Baked Veggie Tostada

Vegetarian meals can be a good way to keep that New Year’s Resolution to lose weight. This veggie tostada is no exception. Weighing in at just170 calories, this Mexican dish will fill you up without filling your calorie allotment.

Baked veggie tostada

Last year was all about losing weight in our household. My wife and I were very successful at the losing part with a combined 150 pounds down. What we weren’t so good at was keeping it off. Before becoming pregnant, she had put 30 of her pounds back on, and I yo-yo’ed all the back the 30 I had lost. So this year is about losing the weight again (well, after the baby is born, for her). And keeping it off. 2014 was the year of the diet. 2015 is going to be the year of the lifestyle change.

I know I’ve made poked fun at vegetarianism a bit. But vegetarian meals have as much place in a well-rounded diet as meat-based ones. Everything in moderation, as they say.

So just what is a tostada?

The way I like to describe it to people is that it is a Mexican Pizza. Everybody knows what a pizza looks like, and knows what kind of ingredients to expect in a Mexican dish, so it gets the point across. As a definition, it’s quick and dirty if not entirely accurate.

According to Wikipedia, a tostada is a deep-fried tortilla topped with things such as shredded chiken or beef, refried beans, and traditional taco type toppings such as lettuce, tomato, and cheese. So one way of looking at it is a flat taco. Or rather a flat taquito or deconstructed chimichanga since the tortilla is supposed to be fried.

Of course, that seems to be a little off to me. Tostada is Spanish for “toasted.” So it doesn’t make sense to me for it to be fried. Lucky for me, I’m no purist when it comes to my food and recipes I’m a big fan of fusion cuisine and breaking the rules to make something I like instead of what tradition says a dish is supposed to be.

That’s why this why this veggie tostada is baked. Who needs all the extra work and empty calories (along with triglycerides and everything else bad for you) just to fry a tortilla?

Baked Veggie Tostada
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This veggie tostada is baked not fried and features hearty vegetables such as squash and sweet potato
Cuisine: Mexican
Serves: 2
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 small zucchini, diced
  • 1 small yellow squash, diced
  • 1 cup diced sweet potato (about one medium sweet potato)
  • 1 tsp Let's Get Cooking taco seasoning
  • 2 medium size tortillas
  • ½ cup shredded lettuce
  • ½ cup diced tomato
  • ¼ cup 2% shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 tbsp sour
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high until lightly shimmering. Dice zucchini, yellow squash, and sweet potato. Add to skillet with taco seasoning. Cook until moderately soft. Remove from pan and rest on a plate covered with a paper towel to soak up some of the oil.
  3. Split vegetable mixture between two tortillas. Place directly on middle oven rack. Bake for 5 minutes until tortilla is crisp.
  4. Top tostadas with remaining ingredients. Serve immediately.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1 tostada Calories: 170 Fat: 5.6 Saturated fat: 2.2 Carbohydrates: 27.7 Sugar: 9.9 Sodium: 69 Fiber: 5.3 Protein: 4.6 Cholesterol: 6

Lately, I’ve switched from regular shredded cheese to shredded cheese made from 2% milk. I buy the Kroger brand from King Soopers, but I believe that Kraft makes it as well. Using 2% cheese in this recipe would saves about a gram of fat and saturated fat and tastes the same.

You can put anything you want on your tostada, but in terms of a vegetarian dish, firmer vegetables such as squash and sweet potato work best. This baked veggie tostada doesn’t include beans like most veggie tostada recipes. Why? Because my wife isn’t a big fan of beans. Me, I love beans.

Instead, this veggie tostada features zucchini, and yellow squash as well the sweet potato you will see in most recipes. Other vegetables you could try include carrot or their more spiced cousin, parsnip.

Where do stand on tostadas? Toasted or fried?

Chicken & Spinach Quinoa Bites

It never ceases to amaze me  how many uses quinoa has. One great use for  this wonder “grain” is a gluten-free replacement to flour or breadcrumbs. I’ve already made turkey meatloaf using quinoa as the filler. This time, I took inspiration from Iowa Girl Eats’ Mini Ham & Cheese Quinoa Bites. Instead of ham and cheese, I opted for chicken & spinach. Why, because I love chicken and spinach! (Also, ham doesn’t really agree with my wife).

chicken & spinach quinoa bites

Oh, and I kept the cheese of course. Why? That’s a silly question. You don’t need an excuse to keep or add cheese to  a savory dish.

Six ingredients and an hour (mostly unattended cook time) and these are ready to go. I listed this recipe under appetizers, but you could have it for breakfast (eggs!) or dinner. Leftovers make pretty good lunches as well. So basically, eat them whenever you want. :)

These quinoa bites were decadent yet healthy with under 350 calories per quinoa “muffin” and lots of protein and iron. That said, they are a little high in cholesterol at about a third of your daily value. One way to get around that is to use egg substitute. The biggest problem I had was not eating them all at once!

Chicken & Spinach Quinoa Bites
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Recipe type: Appetizer
Serves: 6
  • ⅔ c. quinoa
  • 1⅓ c. water
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup raw spinach, chopped
  • ½ c. shredded mild Cheddar cheese
  • 2 small chicken breasts (or 1 large)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine quinoa and water in small pot and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Meanwhile, cook chicken on George Foreman grill approximately 5 minutes until no longer pink inside. Let rest for 5 minutes then dice into ½" pieces
  4. In medium bowl, combine all ingredients. Grease muffin pan with cooking spray. Spoon mixture into each muffin cup.
  5. Cook for 20-30 minutes until golden brown. Let sit 5 minutes before serving
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1 Calories: 311 Fat: 10.3 Saturated fat: 3.5 Carbohydrates: 34.7 Sugar: 0 Sodium: 116 Fiber: 3.8 Protein: 19.5 Cholesterol: 112

Alternative versions of this recipe

There are several different ways you can prepare this dish. You could try a different protein, such as the ham used in the original recipe, or simply cook the chicken a different way. Shredded chicken works very well here as well.I haven’t tried it, but I bet black beans would go well in these. Possibly pair the black beans with corn and salsa to make a southwest variety.

Likewise, you could try changing the spinach to another green vegetable, such as kale or shredded zucchini. Basically, experiment with your favorite protein and your favorite vegetable in these quinoa bites to find your favorite way of eating them.

Quinoa Bites for those who haven’t tried quinoa

For those who haven’t tried eating quinoa yet, incorporating it into a larger dish, such as these quinoa bites, is a great introduction. You get the taste but you don’t start out with this big heap of strange new food on your plate. So, you can take the fear of trying a new food off the plate by hiding it in something larger. That is how I’ve recently started eating cottage cheese, by using it as a substitute for ricotta in my spinach and butternut squash lasagna (recipe coming soon). That’s right, I overturned over 20 years of saying I didn’t like cottage cheese simply because my ricotta went bad. Who knows what you will like if you find a new way of eating it?

What is your favorite way of eating quinoa?

Zuppa Toscana Soup Recipe with Chicken

This Zuppa Toscana recipe is inspired by what you find at Olive Garden, but  much healthier with milk instead of cream and chicken instead of sausage. While it may be a fraction* of the calories, it is 100% of the taste! This recipe is under 200 calories per serving, so you don’t have to feel bad about eating this rich, creamy soup.

Zuppa Toscana is Italian for “Tuscan soup.” So, saying “Zuppa Toscana soup” is actually redundant. Like CAT Test or Volkswagen car.  Well 3% of US searches for “zuppa toscana” include the word soup, so it doesn’t hurt my SEO to include it! Of course, while this soup has its roots in a Tuscan-style potato soup, what they serve at Olive Garden is about as Italian as “French toast” is French. Their recipe calls specifically for Oscar Mayer Real Bacon Bits. The Oscar Mayer brand is from Chicago. My version doesn’t use any bacon, although I guess you could use chopped up turkey bacon to give it the flavor and crunch without the calories.

Chicken Zuppa Toscana soup

*The Olive Garden website lists their Zuppa Toscana soup at 170 calories, but entering the ingredients from the Olive Garden cookbook into the calorie counter website I use shows the value to be 341. I guess they must just use smaller bowls!

Chicken Zuppa Toscana
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Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4
  • .5 pound chicken breast
  • 1 large russet potatoes
  • ½ cup onion, chopped
  • 14 oz (1 can) low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cup of water
  • 1 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 1 cups kale
  • ½ cup 1% milk
  • ½ tsp corn starch
  1. Grill chicken on George Foreman grill until no longer pink. Set aside to cool.
  2. Cut potatoe in half, then slice into 1" slices.
  3. Place potatoes, onion, broth, water, garlic and seasoning in large pot over medium-high heat. Cook approximately 20" minutes until potatoes pass the "fork test."
  4. Reduce heat to simmer. Cut chicken into 1" chunks. Add to pot with with kale.
  5. Mix corn starch and milk together. Stir into soup. Simmer for 10 minutes until kale is softened and soup begins to thicken.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 429g Calories: 193 Fat: 2.4 Carbohydrates: 20.1 Sugar: 3.3 Sodium: 124 Fiber: 2.8 Protein: 22.3 Cholesterol: 50

How Zuppa Toscana soup made me a believer in kale

I spent a long time believing that I didn’t like kale. It was actually Olive Garden’s Zuppa Toscana that rid me of that misconception. I have had a love-hate relationship with dark leafy greens, such as kale. Some I don’t like at all. Collards are in this group, and for a long time, so was kale. Others are like spinach. I like it raw but not cooked. I had tried raw kale and found it too bitter for my liking. Since my experience with dark leafy greens had been liking it raw or not it all, I figured if I didn’t like raw kale, I wouldn’t like cooked kale.

Then my wife and I had lunch at Olive Garden back in November. She ordered a bowl of the Zuppa Toscana. I had a taste and discovered I actually did like kale. It just has to be cooked first! The rest was history.