whole food ~ well made


Dinner 911: Tostadas from the Pantry

Sure, they explode on the third bite, but tostadas have become my soccer season go-to.

Why? Because even when I do not have a plan–especially because I so often do not have a plan, instant tostadas save me from “it’s 7:30 on a school night what are we going to eat?” stress.

Let me tell you about last week when I had a moment at the cutting board, slicing cucumbers and chopping tomatoes (the last of the season) kind of frantically.

What’s for Dinner?

I thought to myself: I am a trained professional cook. I develop recipes for a living (for Fine Cooking and Zester Daily Food52 at the moment).

I work at home and have time to put something on the stove or in the oven while the kids are still a school. And I’m way beyond the years when someone was tugging at my leg whining whenever I stood at the kitchen counter.

And yet, dinner is still hard. Why, I wondered?


*Because, maybe, like so many working moms and dads, I want my kids to eat well (that means as many fruits and veggies and as little sugar and refined foods–I’m talking to you, Goldfish–as possible).

*Because whole foods don’t come out of a package or a container.

*Because there are so many other priorities in a day competing with the domestic arts.

*Because dinner is a priority, a cornerstone of our family life even when it’s noisy and chaotic and food still ends up on the floor even though the girls are way past toddlerhood.

Here’s one way to make it easy: tostadas.

Stocking Up for Tostadas

I’m training myself to keep all the staples on hand in the pantry and fridge, so it’s always a no-brainer:

    • refried beans in a can (vegetarian) or homemade from the freezer
    • hearts of romaine, sliced very thin
    • salsa, your favorite
    • avocados, lots
    • grated or crumbled cheese, any type from medium cheddar to feta
    • radishes, thinly sliced
    • limes for garnish
    • packaged tostadas
    • leftover meat of any kind or none at all


Everything goes in bowls on the table and everyone helps themselves constructing their ideal creation. Only to watch it break and spill all the toppings onto the plate.

Now, dinner is easy–and sometimes it even explodes.

But the best part of all? Clean up is a cinch!


and become a forager

Pantry Tostadas

These refried bean and meat-optional tostadas save the day. 
Course Main Course
Cuisine Mexican
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 4 people
Author Lynne Curry


  • 1 1/2 cups refried beans, canned or homemade
  • 8-12 ounces cooked beef, pork or chicken optional
  • 8 tostadas
  • 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced hearts of romaine
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 2 medium ripe avocados, diced
  • 2 medium ripe tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced radishes
  • 1/2 cup lightly packed cilantro leaves
  • 1 lime sliced into wedges
  • salsa
  • sour cream


  • Heat the refried beans and any meat, if using in the microwave or on the stovetop.
  • Place the ingredients in separate bowls on the table and serve 1-2 tostadas per person on a dinner plate.
  • Spread each tostada with the refried beans and top with meat, if using. Mound the tostada with lettuce and top to taste with cheese, avocado, tomato radish slilces and cilantro.
  • Squeeze a wedge of lime over the toppings and add salsa and sour cream to taste. Serve with plenty of napkins.


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