Every summer we rent a house near the ocean where our whole family spends a mostly harmonious week together. It’s the only time of the year the kids eat together and play card and board games every night.
Over the years, the kids frequently came up with truly hilarious ideas for meals to make while on vacation. Once, one slathered ketchup on sliced white bread and called the combo tomato focaccia. Another once offered to make fudge and popcorn for dinner.
One warm summer evening, after we had agreed on a south-of-the-border menu, the “helper” that night decided to make tacos, while another pushed for salad. Eventually, a compromise was reached, and a new family favorite was born: taco salad!
This version of taco salad is a super fun, tasty, and nutritious option. Kids can measure the ingredients, count out the tortilla chips, and help layer all the ingredients on a platter. The dish is flexible, too: you can use ground beef, ground turkey, or even leftover chopped cooked chicken or pork. Enjoy this outside, and serve with watermelon slices for dessert.
What Kids Learn
- Americans love tacos. They ate over 4 billion last year!
- Lettuce is about 95 percent water.
- The darker the lettuce leaves, the more nutrients you get
What You’ll Need
- 1 small yellow or white onion
- ½ bunch fresh cilantro
- ½ small head iceberg lettuce
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Pinch of black pepper
- 2 cups salsa (buy the refrigerated salsa sold in the produce section of the supermarket)
- 1 cup frozen corn, thawed
- One half (13-ounce) bag baked tortilla chips
- 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
- Sour cream (optional)
What to Do
- Finely chop the onion or let your junior chef try her hand—if she is old enough to handle a knife. Let her help you wash and dry the cilantro. She also can help you remove the cilantro leaves and discard the stems. Chop the cilantro leaves. You will need about 3 tablespoons of chopped cilantro, so refrigerate the rest for another use.
- Let your child break the lettuce into large chunks. He can place it in a salad spinner and run cold water over it. Help him spin the lettuce dry. No spinner? No problem. Show your child how to wash the lettuce in a colander, drain it, pat it dry with paper towels, and tear the lettuce into bite-sized pieces.Teachable Moment: What You Don’t Know About Lettuce
- The Ancient Egyptians are thought to be the first people to have farmed lettuce, dating as far back as 6,000 years ago.
- Lettuce has probably been a staple food for so long because it’s so good for you! It’s nice and refreshing with a water content of about 95 percent, contains lots of fiber, and is packed full of vitamins B and C.
- Lettuce is part of the Asteraceae family of plants—so they’re cousins to dandelions, daisies, and sunflowers!
- When selecting lettuce, look for heads with healthy-looking leaves, without discolored spots. The darker the leaves, the more nutrients inside!
- Use a sharp serrated knife to chop the tomatoes. You will need about 1½ cups.
- In a nonstick skillet, combine the chopped onion and ground beef. Add salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the meat is well browned.
- Let your helper measure the salsa and corn. Stir the salsa and corn into the ground-beef mixture. Cook, stirring, until mixture is hot. Remove the skillet from the heat. Let your child sprinkle the cilantro over the mixture. Stir with a spoon to combine.Teachable Moment: 4 Taco Facts
- The ancient people of Mesoamerica began serving up bites of food on corn tortillas between about 1000 and 500 B.C. With these “proto-tacos,” the tortilla was more like a spoon for picking up food.
- Tacos as we know them got their name from a tool used by 18th-century miners in Mexico: some gunpowder were wrapped in a bit of paper and wedged into holes in rocks. These charges would come to be known as “tacos.”
- The taco has held onto its explosive popularity! In 2016, Americans alone ate 4.5 billion tacos! In Mexico, meanwhile, the individual person’s taco average was 135 pounds per year.
- Most of the tacos we eat have beef, pork, chicken, or even fish as a filling. But the 16th-century people of Mexico had broad appetites—some regions filled their tacos with snails, locusts, or even ants!
- Help your child count out 55 tortilla chips. She can then arrange the tortilla chips on a large serving platter, and add the lettuce on top of the chips. Spoon the warm ground-beef mixture evenly over the lettuce. Let your helper scatter the chopped tomato over the ground beef. Next, she can sprinkle the cheese over the tomato and top with sour cream, if you like.