I had a camera malfunction and my beautiful, colorful pictures of tonight's dinner vanished!!
Jeremy + Fritos
I don't remember the origin of Taco Joe's or how they got their name, or where they came from or anything. Basically, Taco Joe's is the name for a big serve-yourself taco bar served over Frito Lays. For realz. We didn't grow up with bags of Fritos laying around the house, so I have no idea how this entered the dinnertime repertoire, but I know my brother was sure stoked about it. They have long been one of my brother's favorite dinners for family meals.
My mom makes it pretty much every year when we all get together for his birthday. The thing is, cooking dinner for my whole family can be quite a challenge. We've got vegans, no-salt-no-oil-vegans, devoted meat-loving omnivores, a gluten-free vegan, and a soy-free kiddo. Phew!
Taco Joe's don't quite fit all those diets, but they comes pretty close.
Originally, the main thing was just some meaty taco filling, cooked up with taco seasoning from a little packet. A few years ago, for one reason or another, I was picking up some taco seasoning packets at the supermarket, when I just happened to (impulsively) check the ingredients - and I realized that none of them were vegan! They all had milk powder or whey or some other bummer non-vegan ingredient in them. I was so annoyed, because it meant I had been accidentally eating non-vegan Taco Joes for all those years. So, from that point on, my mom and I both just went online and looked up "taco seasonings" and made our own. Take that!
Here is the classic Taco Joe's Spread
Over the years, my mom has expanded the original Taco Joe's spread, to accommodate all of our various dietary situations and choices. In addition to some meaty taco filling, she also usually cooks up some beans or tofu cooked up with our homemade taco seasoning. Some people pile handfuls of Fritos on their plates, and others skip the chips all together. Some people even bring their own no-salt beans! Ha ha!
Even as the Taco Joe's experience has evolved over the years, it's still totally linked in my mind with my brother. In fact, while I went off and became a vegan, he is still steadfastly enjoying Taco Joe's in their original format. Luckily, it's a flexible concept, and everyone can make their Taco Joe's just the way they like it, and no one is left out. I love that.
For dinner tonight, in honor of Jeremy, I made a modified, healthified version of Taco Joes Salad. I had a little mini-bag of Fritos in the pantry (left over from my VidaVeganCon swag bag (it was part of a Teese Nacho Kit)... and in the interest of minimizing Frito consumption, I figured that was probably enough. I put out all the other ingredients, and did it like a make-your-own-salad-bar:
1 recipe Taco Seasoning (except I only used 1/2 tsp salt)
1 can black beans cooked up with 2 tsp Taco Seasoning
2-3 tomatoes, diced
Some lettuce, shredded
Salsa of choice
Chopped red onion
Chopped green onions
Avocado, sliced, mushed or diced
Cheese, cheeze, or none at all
Hot sauce of choice
1 small snack bag of Fritos*
Holy cow, what a super delicious dinner!!
It was really beautiful too, but you will just have to take my word for it.
Mr. VE&T had the genius idea of crunching up the fritos and sprinkling them on top. This was a very good move. Guess what? It turns out that Fritos are majorly delicious.