Monday, March 30, 2009

Quick and Easy Mexican

Sometimes I get home from work and the last thing I want is to make a complicated dinner for one. At the same time, my thrifty self won't allow me to order takeout very often - in fact, I almost never get takeout except for the occasional (less than once a month) cravings for pizza or Chinese. Instead, I resort to quick meals like ramen (the curry flavored version is surprisingly good) and hot sandwiches (I have an aversion to cold sandwiches; they taste like sawdust to me).

Recently, I discovered that the Mexican restaurant next door sells their homemade corn or flour tortillas by the dozen for takeout. At less than $3 for a fresh, piping hot batch, they make the perfect base for a quick and easy Mexican dinner. I fill them with the leftover odds and ends of veggies, a little bit of protein (usually chicken), and a sprinkle of shredded cheese, then pan-fry them for crispy, golden quesadillas. Alternatively, I keep them soft and warm while I whip up a batch of refried beans, then eat them soft taco style filled with the beans, diced tomatoes, and whatever else is handy - hopefully a ripe avocado.

Refried beans are surprisingly easy and cheap to make as well. This may be the cheater's method but it works and it tastes delicious. Zero points for healthy meal here, though. The sodium in canned beans and the bacon fat used for frying makes this an indulgent treat that is often spread out over a few days to assuage my guilt.

Cheater's Refried Beans

1 can pinto beans
1-2 tbsp bacon fat (I guess veg oil would work too but olive oil might taste too strong)
handful diced onions
couple cloves minced garlic
handful shredded cheese
few sprinkles tabasco

Heat a frying pan with the bacon fat or oil over medium heat. If using, saute onions and/or garlic until fragrant, then add the entire can of beans including the liquid. As the beans heat up, mash some with a wooden spoon until the beans reach the desired texture (I like mine chunky). Add tabasco and cheese if desired, mix well, and serve right away. No additional salt is needed as the canned bean liquid will be pretty salty.

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