Cherry Quesadillas: a Summertime Twist on a Mexican Mainstay

Out of all the fresh, vibrant, enticing produce I look forward to around this time of year, cherries are the clear stand-out.

Call it nostalgia, but that juicy tartness¬†reminds me of childhood summers spent vacationing with my family in Northern Michigan, where cherries make their way into everything — from pies to paninis. I love cooking with this fruit because even just the aroma drifting¬†through my kitchen calls to mind a special time and place.

Since cherries are currently at¬†the height of peak season, I’m taking full advantage by sneaking them into all my favorite dishes. Like, quesadillas, for example. I’m such a Tex Mex sucker, and cherries definitely turn up the volume on this Southwest staple.

Trust me, it’s summer in your mouth!

******

 Ingredients:

2 Whole Wheat Tortillas

1/2 c. Halved Cherries

1/4 c. Shredded White Cheddar*

4-5 Fresh Basil Leaves

1/2 tbsp. Raw Honey

2 tsp. Orange Zest

*Need a vegan cheese substitute? Check out my Cashew Cream recipe.

******

Preparation:

1. Coat the bottom of a skillet with Cooking Spray and pre-heat the skillet on a medium-high stovetop setting.

2. Place a Tortilla in the skillet and spread the White Cheddar (or vegan substitute) evenly over it, then top with the Cherries and Basil.

3. Drizzle the Honey and Orange Zest over the other ingredients, then place the other Tortilla on top.

4. Press down on the Quesadilla with a spatula until the bottom Tortilla starts sizzling (approx. 2 minutes), then flip to the other side.

5. Once both sides have cooked thoroughly, and the Quesadilla reaches a crispy texture, transfer it from the skillet to a plate.

6. Allow the Quesadilla to cook slightly before slicing into 8 equal wedges. ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† Do I even have to say what’s next? Enjoy!!!
cherry quesadillas

Serving Suggestion:

Make this summery meal even more refreshing by smothering it with a¬†Cherry-Mango Salsa that’s both colorful and bursting with seasonal flavors.¬†Simply toss together 1/2 tbsp. Honey, 1 tsp. Apple Cider Vinegar, ¬† 1 tsp. Sesame Oil, 2 tsp. Chopped Mint, 1/4 c. Diced Mango and 1/4 c. Halved Cherries. The perfect side for a light, fruity entree!

mango cherry relish

Quinoa Quesadillas (now, that’s fun to say!)

It’s Saturday night. Yours truly isn’t exactly in the mood for anything that doesn’t involve Netflix. Thus, I’m gearing up for a low-key evening in the comfort of my own humble abode¬†[read: bed].

But…then hunger strikes. What’s a girl to do?

Crank up the stove and start experimenting, of course!

So, tonight’s creation features a mash-up of flavors a la¬†Mexico and South America. I submit for your culinary seal of approval, my friends:

…drumroll, please

Quinoa Quesadillas!!!

Yup. These vegetarian delights are overloaded with protein, whole grains, and essential plant-based nutrients for a meal that will satisfy both your appetite and taste buds.

To utilize my limited command of the Spanish language (because, you know, just keeping with our theme), they’re fantastico.

Legitimate Spanish-speakers: is that actually a word?

Well, regardless…enjoy this delicious and nutritious recipe from my kitchen to yours!

Ingredients:

quinoa quesadillas ingredients

  1. 2 Whole Wheat Tortillas
  2. 1/4 cup Quinoa
  3. 1/4 cup Mushrooms (chopped)
  4. 1/4 cup Red Onions (sliced)
  5. 1/4 cup Tomatoes (chopped)
  6. 1/4 cup Cotija Cheese (crumbled)*

* Make this recipe vegan by substituting the cheese for Silken Tofu.

Preparation:

quinoa quesadillas preparation 1

quinoa quesadillas preparation 2

quinoa quesadillas preparation 3

  1. In a medium-sized saucepan, cook the quinoa according to the package instructions.
  2. While the quinoa is simmering, prep the vegetables and cotija cheese (or vegan substitute).
  3. Pre-heat a small skillet over a medium stove top setting and coat with olive oil cooking spray.
  4. Remove the quinoa pan from heat and drain any remaining water, then set aside temporarily.
  5. Combine the mushrooms, red onions and tomatoes in the skillet, then saute them until softened.
  6. Remove the vegetables from heat after approximately 3-5 minutes and set aside temporarily.
  7. Re-coat the skillet with cooking spray and turn the stove top burner back to a medium setting.
  8. Place 1 tortilla¬†in the skillet and spread the quinoa evenly over it, leaving 1/2″ space along the edge.
  9. Add both the cotija cheese and sauteed vegetables, then place the second tortilla on top.
  10. Cook the bottom tortilla for approximately 2 minutes, or until it sizzles, then flip to the other side.
  11. Allow the second tortilla to cook for the same amount of time before removing from heat.
  12. Once the quesadilla has cooled slightly, cut it into 8 equal-sized wedges and ENJOY, of course!

quinoa quesadillas finished product

TA DA!!!

But wait…there’s more:

Serving Suggestion:

Cored avocado halves — mashed with a fork, drizzled in lime juice, then¬†dusted with just a hint of chili powder,¬†stevia and leftover cotija cheese —¬†make a fabulously bold side for this Latin-inspired dish.

4 Dinner Ideas for an Easy & Speedy Midweek Meal

Once you’re over the…well, hump…of Hump Day, it’s often downhill in the dinner department. We’ve all experienced that struggle of¬†keeping things semi-creative in the kitchen when all we¬†really want is to order take-out and pretend it’s Friday.

However, there’s no reason for a midweek meal to suffer just because schedules are tight or¬†“foodie” inspiration is lacking. ¬†The following recipes are super simple to make, have “proven crowd pleaser” written all over them, and take up less than 20 minutes of your precious time. Plus, they feature wholesome ingredients for a guiltless chorus of “I’ll have seconds!”

A couple caveats: These are single serving recipes, so if you’re cooking for more than just yourself, double (or triple or…quadruple?) the ingredients. Also, some recipes call for cheese, so if you prefer vegan or dairy-free diets, you’ll need to either find a suitable substitution or omit the cheese¬†altogether.

Now, without further ado,¬†I present your solution to that infamous Is it the weekend yet???”¬†din-din dilemma…


For a Mexican Fiesta:

Mango & Avocado Quesadillas

  • Ingredients
  1. 1/2 mango
  2. 1 hass avocado
  3. 2 whole wheat tortillas
  4. 1 block low-fat Gouda
  • Preparation
  1. Peel and dice the mango into bite-sized chunks, then do the same with the avocado.
  2. Grate the Gouda cheese and measure out 1/2 cup of the resulting shreds.
  3. Grease a small skillet with cooking spray, then heat it on a medium stove-top setting.
  4. Place 1 tortilla in the pre-heated skillet, then spread the shredded cheese evenly on top.
  5. Layer the avocado and mango chunks over the cheese and top with the other tortilla.
  6. Cook the bottom tortilla for approximately 3 minutes, or until the cheese starts sizzling.
  7. Flip the quesadilla over and cook the other tortilla for the same amount of time.
  8. Allow the quesadilla to cool slightly before cutting it into triangular  slices.

* Side Suggestion: serve this dish alongside a black bean and corn chutney


For an Asian Chow Down:

Vegetarian Thai Red Curry

  • Ingredients
  1. 1 cauliflower head
  2. 1 red potato
  3. 1/2 red onion
  4. 6 mint leaves
  5. 2 tbsp Thai red curry paste
  6. 2 cups light organic coconut milk
  • Preparation
  1. Chop the cauliflower into small florets, then wash the florets in a strainer.
  2. Peel the potato and chop it into bite-sized chunks, then do the same with the onion.
  3. Grease a large skillet with cooking spray, then heat it on a medium stove-top setting.
  4. Add the cauliflower, potatoes, and onions to the pre-heated skillet, then sautee for 10 minutes.
  5. Pour in the coconut milk and Thai red curry paste, then turn the heat up to a boil.
  6. Stir this mixture vigorously until the coconut milk starts to bubble, then reduce the heat to medium.
  7. Continue sauteing this mixture, while stirring constantly, until the coconut milk has thickened.
  8. Allow the curry to cool slightly before mincing the mint leaves and sprinkling them on top.

* Side Suggestion: serve this dish alongside honey-infused jasmine rice (brown variety)


For a Mediterranean Spread: 

Garlic Couscous Greek Salad

  • Ingredients
  1. 2 cups couscous
  2. 1 block low-fat feta
  3. 1 cup spinach
  4. 1/2 red onion
  5. 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
  6. 1/2 cup kalamata olives
  7. 1 tbsp lemon juice
  8. 2 tbsp olive oil
  9. 1 clove garlic
  • Preparation
  1. Fill a medium-sized pot with 3/4 cup of water, then heat on a high stove-top setting.
  2. Once the water has reached a rolling boil, add the couscous, garlic, and olive oil.
  3. Stir this mixture vigorously for approximately 1-2 minutes, then reduce the heat to low.
  4. Cover the pot and allow this mixture to simmer for approximately 10 minutes.
  5. Grate the feta cheese and measure out 1/2 cup of the resulting shreds.
  6. Finely slice the cherry tomatoes, red onion, spinach, and kalamata olives.
  7. Once the couscous has absorbed all the water, add the feta and vegetables to the pot.
  8. Stir this mixture thoroughly until all the ingredients are combined evenly.
  9. Allow the couscous salad to cool slightly before pouring in the lemon juice.

* Side Suggestion: serve this dish with a grilled whole wheat pita toast point


For an Italian Trattoria: 

Margherita Flatbread Paninis

  • Ingredients
  1. 3 basil leaves
  2. 1 Roma tomato
  3. 1 piece whole wheat Naan
  4. 1/2 part-skim mozzarella ball
  5. 1 tbsp organic basil pesto
  • Preparation
  1. Spread the basil pesto evenly over the smooth side of the Naan flatbread.
  2. Thinly slice the tomato and mozzarella, then place each slice on 1 half of the Naan.
  3. Layer the basil leaves side-by-side on top of the tomato and mozzarella slices.
  4. Fold the other half of the Naan over the layers of tomato, mozzarella, and basil.
  5. Transfer the Naan onto an open panini press or George Foreman grill.
  6. Close the lid of the panini press or grill and cook for approximately 3 minutes.
  7. Once grill marks appear on both sides, remove the panini from the heat.
  8. Allow the panini to cool slightly before slicing it in half, diagonally.

* Side Suggestion: serve this dish alongside balsamic vinegar-drizzled tomato wedges