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In the Lunchbox: Taco Salad To Go 

Most kids are taken with tacos — crunchy or soft, meaty or vegetarian. Even picky eaters who won't touch a garden salad might give taco salad a try. Wrapped in a whole-wheat tortilla, taco salad makes for a fun, south-of-the-border-inspired lunchbox treat, a welcome departure from the usual midday routine.

The traditional flavors of lime juice, cumin and chili powder brighten this pantry-friendly, economical and infinitely flexible recipe. Kids can easily put their own spin on the colorful wrap fillings, choosing black or red kidney beans, using cilantro and doubling up on fresh, local corn. Parents can adjust the spiciness to suit young palates.

Prepare the salad the night before, and fill and roll the wraps before the kids head off to school; they taste great chilled, and keep well in a lunchbox nestled against a cold pack.

Taco Salad To Go Dressing:

Juice of 1 lime

1/4 cup white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup olive oil

Taco Salad:

1 small onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 pound ground turkey

1-2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 1/2 teaspoons cumin

1 teaspoon chili powder (this makes for mild taco meat; for more kick, add more powder)

Salt and pepper to taste

1 cup fresh corn

2-3 medium tomatoes, diced

1 cup shredded carrot

1 15.5-ounce can kidney beans or black beans, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup olives, sliced (optional)

Handful of fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)

6-8 whole-wheat flour tortillas (at least 10 inches in diameter; the bigger the wrap, the more filling you can squeeze in without difficulty rolling)

6 leaves romaine lettuce (remove the "ribs" to make rolling easier)

1 cup cheddar, shredded

1 avocado, sliced (optional) Make the meat mixture by sautéing the onion and garlic over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes, until soft and translucent. Add ground turkey and cook until the meat is no longer pink. Stir in tomato paste.

Season meat mixture with cumin, chili powder, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.

Remove meat from heat and stir in fresh corn. Set aside to cool.

Make the salad mixture in a large bowl by tossing tomatoes, shredded carrot, beans, olives and fresh cilantro (if using).

Make the dressing in a small bowl or glass measuring cup. Combine lime juice, white wine vinegar, cumin, oregano, and salt and pepper. Slowly pour in olive oil, whisking all the while. Refrigerate salad, dressing and meat mixture separately if not immediately preparing wraps.

Toss salad mixture with dressing.

To assemble the wrap, place one leaf romaine lettuce in center of tortilla; spoon 2 tablespoons of meat mixture about 1 1/2 inches from bottom; top with 2 tablespoons salad mixture and 1 tablespoon shredded cheddar. Layer the avocado slices over the salad mixture, if using.

Fold up the bottom edge of the tortilla until it partially covers the filling; fold in left and right sides of tortilla, then roll from bottom to top to form a cylinder, similar to a burrito. Slice the wrap in half diagonally to make it easier for kids to eat.

Package wraps snugly in waxed paper.

Meat substitutes:

This recipe also works with thinly-sliced chicken breast. For a vegetarian meal, omit the meat and increase beans to 2 cans.

What kids can help with:

• Choosing salad ingredients

• Rinsing the veggies

• Whisking the dressing

• Tossing the salad

• Rolling the wraps

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