Fritos for all
Corn chips are used in these dishes, from top: Mexican Breakfast Bake, Turkey Wraps with Crunch and Corn Chip Croquettes. For recipes, see below.

How to make use of your
excess supply of chips

nnovation can be born of ineptitude. In my case, I refer to Fritos.

The story begins here: Despite all I know about nutrition, I buy my kids snack chips. Hey, it's what they like, so shoot me. And despite all I know about environmental waste from excessive packaging, I sometimes buy the variety pack from Costco -- 40-something single-serve bags.

Quick tips

Fritos, or any corn or tortilla chip, can be crushed for these easy uses:

Topping: Sprinkle coarse crumbs on salads, soups or over garlic bread or focaccia. Use in place of french-fried onions in the traditional green bean bake.
Coating: Use fine crumbs in place of breading for fried chicken, country-fried steak or other cutlets.
Crust: Combine crushed chips with melted butter to make an easy crust for a quiche or meat pie. Press into pan and pre-bake 10 minutes at 325 degrees.
Mix-in: Use in place of bread cubes or bread crumbs to add corn flavor to stuffings, meatloaf, meatballs or stuffed bell peppers. Or stir into a commercial corn muffin mix.

But the gods of nutrition and nature are vengeful, and the vengeance they have exacted upon me is Fritos. Many little bags of Fritos, which are part of the variety pack and which my kids won't eat.

As more Doritos, Lay's and Cheetos come into the house, the Fritos are continually bypassed until mounds of them exist.

Innovation was required. So I've been experimenting with ways of using up Fritos. I've found quite a few recipes worth sharing, especially as I know I am not alone in this Frito overabundance thing. Other moms have relayed the same story. One of them picks up the variety packs for school events and says the Fritos always go last, if at all.

The evidence is beyond anecdotal.

"For some reason, children today don't like Fritos," says Lucy Black, marketing and development manager for Frito-Lay Hawaii. "It's more of an older-person thing. 'Older' meaning 20."

In fact, feedback from consumers made enough of an impact that Frito-Lay is introducing a new variety pack: the Flavor Pack, with 24 bags of chips; no Fritos. The Costco-size box still has Fritos, though.

Now, Fritos remain popular. Black says they rank No. 7 in sales among the 20 brands that Frito-Lay Hawaii carries (Lay's potato chips are No. 1). This covers only full-sized bags, which means the Fritos were purchased out of free choice, not because they came in a mixed pack.

The history of Fritos -- according to Frito-Lay nationally -- begins in 1932 in a cafe in San Antonio, Texas, where Elmer Doolin first tasted the handmade corn chips. Turns out the manufacturer wanted to go back to Mexico, so he sold the recipe, 19 retail accounts and his equipment (a converted potato ricer) to Doolin for $100.

It was a tiny business that earned just $2 profit per day, but by the time Doolin died in 1959, it was a $50 million concern. Hawaii was actually granted one of the first franchises from the Frito National Co., in 1947.

Personally, being over age 20 (considerably), I like Fritos, but as I have been trying to lose the same 10 pounds for 15 years, I don't indulge much.

But what's not to like? Fritos have a nice, corny flavor and they're substantial in a way that potato chips are not, which makes them better suited to baking and other types of recipe manipulation. And because the taste is distinctive but fairly light, the chips add crunch without overwhelming a dish as, say, cheese puffs would.

Crushed corn chips form the crust of this breakfast quiche.

The most common use of Fritos is in a baked Tex-Mex-style casserole (sometimes called a Taco Pie). The chips are layered with ground beef, cheese, beans and tomato sauce, all flavored with packaged taco seasoning. I was looking for more creative ideas, but these are still pretty simple dishes, true to their basic, common-man, Frito-hood. I doubt there is a way to make a Frito SoufflŽ with Truffles.

The idea was to get kids to eat large amounts of the Fritos they had passed over in native form.

Starting with online suggestions from www.fritolay.com, I came up with these four recipes, all kid-friendly and extremely adaptable, which means if you are lacking in one ingredient you can easily substitute something else.

In all cases, the chips are crushed and simply sprinkled over or stirred into other ingredients. You get an intriguing crunch and mildly familiar flavor, which will make people say, "What is that?" -- scoring wonderment points for you.

Best way to crush the chips is in a blender or food processor, although you could use a hammer, I suppose. Make them very fine for coatings or crusts; coarse for sprinkling.

Good news: My backlog of Fritos is gone and my family is fed. Two birds, one stone. It all works out in the end.


This take-off on traditional chicken-fried steak uses corn chips as breading. The steak can be replaced with chicken or firm-fleshed fish, if you prefer.

Corn Chip Croquettes

1 pound top sirloin steak
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup finely crushed corn chips
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Ketchup or barbecue sauce, for dipping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Trim fat from steak and cut into 1-inch cubes. Season with salt and pepper.

Beat egg and milk in a small bowl. Place flour and corn chips on separate plates.

Coat steak pieces in flour, then dip egg mixture and roll in corn chips, pressing them well into meat.

Heat oil in a skillet. Place meat in skillet and fry in oil until browned on all sides.

Place steak pieces on baking sheet and bake 15 minutes.

May be served on toothpicks with ketchup or barbecue sauce for dipping. Serves 4.

Approximate nutritional analysis, per serving: (not including dipping sauce): 400 calories, 21 g total fat, 4.5 g saturated fat, 130 mg cholesterol, 170 mg sodium, 21 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 1 g sugar, 31 g protein.

This quiche-like dish may be adapted many ways -- add bacon or sausage, tomatoes or other vegetables to bulk it up. The main flavor comes from the canned chilies. The cheddar cheese can be substituted for pre-shredded Mexican blends of cheddar and jack cheese.

Keep the crust thin or it will be too chewy.

Mexican Breakfast Bake

» Crust:
1 cup finely crushed corn chips
1/4 cup melted butter
» Filling:
3 eggs
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup cottage cheese
2 tablespoons diced green chilies (about half of a 4-ounce can)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon minced basil
1/4 cup minced onion
» Topping:
2 tablespoons crushed corn chips
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

To make crust: Combine corn chips with melted butter. Press firmly into bottom of a 9-inch square baking pan. Bake 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare filling: Beat eggs until lemony yellow. Add flour and baking powder. Stir in cottage cheese, chilies, cheddar cheese, basil and onion.

Remove crust from oven and increase heat to 350 degrees. Pour filling over crust and bake until set, about 30 minutes.

Combine topping ingredients and sprinkle over pie. Bake an additional 5 minutes Serves 4.

Variation: To save time and cut some calories, skip the crust. Bake the filling alone in a 9-inch pie pan, then sprinkle with topping and bake another 5 minutes.

Approximate nutritional analysis, per serving: 520 calories, 39 g total fat, 19 g saturated fat, 225 mg cholesterol, 740 mg sodium, 24 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 20 g protein.

These two snacks are quickly assembled. The corn chips add more texture than flavor, providing an unexpected crunch.

Fritos Flat Bread

2 8-ounce cans refrigerated crescent roll dough
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoon EACH garlic powder, dill and oregano
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup crushed corn chips
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover a cookie sheet with baking parchment or foil.

Spread 1 can of rolls on cookie sheet, seal perforations and flatten slightly. Brush with butter and sprinkle with herbs.

Open second can of rolls and place dough on top of first. Seal perforations and flatten. Brush with beaten egg. Sprinkle with corn chips and Parmesan cheese. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, until golden brown. Cool slightly, then cut into 16 pieces, any shape. Serves 8.

Approximate nutritional analysis, per serving: 260 calories, 15 g total fat, 4.5 g saturated fat, 35 mg cholesterol, 670 mg sodium, 27 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 5 g protein.

Turkey Wraps with Crunch

6 8-inch whole-wheat tortillas
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup crushed corn chips
1/2 cup shredded lettuce
6 1-ounce slices deli turkey meat
1 small avocado, thinly sliced
1 small tomato, seeded and thinly sliced

Spread tortillas with sour cream and sprinkle with corn chips and lettuce. Cut turkey slices in half and lay on one end of tortilla, over the lettuce, about 1-inch from edge. Top with avocado and tomato slices.

Fold edge of tortilla over filling, then roll up firmly. Place wraps seam-side down on a plate and press on all sides to seal. Cut in half.

Approximate nutritional analysis, per roll: 450 calories, 17 g total fat, 5 g saturated fat, 20 mg cholesterol, 900 mg sodium, 62 g carbohydrates, 5 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 13 g protein.

Nutritional analyses by Joannie Dobbs, Ph.D., C.N.S.

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