The First 50 Days

Please forgive me for posting this picture.  I try to include one with every post, nothing really fit, and “50 First Dates” kind of sounds like “The First 50 Days.”  So I went with it.  And who doesn’t have a soft spot for funny-voice comedian Adam Sandler?

A little over a week ago, an unexpected alarm went off to alert me that 50 days had passed since I committed to this mostly-meatless diet. The alarm?  I ran out of the digestive enzyme supplement that I bought on the first day of the 10-Day Challenge back in mid-March.  50 servings times one per day equals 50 days!

50_first_datesIt has now been exactly two months (to the day) since I ate that nasty rest-stop chicken sandwich on the way home from the Tony Robbins seminar.  And what better way to celebrate that small milestone than by going to a Michael Pollan talk in Baltimore tonight?  If you’re going, look for me; I’ll be the big running carrot taking copious notes.

For you new readers, here’s a quick recap of the past two months.  Before attending Tony Robbins’ seminar, I was health conscious, but I still ate chicken and (very occasionally) pork.  Immediately after the seminar I took Tony’s 10-Day Challenge, which entailed eating a pescetarian diet (vegetarian plus fish), eating very few dairy products, and obeying a bunch of other rules like no caffeine or alcohol.  I felt so great after the ten days that I decided to stick with it, relaxing some of the restrictions but still eating a pescetarian diet.  About a month ago I gave serious consideration to eliminating fish from my diet altogether, and I wrote No More Fishing? about the dilemma.  Since then, I’ve been completely vegetarian except for one bite of shrimp and a taste of crab soup that a friend made; this is about the frequency with which I’m willing to eat seafood for the time being.

The fact that I’ve written a new blog post almost every day should be a good indicator of how excited I am about this diet and how great I’ve felt as a result.  But there have been lots of other positive changes in my life, some non-dietary, that have flown under the blog radar.  So I want to highlight those in case some of you are still sitting on the fence about reducing your meat consumption, or even just about committing to eat more healthily.

Here’s the quick list of the changes, in my life and my wife Erin’s, that have come as a direct result of the new diet:

  • Erin now eats this way too.
  • I lost 5 pounds initially, and thankfully I didn’t lose any more.
  • Erin has lost almost 15 pounds (partly due to being sick right before we started, but she’s kept it off)
  • We’ve avoided that pesky Swine Flu.
  • We started recycling paper, glass, plastic, and aluminum.
  • Erin started composting for her garden and is growing even more vegetables than last year.
  • We shop with reusable grocery bags.
  • We produce less than half the garbage waste that we used to, owing to the previous three items.
  • We spend less on groceries, even while buying more organics and whole food products than before.
  • We almost never eat out, and rarely use the microwave.
  • We support local farmers and eat more local food by shopping at the farmers market each week.
  • I stay up later, get up earlier, and feel more energetic than ever.
  • We plan our meals for the week, rather than haphazardly throwing together dinner each night.
  • We use more natural soaps, toiletries, and cleaning products for both our own health and that of the environment.
  • Some friends and family members are eating better as a result of this blog.
  • I’ve discovered a new hobby in blogging!

This is a lot of changes, and it all adds up to a much different, better life than we were living before.  I believed Tony Robbins when he claimed his seminar would change my life, but I had no idea that the change would take this form.  Before I started eating this way, I didn’t have the slightest interest in recycling or caring for the environment, other than feeling slightly uneasy about eating animals.

But not all is perfect in NMA-land.  My knee, though much better, is still bothering me (more on running, and a huge accomplishment of Erin’s, tomorrow).  I’m eating a little more dairy than I ideally want to be, and I’m not eating the amount of greens and the variety of fresh vegetables that I was in all my early zeal.  And maybe worst of all, I’m drinking coffee again, much more than the one cup per week I said I was going to.  I think there might be another 10-Day Challenge in my future to get me back on track with all of this, and my secret hope is that I can convince some of you readers to join me!

And oh yeah, I abhor my blender.  I’m ready to drive it out to a field and go Office Space on it.   Maybe I’ll videotape that one for you.



My Favorite Salad

Something about being on my own for a few days (Erin’s at a course for work) always makes me want to treat myself by making really good food.  I’m not sure why this is; maybe it’s my way of proving to myself that I’m worth it.  Or maybe I just don’t want to share with Erin.  The funny thing is that while I always really enjoy making such special meals for myself, when it comes time to eat them I realize that it’s just not the same without someone to share with.  Yet I continue to do it!

So on the menu for me this weekend is the very best food that I make: gnocchi!  I’m not sure what kind of sauce to have it with; I usually make a cauliflower-gorgonzola sauce but I think I’m in the mood for something lighter.  Maybe just a simple ultra-garlicky tomato sauce since I’ll be alone to sit in my own stench afterward.

Spinach-Mushroom saladBut that’s for another post.  Today I want to share a simple, luxurious, healthy salad I’ve been a lot making recently.  It’s simple to make–quarter or halve six or so mushrooms, drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt, roast or broil them in a really hot oven (I just use a toaster oven at 500 degrees) for about 7-10 minutes so that they char a little bit, and serve on top of baby spinach leaves.  Dress with lemon juice, your best olive oil, and some salt and “fresh cracked black,” as my least favorite chef, Guy Fieri, likes to say.  Then make it look really nice by shaving some parmesan onto it with a vegetable peeler.

This actually started out as a Mario Batali recipe, what he calls “the most luxurious salad in the entire book.”  But the rotund red-haired one uses porcini mushrooms; I just use cremini (also called baby bella), since for some strange reason I rarely take trips to the Italian countryside to forage for porcini.  And Mario uses arugula instead of spinach; I like spinach for the nutrition and because it seems like I always use arugula.

Matt eating saladI’m not going to give this salad a cow-rating.  It’s a salad, and salads always play second fiddle to main dishes for me.  So I’d need to make up an entirely new rating system if I wanted to be fair.  Maybe calves, or cows playing fiddles marked “#2.”  And we don’t want to go into all that.  But you can see in the picture that I’m enjoying the salad.  That is, if you can look beyond the undeniable forlornness of having no wife to share it with.  Maybe I’d have enjoyed it a little more if I had filled up one of those wine glasses behind me with a nice Rosso di Montalcino! But that can wait for the gnocchi.



Simply Bangin’ Arugula-Walnut Pesto

Thanks to everyone who has left a suggestion on Help Me Save My Mother! Keep them coming; just a few more and I’ll have enough to put together a pretty solid two-week diet plan to show her how good eating this way feels.

Pesto Without Basil?

Arugula-Walnut PestoOk, who remembers You Can’t Do That On Television?  If you’re a product of the 80’s like me, then you’ll understand what I mean when I say I was concerned that these photos would look like someone on that show just said “I don’t know”!  But it’s pesto, and pesto is green, so get over it.  And by the way, you know what I think about calorie counting, but if you’re still doing it, then just stop reading this post.  Pesto is delicious and full of real, nutritious ingredients, but it’s definitely not a low-calorie food.

Up until a few years ago, I thought I didn’t like pesto.  I had only had it in restaurants, and most of the time it came out thick, overly creamy, and too garlicky.  Then one day I was looking for a new sauce to toss with the fresh gnocchi that I love to make, so I made some pesto from the basil in our garden.  We were absolutely blown away by the fresh, bright flavors, and since then we’ve loved everything about pesto!  To me, it’s summer on a plate.

I’ve tried lots of pestos made with ingredients other than the classic basil and pine nuts, and I’ve been disappointed almost every time (I suppose that’s why it’s a classic).  So I was a little skeptical about this one, which uses arugula and walnuts, but pesto is so fast to make in the food processor that the risk was almost zero.  Let me tell you, it was worth it.

The arugula-walnut pesto turned out light, fresh and flavorful with a surprising slight creaminess, considering there’s no cream in it.  The walnut oil in the recipe can optionally be replaced by olive oil, but the walnut oil really adds a nice flavor and cuts the bitterness of the arugula.  Arugula is in season, so get it at the farmers market freshest taste.  We actually got bagged arugula this time since we missed the farmers market last week, but this pesto was so good that I’m going to make it again with fresh, local arugula.

We had two minor problems with this meal, both of which are easily fixable.  The first problem was that it was too salty.  And I love salt, so that’s saying something.  The recipe was from Fine Cooking.  You can get it here, but I’d recommend my revised version (with more arugula, less salt, and less cheese) that appears at the end of this post.  The second problem was our fault, not the recipe’s.  Without thinking, we used a 12-ounce Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Pastabox of pasta instead of the 16 ounces that the recipe calls for; the result was too much pesto on the pasta after we tossed it all together.  Mario Batali, in Molto Italiano (one of my go-to cookbooks), says that most Americans put way too much sauce on their pasta, and that’s what happened here.  Pasta is such a good, simple food, and sauce should enhance its flavor, not dominate it.  Of course, if you’re using 89-cent pasta then that might not be so true.  We’ve found a really good one from Hodgson Mill; its made from two ingredients–100% whole wheat flour and organic flax seed.  It’s not cheap, but we rationalize it by telling ourselves how much we save by not eating meat!

This pesto is definitely a 4-cow’er out of 5.  With less salt, farm-fresh arugula, and maybe homemade pasta or gnocchi, it’d be a shoo-in 5.  If you think you don’t like pesto, try this, or even a basil one; just make it from scratch and keep it REAL!

Arugula Walnut Pesto Recipe

4.5 from 2 reviews
Arugula-Walnut Pesto
Cuisine: Italian (Vegan)
Serves: 4 servings
  • 16 ounces whole wheat fettuccine (fresh or dried)
  • 5 ounces arugula, preferably fresh from the farmers market
  • ⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese (Parmigiano-Reggiano is best, but really expensive)
  • ½ cup walnuts
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • ½ tsp salt, more to taste and for pasta water
  • ½ cup canola or olive oil
  • ¼ cup walnut oil (can optionally be replaced by olive oil)
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • Fresh-ground black pepper
  1. Boil water for the pasta; salt until it tastes like the sea. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions.
  2. While the pasta cooks, combine arugula, walnuts, cheese, garlic, and lemon juice in a food processor. Process for a few seconds until coarsely ground. With the food processor running, slowly drizzle in the oil until the mixture is almost smooth, with just a little texture. Add more salt to taste.
  3. Toss the pasta with the pesto and season at the table with fresh ground black pepper and more cheese if desired.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 4




Help Me Save My Mother!

Ok readers, it’s time for me to ask you for a little diet help.  But it’s not for me; it’s for my mom, whom I’m visiting to celebrate Mother’s Day, since I was on final exam lockdown last weekend.  Mom went to the same Tony Robbins seminar that made me want to give up meat, and Tony had the same spellbinding (brainwashing?) effect on her.  Just like me, Mom cut the meat out of her diet.  Unlike me, she replaced it with garbage.

Caitlin, the author of one of my favorite blogs (Healthy Tipping Point), decided to go vegetarian just a few weeks ago.  I found this quote of hers interesting: “One thing I’ve kind of accepted is that if you’re a vegetarian, there will be times when you have to basically eat junk food instead of a healthy meal…” This is something that I haven’t experienced at all since I gave up meat!  Obviously there’s no issue when you’re cooking at home; what Caitlin is referring to is eating out.  But even then, I’ve almost always been able to find a grilled veggie wrap or something to tide me over until I get back to my veggie-marathoner friendly home.

Matt and MomBut my mom has certainly experienced what Caitlin is talking about.  And for Mom, those “times when you have to eat junk food” are all the time.  Perhaps I shouldn’t say she has replaced meat with garbage; rather, meat was about the only non-junk food in her diet, so now all that’s left is garbage.  Case in point: yesterday I suggested that we get some real food for breakfast instead of the cookies that she normally eats.  She excitedly responded, “Ok, we can go to McDonald’s and get an Egg McMuffin with no meat!”

I guess when you don’t cook at home, that’s what “real food” is.

So here’s what’s going down.  My mom has asked me to help her eat better by giving her a two-week diet plan.  She’s never eaten healthily in her life, so even though I hate the temporary diet mindset as opposed to the lifestyle mindset, I think that two weeks of eating well would at least show her how much better you feel when fuel your body with real food instead of dumping processed, preserved crap down your throat.

Sounds easy, right?  Can’t she just read this blog and make whatever I make for dinner?  Nope.  She never learned to read.

Kidding!  Illiteracy jokes are still ok, right?  The real problem is that she just opened a new deli and has to spend a lot of hours there, which means no cooking at home.  She has a small grill at the deli (a panini press, really) and a slow-cook oven that only gets up to about 300 degrees.

I’ve accepted the challenge of getting her to cook and eat healthily with just this minimal equipment.  Failure means a certain return to meat-eating, or the slow demise of my mother.  And either of those would make me very sad indeed.

This is why I need your help.  I don’t have many ideas for what she can make.  I’ll have her drink a smoothie with fruit, yogurt, flax, and a little protein powder each morning.  And some fruits and vegetables for snacks.  Other than that I’m stuck.  She can’t eat a grilled veggie sandwich on whole wheat bread for lunch and dinner every single day.

So send me your ideas for what she can make!  Maybe there are even some raw foodies among you who have some no-cook suggestions?  I’ve been wanting to try eating some more raw meals myself.  Help me save my mother!  Or, if that doesn’t motivate you, help me save the thousands of animals she’ll eat for the rest of her life if this doesn’t work!



Honoring the Protein

topchef-logo1I’m not much of a TV watcher, especially when it’s reality TV.  But one show that I’ve found myself making a point to watch ever since I discovered it two seasons ago is Top Chef.  It’s like any other reality show, with contestants competing and being voted off by the judges, but I find it really entertaining and I actually learn a lot about cooking by just watching professional chefs do their thing.

But I saw a rerun a couple weeks ago that’s really been bothering me.  In the episode, the contestants go to a farm and cook a lot of really delicious-looking food, picking fresh fruits and vegetables to use in their dishes alongside some high-quality cuts of meat.  Yes, meat still looks good to me (sometimes).  The contestants have to “break down” some dead farm animals, which has always been a litte off-putting for me to watch, but that’s not what I didn’t like.  What really chapped my ass when I saw this rerun was when Tom Colicchio, one of the judges, berated one of the contestants for failing to “honor the protein” when he cooked a lamb dish.  His point was that if you’re going to kill an animal to eat it, then at least honor it by doing a nice job of butchering it and making it into a decent meal.

Honor it by the way you butcher it.  Something about that sentence just doesn’t jive.  Is this the new way to rationalize eating meat?  Kill animals, just don’t make anything lousy from them, because that would be disrespectful.  After all, it’s every lamb’s dream to be perfectly seared on the outside and served medium rare with mint sauce and a Chianti Classico Riserva.  To do any less would be to dishonor it.

Come on.

I’m not going to tell you never to eat meat.  That would be a little hypocritical, since just two months ago I was still eating chicken with hardly a second thought.  And though I haven’t had any fish since writing No More Fishing?, I’ve decided that I’m still willing to eat some fish or shellfish on very rare occassions.  But make no mistake: when I eventually have some fish again, I won’t be pretending that I’ve done it some tremendous honor in the way I’ve prepared it.

If cannibals were to kidnap me and have me for dinner, you can bet that my last thought wouldn’t be about whether they were going to grind me up for burgers or do me the great honor of cutting off a few juicy fillets and serving me with a Brunello di Montalcino to stand up to all that big flavor.  No, I’d be pissed that they were going to kill me and eat me.

Eat a little meat now and then if you must, but don’t lie to yourself.  Once you’re calling an animal “the protein,” there’s nothing you can do to honor it.



The TVP Taco Experiment

[TVP tacos photo 1]“TVP Taco” sort of sounds like something that should be illegal, like the new hot drug or assault weapon. But have no fear; TVP stands for “textured vegetable protein,” and as far as I know it’s never resulted in any possession charges. What should be illegal is Gimme Lean Ground Beef Style, the slimy meat substitute that I tried making tacos with before.  After this failed attempt, my wife and I began to wonder if our taco days were over now that we don’t eat meat.  So when my sister, who works in a vegetarian restaurant, told me that they used to serve TVP Sloppy Joes, I grabbed onto a last glimmer of hope.

You can probably find TVP near the grains in your supermarket.  The brand I got was Bob’s Red Mill, found alongside the rest of Bob’s products, like bulgar, oats, etc.  According to the package, “TVP is made from defatted soy flour that has been cooked under pressure and then dried.”  Doesn’t sound too exciting, but what soy product really does?  As you might know from reading Junk Food Isn’t Healthy; Health Food Isn’t Healthy, I’m not a big fan of overly processed foods (or anything masquerading as meat).  But there’s nothing besides soy flour in this, and if it means I can eat tacos that resemble the ones I used to eat, then I’m all for it every now and then.

[TVP tacos photo 2]The results of the TVP Taco Experiment were nothing short of brilliant (if you’re as into tacos as we are).  While the TVP didn’t taste like much in and of itself, it really took on the flavor of the taco seasonings.  But best of all, the texture made it a dead ringer for ground meat.  If there’s a ground beef or turkey recipe that you used to love but can’t make as a vegetarian, you’ve got to try a TVP version.  I’m thinking lasagnas and pasta dishes with bolognese ragout (TVPese ragout?).  And Erin and I are so excited that taco night is back.  Arriba!

I’m not really sure how to rate this one.  This way of making tacos is so standard that it’s kind of hard to give it a rating.  I’ll say this.  However many cows you would give normal tacos, subtract maybe a cow ass or a hoof.  But that’s it.  So if normal tacos are 4 cows out of 5 for you, then these are 3.8 cows.  The TVP doesn’t add flavor the way meat does, but the texture is perfect.  They’re tacos, and if you like tacos then you’ll like ’em.  If you don’t, you won’t.

So here’s the way we like to make our tacos.  Obviously, if you don’t like one topping and prefer something else, use that instead (unless it’s meat).  To steal a phrase from a fast food icon (let’s call them TVP King), “Have it your way!”  Jalapeno hint: cut out the white ribs on the inside if you don’t like much heat.

Vegetarian TVP Tacos Recipe

Ingredients (for 10 tacos)

  • 12 hard or soft corn tortillas
  • 2 cups dry TVP
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1 packet taco seasoning (as few fake ingredients as possible, or make your own)
  • shredded cheese (I believe in using real cheese or 2% milk cheese, not nonfat)
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
  • 12 romaine or green leaf lettuce leaves (whole leaves, don’t chop!)
  • a handful of chopped cilantro
  • salsa, taco sauce, and/or hot sauce (green sauce made from pure jalapenos is my favorite)
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 lime, cut into sections

Rehydrate the TVP by mixing with just less than 2 cups of boiling water in a bowl and letting it sit 5-10 minutes until the water is absorbed.

Prepare the tortillas however you like.  If using hard, I heat them in a 325 degree oven for 5 minutes.  If using soft, I heat them for 30 seconds each side in a dry skillet over medium heat.

Add the oil, rehydrated TVP, soy sauce, taco seasoning, and 1/4 cup of water to a pan over medium heat; stir occasionally until the water is absorbed.

Place one lettuce leaf in each taco shell (this way if it breaks, the lettuce holds everything in place).  Add cooked TVP, cheese, salsa, scallions, jalapenos, cilantro, and fresh lime juice.  I like that order, but only YOU can decide what’s best for your TVP tacos.



I Shouldn’t Be Eating This, But…

What a terrible way to live–not being able to eat the foods you love without your conscience ruining the fun. The sheer misery of living like this is the simple reason why diets don’t work. We start them with every intention of sticking to them, and as we begin to get results we allow just a few “shouldn’t” foods to work their way into the diet, maybe as a reward. They taste good, we eat more of them, and we start feeling guilty. We realize how much feeling guilty about eating sucks, and we eventually quit the diet in favor of our “shouldn’t” foods.

I’m here to tell you there’s a better way.

Let’s think about what “I shouldn’t be eating this” means. When you say you shouldn’t eat chocolate ice cream, what you mean is that you think it will be bad for your body. Your brain knows that it’s not a nourishing food. But some part of you wants it; let’s call that part of you your heart. And I strongly believe that your heart should have a say in what you eat.

[Drinking coffee photo]Why? Because life isn’t a contest to build the best body, or even to live the longest. When two people are lying on their deathbeds, who’s happier? The guy who lived to be 100 by eating the perfect diet his entire life, or the one who ate moderately well but allowed himself lots of delicious exceptions and died at age 80? You think I’m going to say Guy #2, but I’m not. The answer is it depends. It depends on which of them lived the life he wanted to, of which diet is a small part.

If Guy #1 willed his way through life always wishing he could eat certain foods that he couldn’t, cursing his diet when he was trying to have a good time with friends, then I’ll bet he had a pretty darn miserable century. If, on the other hand, he was an elite athlete or an animal rights activist and vegan, and every bite of healthy food affirmed his life’s purpose, then his extreme diet was a necessary part of his life’s mission. He probably felt pretty good as he kicked the old bucket. You can fill in the same type of story for Guy #2. But to be fair, realize that eating what you want doesn’t have to mean living less. I’m a firm believer that the happier you are, the longer you’ll live.

My point is that what matters in the end is how happy we were. And when you talk about what you “should” eat, you’re usually just talking about your body. In reality, you “should” eat what makes you happy, and your values determine that.  When what you’re eating is in line with your values, then whatever you’re eating starts to taste pretty good. I’ve experienced this shift firsthand. It’s easy for me to eat well now, because I don’t want to eat that cake. Desserts don’t taste that good to me anymore.

What I don’t want is for you to run off and eat whatever you want because the NMA said it’s ok (referring to oneself in the third person can be fun when one has a stupid nickname to use). Here’s why that would be bad: you’d be really happy during the 10-minute eat-fests, but feel terrible during all the time in between.

You need to first get clear on what’s important to you, then decide what diet will best support whatever that is. But you need to be careful. The reason America is fat is that we make this decision for the short term. We’re used to eating fake food, and because change is uncomfortable before it starts to feel good, we stick with the fake food. My plea is that you not be afraid to change. If you’re used to eating fake food, I can tell you that real food won’t taste as good right away. But if your mind is open and you stick with it for a few weeks, you’ll notice that your taste buds go from enemy to ally in the battle between brain and heart over what you should eat.

What is YOUR heart telling you to eat that your brain is telling you not to?  I’m interested to hear.  I’ll go first–coffee.  And I apologize for the creepy photo.



Cinco de Mayo Tostadas

My original intention was to get this post up in time for some of you to actually make these for Cinco de Mayo (for the hispanically challenged among you, that means “fifth of May,” not “bring out the Hellman’s”).  But my previous post on why health food is unhealthy got a lot of comments, so I left it on the front page a little longer than planned.  Oh well; you can always make these next year, or come to think of it, tomorrow, el seis de Mayo.

[Tostadas photo]Funny that these are called tostadas, which literally means “toasted,” because that’s exactly what I have been on a lot of previous Cincos de Mayo. But not this year; it was a dry holiday in the No Meat Athlete household!  My guess is that they’re called tostadas because the corn tortillas are fried (healthily, in canola oil of course) and then baked, so that they become nice and crispy.  Yum!  If there’s anything I like better than corn tortillas, it’s crispy corn tortillas.  A word of advice when buying tortillas: check the ingredient list and make sure it’s short.  Some of the bigger brands use LOTS of preservatives and fillers.  I bought Mission, which uses three preservatives and a few gums, which is comparatively few.  But I’m definitely in the market for a more natural corn tortilla.  Any suggestions?  (How about making them at home?  Near impossible?)

I found a tostadas recipe to start from in a vegetarian cookbook, Claire’s Corner Copia Cookbook.  In case you’re wondering, this is what I do for most recipes that I post: find something in a cookbook to start with, substitute to make it vegetarian, substitute to make it healthy, and make a few other changes based on my personal taste.  If my version still looks a lot like the original, then I’ll cite the book and link to it.  You dig?  Claire’s, by the way, is a restaurant that my wife used to go to when she was in college and now raves about.  So if ever you wake up and find yourself at Quinnipiac University, hit up Claire’s.

Tostadas are crispy corn tortillas topped with refried beans, salsa, onions, tomatoes, lettuce, and cheese.  Healthy, natural stuff, and if you don’t want cheese you could skip it and not lose too much.  I used some plain yogurt instead of the standard sour cream just to make it a little healthier, and I kicked these up with a little green jalapeno sauce since for me it’s gotta be hot to be Mexican.

I had some difficulty with the first batch of corn tortillas I tried to fry; I realized that the trick is to just barely coat the entire pan in oil and let it get really hot, almost until it’s smoking.  I should have known this, since it applies to almost all frying.  If your oil isn’t hot enough, your food will be greasy instead of crispy.  And you might need to add oil or let what’s left in the pan get hot again before adding the next batch of tortillas.  And don’t worry too much about frying in canola oil unless your goal is to lose a lot of weight quickly rather than to eat healthily.  By now you should know what I think about calorie counting and nutrition facts.

These were awesome!  Erin and I put them at 4 or 4.5 cows out of 5.  Chopped jalapenos or chipotle in adobo might have made the tostadas a cinco (damn, would have been perfect on Cinco de Mayo!), but we didn’t realize that until we tasted them.  Any way you like them, these come highly recommended by us.  Happy Battle of Puebla Day (not Mexican Independence Day)!

Vegetarian Tostadas Recipe

Ingredients (for 8 tostadas, 4 servings):

  • 8  6-inch corn tortillas
  • 4 Tbsp canola oil
  • 2 C canned or homemade refried beans (make sure they’re vegetarian!)
  • 1.5 cups salsa (I used Wild Harvest Organic Chipotle)
  • Shredded cheese to sprinkle
  • 2 small tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 cups romaine, chopped
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • Cilantro to garnish, chopped
  • Hot sauce to finish
  • Avocado slices to serve on side
  • Parchment paper for baking

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place the refried beans over medium-low heat to reheat (or microwave).  Same with salsa.  Heat half the oil in large skillet over medium-high heat.  Once the oil is shimmering and nearly smoking, add 3 or 4 tortillas and fry until barely crispy, 20-30 seconds per side.  Drain on paper towels, add more to the pan if needed and let it reheat before doing the next batch of tortillas.

Spread the beans over the crisp tortillas; top each with salsa and onions and a little bit of cheese.  Bake for 15 minutes on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Top with lettuce, tomatoes, yogurt, and cilantro, in that order.  Add hot sauce at table and serve with avocado slices.