousing our senses. It can help set our energy level and appetite for the day, or derail the best of healthy eating intentions. In general, try to start your day with some nutritious options and not high-calorie but nutrient poor ones (such as sweet grain products or fatty options like sausage and bacon).
Tacos are a very loved food here in New Mexico and any Google search will tell you, all around the world! When it comes to plant-based eating, tacos offer a large variety of options for any meal or snack. It is very easy to take high-fat versions and make them low-fat plant-based. In the recipe below, I use the steam-fry cooking method for the vegetables and for steaming up my corn tortillas. It leaves them soft and easy to work with, plus when you steam-fry the tortillas after cooking your vegetables, it infuses them with any tastes leftover when you deglaze it by steam-frying your tortillas.
Corn Tortillas (2 per person)
Frozen Corn (1/4 cup per person, even the small ones)
Green onions, chopped (1 whole per person)
Baby or regular bell peppers, sliced or chopped (1/2 cup per adult; 1/4 cup per child)
Salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder to taste (or 1/4 tsp mix per person)
The Sauce: 1 Tbsp salsa, 1 Tbsp hummus (low-fat and original taste or bell pepper), 1 tsp vegan mayonnaise or vegan yogurt, plain (this makes enough for 4 tacos)
- Heat a cast iron skillet over medium high heat for 5 minutes until drops of water bubble and dance around the pan.
- Spray with spray oil to prevent sticking and add frozen corn and move the corn around the pan constantly for 1 minute to moisten the pan with the melting corn. Stir frequently while cooking for 5 minutes. Add water in small portions, 1/2 teaspoon portions, to steam-fry the corn. You are aiming for a caramelized corn here.
- Once the corn begins to caramelize and brown, add in the chopped green onions and bell peppers and continue to steam-fry while browning. This means you’ll add minimal water to keep the browning process going but enough to prevent burning. This can take 10 more minutes.
- Once the vegetables have a nice browned exterior, add more water to steam fry the vegetables to your desired tenderness. If cooking for young children that are toddler age, cook until very soft.
- Remove the finished vegetables from the skillet and use 1 tsp of water to steam-fry and deglaze the pan. Once the steam starts, put a corn tortilla in the pan and quickly move it around using tongs or by moving the pan quickly back and forth over your burner. The tortilla needs to slide around in the steam-fry water to soften and pick up all of those lovely flavors. Continue to do this for each tortilla using about 1/2 teaspoon of water per tortilla. Once the tortillas are removed from the skillet, fold them in half and keep them separate so they do not stick together. Steamed tortillas can stick easily. Before cooking, I put out all our plates so I can plate the food as I work.
- The sauce: simply mix all 3 ingredients in a small bowl using a small whisk. Once you build your tacos by placing the desire amount of filling into each corn tortilla, you can top them with this sauce to taste.
These tacos are wonderful for breakfast. They cook very fast and you will have only 1 pan to clean up, which is a win for any busy family! They provide you with 1-3 servings of your daily vegetable quota, depending on your taste. You can also build a variety of fillings depending on your produce stock, and you can make a variety of sauces. The sauces are really key to adding that extra restaurant quality addition to your homemade meals and are usually something even your sweet toddlers can help whisk up. Buy small whisks and small bowls to make it easy for them to help. Some taco variations are listed below:
- Portabella mushroom, spinach, and jarred red bell peppers
- Bell peppers, large onion slices, green chile slices, garlic
- Black beans, caramelized corn, chives
- Tofu slices marinated in cumin, turmeric, garlic, rice vinegar and a small amount of water, sliced onions, caramelized corn or cauliflower
- Tempeh slices, cumin, turmeric, garlic and onion powders, sliced onions, sliced bell peppers, black beans, and caramelized corn (a big skillet meal!)
- Spinach, mushrooms, riced cauliflower, tahini and hummus sauce
- Potatoes, mushrooms, spinach tahini and hummus sauce
Getting Toddlers Involved
One key element to getting your toddler involved in cooking, is to make a dedicated space for them that is safe an accessible. Depending on the size of your kitchen, you may be able to fit a small toddler sized table and chairs (or try this set, which is very easy to clean anything off of) for them to work on. These are best placed in a spot that is away from the oven/stove or the refrigerator and cabinets, so they can work uninterrupted. Or you can purchase a learning tower to place at your counter. These are amazing for them to use as they grow into school-aged children, and the nicer ones have other elements they can play with if their attention drifts away from the food preparation. Again, place these is a safe space that is not near anything dangerous, or in the way of cabinets you need to access. Be sure to clear any clutter (being especially aware of anything sharp or hot within their reach). A caution, some of the cheaper ones can tilt or even fall over, if your child is leaning to grab something out of their reach. For these, you really do get what you pay for, and you’ll want a sturdy one with for large feet that help prevent it tipping over.
While I provide links here to purchase online, you can always try your local thrift shops and family exchange stores! We have many indoor flea markets that always have nice items showing up at them here.
Involving young children in food preparation, anything from meal planning to shopping to cooking, will instill in them an appreciation for food and healthy eating that will carry them through their entire lifetime. Indeed, there is plenty of research to show, that a positive role model has a large impact on our eating habits all through our lives. Connecting with that which provides us sustenance, is a basic and empowering part of our existence that we should never take for granted. If we can role model this love of nutritious food and this care for our bodies to our children, they will pass these values on to their own children. What better life lesson can we hand off to others, than that of caring for ourselves by respecting our health and that which gives us health. Making healthy eating an everyday part of our lives and something that seems easily achievable is a wonderful gift all of us can share.