Vegetarian Taco Salad

I was leafing through an old fundraiser cookbook we had put together for a church youth trip to Nova Scotia and ran across a recipe for Taco Salad that had been submitted by Peter.  That cookbook conjured up memories of a fun trip to our neighbouring province.  That may not sound too adventurous to some but packing up six adults and at least a dozen children in two vans, making a six hour car drive to a six hour ferry crossing both ways, and sleeping in the basement of a church for a week was adventurous enough for all involved.  I don't know how we loaded the vans with the people, all the baggage and paraphernalia needed for such an undertaking, but we did.  During the week we managed to pack in as much sightseeing and attractions as we could in Cape Breton.  We visited the famous Fortress of Louisbourg, checked out Angus MacAskill, the Cape Breton Giant, had fun at the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site of Canada, visited an Acadian period farm and met a black and white piglet named "Oreo" and lots of people dressed in costume, went swimming and shopping in Sydney and several other activities that are now well hidden in depths of my brain. 

As money was tight, we ate breakfast and supper at the church where we stayed, cooking the meals in the little kitchen, and packed bag lunches for our midday meal.  One wonderful night we splurged and ate out at a fast food restaurant.  Each child was given the great sum of $5 for this grand outing but could supplement that amount with their own money if needed.  That was 1997 so five dollars had more spending power than today. 

Our trip was soon over, and with the exception of a few upset stomachs and one child left behind (by the parents) at the church when we went swimming, we had a wonderful week. 

The cookbook with the Taco Salad was one of the reasons we could go.  Each child submitted several recipes, I typed them up and had everything photocopied and bound.  (That's another story!)  The kids sold them for five dollars each which helped with the expenses. 

Taco Salad is great to serve on a hot day.  Because it's a vegetarian salad it goes together quickly without the bother of cooking ground beef.  The beans make a great alternative to the beef and are much healthier than the meat as they not only contain protein but fiber as well.  

A very basic salad contains lettuce, beans, tomatoes and cheese but over the years I've added a few more vegetables which makes a tasty treat for the mouth.   I use whatever beans I have in the cupboard as it makes little difference to the overall taste of the salad.  If you don't happen to have taco seasoning in your pantry, use the chili powder as it contains almost the same ingredients in milder portions.  We don't like hot, spicy foods so I go very lightly on the seasoning, sometimes leaving it out (gasp!) as the mild salsa that we use is plenty spicy for us.  Our old tongues don't adjust well to hot spices. 

Taco salad makes a delicious side dish or it can be used as the whole meal as it contains vegetables, carbohydrates and proteins. Served with a slice of bread or a dinner roll you have a lovely summer meal. 

Vegetarian Taco Salad
1 small head lettuce (iceburg or romaine), shredded coarsely or chopped
2 or 3 diced tomatoes
1 cup diced cheddar cheese
1 -14 oz. can kidney, black or pinto beans, rinsed and drained
½ cup diced cucumber

½ cup sliced black olives
2 green onions, thinly sliced or 2 or 3 tablespoons of chopped mild onion
1 avocado, peeled and diced
½ cup diced sweet peppers
½ cup mayonnaise or salad dressing or sour cream or a combination of both. 
1 tablespoon taco seasoning or chili powder
About 2 cups tortilla or corn chips, lightly crushed
Salsa or hot sauce (optional)
Sour cream (optional)

In a large bowl, mix lettuce, tomatoes, cheddar cheese, beans, olives, onions, avocado and sweet peppers together.  Mix salad dressing and taco seasoning together and toss with the salad ingredients.  Just before serving, lightly mix in the tortilla or corn chips and serve.  Hot sauce or salsa sauce may be served with the salad for a "hot" meal.  Top with sour cream if desired.

Makes 4-6 servings. 

The assembled ingredients for the Taco Salad.  Today I used black beans.  That's what I had in the cupboard and they're my favourite!

Mix the salad dressing with the taco seasoning and pour it over the salad ingredients and then mix everything together. 

Gently stir in the crushed tortilla chips.  Today I used Zesty Doritos.  Corn chips are really good, too.  If the salad is not to be served immediately wait until you are ready to serve it before you pour on the dressing and stir in the chips.  You don't want soggy lettuce or chips. 

This tasted so good for our dinner today.  I wolfed mine down in record time.

A full meal or a great side dish!


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