I've tried every which way, but I'm just not much of a cook. But because I like to eat, and restaurant dining isn't really affordable, I've become what my roommates call an "assembler." I make a lot of creative sandwiches, salads and meals from food that I can assemble and pop in the oven for a few minutes. (I use my toaster oven for solo quantities and a big oven when I'm cooking for my boyfriend and myself.)

So I was excited to make the tostada dish below the other night with just about five minutes of chopping, and a minute or two of piling/arranging and then throwing it in the oven.

I happen to love food from Mexico and Central America, so I usually have a couple of cans of beans in the house, a jar of salsa, some corn tacos (they keep for weeks and weeks in the fridge!) and cheese of various kinds. I have a pretty serious tomato habit, and so there are always some in my fruit bowl (I think I must eat at least a tomato a day).

Other ingredients/additions/toppings can be whatever you have in your house; the recipe below was actually totally inspired by an avocado at my boyfriend's place that had to be eaten immediately, but packaged guac (Trader Joe's sells a really good one that keeps for up to a month in the fridge since it's vacuum-packed) is easy to keep around, and most of us have onions around, but you could sub scallions here, too. And of course, cilantro is a great addition, but I don't normally keep that around in the winter.

Plus, how fun are tostadas? To make and devour, they are just a good time, especially paired with a delicious local beer or two. And they make great party food for your next get-together (or Super Bowl party), since they are snack-sized, but still filling.

Starre's Simple Sunday Night Tostadas


6 corn taco shells

1/2 can organic black beans

1/2 can organic pinto beans

1 cup mixed cheeses (I used some old muenster and some new cheddar, but use whatever you've got that will melt!)

1 teaspoon chili powder

Fresh black pepper

1/3 cup diced organic onion

3 sliced shitake mushrooms


diced vine-ripened tomato

shredded lettuce or pea shoots

salsa to your taste (I like hot)

organic sour cream

1 whole organic avocado, smooshed with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 juice of 1 lime


1. Line a flat baking sheet with the 6 taco shells (you can toast them beforehand if you like them crispier).

2. Add rinsed black beans and pinto beans, then shitake mushrooms, then chili powder. Layer cheese with the diced onion on top.

3. Bake for 15-20 minutes in a 350-degree oven

4. Let cool for 2-3 minutes before serving; then top with salsa, tomato, lettuce and avocado or sour cream on top (to keep the cool/warm contrast between the top and bottom of the tostada)

Serves 2, with about 250-275 calories per tostada

Starre Vartan ( @ecochickie ) covers conscious consumption, health and science as she travels the world exploring new cultures and ideas.

Super-simple vegetarian tostadas for a Super Bowl party, or anytime
Keep some basic ingredients around and have a fun tostada night anytime.