Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Tortilla Pizzas and TV

I've been avoiding it for years, but finally did it, I braved the TV cameras, and did a cooking spot for Television! And you know, it really wasn't so bad, I'm not sure what I was so nervous about. They asked me to do a segment on cooking for kids, and there was one recipe in particular that I knew would be great. It is simple and invented itself out of pure necessity and hunger:

Picture this:
I'm tired after a long day of working on multiple food related projects and trying to find funding to pay myself (stressful to say the least). I pick up kid #1 from school giving him a big hug and a snack, go to another school to pick up kid #2 who is finishing snack. We arrive home, both kids are tired and fussy, and despite the fact that they have both eaten a snack within the past hour, they are seriously hungry and not afraid to let me know it. This is not one of those good nights that I preach about where I've managed to have some leftovers or bits and pieces of a meal like steamed broccoli, or cooked whole wheat pasta in the fridge that I could use to throw dinner together. On this night, my cabinets are nearly bare, and I have to get creative. I do have a few good staples in the house: whole wheat flour tortillas (I keep extra ones in the freezer), a block of extra sharp cheddar cheese (the generic one is cheaper and tastes great), a can of black beans, some frozen peas, corn and green beans.  And so, Tortilla Pizzas were born!

Rather than plopping my kids in front of a video, like I often do to get dinner ready, I decide to have them help cook. They wash up, drag stools noisily across the kitchen floor and start sprinkling veggies and beans over the tortillas. I hand them some thin slices of cheddar cheese, which I make with a vegetable peeler, to top off the veggies, and we put the "pizzas" into a 450 degree oven, until the  cheese is bubbling and brown. We cut the tortillas into wedges and dinner is served.

It would have been great with a dollop of yogurt, lettuce or guacamole, none of which I had that night, but I settled for a few drops of good hot sauce, and my two very hungry kids dug in with pleasure. They'd helped cook themselves a delicious, nutritious and satisfying dinner. 10 minutes of work, less than $5 dollars worth of ingredients for all three of us, and a heck of a lot more nutritious than eating out. Now that's my kind of "fast food"!!!
My boy helping out with the cooking demo, he was so excited!
Tortilla Pizzas
4 Whole wheat flour tortillas or 6 corn tortillas
6 oz Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese (block, not shredded)
1 can Beans*-  rinsed and drained
2 cups Vegetables of your choice, fresh or frozen: spinach, corn, peas, peppers, broccoli, etc.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees
  1. Line 2 baking sheets with foil (optional) and rub with oil. Place tortillas on the baking sheet in a single layer.
  2. Top tortillas with beans and vegetables. Leave some space between the toppings so the cheese can melt down into them and get crispy and delicious.
  3. Using a vegetable peeler, slice long thin strips of cheese off of the block. This technique allows you to use less cheese than cutting with a knife, and is easier than cleaning a grater. Top each tortilla with a single layer of cheese. Place pans in the oven until cheese is melted and browned, about 5-7 minutes. 
  4. Finished tortillas can either be sliced in triangular wedges like a "pizza" or folded into quesadillas or tacos. The tacos work especially well with the corn tortillas: top them with a dollop of yogurt, some shredded lettuce and hot sauce. Salsa, pickled onions and guacamole are also great additions. 
          Some great combinations are: 
          black bean, corn, broccoli
          spinach, tomato, black bean
          red bean, peppers, corn, spinach
          or for something a little different try: turkey, apple, broccoli and cheddar
* Canned beans are easy and part of my life as a busy parent, but I often cook dry beans which are much cheaper, delicious and easy if I plan ahead. Try this recipe for the basics on working with dry beans, it's easier than you think! I often make a big pot and freeze individual portions in bags or containers so they are easy to pull out of the freezer when I need a quick meal.

Please leave any comments below! 


    1. Great job! And your son did a wonderful job too! Love the recipe. I do a similar thing making baked "quesadillas", just fold the tortilla in half, slather some olive oil on the top if you're thinking of it, put in the oven until cheese is bubbly.
      Do you have any thoughts on a school garden? I know Alice Waters has a book about it, but the Berkley climate is a bit different than CT, and how do you manage a garden at school when lots of the produce ripens in August? Any experience, tips or sources you can point me to?

    2. Good job, Tagan and Ayo. Those little pizzas looked yummy.

    3. @ Amy. School gardens, yes, lots of thoughts! I am actually working on writing a school garden guide for New England climates, so when that is done, I'll make it available on the blog. There are ways to extend the growing season using hoop houses or cold frames that let you harvest a lot more during the school year. Indoor window sill growing for winter. There are a bunch of school gardens in New Haven and around the state. There is a new group called Grow New Haven that is trying to help start gardens in all schools in New Haven (, if you want to get involved you can email someone through the website.
      There are some great garden resources out there too.
      Good guides from Chicago:

      A good site from western MA with a long list of resources:

      hope this helps!

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