I originally planned this blog to be about how we use the bulk staples I make and freeze (beans and chile) with a variety of shells (taco, tortilla, tostada, salad, or fritos) to make quick dinners on busy nights. However, this week the Packer game fell on a Thursday and we are hosting, so I have made the effort to go all out with all of the variations and garnishes for this Vegetarian Taco Night. I have a mixture of images from my smaller preparations along with my ramped up preparations which will hopefully feed ~20 people. One of the many positives about the meal is that since everything is separate, people can pick and choose what they eat. When you have picky toddlers (or adults) it is easy to please everyone.
Preparing a feast for the Packer game has been a tradition in our family since I was pregnant with my 16-year-old son Jaylen. Prior to that we would watch the game at Howie’s which was (I don’t know if it still is) a very serious Packer bar. It was a really fun place and very interesting for me because it was like walking into little Wisconsin with all the thick Midwestern accents. It was a small bar so people would often share the larger tables which allowed us to meet a lot of fun people. Unfortunately, back then you could smoke in a bar and once I became pregnant, I became super sensitive to the smoke. So, we purchased the NFL ticket and basically hosted every game since then until these last few years. Now, our family has grown because my nieces and nephews are starting their own families, so we all take turns hosting since it is quite the task to cook for so many. To be honest, I don’t watch too much of the games, instead it is a great opportunity to have a weekly chat and see all the beautiful great nieces and nephews.
Taco filling ingredients
When I just make vegetarian tacos for us (4 people), I use 1 package of the fake beef, 2 cups of beans and 1 pint size jar of chile, which will feed way more than 4. We usually have enough for lunch leftovers and/or quesadillas later in the week because you only use a couple tablespoons of the filling for each taco.
I am also making tiny, diced roasted potatoes and I’m going to start them first because they take the longest. For us I use 4 medium sized potatoes but for the large group I’m going to use 2 whole pounds. This is because everyone loves the potatoes (I can’t seem to make enough) and the key is dicing them really small and cooking them until they are super crispy.
Heat your oven to 400F, add a couple of tablespoons of oil and try to get them in a single layer (this will make the cooking go faster). I have a few too many in my pan but I’m not in a hurry. Sprinkle them with salt, pepper and garlic powder. You will be roasting them for about 45 min to an hour. I flip them a couple of times during the course of cooking them and pull them out when they are as crisp as I want them. During all this cooking time you can prepare your taco filling.
Today I have 2 different kinds of beef I’m going to mix together. There is also the Quorn brand and it is my opinion that they all taste pretty similar. My family can be a little picky about the meat substitute products I use, but the entire family does not mind the ground ‘beef’ and I think it is because the texture is perfect.
Heat up a little oil (~2 tablespoons) and 1 tablespoon of minced garlic in a pan. Add your beef and brown.Once brown, add the cooked beans and chile. Keep on low until everything else is ready. If you have a late night and you have precooked or canned beans and chile, this can be ready in as little as 20 minutes.
In the below image for the big party, I used 2 packages of ‘beef’, 6 cups of beans (trying to spread it out a bit) and 2 pints of red chile. I made it a little less thick because people were making Frito pies but I provided a slotted spoon for those making tacos/tostadas/burritos.
Notice that the chile is more red in the large batch. That is because I had just made a fresh batch of chile from a ristra, so the chiles had a much more vibrant red color compared to the dried chiles that I used in a previous blog, which have a darker hue. I used the ristra as a decoration for a few days, but I ran out of chile and had to take it down. I hung it from my carport and had my scary hanging La Llorona guarding it for me 🙂
So now let’s move to one of my fancy garnish options. On the night when I just made tacos for us, the batch of chile I used was super hot so I wanted a garnish that complemented the hotness. I needed something slightly sweet to top it off. I decided to roast some garden tomatoes my coworker had given me along with some onions and garlic. Just toss with 1 tablespoon of oil ad roast at 400F for about 30-40 minutes.
The image above is a tostada and you can buy them already cooked and just warm them up or you can buy uncooked corn tortillas and fry them yourself. I tend to buy uncooked tortillas because some people like to just eat the corn tortillas warmed up (not fried) Mexican style. I also use them un-fried for my enchiladas. But if you want to make your own, all you have to do is purchase a bag: (and no, we are not sponsored by Mission)
Heat up a thin layer of oil in a pan and lightly brown on each side. My husband likes them slightly soft but some people like them very crisp like a taco.
For the Packer game I made some tostadas but I also bought pre-made taco shells, Fritos for Frito pies, small flour tortillas and I had lettuce and purple cabbage for taco salad.
Let me break down the garnishes:
Garnishes that require more preparation:
I also made some Spanish yellow rice from a box mix. The only modification to the recipe I made was to saute onions, peppers and garlic in oil before following the package directions.
My kids are a little conservative with the garnishes but there is a little green on his plate.