Chicken Quesadillas with Fruit Salsa

This is Meal #6 in our meal plan using chicken breast.

What we’re Repurposing:
Chicken from Baked Seasoned Chicken or Spinach Artichoke Chicken
Veggies from pasta – chopped red onion, chopped red pepper, chopped Roma tomato

You’ll Also Need:
Whole Wheat Tortillas (2 per quesadilla)
1 8oz bag Shredded Mexican blend cheese
1 Avocado
1 Lime
Salt
Cilantro (you’ll need less than 1 bunch)
1 Large Mango or 2 Ataulfo Mangoes
3 Kiwi, peeled and chopped
1/4c fresh chopped Pineapple
Jalapeno (however much you like)
Sour Cream
OPTIONAL: chimichurri **see OHI recipe (link to be added soon)

Here is the original recipe for the avocado cream and the fruit salsa.

To make the fruit salsa:
Here are the Ataulfo mangoes I used. They are smaller than the ones I normally use – but they were only $.50 each, so I went with these and they still taste the same.

Peel the mangoes first!

Peel the mangoes first!

Chop the mango by making knife cuts lengthwise and crosswise and then sliding your knife underneath parallel to the cutting board to remove the chunks. Add to your salsa bowl (or, to save on dishes, make directly in tupperware so you can save leftovers!).
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Slice the kiwi and then chop it into smaller pieces and add to salsa.
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Chop the red onion and add to salsa.
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Dice up the cilantro, chop the pineapple, and add them to the salsa along with the juice from half a lime. Stir and then salt to taste.

Delicious!

Delicious!

The original recipe called for jalapeno IN the salsa, but I left it out because of the kids.

For the avocado cream:
Note: I actually like this LESS than the avocado spread I made in some OHI quesadillas. But you might like it, so I’m including the recipe here still.
Mash 1 avocado in a bowl. Add about 2 Tblspn minced cilantro, juice from the other half of the lime, 1/2c sour cream, and a little salt. Stir until well combined.
(recipe for my avocado spread soon to come on a different post – link will be at bottom)

To make the quesadillas:
1. Spread the avocado cream on one tortilla and then cover it with cheese
2. Add chopped chicken, tomatoes, red pepper, jalapeno, red onion.

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I left the jalapeno out in the kids’ quesadillas

With jalapeno

With jalapeno and red onion

3. Place another tortilla over top. With one hand on each side holding the tortillas together, place in quesadilla maker. *If you don’t have a quesadilla maker, you can make these in a large frying pan or skillet. Placing a lid or plate over the pan right away will help the cheese melt more quickly, before the tortilla burns. You can also use the fajita size tortillas and fold them over. If you cook them this way, you will probably need to flip them. Use caution and be sure the cheese is melted so you don’t end up with a mess!
4. Slice into triangles and serve with avocado cream or sour cream and fruit salsa.

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**Now, I’m going to make a suggestion. After this week of chicken you might be looking to eat some BEEF. I recommend planning your next week starting with this steak with chimichurri and making the chimichurri a day or two early (it’s good in the fridge for up to a week). Before you make the quesadillas, toss the chicken in the chimichurri sauce. It. Is. SO. good!

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I made these for lunch one day while trying to use up leftovers (what a surprise!) The chimichurri added an unbeatable layer of flavor.

Click here for the complete story on these OHI quesadillas, including my original avocado spread recipe!

OHI Chicken Pasta

This is Meal #7 of the meal plan using chicken breast.

This is another version of my Second Meal pasta, with a twist!

What We’re Repurposing:
Chicken, sauce, veggies from Spinach Artichoke Chicken
*If you have broccoli leftover from our Baked Chicken meal, you can use that here as well.

You’ll also need:
1 small zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced (make half-moon shapes)
Half an onion, chopped
Your choice bell pepper, diced (one or multiple colors)
1 can diced tomatoes in juice/sauce
1 jar pasta sauce (whatever flavor you like – the kinds with seasonings are best for flavor)
Whole Wheat Pasta (use the same shape you used in Chicken Noodle Soup)
Olive Oil
*OPTIONAL: Alfredo sauce (you can also substitute a couple splashes of half & half) – use this if you want more creaminess than the Spinach Artichoke Chicken gives you

Here are the pasta sauces I used this time:
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For this dish, I like to get the kinds with more veggies (in this case, mushrooms) and that already have seasonings (the roasted garlic). The point of this meal is that it’s quick, easy to throw together, and flavorful – even though it’s not a long process. So pick flavors that you like. Also, since we’re using the spinach artichoke chicken, you won’t need as much of the Alfredo sauce. Actually, you can replace the Alfredo sauce with whatever sauce is left from the Spinach Artichoke Chicken, and mix the spinach and artichokes in as well. Extra veggies! And one less ingredient, but with the same effect.
*Disclaimer: When I was working my way through this meal plan, I planned to make the Spinach Artichoke Chicken but ran out of time one day (See? Told’ya I’m not perfect! :), so I ended up just baking up another batch of chicken. In the pictures you’ll see plain ol’ baked chicken instead of the Spinach Artichoke chicken. 

First, cook your noodles. (There are tips here if you need them.) Prep your veggies and start your sauce while the noodles are cooking. Drain water from noodles and set aside.

Heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Toss your veggies in pan, and let them cook for a few minutes. If you’re concerned about what order to add them, it’s always good to add onions first to pull the aroma out, then add them according to their firmness. Peppers are more firm than zucchini, so you add them first to get them softened up a bit.

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This time I used red and green pepper, zucchini, and onion

Then add the canned tomatoes:

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Next add your cooked noodles.
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Chop your chicken (I would suggest doing this on a non-wooden cutting board so it’s easier to clean up.) Add to your pasta:
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Then add your jarred pasta sauce, about 1/4 cup at a time, until you have your desired amount of sauce:
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I always think there should be enough to completely cover all the noodles, and then a little extra so your pasta dish is not dried out.

Then, if you’re using plain chicken, or want more creaminess, add your Alfredo sauce or half & half:

You only need 1/4 or less to add richness to your sauce

You only need 1/4c or less to add richness to your sauce

Stir, simmer for a few minutes, and enjoy!

A little bit will do ya!

A little bit will do ya!

Pasta is so versatile. I hope these meals have shown you that you can enjoy chicken for a whole week without feeling BORED of chicken 😉

Second Meal Sausage Pasta

This is a very simple way to revive leftovers and use up some OHI. I always save plain noodles if I make too many, because I know my kids will eat them plain, for lunch, or I can reuse them by warming them on the stove with sauce. Pasta is one of those dishes in which you can just kind of toss your OHI together and finish with a delicious meal. You don’t have to use anything specific – just whatever veggies you and your family like, and whatever you have on hand. This is a great meal to make when you need something quick, forgot to plan a meal, or your plans ran late and you’re out of time to make something more elaborate. Here’s what I used: image Here are some other veggies I’ve used: broccoli, zucchini, yellow squash, tomatoes, eggplant, garlic. You can also substitute chicken or ground beef for the sausage. Or you can just make a pasta primavera and leave the meat out altogether. You’ll also need butter or olive oil, a jar of red pasta sauce, and some Parmesan cheese. I also like to add a very little bit of alfredo sauce or half & half to make a mock-vodka sauce. First, add the sausage to a large saucepan with a lid, over medium heat. Break it up into smaller pieces with a flat wooden spatula, a spoon, or whatever else you have on hand. You will probably need to break it up little by little as it cooks. While that’s finishing, you can prep your veggies (see below). Cook the sausage until brown – probably 5-10 minutes – and drain into a colander in the sink. Let sit while you prepare veggies.

Get rid of all the pink! That's how you know it's finished 'browning'.

Get rid of all the pink! That’s how you know it’s finished ‘browning’.

Add about a tablespoon of butter (or olive oil, if you prefer) to the pan. If you’re using garlic, mince and add that first. Then roughly chop half the onion and add it to the pan. wpid-20131102_170009.jpg (*TIP: Roughly chop the WHOLE onion, and save the other half in the fridge for an omelette or another meal. Save on prep time next time!) Stir a little and cook for a couple minutes until the onion is translucent. Dice the pepper and add it in with the onion. Add tomatoes or other veggies last.
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Now you can add half the sausage back into the pan. Save the other half for another meal. (Our favorites are biscuits and gravy, Southwest sausage & potato skillet, and savory sausage crepes.) Add a quarter of the jarred pasta sauce to the pan and stir. Let simmer for a minute or two so all the flavors can meld together.wpid-20131102_171818.jpg
Then, if you’re using it, add a little bit of alfredo sauce (no more than a 1/4 cup) or a splash of half & half. wpid-20131102_172203.jpg
You can add cheese directly into the sauce or you can save it to garnish at the end. Add the pasta last, and stir to break up any pieces that may have stuck together in the fridge. Serve with cheese over top.
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If it seems rich on its own, you can serve a salad with it as well. This should come together in 30 minutes or less. I love meals like this, that are quick and easy to prepare, healthy, satisfying, and thrifty. You can modify the ingredients to whatever healthy level you like. Use whole wheat pasta to minimize empty carbs. Leave out the alfredo to reduce the fat content. Add extra veggies to up the nutrition. Make your own pasta sauce if you want to eliminate preservatives. Keep those OHI staples in your kitchen, and you’ll never have to order out because you forgot or ran out of time again!

Quick Tip: “Multiple Meal” opportunities

One of the things I’ve learned to do to save myself time and money is to re-purpose a grocery item for more than one meal. I almost always buy family packs of meat and break it into 2-3 dinners. Most times I’ll even take leftovers from those dinners and make an entirely different meal. I suppose if I had a motto in the kitchen, it would be, “Use what you have”. And along with that, “Save everything!” (until it goes bad of course) You never know what could come in handy!

So when I am meal planning and grocery shopping for the week, I always ask myself if I can re-purpose either the leftovers, or the other half of the protein that I don’t use. Actually, more often than not I do plan my meals with leftovers in mind. That’s what I call a “First Meal”: one in which you purposefully make more than enough, with a plan to use the leftovers for another meal – whether that be breakfast, lunch, dinner, or a side.

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Aside

What’s to come! First and Second Meals

Stay tuned for recipes of what I like to call “First meal” and “Second Meal”. This is using one product in two different meals, or repurposing the leftovers of the FIRST meal to make a SECOND meal.

Here’s a sample of my meal plan from last week:
Thursday: Mahi Mahi with coconut rice and mango salsa
Friday: Cheat (work) day – frozen pizza and sides
Saturday: BBQ pork ribs
Sunday: Twice-cooked pork tacos

So here’s what you can expect to see!
1. Ground sausage – Used in potato skillet (2 uses) and pasta – Plus alternate uses for the sausage
2. Country Style Pork Ribs – first in crock pot, then as tacos – Plus additional ideas
3. Repurposing the salsa from the Mahi Mahi meal

Stay tuned!

Second Meal – Crock pot Italian Chicken to Creamy Chicken Soup

Making “second meals” has fast become one of my favorite challenges. It is fun to see if I can figure out a way to repurpose leftovers instead of just reheating them. Not that there’s anything wrong with simply reheating. I just feel like reheating is a cop out sometimes… ? Where does that come from? I don’t know. I suppose I just like to challenge myself 😉 You know why else? Because reheated meat never tastes as good the second time around. So I try to find a new way to use it instead.

So! Here is the first featured ‘second meal’. Remember the chicken I made in the crock pot a few nights ago? I saved the leftovers in Tupperware and it has been stored in the fridge since then. When I opened it, it actually smelled like canned chicken. BLECH!! (although this did give me an idea for an alternative second meal… stay tuned!) Today I broke out my big soup pot and some OHIs – chicken broth, a little white wine, some frozen veggies, and some seasonings – to freshen up that first meal.

Generally we eat at 5pm. Which means I start dinner at 4. But when I’m making homemade soup I like to give it a little more time to marinate. (I say this like I make homemade soup a lot. I don’t. I just know that in GENERAL, if you want a good blend of flavors and tender meat, longer is usually better. Right?!) So I started this soup around 3:30.

I started by basically dumping the Tupperware upside down into my soup pot, then pouring the chicken broth around it. I used a ladle to spread it and mix it together. (I could’ve used a wooden spoon, sure, but I knew I’d serve it with the ladle, and I’m all for dirtying as little as possible to decrease my dishes. yeah!) Next I added some dry seasonings: thyme, parsley, a little salt, a little bay leaf and some garlic powder. I stirred it around and then added a little parmesan cheese (just Kraft for now). I also added some chopped onion leftover from last night’s dinner (post coming soon!). Next time maybe I’ll prep better and be sure to have fresh parsley on hand to add a fresher taste.

This was still looking too thick for a soup, especially if I planned to add egg noodles later. So I looked around to see what OHI I had… Chardonnay! This was even a freebie, as my mom and our family friend Traci had left it the other night after babysitting the kids (Wait, stop! I know what you might be thinking: my babysitters were drinking?! Don’t worry. The kids were asleep and I have full confidence they were not binge drinking. I never thought I’d say this, but I actually drink around my kids. One beer or glass of wine does not impair my ability to properly care for my kids. Parents, whos with me?!). I probably ended up adding a cup? A cup and a half? I knew it would mostly reduce down, but it would do the job. Adding more depth of flavor and decreasing that super creaminess. I needed some acidity and I didn’t have much other option on hand. It’s now been simmering for 45 minutes or so. It tasted awesome when I tested it. All the chicken was slowly breaking up into smaller pieces.

I debated whether or not to add more pasta and make it chicken NOODLE soup. It already had a little leftover noodles from the first meal and I did have little chicken broth left in case the noodles absorbed too much liquid. At 4:45 I decided to just go ahead and do it. I added what was left of a box of macaroni (about 1 cup – remember how I said I always have little bits left?!) About 5 minutes before serving I added the veggies – frozen peas and carrots.

So, as a side note, I used to really dislike soup. Maybe I never had one I really liked? Maybe I felt like I was getting gypped out of a ‘real meal’. (Kids’ thought processes are WEIRD sometimes. At least I think mine were.) I guess I just felt like the only time I ate soup growing up was when I was sick. (Chicken and stars!! Who’s with me?) Not that my mom didn’t make it. I just didn’t LIKE it. Ha. So I guess the truth is, I wss stubborn and never ate the stuff. Tastes change as you get older, and I’ve learned to appreciate the beauty of a good soup. Why?

Soup is generally a combination of leftover ingredients – a way to use stuff up before it goes bad. Stock is made from a combination of meat and/or the bones of that animal. YES! This goes along with my OHI/’use what you have’ motto. “Waste not, want not” is pretty smart. They knew what they were talking about back then. Soup is great for the frugal-minded. Plus, there definitely is something about a hot soup that warms you up from the inside out on a cold day. Or makes you feel better when you’ve got a cold. And. While I’ve learned to appreciate the history of soup, I’ve also learned that you can combine things you’d never think compatible when serving in a soup. Have you ever had Carrot coconut ginger soup?? IT. IS. AWESOME. And not terribly unhealthy either, as you use coconut water or milk instead of heavy cream. Working at a restaurant I’ve even realized I like COLD soup! Gazpacho! Refreshing and healthy.

So. Now I’m going to go serve and enjoy my second meal… Chicken noodle soup!

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Post-dinner note: this soup is like VELVET. It must have been the wine. All 3 kids ate their bowls empty. Oh yes I will definitely be doing this again!