Taco Cleanse: My 5-day Challenge

10:47 AM

Are you struggling to get enough cilantro into your diet? Are you too busy to eat foods not wrapped in tortillas? Do you ask yourself why meals can't be more monotonous and routine? Well, folks, I've got the diet for you.

It's called the Abby Franklin Taco Cleanse. No, it's not the taco cleanse featured in a cookbook that bills itself as "the tortilla-based diet proven to change your life, created by taco scientists." That diet features veggie-packed vegan tacos and "cleanses" your digestive system by taking dairy and meat off the table.

My taco cleanse is the one created by me, Abby Franklin, a woman whose taco-related credentials include eating tacos in various restaurants, tacquerias, and food trucks, and making extremely simple taco recipes where at least one ingredient is usually a packaged or prepared foodstuff. This is the food election where every meal you vote with your mouth for tacos to win Best Edible Thing Ever. This is the taco cleanse where you show tacos how strongly you feel about them by eating any and all tacos you can get your hands on, because isn't experiencing the joy of eating tacos the healthiest benefit of all?

For 5 days, I ate tacos for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. What did I put in them? Whatever. I. Wanted.

Monday - The Cleanse Begins

Breakfast on Monday was a simple banana-peanut butter taco, which I tried unsuccessfully to stuff inside the office toaster to warm it. One corner was nice and roasty warm, while the too-round end remained chilly.

Peanut butter and banana taco

For lunch I microwaved some seven-grains rice and spritzed it with lime, then cooked peppers and onions in a skilled with fajita sauce and tossed my creation with cilantro. I was proud to have started out strong with healthy ingredients.

Veggie & rice tacos

For dinner, I baked salmon slathered in barbecue sauce and made salmon avocado tacos. At this point I was already patting myself on the back and thinking this cleanse could probably go on for weeks instead of days.

Barbecue salmon tacos served Chez Abby

Tuesday - Sweating out the Toxins

On Tuesday, I started to caramelize my bananas before putting them in the breakfast tacos. The photo below looks like a mess, but I can assure you this caramelized banana, cinnamon, and pecan taco tasted wonderful.

Caramelized banana, pecan, and cinnamon taco

My coworker Sara supportively suggested we walk to Taco Bell for lunch. When we arrived and the place was unexpectedly boarded up, I reacted as though it was the greatest calamity that had ever befallen a person. Sara calmly suggested there might be a single taco entree on the menu at Buffalo Wild Wings, so we went there for lunch.

Below you'll see a photo of the fantastic street tacos at BBW. Truthfully, I'm not sure what makes them "street" tacos. Have they seen more urban grit than their rural counterparts? Do they run in gangs and stand intimidatingly on street corners? I digress. These chicken tacos come with a chipoltle mayo that packs a serious punch and had me sweating out the non-taco toxins before my second bite.

Street tacos from Buffalo Wild Wings
For dinner, Chris and I had date night at The Original El Taco, a local taco place with a prize wheel the bartender spins on the hour. My tacos (pictured below, along with Chris smiling mid-bite) were a fried chicken taco covered with corn and a spicy pork taco. The fried chicken was moist and flavorful, but did not necessary have a "cleansing" aspect. The pork one was studded with jalapenos, so I got a third of the way through that one and started panting loudly and sweating over tacos for the second time that day. I frantically looked around for waiters (all of whom seemed to be studiously avoiding eye contact) to obtain a side of sour cream to tone down the pepper overwhelming my taste buds. I did eventually get sour cream and basically ate a sour cream taco, studded with bits of pork.

Wednesday - Musical Fruit

For breakfast on Wednesday, I changed things up a bit by adding chocolate chips to my banana breakfast taco and then lightly heating the whole thing in a skillet so the chocolate would melt.

Adding chocolate makes breakfast bananas sing. Trust me on this one.

Then for lunch I introduced beans to my Taco Cleanse diet, sauteing a can of black beans with Frontera's green enchilada sauce, which is one of my favorite sauces ever. (That's a high compliment from a saucy lady like myself.)

For dinner, I channeled my Chesapeake-area roots and mixed a ton of Old Bay with mayo to drench this pan-fried fish fillet.

Old Bay tilapia taco with a side of fruit

Thursday - Here we go again.

On Thursday I woke up feeling sluggish. I wanted anything else for breakfast and was dreading another day of nothing but tacos. But I made another banana breakfast taco identical to Tuesday's and came home for lunch, making another set of bean tacos like Wednesday's lunch.

After lunch, I came back to the office and realized there were bits of cilantro in my hair. For a moment I wondered if my body was slowly transitioning to being composed only of taco ingredients. That's how you know you're hitting the tacos a bit too hard. I also thought I was experiencing phantom taco smells, but it turns out my coworker was eating a quesadilla at her desk. 

My complaints about my frustrating endless diet were met with a lot of eyerolls. Apparently other people diet for longer than five days and stick to diets that do not include fried chicken. Who knew?

In the evening, I baked salmon covered in chili powder and made mango salsa. I watched reruns of Chopped and daydreamed about all the non-taco foods I could be creating.

Friday - The End is Near.

My coworkers were a tad horrified by the gorgeous creation shown below: my first donut taco. Basically it's a strawberry-glazed cake donut from Dunkin Donuts inside a tortilla. It looks strange, but is basically a glorious mix of carbs. Many apologies to everyone in my family who is gluten-free and is ashamed to know me after seeing a picture of this meal.

I think we all know it's only a matter of time before this is on Taco Bell's menu.

For lunch, I went with my buddy Andrew to a local taqueria called Tacos La Villa which was definitely an adventure. There was an incredibly long line and a varied menu that made deciding difficult. We were thrilled that a 3-taco lunch including drink would only set us back $5!

Chicken tacos with added cilantro and onions from Tacos La Villa

My mom arrived Friday evening to visit me in Atlanta. Since she can't eat dairy, gluten, or peppers, finding a restaurant that can easily make gluten-free tacos that aren't layered with spicy sauces or cheese is beyond impossible. So we made a gluten-free, dairy-free taco feast, with ground beef, blue corn taco shells, Tofutti sour cream with lime zest, fresh tomatoes, and shredded romaine.

Friday night feast
You may be asking right about now what I gained from this delightful experience. You're in good company, since I too am asking myself that question. What I've gained is joy: the joy of rediscovering all the non-taco foods the world has to offer, now that my taco cleanse is complete. No longer limited by having to wrap everything in tortillas or corn shells, I can now savor the experience of eating donuts without that extra layer of carbohydrates or eating pulled pork sandwiches not seasoned with pico de gallo. It's a world of possibilities that I now see more clearly.

Let me know in the comments if you've heard of any quirky new diets I should try!

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