As I trudge through the Dog Days of Summer and try in vain to stay cool, the last things I want to do are chores – like dishes, and laundry, and cooking – that cause my un-air-conditioned home to get even warmer than it already is. And while I haven’t found an alternative to laundry (other than a constant influx of new clothes – hmmm…now there’s an idea worth considering), I have a few options for eating healthy meals without heating the house or suffering the expense and negative health effects of eating out.
My favorite no-cook meal is the nacho. I love nachos, not only because they are easy and don’t require the oven or stove top, but also because they are so versatile. The nachos I make in this article are very basic. But you can add any toppings you’d like – leftover chicken, veggies, whatever’s in your fridge. Go wild!
I’ve named these Not-So-Guilty Pleasure Nachos, because they are actually much healthier than most restaurant varieties. Instead of making a virtual mountain of chips, cheese, sour cream, and greasy meats – I can regulate the amount of toppings and their quality. And, of course, I try to use organics as much as possible.
I start with a single layer of restaurant style tortilla chips. (Choose chips that are thick and hearty. They’ll stand up to the weight of your toppings better and won’t get soggy.) Most bags of chips show a single serving as one ounce and 140 calories, which is anywhere from six to 14 chips – depending on their size. This is the perfect amount to line the average paper plate. (Yes – we’re going high class with the paper plates. Anything to prevent having to do house-heating chores like washing dishes.)
It may seem a bit fussy to arrange chips in a single layer. But it’s important to me to have an equal chip-to-topping ratio. And I hate having a bunch of chips leftover with no toppings to keep them company. How boring.
Yes – I’m a bit OCD in that way.
Gosh – I wonder why I’m still single? It a head-scratcher, for sure.
Next I add the beans. Again, I try to have a little bit of beans on every chip. Refried beans are the norm, but I like to use refried black beans. I find they have more flavor, and have more antioxidants. I use about 1/4 cup, which is about 70 calories.
A note about beans: Transfer your leftover beans into a glass or BPH-free plastic container with a lid to store in your fridge. Don’t store the beans in the open can in your fridge. Once the can is exposed to oxygen, it will begin to impart a metallic taste to the contents of the can. Not yummy.
If you want to add beef, pork, or chicken to your nachos, this would be the time to do it. I didn’t have any in my fridge when I wrote this, so there’s none here.
Now comes my favorite part: Cheese! I’ve never met a cheese I didn’t like. Jack cheese is the traditional cheese topping of choice. But really, you can use whatever’s in your fridge. In this case, I used some sharp cheddar – and it was delish!
Now here’s my word of warning on cheese: I am famous for saying things like, “There’s no such thing as too much cheese,” but in this case, there is. Too much cheese will not only overwhelm the rest of the nacho flavors, but will also make your chips soggy. So, in the case of nachos, moderation is key.
I only use about ¼ cup of shredded cheese, which is about 100-150 calories, and I make sure it is evenly distributed across the chips. And please, please, please, in the name of all that is holy, do NOT use pre-shredded cheese. I know it’s easier, faster, and more convenient to grab the pre-shredded bag. But in order to keep those shreds from sticking together, they coat them with starch and cellulose. It doesn’t melt well, and it tastes different. Do yourself a favor – take the 30 seconds required to shred your own cheese.
Trust me on this.
After all your need-to-be-hot items are added, it’s time to add heat. You can use the oven. But that would defeat the purpose of this no-oven meal. So, I opted to nuke them. (I only use my micro for two things – nachos in the summer and softening butter. Other than that it’s just a shiny kitchen accessory.) Microwave your masterpiece for about one minute. All microwaves vary, so you’ll want to test yours. You want the beans (and meat, if you’ve added it) to be heated, and the cheese to be melted but not disintegrated.
Now it’s time to add the cool items. But again, moderation is key. I love sour cream, but not to the exclusion of all else. I used about two tablespoons here, 60 calories, and made sure each chip had a bit of sour cream.
The salsa follows the same rules as the other ingredients – enough to balance the flavors without overwhelming. I added about two tablespoons here, which added a whopping 10 calories.
You’ll notice a deliberate lack of guacamole in my nachos, and that’s because I am morally opposed to green, slimy food. So, if you are OK with that particular evil component, then more power to ya. My nachos will remain guacamole-free.
And, since we’re spoiling ourselves with Not-So-Guilty Nachos, why not continue the spoiling with a glass of wine. You’ll notice I’ve added a paper towel linen. The classiness in my house is endless.
Oh – and of course the wine is in a Waterford goblet. Because I’m an elegant broad, that’s why.
If you’re keeping score – our calorie tally is 430 (not including the wine). A complete and utterly delicious meal for under 500 calories.
See? I told you there’s no reason to feel guilty.