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Hi! I'm Elizabeth Taylor. Welcome to VLGL, home to my vegan + low glycemic load culinary creations. 

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tempeh tacos, lettuce-wrap style

tempeh tacos, lettuce-wrap style

Happy first day of May! Can you believe Cinco de Mayo is already upon us? I feel like my friends and I were just feasting and twirling around with sparklers to celebrate this "new" year...

Without getting into a discussion about whether or not it is strange that so many people in the US celebrate Cinco de Mayo (as well as other internationally-themed drinking holidays, i.e. St. Patrick's Day), I must admit that I love any excuse to eat the fresh, flavorful cuisine that is Mexican food. Unless one is going "super-traditional" in some aspects (i.e. adding lard to beans), I have also found that Mexican dishes translate very well to vegan renditions. 

There is nothing remotely traditional about these "tacos;" however, they incorporate key ingredients and flavors such as chili, cumin, and lime; look bright and beautiful on a party table, and are very light on the tummy. Plus, assuming you are a reasonably fast veggie-chopper, they come together in less than half an hour. 

Frijoles (again, assuming they do not contain lard) tend to be the standard protein in vegetarian Mexican cuisine. However, we all know the "musical fruit/good for your heart" song... and mariachi horns are all that should toot at a Cinco de Mayo party. Granted, I will write here that I consume beans in abundance and on a near-daily basis, experience virtually no digestive discomfort, and believe strongly that they can be a healthy and environmentally-sustainable staple protein. Bean-related digestion issues are likely tied, at least in part, to the fact that beans are rich in fiber, of which the majority of Americans do not consume nearly enough

However, in the interest of some culinary fun with a completely different sort of bean, enter tempeh! Tempeh is tofu's groovy, delicious, minimally-processed cousin from Indonesia. Being a bit fermented, tempeh is easy to digest, and its mild, versatile flavor and crumble-able texture lend themselves well to some flavor-packed tacos. 

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I chose to package these yummies in crunchy romaine heart leaves to provide a crisp texture to balance the deeply-spiced richness of the tempeh with a lower glycemic load than corn or wheat tortillas. Easy, homemade cashew crema adds a savory touch, and avocado... avocado is just wonderful. Avocado is love. (Just please be mindful of the source in choosing your avocados!) 

I hope you enjoy these tacos on Cinco de Mayo... or any day when a gastronomical fiesta is desired!

RECIPE: Tempeh Tacos, Lettuce-Wrap Style
(Serves Two)

INGREDIENTS:
☼ Tacos:
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large, diced bell pepper (or two baby bell peppers) of any color
- 1 medium, diced white onion
- 2 cups (16 ounces) coarsely diced tempeh
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce or coconut aminos (or more to taste)
- 1 1/2 teaspoon chili powder + two extra pinches
- 1 teaspoon cumin powder + two extra pinches
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika powder
- 1 tablespoon chopped, fresh oregano leaves
- Juice from 1/2 a lime
- 8 - 10 lettuce leaves (I used romaine hearts)
- Toppings: cashew crema (recipe follows), avocado, jalapeño peppers, salsa, hot sauce, cilantro... the world is your oyster!

☼ Cashew Crema:
- 1/2 cup raw cashews (soak for at least three hours if your blender is weak)
- 1/3 cup water
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon white miso paste
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

METHOD:
☼ Tacos:
- Heat the olive oil in a nonstick pan over medium heat. Sauté the pepper and onion until the onion just begins to turn translucent -- about two minutes. 
- Add the tempeh and soy sauce to the pan, and stir gently until combined. Add the spice powders (save the extra pinches) and stir until the onion, pepper, and tempeh are evenly combined.
- Sauté over medium heat, stirring often, for 5 - 7 minutes, or until the tempeh is golden-brown and very fragrant. Add the additional pinches of seasoning and the oregano leaves, and sauté for an additional minute. 
- Just before serving, squeeze the lime juice over the tempeh mixture. Spoon into the lettuce leaves, cover with toppings, and savor!

☼ Cashew Crema: 
- In a high-speed blender, process all ingredients until velvety smooth. Drizzle generously over the tacos.

Serve with love... and perhaps some tequila!

☼ VLGL

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