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!

Spring Pork Loin with Citrus Garlic Ginger Crust and Apple Onion ‘Salsa’

You know what’s great about trying new cuisine or ingredients? You can try them in new ways – or, I suppose, OLD ways with a new twist.

Are you confused? Sorry. Let me explain in detail:
This week I attempted Indian food for the first time – Tandoori Salmon. It was actually AMAZING. I bought fresh ginger for the recipe. I’ve used ginger before, but not very often. The combination of the extra ginger sitting there and the marinade I made for the salmon gave me an idea. I scrapped the recipe I was going to try for my Thursday meal and made up my own instead!

And now I’ll share it with you! I’m calling it “Spring Pork Loin” because I suppose I’m wishful thinking. It is mid-March after all, and the weather has topped 50º more than once this week! (But then again, in Chicago that means nothing. Reluctant prediction: we will get another snow storm in April.)

Pay attention to the captions on the photos – they include instructions!

Here’s what you’ll need:

Not pictured: 1 orange, cinnamon, soy sauce

Not pictured: cinnamon, soy sauce, 1 orange

I started with a 4 lb. pork loin which I patted dry with paper towels. Next I made the marinade, which also serves as our liquid for the crock pot.

1/8 cup soy sauce

1/8 cup soy sauce

Enough red wine to come to almost 3/4 cup - then add the juice of one orange

Enough red wine to come to almost 3/4 cup – then add the juice of half an orange

Now brush that marinade onto the pork.

I always use a pastry brush. I've never used it for pastry. ;)

I always use a pastry brush – which I’ve actually never used for pastry. 😉

I let that sit while I made the “crust”:

Start with about a 1 1/2 tsp minced fresh ginger

Start with about a 1 1/2 tsp minced fresh ginger

Add 1 Tblspn diced garlic and the zest from your orange

Add 1 Tblspn diced garlic and the zest from your orange

Stir in the Dijon mustard, then brush that ‘crust’ onto the pork:
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Be sure to get all sides and cover thoroughly. (More crust = more flavor!)

Put that baby in the crock pot!

Put that baby in the crock pot! (Fat side down)

Pour the remaining marinade into the pot. Just be careful not to wash away the crust. I poured mine in that little space you see above the pork.

Make the apple onion salsa by slicing an apple (I used Gala and a quarter of a Golden Delicious we had in the fridge. You see, I really do save and use everything. – almost -) and putting it in a bowl. Cut up half of a white onion by slicing vertically through the bulb 3 times, cutting in half crosswise, and then cutting a few times crosswise again to get big chunks. Put in bowl with apple. Add the applesauce, orange juice, and cinnamon, and toss.
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Now (gently) dump that ‘salsa’ on top of the pork! (I’m calling it a salsa because it’s the only word that comes close to a chunky kind of sauce. It’s not a slaw. It’s not a chutney. So it’s a salsa!)
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Cover any bit of the pork that is showing by moving the chunks around.

Now put on the lid and cook for 8 – 9 hours on LOW. I originally cooked mine for 8 on low, but had to cook it for an additional 30 mins on HIGH because it wasn’t as tender as I wanted.
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Here’s the finished product, ready to eat!
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Look at how caramelized the apples and onions were. They not only got soft but also soaked up the juice. The ginger and orange juice are bright against the deep, traditional ‘au jus’ flavors of the marinade, which is further balanced by the sweet apples. And the crust just melted right into the pork. So, maybe it was more of a ‘rub’ than a ‘crust’, since a crust implies crunchy, and crunchy it was not. It did however impart that nice spring flavor and extra layer of texture. All the pork has this great ginger scent. It’s just a hint, not too spicy or overwhelming. The meat was falling apart into shreds – just perfect to make a Second Meal of pork tacos or pork sandwiches!
I served it with a slightly modified version of these 
roasted sweet potatoes (yes, I jumped on the coconut oil bandwagon!).

If you’re craving spring, give this a try and let me know what you think!

Ingredient List:
1 4lb Pork Loin
Marinade:
1/8 C soy sauce
–up to 3/4C red wine
Juice from 1 orange
Crust:
2 Tblspn Dijon mustard
1 tsp fresh minced ginger
1 Tblspn diced garlic
Zest from 1 orange
Apple Salsa:
1 Apple, sliced
Half large white onion, chopped
1/3 C Applesauce
Juice from 1/2 an orange
Few dashes of cinnamon (I used 5)

Spanish Pork Loin with Apple Slaw

In 24 hours, I have fallen completely in love with this pork loin recipe. Maybe infatuated is the better term. The rub gives you heat, spice, and a little salt. The apple slaw/salsa/whatever you want to call it adds a little sweet, a little sour, a little cooling effect, and good texture. I could probably eat this for the next several days and not grow tired of it. It’s that complex and well thought out.

That said, I wish I had thought of this myself. Alas, I found it on Pinterest or Google or through some other search engine. Click here for the original recipe.  As usual, I modified a bit. Some due to the fact that the original recipe only calls for 1lb of pork (who buys a pork loin that’s only 1lb?!) and mine was a little over 4, but also to adjust so it wasn’t too spicy and my kids could still eat it.

The adjustments I made are below:

THE RUB
Instead of TEASPOON measurements, I used TABLESPOON, plus a little more. I’d say maybe half a tablespoon more than what it called for.
I did not have pimenton, so I used regular old paprika. (Thank goodness, I thought, a mild seasoning!)

THE TRIMMING
I did trim the loin lengthwise, removing a piece of fat that ran the whole length of the pork. But I left the rest of the little bits on for some extra flavor!

THE SALSA
I did not measure anything. I diced one average size Granny Smith, used the juice from one large lime, peeled a little of the peel off, approximated the cilantro, and substituted about 1/8cup applesauce for apple juice (only because I forgot juice at the store – but to our benefit. I think it would’ve been too watery with juice). The only thing that was exact was the jalapeno. I had exactly 1 half left from guacamole I made last week. I finely diced it though (don’t think the kids would appreciate strips of jalapeno!).

THE COOKING
I’m sure this is great on an outdoor grill, but when I made this last night it was 16º during the day time. I wasn’t about to shovel my deck and stand in the freezing cold. So I cut the loin into fourths before I rubbed it, pulled out the grill pan, smoked my best friend out of my house, and finished it in the oven. I would say 6 minutes on each side is pretty accurate. Maybe a few more. You want it still soft and springy in the middle. Then cook it for about 30 minutes at 375º. Slice and spoon the salsa over top. I served it with broccoli and some Parmesan noodles, but Spanish rice would’ve been the perfect compliment.

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DELICIOUS!!! And the leftovers are perfect to use in my “MINEZOLE” soup. (Recipe to follow, stay tuned!)

Bonus: I discovered that apparently this slaw is the only way my 17mos old will eat the WHOLE apple- not spitting it out after she sucks the juice out. Score!

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!

Mahi Mahi with Mango Salsa and Coconut Rice

The smell of fish cooking reminds me of vacations in Florida visiting my grandparents. My grandpa out on the screened-in porch grilling, maybe simultaneously smoking a cigar, while Mom and Grandma chatting away while prepping a side dish or two in the kitchen. And us helping set the dining table.

These are the memories that flooded my head as I grilled up some Mahi Mahi yesterday night – indoors, on my grill pan, while outside the window there was gray 40º weather. Different setting altogether. But I could care less, because the memories and that SMELL transported me and made me so happy!

This is one of those meals, because of those early marriage cooking days, that I look at and think, “Did I do that?!”

I usually pull from a recipe but adjust it a little. In this case I pulled from multiple recipes, so contrary to my normal posts, I will be including the actual recipe for you.

Let’s start with the salsa, because that’s what I prepped ahead of time.
SALSA
1 mango, chopped
1/4 diced red onion
4-5 strips of red pepper, diced
1/4 cup or so cooked sweet corn (I used the microwavable frozen kind –OHI– but I’m sure fresh off the cob would be even better)
Juice from half a lime
Dash salt

Combine all ingredients and stir. Adjust to taste. Easy! I wouldn’t change a thing.
Except…
Well, here’s an opportunity to explain my view of kid-friendly. To me, kid-friendly means the meal is prepared in bite-size, easy to eat portions. It can also mean adjusting to their spice tolerance. Next time, per my daughter’s request, I will add yellow and orange peppers. Maybe even omit the red, or just use less, because as she pointed out, the yellow and orange are sweeter. Another change I might make: substituting yellow or white onion, and maybe even lightly sautéing them with the peppers before adding to the salsa. But for adults, this original recipe was PERFECT.
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‘Blackened’ spices for Mahi Mahi
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground mixed peppercorn
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lite coconut milk

Again, combine all ingredients except coconut milk and make a paste. Just before using, add the coconut milk. It will look like a vinaigrette.
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You can use a pastry brush to spread this on your fish (1.25 lbs Mahi Mahi). I dipped the first piece and then just used my finger to spread it. That’s how we do in my kitchen 😉

Now I have to make a side note. I opened the package from the meat counter and realized I forgot to ask them to take the skin off the Mahi. AHHHHHH! I don’t have a filet knife. I’ve never really even learned how to de-skin a fish. (Is that even the right term? I’m sure there’s a more professional culinary term for this but it escapes me at the moment.) Did I panic with the clock tick tick ticking away the time until dinner? Mm. I chose to keep my head and just do it myself. So out came my raw meats cutting board and my paring knife (the best substitution I had). I tried to remember what I’ve ever seen of someone de-skinning a fish on TV. I put one hand on top of the skin and wiggled the knife underneath, to the point of being afraid I was going to slice my upper hand open. Once I had a good portion of the skin off, I started to pull it up so I had a better view underneath it.  Amazingly, I didn’t cut myself at all, the whole time. And I didn’t even butcher them too badly. (I SWEAR, no pun intended. I literally thought this last night when I stood back and surveyed my work.)
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So! Now for the cooking. Heat your grill pan over medium high heat. Spray with a non-stick cooking spray. **One thing I’ve learned from watching cooking show after cooking show is when you are using a grill pan, MAKE SURE IT’S PIPING HOT before you put anything on it, otherwise your stuff will stick. You’ve been warned.**  Place your fish on the grill and cook for “approximately 4 minutes on each side or until desired doneness.” That’s what the recipe said that I based this on. It worked, the fish was SO DELICIOUS. My 5 year old daughter even said, “MOM! You’re right. I DO like this fish! The inside… it’s so moist … and juicy!”
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COCONUT RICE
2 cups dry brown Minute rice
1 1/4 cup lite coconut milk
1 1/2 cup water

Soak your rice in water to remove some of the starchiness, if desired. (Again, this is what the recipe told me to do – but she was using long grain rice and I was using minute rice. I did do it, and I think it did actually help remove some of the dry starchiness, especially since I was using brown rice.) Put the coconut milk and water in your pot and bring to a boil. Add the rice and cook according to package directions. Actually, the package said to bring back to boil, simmer for 5 minutes, and let stand for 5 minutes. I probably let it cook more like 7-10, let it stand, and then reheated it a teensy bit before I plated it. One thing: KEEP A CLOSE EYE ON THIS! Any time I’m boiling milk I pay extra attention, but last night was one of those times that couldn’t be helped… Some of the kids were arguing, or someone got hurt, and I swear even though I only walked away for 90 seconds, my pot was suddenly boiling over. Anyway just watch it, because I had to keep removing the lid to release some steam so it wouldn’t boil over again. (And that’s even using my awesome “sure simmer” function on my electric oven. Yes I love it.)

Guess what? I had the coconut milk, corn, and rice in my OHI, so all I paid for this dinner was probably $10-11. Score!

Now! Spoon some rice onto your plate, top it with a piece of Mahi, and spoon some salsa on top. Done! Now go feed your family some surprisingly easy, joyfully affordable, shockingly healthy, tantalizingly delicious and fresh food!
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