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Presenting taco salad in an edible bowl not only lends a festive touch to your meal, but allows guests to add extra crunch to the salad as they work their way down. In the case of taco salad, this culinary wizardry takes less than 20 minutes to prepare and bake using store-bought tortillas. Choosing nonstick cooking spray, instead of brushing on oil, makes the job go even faster. In most cases, you'll use 8-inch or 10-inch tortillas and cook them in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven. For taco cups, use 6-inch tortillas.
Using a set of tortilla bowl molds ensures taco bowls that are uniform in color and shape, and which can even be stacked for a taco salad party. After spraying both the mold and one side of the tortilla with cooking spray, press the tortilla, sprayed side down, against the folded walls of the mold. Bake them for the time specified by the manufacturer -- often about 9 to 10 minutes. When they come out of the oven, let the shells cool slightly before gently removing them from the mold.
Ovenproof bowls or small round casserole dishes are perfect for holding tortillas in a bowl-like shape from the outside as they bake. Spray both the inside of the bowls and one side of the tortilla with cooking spray and then press the tortillas, sprayed-side down, into the bowls. Pie weights, dry beans or foil pressed into the molded tortillas will help keep them in place. Bake the tortillas for about 9 minutes. After you remove the weights from the inside of the taco shells, allow the taco shells to cool completely before gently popping them out of the bowls.
Crumpled-up balls of aluminum foil can be perfectly serviceable taco shell "molds." In this case, the mold is an internal one, meaning that the tortilla is draped over it, resulting in a quicker-cooking, crispier bowl. Spray both the tortillas and the surface of the 3-inch or 4-inch foil balls with cooking spray, then set the balls on baking sheets and draping the tortillas over the balls. You can make the edges of the taco bowl as free-form or uniform as you like as you pinch them around the foil ball. A 5-minute session in the oven will yield a lightly-crisp bowl. Leave it another minute or two for an extra-crispy one.
Muffin tins and small tortillas come in handy for making taco cups, which are ideal for serving to kids or serving as hearty hors d'oeuvres. Tuck sprayed 6-inch tortillas into the sprayed cavities of muffin tins, sprayed side down. Make sure the resulting folds don't obscure the center of the cup. For a more free-form look, flip the muffin tins over, spray the entire surface of the muffin tin backing with cooking spray, and drape small tortillas between muffin cups to form wavy cup-shapes.
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Ellen Douglas has written on food, gardening, education and the arts since 1992. Douglas has worked as a staff reporter for the Lakeville Journal newspaper group. Previously, she served as a communication specialist in the nonprofit field. She received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Connecticut.
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