Spinach Pizza Quesadilla Recipe

Spinach Pizza Quesadilla | Pamela Salzman

When I am hungry, I am not picky.  I can find a lot of different options in my refrigerator or pantry that will do the trick.  Give me last night’s roasted sweet potato or a couple dates stuffed with pecans and coconut or even a sprouted grain tortilla smeared with almond butter and wrapped around a banana.  Instant gratification.  My kids don’t yet have the ability to see the potential lurking in our kitchen that I do.  That or they are incredibly lazy.  While we are blessed to have an ample supply of food in our house, my children still manage to complain…”there’s never anything to eat around here!”  I know.  Insane.

preparing spinach

In my former life, this may have made me feel inadequate, like I’m a bad mom.  I don’t want to have the house where there’s nothing good to eat!  But I’m onto my kids.  I can read between the lines.  They’re not whining about the lack of food.  They’re whining about the lack of prepared-ready-to-eat-tasty-not-leftovers-from-dinner food.  And serve it on a silver platter while you’re at it!  I’m sure my kids would love it if I had the pantry stocked with orange, crispy cheese-flavored curls or boxed cookies.  But that’s not food and it sure won’t help them get through their homework or a 90-minute soccer practice.  Unfortunately, despite what you might think, I don’t have the time to cook up homemade snacks all day, as much as I would truly enjoy that.

step-by-step

Instead, I have taken some advice from the Chinese proverb,”Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day.  Teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.”  The point is that I think it’s more beneficial to my kids if they learn how to make a thing or two in kitchen especially when I’m not available to whip up something fabulous.  This has been a s-l-o-o-o-w process, which I might need to speed up since Daughter #1 is supposed to be leaving for college in a year and a half (gasp.)  Among other things, I have taught the girls to make one of their favorite snacks/lunches of the last 10 years.  Pizza Quesadillas is a very popular and oft-requested after-school snack in our house, and not just by my girls, but their friends, as well.  They take minutes to make and I usually have the simple ingredients on hand.  I don’t know that they’re any better for you than a typical quesadilla, which is merely cheese (cheddar or jack) melted in a flour tortilla.  This is just a fun twist on a quesadilla and a pizza, where you use mozzarella and also a little marinara sauce.  I can’t help but sneak in a few veggies, usually leftover from the night before.  Anything with which you might top a pizza is fair game here.  In general, I love using whole grain tortillas, either sprouted grain or whole spelt, both of which are more nutritious and more digestible than white flour tortillas.  Are you gluten-free?  There are fantastic brown rice tortillas by Food For Life!   With all that fiber and protein, the girls fill up more quickly than if they had eaten a mess of packaged snacks and they also get the benefits of long-lasting energy until dinner time.

get that cheese melted

You my have noticed that I haven’t mentioned the apple of my eye, Mr. Picky in this post.  I have taught him how to make a couple of snacks including smoothies, acai bowls, toast, and peanut butter and jelly on a rice cake.  But cheese is just not on his “must try list.”  One of his new years resolutions is to be less picky, which I find very endearing.  But in the same breath he also added that he would sooner try eating insects before he ate cheese.  Did I mention “s-l-o-o-o-w process?”

snack time!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Spinach Pizza Quesadilla
Author: 
Serves: makes 4 quesadillas
 
Ingredients
  • If you need to make some sautéed spinach:
  • 1 Tablespoon unrefined extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 pound frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed of excess water (I do this in a thin, clean dish towel)
  • sea salt to taste
  • 4 whole spelt, sprouted grain or your favorite tortillas
  • ½ cup marinara sauce
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella or vegan cheese (Daiya is my favorite vegan cheese)
  • Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese, to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat your griddle to 350 degrees or a large, heavy skillet over medium heat.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a medium sized skillet over medium heat, add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add spinach and a pinch or two of salt and break up with wooden spoon or spatula. Sauté until heated through, about 5 minutes.
  3. If you are using a cast iron or non-stock griddle or skillet, place a tortilla on the griddle or skillet dry without any oil or butter. If using stainless steel, you may need a teaspoon of oil to prevent sticking. Spread 2 Tablespoons of marinara sauce on half of the tortilla. Follow with ¼ cup mozzarella cheese, a sprinkling of pecorino or parmesan, if desired, and ¼ cup spinach mixture on top of cheese. Fold the tortilla in half to make a quesadilla.
  4. Allow quesadilla to sit on griddle until underside is lightly golden brown and flip over. Cook until cheese is melted.
  5. Slice in half or in thirds and serve.
Notes
This could be made with any leftover veggies, other options include: mushrooms, peppers, broccoli, kale. It also makes a nice lunch for school if your kids don’t mind eating it at room temperature.

 

Cauliflower fritters recipe

“Wow.”  That’s what I said a few days ago when I woke up and it was December.  DE-CEMBER.  I’ve got no holiday card in the works yet.  I went to the movies on Black Friday and I worked through Cyber Monday which means I am waaaaaay behind on my Christmas and Hanukkah shopping.  The only December task I have checked off my list is getting Mr. Picky’s suit let out so I wouldn’t have to go out and buy him another for Christmas Eve.  But I’m not worried about Christmas quite yet since that’s a good 3 weeks away.  Hanukkah, on the other hand, starts on Saturday.  This Saturday!

As you might have learned from reading this blog, my family is Italian and my husband is half Jewish and half Puerto Rican which means a lot of holidays and a lot of food!  But thankfully, and I mean that, I am off the hook for preparing the annual Hanukkah dinner and gift exchange with my husband’s family.  My mother-in-law has that one mastered so she will be making dozens of potato latkes for us to enjoy when we celebrate this weekend.  Traditional foods on Hanukkah include anything fried in oil to symbolize the miracle oil in the temple in Jerulsalem.  For most, this means potato pancakes (latkes) and doughnuts.  Ugh.  Not the most healthful foods on the planet.  I usually indulge in a latke or two since my mother-in-law makes the absolute best.  But the Jews love a holiday and many of them last 8 days, Hanukkah included.  So my kids and my husband nudge me to make latkes a few more times during the week.  They know better than to ask me to make doughnuts.

To mix it up a bit, I always cook up zucchini latkes at least once during Hanukkah and the kids love them, especially Mr. Picky.  This year I am also going to make these delicious Cauliflower Fritters during Hanukkah because to me they taste kind of latke-ish, they’re cooked in oil, they’re made with CAULIFLOWER and my family is obsessed with them!  There may not be any potato in there, but I bet you could grate a fresh potato and fold it in there and call it a Cauliflower Latke!  I’ve seen many recipes which use cauliflower in place of potatoes or rice.  Cauliflower is rather neutral in flavor and mashes up nicely to a soft texture so you really have no idea there is cauliflower in these patties.

What I love about these Cauliflower Fritters is that the batter can be made earlier in the day and the fritters made just before you are ready to eat.  My husband loves them on top of a pool of warm marinara sauce, Mr. Picky squirts mustard on his, and I like to eat them with a crisp salad.  Since there is flour in the batter, I treat these fritters as if they were a starch and I make another vegetable side dish for dinner.  Once you taste these, you’ll be making them all year long!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Cauliflower Fritters
Author: 
Serves: makes 16 patties
 
Ingredients
  • 4 cups steamed*, chopped cauliflower, about 1 medium head (you can also use frozen, steamed cauliflower, defrosted)
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour or gluten-free flour (I like King Arthur Multi-purpose Gluten-free Flour) (you can also use all-purpose flour)
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • ½ cup grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese (optional if you're dairy-free)
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley or chives, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • About ¼ cup hot water
  • Unrefined olive oil for cooking fritters
Instructions
  1. Place the cauliflower in a large bowl and add the flour, garlic, eggs, cheese, parsley, salt and a few grinds of pepper and combine. Add hot water a little at a time to make a batter that looks like egg salad. I mush everything together with my hands.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add about 2 tablespoons oil or enough to coat bottom of skillet. When oil is heated, take a ¼ cup of batter and form into a patty. Cook in the oil until golden brown on the bottom. Flip fritter and cook until golden brown on the second side. You can likely fit 6 fritters at one time. Repeat with remaining batter.
Notes
The batter can be made ahead and the fritters can be frozen, too.

*To steam the cauliflower, cut it into large florets and place in a vegetable steamer over boiling water, steam, covered, until the cauliflower is tender, (about 7-10 minutes), then roughly chop, measure 4 cups, and place into a large bowl.

Egg-Free Avocado Caesar Salad Recipe

I hope you all had a lovely Easter or Passover holiday.  Ours was so nice thanks to my mother-in-law took care of the meal and all I had to do was show up with desserts.  But now I’m ready to move on from anything to do with coconut or eggs.  In fact I am going to be a rebel and just omit eggs in recipes where you would normally expect to find them!  I can be crazy that way.   One thing that has surprised me in teaching cooking classes the last few years is how many people have food intolerances/allergies.  If you or one of your kids is one of those people, you are not alone.  The most common allergens I run across with my students are gluten, dairy, nuts and eggs.  There are others of course, like soy, corn, mangos and shellfish, to name a few.   Then there are people who can’t tolerate garlic, which I’m not sure how I could live without.  But eggs is a big one.  So it’s always in the back of my mind when I come up with a recipe and I try to share egg-free versions of anything I teach.

 

Caesar salad dressing is traditionally made with olive oil, garlic, anchovies, lemon juice or lemon juice and red wine vinegar, mustard and raw egg yolks.  Normally I substitute mayonnaise for the egg yolks because I’m not always comfortable serving kids raw eggs, but sometimes mayonnaise contains egg, too.  So to make this dressing egg-free, but still creamy, I tried using one of my favorite rich, nutritious foods — avocado — and a new favorite salad dressing was born.  The color is a tad green, but you won’t notice it once it’s tossed with the lettuce.  And the avocado does nothing to change the flavor of the dressing so you would otherwise have no idea that you weren’t eating a regular Caesar salad.  Do I dare say this is even better than a normal Caesar?  I made this for a working lunch at home yesterday and my assistants and I couldn’t stop eating it.  So goooooood!

Did I mention that Caesar salad is also very simple to prepare at home?  That’s one reason I’m not likely to order it in a restaurant.  I have a thing about ordering food in a restaurant that can be easily made at home.  I don’t mind paying for handmade pasta, high quality sushi, or foods that are either unusual or labor-intensive that I can’t reproduce at home.  But even the novice cook can make a delicious Caesar dressing for a fraction of a restaurant’s price.  I can buy an entire head of romaine lettuce at the farmer’s market for $1 and probably make Caesar salad for 4-6 people for under $4.  You’ll think twice about spending $12 for one portion.

 

Salads are a great way to use the topping bar method with your kids.  Many children do like Caesar salad,  but if yours are unsure about all that lettuce, allow them to add whatever they like to their plate, even if it’s something that you might not eat on the salad — olives, pecans, dried fruit, popcorn, avocado, chopped up chicken tenders.  That’s not what’s important.  We’re just allowing them to have some control over what they eat while encouraging them to eat the same food we do.  They’re still finding their way.

I don’t add cheese to the actual Caesar dressing, but instead sprinkle it on top of the chopped lettuce and then toss with the dressing.  If you are dairy-free, you can leave the cheese out completely or substitute Parma (vegan “Parmesan cheese”) or nutritional yeast and a little extra sea salt.  And if you’re vegan, omit the anchovies and add a drop of vegan worcestershire sauce.  Dairy-free and vegan peeps, did you think I was only going to give love to my egg-free friends?  I have more than enough to go around.

5.0 from 2 reviews
Avocado Caesar Salad
Author: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • Dressing (makes about 1 cup):
  • 2-3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 Tablespoons unrefined, cold pressed extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 ripe avocado, pitted and peeled
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt (you can add more if you’re skipping the cheese)
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon anchovy paste or 1-2 anchovies** (optional, but traditional)
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 6 Tablespoons water
  • Salad:
  • 1 head romaine lettuce, washed, dried and torn into bite-size pieces
  • ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese* or a wedge shaved into thin strips
  • croutons for garnish, if desired
Instructions
  1. To make the dressing: Combine all the dressing ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Add a little more water to make it thinner, if desired. Taste for salt and pepper, but be conservative with the salt since the cheese is salty.
  2. Place the lettuce in a serving bowl or on a platter and sprinkle with grated cheese and croutons. Depending on the size of your head of lettuce, you may have more dressing than you need, so just toss lettuce with enough dressing to coat lightly. Or toss salad with dressing and garnish with shaved cheese.
Notes
Other options: You can also take a head of romaine, cut it in half, brush with olive oil and grill it for a Grilled Caesar Salad. Other sturdy lettuces could be radicchio, endive or red romaine.

*Try Parma or nutritional yeast for a dairy-free option.

**Vegans can drop the anchovies and add a drop of vegan worcestershire sauce instead.

Chickpea and deconstructed pesto salad

Summer around my house is very loosey-goosey.  We lack a bit of structure when school is not in session.  On any given night, it varies who will be here for dinner and I often find myself cooking for either just two people or for an army.  This can be tricky for me since I make my menu for the week every Sunday night, but over the years I have also learned how to be flexible and not anxious if I have enough fish for 5 and all of a sudden we’re down to 2.

Daughter #1 and I found ourselves solo for dinner last night, but it was late and neither one of us had the motivation to do anything more than open a can of chickpeas.  Of course we’re girls and we are just fine eating a meal without meat and still calling it dinner.  We made this chickpea salad and grilled up some zucchini, because who can eat a meal without zucchini in it these days?  It’s taking over the world!!  Remind me next spring not to plant so much.  And the two of us stood at the kitchen counter leaning over the salad bowl shoveling in spoonful after spoonful of chickpea salad, exclaiming “this is so good!” after every bite, alternating with dropping ribbons of grilled zucchini in our mouths.

This is hands-down the easiest salad you will ever make and if you are growing your own basil, you likely already have everything you need to put this together in five minutes.  Thank goodness for pantry staples!  This is fabulous to bring to a barbeque or picnic since you can make it ahead and nothing happens to it.  It’s even great the next day.  Last night I added halved cherry tomatoes at the last minute and I have also thrown in chopped, blanched green beans to make it more substantial.  Be forewarned, there is a nice punch of raw garlic which I love, but if you don’t care to eat garlic, you can just smash it and add it for a subtle undertone.  The idea is to make a salad with all the flavors of pesto without having to make pesto.  Actually, the idea of this salad is to barely do anything at all, but still eat something utterly delish.

Chickpea and Deconstructed Pesto Salad
Author: 
Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
  • 3 cups cooked chickpeas or 2 15-ounce cans, rinsed and drained
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 2 small garlic cloves, minced
  • 3-4 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
  • 3 Tablespoons unrefined cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon fine grain sea salt or to taste
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
  • ⅓ cup grated pecorino-romano (sheep's milk cheese) or parmesan cheese (cow's milk cheese)
Instructions
  1. Combine all salad ingredients in a serving bowl and toss well to combine. That's it!
Notes
Also delicious with halved cherry tomatoes (see lead photo), arugula and/or blanched green beans. I added some thinly sliced radicchio once and that was nice, too.