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School-night meal idea: Try a quick, healthy tostada Tuesday

If you've got beans and tortillas, you've got a great, fast meal.

I inherited my mother’s ability to whip up meals “en un dos por tres,” as she used to say while I was growing up in South Texas. It means “in no time at all,” and she would prepare a homemade dish to feed our family of three – fast. Now I too have my go-to quick-prep meals to feed my own family of three, especially having returned to work full time after a break to be my daughter’s primary caretaker.

One such dish is tostadas, a baked or fried corn tortilla topped with refried beans and toppings such as one’s choice of meat, veggies, cheese and salsa. Think of a massive nacho chip covered with your favorite toppings, only without that fake cheese sauce.

Sounds too adventurous for your little ones to try? Call it a “Mexican pizza” since they can eat tostadas with their hands just like a pizza slice. Allow them to choose their own adventure with a variety of toppings. This is what we did with our then-toddler who loved anything with the word pizza in it. Just shy of 7, she now calls tostadas by their real name and appreciates the independence of adding her preferred toppings like queso fresco, a fresh and tangy Mexican cheese.

Prepping this meal is easy so long as you have homemade or canned beans on hand and corn tortillas to bake or fry. Or simply do what I do and buy the premade tostadas often found in the tortilla section at grocery stores, saving you those precious minutes when the family is teetering on hangry. Then, for toppings, use leftover ingredients from previous meals, like diced chicken breast or minced mini sweet peppers. Plus, the base is gluten-free and can be customized to meet anyone’s dietary needs or picky taste buds. Buen provecho!

Tostadas

Prep time: 20 minutes    |   Yields: 12 tostadas (4-5 servings)

Ingredients:*

12 tostada shells, store-bought or homemade

1 cup refried pinto or black beans, warmed

2 cups cooked protein of choice: shrimp, flaked fish, seasoned ground turkey, beef or chicken, or shredded beef, pork, or boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 cups thinly, shredded lettuce

1 large tomato, diced

1 avocado, peeled, pitted and diced

½ cup crumbled cotija, queso fresco or any favorite shredded cheese like Monterey Jack or cheddar

Garnishes:

Salsa, hot sauce, pickled jalapeños, lime wedges, minced cilantro, sliced radishes, Mexican crema (crème fraîche or sour cream)

* Note: When considering toppings, remember to use what you have on hand, even if there isn’t enough of one ingredient for all 12 tostadas, because diners can choose their preferred options.

Directions:

1. Spread a tablespoon of refried beans into a thin layer on each tostada shell from the center to just inside the shells’ edges.

2. Top tostadas with a spoonful of protein, if using, followed by vegetables and cheese, respectively.

3. Add garnishes of your choice and serve immediately.

More in Feeding the Family:

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About the Author

Erika Almanza Brown

Erika Almanza Brown has proudly called Seattle home for over ten years. When she's not teaching her first-grade students, she enjoys vacationing, kayaking, tidepooling and curling up with a book or magazine alongside her husband and daughter.