A dinner cooked on the run can be both healthy & nutritious, but tasty as well


No doubt you’ve been waiting eagerly for me to tell you about my new favorite fast-food creation. In my opinion, it’s yummy and very easy to make — and yes, it’s nutritious, and invites nutritious side dishes.

This dish is a variation on the Mexican fast food called chilaquiles. If you go online to try and find a recipe for this very casalinga dish (that’s the Italian word for kind of domestic and homey; sorry about mixing languages here),  you won’t find one because chilaquiles is apparently many things to many people. 

Mine is based on memories of a dinner I had long, long ago in Chicago (a city with exceptionally good Mexican dining options).  I won’t try to describe what that original dish was like, it’s a sort of unformed memory, but for some reason it started kicking around in my head a few months ago (perhaps after eating an excellent variation on the dish at The Woodland in Lakeville).

To make this dish, you’ll need a deep skillet, three large flour tortillas, a can of refried beans, about a cup of chicken stock and a bag of finely grated cheeses. I like to use a mix of four different kinds of cheese but it doesn’t really matter; what counts is that someone else does the grating so you don’t have to.

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Open the beans and put them in a bowl and mash them up with a fork; add some paprika or hot sauce or something to add some kick, and sprinkle on some salt and pepper. 

Brown your tortillas by putting them on top of the stove grate over a moderately low flame. Don’t look away — these get brown very quickly and can catch fire (not kidding). Flip the tortilla with some metal cooking tongs so you get brown on both sides. Do this with all three. 

Put the first tortilla at the bottom of the skillet. Spread the beans on top. Add the next tortilla and then sprinkle grated cheese all over it. Add the final tortilla on top of the cheese layer, pour in the chicken stock and bake for about 15 minutes, until the cheese is melted. 

This blank canvas is fine on its own and offers you the nutrition of the beans and the cheese. You can easily add in bits of leftover chicken or beef (shrimp, too, probably). 

You can serve rice on the side. In combination with the beans, that creates a protein (great if you’re a vegetarian). 

You can definitely serve a green salad. Don’t use a bottled dressing — too much salt, sugar and chemicals. All you need is a little olive oil and some salt and pepper and lemon juice over the top. If you want it creamier, drop in some mayonnaise and just mix it all together. You can even squeeze in Dijon mustard and you have the laziest French dressing ever. 

And of course avocadoes are perfect and are easy to prepare if you have a ripe one in the house. Cut it in half, remove any black bruised spots and then cut the remaining green flesh into slices. Arrange them on a plate, squeeze on some lemon juice, season with fine salt and ground pepper, maybe add a few very thin slices of onion or shallot. 

And you have a healthy, fast, easy inexpensive dinner.