Na-cho average nacho: Lighter take on a tasty indulgence

One afternoon, not long ago, a co-worker and I were talking about nachos. That's kind of how it goes around our office — every afternoon, our conversations always lead to food. We talk about what we're having for dinner, what we're cooking, what we don't feel like cooking. We brag when we plan to snag take-out, and we gush we when decide to indulge.

Then we reign each other in, encourage each other to sometimes substitute certain ingredients with veggies, and so on. It's all about balance, right?

That's essentially what our conversation boiled down to that recent afternoon. I gloated that I was going to eat a hearty plate of cheesy nacho-y goodness at a friend's house after work, and he essentially suggested a handful of recipes I ought to try instead. Of course, all of them were vegetable based, without a chip in sight in any of the ingredient lists.     

What a buzz kill.

I had the cheesy dip at my friend's house that night, but I also printed out the recipes my co-worker sent. They couldn't hurt to try, right? 

As it turns out, they're pretty darn good. The two I've tried are easy to make; meat-free, for my friends avoiding meat; and chip-free, which means they're low carb, if that's your thing, and we don't need to check ingredient labels for gluten, soy, nuts and what have you, when you bring them into the office or to a gathering. 

Each of these dishes may be served as a side, but I enjoy them as a snacky meal.

The grilled zucchini nachos recipe calls for, obviously, a grill or a grill pan, but I'm fresh out of propane and it's chilly outside, so I have been cooking the zucchini in a frying pan, and it's just as good. In that recipe, that is the only ingredient you need to cook, so it makes for a fairly quick dish — one of the many things I enjoy about the recipe.

So the next time you're craving nachos, go ahead and eat them! But maybe the time after that, give one of these recipes a shot instead.     

Grilled zucchini nachos 

Serves 4

4 small zucchini, sliced into "chips," about 1/4 inch thick rounds

Olive oil, for brushing zucchini chips

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained

2 small tomatoes, chopped

1 large avocado, chopped, seed removed

2 green onions, chopped

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1 lime

Place sliced zucchini chips into a large bowl and toss with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Place zucchini on a a grill pan or directly on a hot grill, over medium heat. Grill for 4 to 5 minutes or until zucchini is tender. Sprinkle cheese directly over zucchini chips and cook until cheese is melted, about 1 minute.

Remove zucchini from grill and place on a platter or onto plates. Top with black beans, tomatoes, avocado, green onion, cilantro, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. Serve immediately.

Recipe source: twopeasandtheirpod.com

Loaded Sweet Potato Nachos 

Serves 4-6

3 large sweet potatoes, washed and sliced into 1/4-inch rounds

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

1 cup black beans, drained and rinsed

1/4 cup chopped green onions

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1 large avocado, pit removed and diced

Sour cream or Greek yogurt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Place the sweet potato rounds on a large baking sheet. (You might need two baking sheets if you run out of room. You don’t want to overcrowd the sweet potatoes.) Toss the sweet potatoes in olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes. Use a spatula to flip the sweet potato rounds. Bake for an additional 10 minutes or until sweet potatoes are crisp.

Remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle cheese and black beans over the sweet potatoes. Bake until cheese is melted, about 5-7 minutes.

Remove pan from oven and top with green onions, cilantro, avocado, and sour cream or Greek yogurt. Serve immediately.

Recipe source: twopeasandtheirpod.com 

Laura Anderson Shaw is the editor of Radish.

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