Mexican food is absolutely my favorite type of food–hands down. I remember when I was young, a friend of the family used to bring over authentic, crispy beef for breakfast! The golden-fried treasures came from one of the original Roberto’s tacorillas in San Diego, Calif. that stayed open 24 hours and offered the best Mexican food north of the boarder. They were (and still are) made with corn tortillas and shredded braised beef with peppers and tomatoes folded inside and then fried in lard. The tacos are topped with tons of shredded lettuce and queso fresco (a soft, mild milk-based cheese). Heaven. Pure heaven. And the smell! There’s just nothing like it. They’re especially yummy with the thin-textured hot sauce that only Roberto’s makes. Ok, enough of my trip down memory Mexican food lane.
My only problem is that if I let myself, I would eat beef tacos, tostadas, rolled tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas and chips with cheese and guacamole every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner….and my husband and kids would be seeing two of me!
So, like I do with many recipes I come up with, I created a low-calorie version of my second-favorite Mexican food item. The crispy tostada. Yum. And this is especially satisfying and fast to make for lunch. Luckily, I live two miles from my job so it is so easy to make, eat and be back to work during my lunch hour.
In this case, spray oil (my good friend Pam) is the hero. Here are the ingredients I use. But the next most important thing is the technique you use in order to make it as yummy and enjoyable as the more “fattening” version.
-1 flour or corn tortilla (or enough for as many tostadas as you want to make)
-1 can of fat-free chile and lime beans (refried-style) or you could use drained black beans, cut up chicken, crumbled and seasoned hamburger or any other type of protein you like
-1/2 cup of shredded lettuce
-1/4 cup of shredded 2% cheddar cheese
-Any brand of hot sauce or salsa that you like
-Lite sour cream
Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Place foil on a baking sheet pan and spray both sides of a flour tortilla with spray oil. Place on the baking sheet and back on the middle rack. Check the tortilla at about the two minute mark to make sure bubbles haven’t formed on the tortilla. If there are bubbles, take a knife and pop it and push it down so that the tortilla lays flat. Once it has browned up you might want to flip it to make sure the other side is brown and crisp.
While the tortilla is cooking, heat up the amount of beans you would like to put on it (or other protein) and prepare the other ingredients. Top the crispy tortilla with all of your toppings and enjoy a yummy, fast, filling, low-cal lunch that is pretty nutritious too!
Pork chops, especially thin-cut beauties, are a working mom’s best friend. They are super simple to make in so many ways. I usually just douse them with seasoned salt, a little garlic powder and pepper and pop them underneath the broiler. I turn them once and broil the chops until they are brown and sizzling. I even don’t mind if they are a little bit tough this way. My husband and I are a rare breed when it comes to tougher pork chops, I guess. If they turn out a little chewy, we just slap on some hot sauce and eat them like pop cycles. Barbaric, I know. I try to make moister ones for the kiddies.
Anyway, you could also spray them with a light coating of cooking spray, dip them in seasoned bread crumbs and fry them in a little olive oil. Or for a more decadent version, dip them in a beaten egg, then into flour, back into the egg, then into bread crumbs and fry in a deep pan of cooking or olive oil. Yum!
But, my favorite way to eat any type of pork, ribs included, is braised. Totally opposite from the leather-like texture of fully broiled chops. Cooking pork more than an hour achieves wonderfully tender, fall-off-the bone texture that is so comforting and filling. It just makes me think of fall. And using a crock pot to achieve the braising technique is so easy and perfect for a working mom who likes to cook.
So this recipe is inspired by a Vietnamese dish I remember trying when I was really young but it was made with tofu instead (and was probably only cooked for a half an hour on the stove top). But basically, except for the pork and the cooking time, the ingredients are the same. Thin pork chops are slowly braised in chicken broth and stewed tomatoes and smothered with onion and garlic. I also add an Asian flare by adding soy sauce and throw in a little tang with some balsamic vinegar. It sounds odd but it is so aromatic, kind of sweet, and a little exotic. It’s also very low-calorie.
The dish takes a bit of preparation the night before but the greatest thing about it is you just turn on the crock pot in the morning and all you have to do when you return home at night is make a pot of white rice.
Here are the ingredients you will need:
-2 cans of low-sodium, low-fat chicken broth
-2 cans of canned stewed tomatoes
-3/4 yellow onion
-2 smashed and minced garlic cloves
-5 thin-cut pork chops (I like the bone-in kind)
-3 tbsp. soy sauce
-2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
-Seasoned salt and pepper
-1 Bay leaf
Season the pork chops on both sides with the seasoned salt, pepper and garlic powder. Place them inside the crock pot. Cut the onion in half and slice lengthwise, using only 3/4 of the onion, and smash, peel and mince the garlic. Place the onions and garlic over the top of the pork and pour in the tomatoes, chicken broth, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar and bay leaf. Stir all of the liquid ingredients together on top of the pork. Place the lid on top of the crock pot and refrigerate until the morning. When you leave the next day, set the crock pot for as long as you’ll be gone. When you return home, just make some white rice and serve the pork stew, if you will, over the top. I usually omit the liquid for the kids because it’s hot and a little messy for them. Voila! So good and so comforting. In fact, it’s my husband’s favorite.