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.


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!

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Spinach Pizza Quesadilla
Serves: makes 4 quesadillas
  • 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
  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.
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.


Tortilla soup

Tortilla Soup | Pamela Salzman

Tortilla Soup | Pamela Salzman

How do I know it’s soup season in my neck of the woods?  Well, we had our annual freaky October heat wave last week and then the temperature plummeted about 20 degrees.  Now every morning we wake up to fog and a chill in the air that doesn’t go away.  Are you under the misconception as I was that living by the beach is all sunshine all the time?  Ha!  I keep telling my husband I want my money back.  It’s chilly here!  But no matter, I’m pulling out the sweaters and the stock pot and I am making SOUP!

Tortilla Soup | Pamela Salzman

From now until late April, my kitchen turns into a stock-making factory every Saturday.  I make gallons of it every week for my classes and us.  I’ll be honest though, the hubby is sooooo over it.  You should see his eyes roll every time I ask him to help me strain the stock.  Inevitably a chicken foot flops out and completely freaks him out.  But he puts up with it because his favorite food group is soup and he knows homemade chicken stock is magic stuff.  If you are getting more and more comfortable in the kitchen, it’s time to step it up and start making stock from scratch.  You will not believe the difference in taste.  Plus it’s a gajillion times better for you than boxed.  Check out my post here on home made chicken stock.  For all you veggies out there, here’s the link to learn how to make vegetable stock from scratch.

Tortilla Soup | Pamela Salzman

Enough about that.  Let’s talk about the soup I actually made, Tortilla Soup.  Y-um!  This is a very different version of the tortilla soup you might be used it.  It’s not thin and brothy, but thick and hearty and it takes about 15 minutes to make, provided you already have stock made.  If I had to make up another name for this, I would call it “Mexican Tomato Soup”  or “Pappa al Pomodoro goes to Mexico.”  Cumin, which is one of my most favorite spices, adds the distinctive earthy flavor that you would recognize from chili or taco seasoning.  But what is so unusual about this soup is that the corn tortillas are pureed with the tomatoes and broth, as opposed to adding fried tortilla chips on top.  The softened corn tortillas add great flavor and thicken the soup at the same time.  (It’s a great use of stale tortillas.)  I wish I had thought of this bit of genius, but I didn’t.  I tweaked a recipe I found in The Real Food Daily Cookbook, based on the vegan LA restaurant by the same name.

Tortilla Soup | Pamela Salzman

I love adding cubed avocado and chopped fresh cilantro on top, but I let everyone do their thing.  There’s always enough leftover for the next day’s thermoses to which I also like to add  a little cooked chicken.   (I’m big on protein at lunchtime so the kids don’t fall asleep in class.)  Fresh tomatoes are on their way out, so if you can use them go for it.  The other night I used Bionaturae organic crushed tomatoes and tomato paste in a glass jar (not a fan of canned tomatoes.)  I made this soup last year on Halloween, which is around the corner.  I always make sure everyone has eaten a proper meal before going out to trick or treat.  Full bellies can’t fit quite as much candy as empty ones.

Here are some of my other favorite soups to warm you up this season:

Sweet Potato and Coconut

Lentil and Brown Rice

Mushroom-Barley with Kale

Cauliflower with Roasted Garlic

Late Summer Minestrone

Vegetable Chili


Tortilla Soup
Serves: 6
  • 2 Tablespoons unrefined, cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 fresh jalapeno chile, ribs and seeds removed and finely chopped*
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons shoyu (naturally brewed soy sauce) or tamari
  • 6 cups chicken stock, vegetable stock or water
  • 2 pounds fresh tomatoes, coarsely chopped or 1 27-ounce box of crushed tomatoes or equivalent in a jar or can
  • ⅓ cup tomato paste
  • 8 6-inch corn tortillas, coarsely chopped
  • Chopped fresh cilantro and cubed avocado garnish, if desired
  1. Heat the oil in a heavy stockpot over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes or until tender and translucent. Add the jalapeno, cumin, oregano, salt, pepper and shoyu, and sauté 1 minute longer.
  2. Stir in the stock, tomatoes with juice, and tomato paste. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered for 10 minutes, or until the tomatoes are tender.
  3. Add the tortillas and simmer 10 minutes longer, or until the tortillas are super soft and falling apart.
  4. Using a handheld immersion blender, blend the soup in the pot until smooth. Or carefully puree in batches in a blender.
  5. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with cilantro and avocado.
*For a little more kick, add the ribs and seeds from the jalapeno to the soup.


Guacamole and baked tortilla chips recipe

perfect guacamole and baked tortilla chips

Do not be under the misconception that because I teach people how to cook healthful food that I myself eat only whole foods all day every day.  Didn’t you read about my 90/10 plan?  90% of the time I try my best to eat super high-quality food — as whole and unprocessed as possible.  The other 10% of the time (which basically leaves Friday and Saturday nights), I eat whatever I want and I don’t feel bad about it.  Want to know what my guilty pleasure is?  Nope, not chocolate or candy, not booze or burgers.  It’s guacamole and chips.  I could eat bowls full of the stuff at any time.

When I moved to California from New York almost 20 (gasp!) years ago, I was introduced to the avocado and guacamole.  I couldn’t believe such a wonderful thing existed and I had just had my first taste (like when my husband took my son at 3 years old for his first Slurpee and the boy asked “why I not have this before?”).  Creamy, rich guacamole on a crispy, salty chip was my idea of delicious and addictive, especially if the chip was folded over.  I was also finding lots of other ways to enjoy avocados — chopped into salads, as a garnish on chili, and my favorite, thin wedges on whole grain toast with or without a slice of lox.  Divine, I tell you.

You can imagine the cause for celebration when I discovered that avocados are actually good for you!  Really good for you!  Who knew that something so creamy and buttery could have loads of fiber, Beta-carotene and minerals, such as potassium, magnesium and iron?  While it is absolutely true that avocados are very high in fat, it’s the kind of high quality fat that you want to eat.  It is the freshest kind of fat, one that hasn’t been exposed to air or processing and its profile is mostly monounsaturated fat, like the kind found in olive oil.  Hooray!  Avocados are also loaded with Vitamin E, a very powerful anti-oxidant.

So let’s chow down on the guacamole, right?  Well, you’ve heard it before — it’s not the guacamole that’s the problem, it’s what you eat with it that’s a whole lot of trouble.  I am referring to chips, especially the kind that are made from genetically-modified corn and fried in some low-quality corn or soybean oil.  Do not fret.  There is hope!  You can buy organic soft corn tortillas and make your own baked chips without a big commotion.  I am whipping up a few batches right now in preparation for tomorrow’s holiday.  What, you don’t celebrate the Super Bowl??  While you’re at it, check out a great vegetable chili recipe and you’ll be all set for the big day.  Go Steelers!

perfect guacamole and baked tortilla chips

Guacamole and Baked Tortilla Chips
Serves: makes enough for me and only me
  • guacamole:
  • 4 ripe avocados, peeled, pitted and placed in a medium bowl
  • juice from ½ a lime or lemon (I prefer lime, but many swear by lemon)
  • 2 Tablespoons minced red or white onion or shallot
  • ½ tomato, diced (leave it out if it's not in season)
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
  • ½ jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced or hot sauce to taste
  • Sea salt to taste (don't skimp, guacamole needs quite a bit)
  • OR you can do the cheater version (no guilt, of course) and add a few spoonfuls of fresh salsa and salt to the mashed avocados
  • chips:
  • 2 Tablespoons unrefined, cold-pressed olive oil
  • 6 (6-inch) organic, soft corn tortillas
  • Sea salt
  1. Sprinkle the avocado with the lime juice and mash together in the bowl.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix the onion, tomato, cilantro and hot sauce. Stir into the avocado mixture and season to taste with salt.
  3. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve or refrigerate, tightly covered for a few hours.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the tortillas on a cutting board. Brush the oil over both sides of the tortillas. Stack the tortillas and cut them in half, then cut the halves in half and one more time to make eighths. Spread the tortillas in one layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until crisp. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and cool.