Even before I had a child, quesadillas were one of my absolute favorite fast and easy meals. When I was a single, twenty-something coming home from work late at night, it was nice to know that a satisfying dinner was just minutes away as long as I had tortillas and cheese in my fridge.
Apparently the apple didn’t fall very far from the tree because my daughter also loves quesadillas. In fact, I would argue that almost all children love them. I’m not sure when they rose to mythic restaurant kid’s menu status, right next to mac & cheese, but I certainly understand why they did.
Quesadillas are also a great way to boost nutrition and introduce new foods to your child’s meal rotation because they’re endlessly customizable. The old Tex Mex fajita quesadilla with steak and bell peppers is just the beginning. Your imagination and your pantry can come up with some really delicious ideas if you let them. Think mushroom and tomato with mozzarella for a pizza-style ‘dilla, or spinach and artichokes in a corn tortilla for something reminiscent of spinach dip. What about brie, Nutella and strawberries for a decadent sweet treat?
It’s this kind of thinking that lead me to create one of my favorite combinations: sharp cheddar, apple slices and baby spinach in a corn tortilla is a regular lunchtime or mid-afternoon snack for me. Although Lillian regularly enjoys hers packed with spinach, I’ll admit that the addition of apples is still a little too wild for her. But if your kids are a bit older and more accepting of “crazy” combos this might be right up their alley. And if not, save the first one for yourself and whip up a kid-friendlier one with spinach only.
If you need a few ideas to jump-start your imagination, consider some of the following swaps and combinations the next time you go to grab your saute pan and cheese shreds:
- Tortilla Twist: Flour tortillas are fine but for a boost in whole grains, fiber and flavor give corn or whole wheat tortillas a try instead.
- Veg Out: Instead of plain cheese try adding a handful of chopped, fresh baby spinach, thinly sliced zucchini rounds, mushrooms, bell peppers or other veggies to the cheese mix.
- Great Grating: When adding a new fruit or vegetable that I fear may not pass the toddler test, I usually dice the pieces as small as possible or, even better, I use my cheese grater to create nice even shreds that have the same texture and shape as the cheese shreds. This works great for zucchini, squash, apples and other firm fruits and veggies.
- Lovely Leftovers: Diced or shredded chicken, leftover steak or cooked shrimp are all nice additions that provide an extra protein boost. Lilly frequently requests quesadillas for breakfast so we usually quickly scramble an egg to fold into the mix.
- Don’t Forget the Dip: Salsa, guacamole and even plain, non-fat Greek yogurt are all fun ways to add some extra nutrition and fun to this simple meal.