Sunday, September 25, 2016

Simple tips for reducing waste on taco nights

Posted by Amanda Villaruel | | |
Me and my beau are two taco lovers, but everyone knows that most taco ingredients are packaged - whether we like it or not.

However - after our plastic-free challenge in June and July, we learned a thing or two about minimizing waste in the kitchen and that included our taco food. We were forced to think outside our comfort zone, such as how to reduce the single-use plastic easily, and in general how to avoid packaging.
Simple tips for reducing waste on taco nights
Simple tips for reducing waste on taco nights

To avoid packaging we had to:
A) Purchase food in bulk and
B) Make food from scratch

Well, not everything of course ;-)

Bulk cheese is hard to come by, and the same goes for the vegetarian minced meat that is always packaged in plastic. We could have cooked something with beans instead, but beans are hard on my boyfriend's stomach, so we have to compromise.

A bloated and farty boyfriend on the couch is not exactly sexy.
Almost a zero-waste taco night
Almost a zero-waste taco night

While it's easier to get a hold of vegetables without the plastic, tortillas and taco shells are on the other hand - not plastic-free (at least in Norwegian grocery stores).

Packages of taco seasoning from grocery stores generate paper waste, guacamole and salsa generate glass waste. Although glass can be recycled endlessly, we like to think that we should have a mindset where we try to reduce all sorts of waste - and not get caught in just the plastic.

Here's our way of minimizing waste on taco nights:
  1. Buy vegetables from bulk food stores (tomatoes, cucumber, shallot onions, avocados, limes, lemon)
  2. Canned corn, pineapple, cheese and vegetarian minced meat from a regular grocery store
  3. Lettuce and cilantro from our vegetable garden
  4. Make tortillas, taco seasoning, guacamole and tomato "salsa" from scratch

DIY flour tortillas:
  • Wheat flour /corn flour
  • Water
  • Rapeseed oil
  • Salt
  • Baking powder

We used a recipe in Norwegian to make tortillas. There are many recipes in English for flour tortillas, but this one looks pretty good.

My boyfriend has made tortillas a couple of times now, and the challenge lies in rolling the tortilla dough as thin as possible. The thinner, the better! :-) You need to knead the dough for at least 10 minutes, so the dough gets more elastic and easier to roll thinly.

Remember to wrap the tortillas in a moist kitchen towel to keep them soft.

Read: How to keep lettuce crisp and fresh.

DIY homemade flour tortillas for taco nights
DIY homemade flour tortillas for taco nights

Taco seasoning (4 people)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp paprika powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp pepper

To make DIY taco seasoning I add approx. one teaspoon of everything, except for the paprika powder, cumin powder and chilli powder. The result smells surprisingly like the taco seasoning we're used to from the stores, and it's super easy to make your own. You won't go back to packaged taco seasoning after this :-)

Have in mind that if you use SALTED minced meat, you should cut back on the salt. You should always taste before you mix the seasoning with the meat.

Guacamole (4 people)
  • 2 avocados
  • 1 large shallot onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1/2 lime 
  • Salt and pepper

Cut the avocados in half, remove the pits and mash the avocados with a fork. Add the shallot onion, cilantro, lime juice, salt and pepper. Mix the ingredients well.

DIY homemade guacamole for taco nights
DIY homemade guacamole for taco nights

Tomato salad (4 people)
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1 large shallot onion
  • A handful of cilantro
  • 1 lemon (maybe you'll need less)
  • Salt

This recipe is one of our favorites :-) A refreshing tomato salad that goes very well with taco.

Dice the tomato and onion, and mix ingredients together. Chop the cilantro finely and add it to the mix. Now comes the magic...

Start with lemon juice from half a lemon, and then a pinch of regular salt. You want a balance between salt and sour. Then let the mix sit for ten minutes and then taste. Maybe it needs more salt or more lemon?

If you add more lemon/salt, make sure to let it sit for another ten minutes. It takes a little time before the salt kicks in.

I haven't written the exact amount of lemon juice and salt because some people like things more sour, and others more salty. You need to set the standard for your own tomato salad ;-)

What about meat without packaging?
Bring a stainless steel container to the butcher or the meat counter in a regular grocery store. Ask them to weigh the container before they place the purchased meat in the container. If you do it this way, you avoid paying for the container weight ;-)

You might get some strange looks from the staff, but hey - you've paved the way for zero-waste shopping. There's nothing more inspirational than this :-)

What about leftovers?
Our leftovers are stored with Bee's wrap instead of plastic wrap. If there are any tortillas left, we pack those in a moist kitchen towel and store in the fridge.

How do you minimize waste on taco nights? Share your tips in the comment field below :-)

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