Sunday, February 27, 2011

Chicken Tostadas

The first time I ever had tostadas was at a small Mexican restaurant in the Ironbound District of Newark. I haven't been there since moving to Bergen County, but I learned that they are not hard to make. The hardest part is eating them without making a mess! I learned this tip on eating tostadas from Simply Recipes... hold them with both hands and eat it like a slice of pizza. some of the toppings still might get away, but no one is perfect, right?

Chicken Tostadas
Adapted from Simply Recipes

This is a "recipe in a recipe" - meaning I am including recipes for the building blocks of the tostadas, but go ahead and used storebought stuff. I'm watching my sodium intake, so I'm avoiding as much prepared foods whenever I can.


Vegetable oil or other high-smoke point oil
Corn tortillas
Refried beans (either canned or homemade - a quick version follows below.)
1 chicken breast
Shredded cheese (recommended: cheddar, monterrey jack, or pepper jack)
Shredded iceberg lettuce
Prepared guacamole (I made my own, it's easy, and doesn't take much time.)
Sour cream
Chopped tomatoes
Freshly squeezed lime juice

1) If you are making your refried beans and guac, prep them first:

Quick Refried Beans

For this you will need:
1 2/3 cup cooked red beans (about one can),
half an onion, chopped and
one clove of minced garlic)
Some water or chicken broth
about 1 tsp cumin
About 1 Tbs chili powder
salt and pepper to taste
a few dashes of hot sauce

Heat a small amount of oil in a large skillet. When hot, cook the onion and garlic until the onion is soft. Add beans. When the beans have warmed up a bit, you should be able to mash them with a potato masher or fork. Add spices and hot sauce. Add water or chicken broth when the mixture becomes dry. Simmer for about 10 minutes or so, adding a tablespoon of water at a time if it becomes dry. Adjust the seasonings as needed.

Quick Guacamole:

garlic powder
chili powder
salt and pepper
lime juice

Peel and remove pit from guacamole and place into a bowl. Add about a teaspoon of lime juice, garlic powder, chili powder, salt and pepper to taste. Mash with fork until reaches desired consistency.

2) Prepare the chicken
(I did this step while the beans were simmering)

Sprinkle the chicken with chili powder, garlic powder, and a pinch of salt. Cook in a George Forman grill for five minutes, or in a skillet over the stove for about 5-6 minutes per side (or until cooked through). Allow to cool. Then cut into bite-sized pieces and squeeze a bit of lime juice over it.

3) Cook the tortillas
I cook the tortillas last so that they are still warm when I add the toppings.

Pour enough oil so that there is about 1/4 inch of oil in the pan. Heat the oil on medium high heat until hot. Cook tortillas one at a time until golden brown on both sides. (About 30 seconds per side). Lay on paper towels to drain excess oil.

4) Assemble the tostadas
I find this method works best for me: Add the cheese on the hot tortillas so that it melts from the residual heat. Spread a dollop of refried beans so that it works as a "glue" for everything else. Add the chicken, lettuce, tomatoes, guac, and sour cream. Finish with a squeeze of lime juice.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Crockpot Minestrone Soup

This is my lunch for tomorrow.

It was my lunch today too.

And my dinner.

And yesterday's dinner.

But I'm not complaining.

Because that is how good this soup is.

And my crockpot is awesome.

I used this recipe, with some tweaks, of course.

Crockpot Minestrone Soup
Adapted from A Year of Slow Cooking

Stephanie O'Dea calls this a "clean out the pantry" soup, so really use whatever you have on hand. This is what I used:

3 cups low-sodium chicken broth (I used Pacific Natural Organic Low-Sodium Chicken broth. It comes in a carton and only has 70 mg of sodium per serving - much lower than the "low-sodium" broth that comes in cans)
1 can Roma beans (rinsed and drained)
1 2/3 cup cooked red beans (I cook them in the slow-cooker using this method and freeze them. I could have used just my pre-cooked beans, rather than mixing in canned beans, but I needed to clean out my pantry of high-sodium foods)
2 cups chopped tomatoes (I forget the brand I used, but it comes in a carton and only has about 20 mg of sodium per serving.)
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
Handful of frozen corn kernels
Handful of frozen green beans
3 cloves of garlic, peeled
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste

Dump everything into the crockpot. Cook on low for 8-9 hours.
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