Make Your Own Taco Bar and a Book Review

I am happy to present this guest post with a Taco Bar recipe from Ben Smith. He is a former semi-pro cyclist and big eater. Now he is just a big eater. He writes about food and drink for lazy chefs at The Online Grill. I wanted to share this recipe that not only looks delicious but great for family dinners and entertaining! Check out the book review at the end of the article for an excellent carryover activity to your family taco meal.

Making hearty meal that pleases everyone, especially kids, is never easy. I’ve had whole servings of food sent straight back to the kitchen by my family whenever I’ve tried anything adventurous, so attempting anything outside of pizza and burgers can often prove disheartening.

Enter tacos.

You can’t go wrong with tacos – they are easy to make, totally versatile and a real crowd pleaser. There are whole range of ways to top and fill them and you can easily serve them for a weeknight dinner with fairly minimum effort.

Here’s what we love so much about tacos. All you have to do is prep the ingredients, put them out on the table, and let everyone put together their own meal. The taco bar layout is fun, it’s easy, and there’s something for everyone.

In this recipe, there are three different fillings we’ll be making for our taco bar along with plenty of accompaniments, so people can stick to their favourite or mix and match to try them all.

Sweet potato and squash

Now, this recipe is a little different from your classic beans and meat combo, but it’s sure to become a new favourite. Not only will this filling give you a chance to try something new, but it’s also really healthy. This is the perfect autumn and winter taco recipe since it makes great use of seasonal sweet potatoes and winter squash.






Mushroom Sauté

This has been the surprise hit of the whole recipe with my family. Its citrusy spicy flavour gives it a beautiful kick, and matches perfectly with the rest of the dish. Just be sure you cook the mushrooms enough to soften them a bit, but not so long that they get mushy.






Ground Beef

Of course if there’s someone in your crowd who loves meat, this beef filling is absolutely mouth-watering. (If you would prefer not to eat red meat, chicken chunks make a great alternative). Be sure you get your skillet pretty hot before you add the meat, so it gets a delicious sear on the outside.

Of course, if anyone in your party has food or dietary restrictions, then this recipe is just as good without the cheese or yogurt, and meat substitutes still work beautifully.

I’ve added some suggestions for the taco bar, but feel free to improvise. I’m a big hot sauce fanatic, so usually go nuts with condiments like homemade sriracha, while others prefer a generous helping of guacamole. Be creative!

You will need:

For the Squash and Sweet Potato Filling:

2 sweet potatoes, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1/4 winter squash, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin
1 garlic clove, minced

For the Mushroom Saute:

2 tsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
10 oz assorted mushrooms

½ tsp chili powder
Juice of 1 lime
Juice of 1 orange

For the Ground Bison:

2 tsp olive oil
1 pound ground bison
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp smoked paprika
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
¼ tsp black pepper

For the Taco Bar:
6 corn tortillas
6 lettuce leaves
6 radishes, thinly sliced

1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 avocado, thickly sliced
1 cup grated cheese
1 cup prepared salsa
½ cup Greek yogurt

Let’s make this thing!

Squash and Sweet Potato Filling:

Start by preheating your oven to 425°F/220°C.

Mix together the squash and sweet potato cubes in a bowl, and add the cumin, garlic, salt and olive oil. Be careful not to mash the cubes – we want them to keep their shape!

Transfer them to a baking sheet-covered oven tray. Bake them in the oven for roughly 30 minutes, or until the vegetables start to brown and are tender.

Mushroom Saute
Now for the mushroom saute, which we’re going to do in a large skillet. Heat oil in the skillet over a medium-high heat. Add the garlic and onion and cook for about 3 minutes before adding in the mushrooms. Cook, stirring continuously, for about 10 minutes or until lightly brown.

Add in the chili powder, lime and orange juice, and salt over the mushrooms. Simmer on a low heat for 1 minute before removing from the heat.

Ground Beef
Heat up the olive oil in a skillet (be sure to wash it if you’re using the same one from the mushroom saute!) and add the ground beef.

Cook while stirring continuously until the beef starts to brown. Stir in the paprika, cinnamon, cumin, cayenne. Season to taste.

Reduce heat to medium-low but continue to stir, until the liquid has reduced and the meat has browned.

Taco Bar
Serve up the squash and sweet potato filling, beef and mushroom saute in separate bowls, along with separate plates or containers for the tacos, lettuce, cheese and other accompaniments. Have fun assembling your tacos!

And that’s it! Tacos are all about their simplicity and, despite all the different elements that go into that, this recipe keeps to that tradition.

I’d love to know what you all think. Do you have a different filling that you prefer to use? Do you have a great vegetarian or dairy-free version that you stick to? Let me know!

Thank you Ben for your guest post!

Are you looking for a carryover activity with your taco dinner? Check out my review of Dragons Love Tacos and the sequel Dragons Love Tacos 2 by Adam Rubin.

Dragons Love Tacos 2 is the sequel to the hilarious, witty and engaging book Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri. The book begins with the opening scene of Dragons crying. Why are the dragons crying? There are no more tacos and the world is in shock! The only taco left has spicy salsa on it and Dragons do not like spicy salsa! What will happen and how do we get tacos back for those taco loving dragons?  A time machine of course! The boy and his dog take the time machine back in time to find that moment before the spicy salsa. The reader will see Dragons with cavemen, tacos eating dragons and even dragons loving diapers! Will the boy and his dog save the day for the dragons? Of course but you will need to read the book to find out!

Are you looking for some extra carryover activities for this book? Check out this post by Teaching Mama.

Dragons Love Tacos 2: The Sequel

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