Maui Girl Cooks

“One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.” Luciano Pavarotti


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“Cheese – milk’s leap toward immortality.”  Clifton Fadiman

Before we get to tonight’s dinner, these quesadillas, I have some lovely flower pictures from today’s walk to share with you.


And now for the quesadillas!

quesadilla on plate

There are quesadillas, and then there are quesadillas worth eating.  If you would like a quesadilla that is more than a white flour tortilla filled with melted cheese, then keep reading.

Our quesadillas are filled with cooked spinach or Swiss chard {a lot of it}, roasted peppers & cheese.

We love quesadillas and have been tweaking our current recipe for over 5 years, and think they are now just about perfect.  There have been several versions of this recipe, each change making an improvement on an already good thing.  It is our favorite meal to cook, and one we make weekly.  This is truly a “team meal” for us.  I prep everything and my husband does the cooking.  While he is cooking, I clean everything up so that we only have 2 plates to wash when we’re finished eating.  We are a well-oiled machine when it comes to making quesadillas!

Before I get into the details of how to make these scrumptious quesadillas, I should tell you about the tortillas we use.  We eat food that is good for us {at least 95% of the time}, so it was important to find tortillas that are healthy and taste good.  Often times, breads that are healthy taste like cardboard, or if you’re lucky, hay.

Perhaps you have had the unfortunate experience of buying tortillas for a recipe, and then having them go moldy in the refrigerator.  These are the tortillas that we like & here is how we take care of them so they are ready when we want a quesadilla or a wrap.

Fresh Tortillas in Bag  These are tasty tortillas that we can feel good about eating!

blog freezing tortillas  Stagger your tortillas on a cookie sheet & freeze.  They will curl a little, but you can easily put them bag into the bag you bought them in.  They won’t stick together like they would if you just put the whole bag in the freezer.  I used to separate them with a piece of wax paper; totally unnecessary!  When you are ready to use them, put them on a plate, and flip them a few times while they thaw, so that they aren’t as curled.

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Quesadillas with Spinach {or Swiss chard} & Roasted Peppers

This is more of a guideline than a specific recipe, as far as amounts are concerned.  Feel free to adjust quantities & ingredients to your liking!

2 large whole grain tortillas

2 quarts raw spinach or Swiss chard, washed carefully and thoroughly dried, then cut into strips {I mince the stems & sauté them with onions, jalapenos & garlic}

Peppers, cut so that they are in relatively flat pieces {bell peppers, poblanos or Anaheims are all great here}; we use 1 bell pepper, or about 3 smaller size peppers

1/2 small onion, finely diced

1 jalapeno, finely diced {add more or less depending on how much heat you like}; or you can use dried red pepper flakes, Serrano peppers, etc.

3 cloves garlic, minced & allowed to sit for 10 minutes {to achieve the health benefits}

Approximately 4 ounces of cheese, thinly sliced {we like Gruyere because it is a delicious low fat cheese that melts well}

The most time consuming part of this recipe is the prep; once everything is sliced and diced you are ready to put your quesadillas together.

Spray a large pan with pan spray, and then add a film of olive oil.  Sauté the peppers over medium heat, until they have a bit of color and are beginning to get tender.  They do not have to be completely tender.  Remove peppers to a plate lined with a paper towel, and blot to absorb any extra oil.

In the same pan, sauté the onion, jalapeno, garlic and stems over medium heat until almost tender. Add the leaves and toss everything together for about a minute, or until leaves are just wilted.  Remove from the heat.  The leaves should be glossy, dark green and gorgeous.

You are now ready to put your quesadillas together!

Place tortilla on a dinner plate.  On half the tortilla, place the cheese, top with peppers and then the greens. Spray a skillet {we use cast iron} with pan spray and then film with olive oil.  Fold the tortilla in half and put in the skillet preheated to medium to medium-low.  The objective is to crisp the tortilla, heat everything through, melding the cheese with the greens and peppers, without burning the tortilla.  Flip the quesadillas several times;  if you flip one, flip the other.  My husband, the quesadilla cook, said he flips them at least 3 or 4 times.  Adjust the heat so that they do not brown too quickly on one side.  Serve them with the cheese on top, so gravity can draw it down through the greens and peppers.

Cut into thirds or fourths & eat immediately.  I cut the quesadillas with my kitchen shears, cutting through the top tortilla first, and then cut the bottom tortilla with the filling; this ensures the filling not squishing out when you cut them.  We eat ours with Tapatio Hot Sauce {a lot of it!}, and sometimes with a little sour cream or plain yogurt {ok, I sometimes put plain yogurt on mine}.

Notes:
My husband says that a nice glass of red wine is really nice while you are cooking these, and I concur!
* We tried soft goat cheese in these, but weren’t crazy with the results.  We love goat cheese, but not here.
* Go easy on the oil-you don’t want your quesadillas to be greasy.
* Be sure your greens are thoroughly dry, so that they aren’t too wet {soggy quesadillas not great}
* Use a sturdy tortilla.  We tried brown rice tortillas, and while they were super tasty, they cracked right down the middle when we folded them.
* The first time you make these, you may want to make a thinner quesadilla, for ease in turning.  They can be a bit tricky to turn over.
* Jarred roasted peppers are fine!  Before we moved to Maui, we used the jarred piquillo peppers from Trader Joe’s.
* I LOVE a good mouth burn, and usually get one with these quesadillas.  But if you don’t, leave out the hot peppers, simple as that.
* If your quesadilla is a little spicier than you like, sour cream or plain yogurt cools it off very nicely.

Bon appetit!


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Salad with Purslane & Ribbons of Parmesan

“When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it.  If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant.”  Author Unknown

I do not know if purslane comes out of the ground easily or not, but I have seen it defined both as a weed and a valuable plant.  Purslane is purported to be a healthy plant that we should be enjoying.  It is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.  Check out the articles at the end of this post if you would like to read more about purslane’s health benefits.  My husband bought our first bunch of purslane 2 weeks ago, at the Upcountry Farmers Market.  It’s great!  What I like most about purslane is its chew, due to the fact that it is a succulent.  I think it has a subtle flavor, not at all assertive, but just tasty. . .green.  Apparently it grows everywhere, but I can’t say I’ve encountered any on my walks around Pukalani, where we live.  You will most likely not find purslane at your local grocery store, but look for it at your farmers market.  Or grow it yourself; from what I’ve read, it is easy to grow.

When I cleaned the first bunch of purslane, I meticulously removed the leaves from the stems.  I discovered on the second bunch that “de-leafing” {is that a word??} the stems is not necessary, and that the stems also add a bit of chew to a salad.  The leaves are in clusters on the stems, so that makes them pretty in a salad.

Salad with Purslane & Ribbons of Parmesan

This is not a tossed salad, but more of a composed salad, which I think is prettiest served on a plate. The ingredients are few and the salad is delicious.  When you start with excellent ingredients, you do not need much to create great food.

Place a layer of tender lettuce on a plate.  Some good choices are Bibb, Manoa or red leaf.  A crunchy lettuce like romaine doesn’t work in this salad.  Texture is important in this recipe; there is a pleasant “chew” but it isn’t a crunchy salad.

Top the lettuce with some onion that you have sliced paper thin.  Use whatever type of onion you prefer, although I wouldn’t choose green onions for this.  Slicing the onion super thin makes it seem less pungent, making it easier to eat for the “non-onion types.”

Now add a scattering of paper thin purple cabbage.

Top with purslane, preferably in clusters of leaves, as opposed to individual leaves; this adds to the salad’s texture.

Sprinkle the salad with some pumpkin seeds that you have pan roasted, preferably in coconut oil.

Season the salad with freshly ground salt and pepper, then sprinkle with fresh lemon juice {about 1/4 of a juicy lemon per salad} and a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil.  Use a light hand with the dressing, as you don’t want your salad to be swimming in dressing.

Finally, take a vegetable peeler and shave some nice ribbons of fresh parmesan cheese over the salad.

Salad with Purslane and Ribbons of Parmesan

Related articles

Bon appetit!


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“Large, naked, raw carrots are acceptable as food only to those who live in hutches eagerly awaiting Easter.”  Fran Lebowitz

I’m okay with raw carrots, I really am.  But I think carrots really sing when they are cooked.  They belt out their ultimate deliciousness when they are roasted.

You know how roasting vegetables caramelizes them and makes them nice and sweet?  And tender and delicious?  Well, dribble some coconut oil and a heavy dusting of Moroccan spices into the mix and you’ve got a winner.  I would be proud to serve these vegetables to anyone.  Next time I will add some chunks of onion and garlic.  Make a lot, because you will not want to run out.  Consider yourself warned!

Roasted carrots and potatoes with Moroccan spices final
Roasted Potatoes & Carrots with Coconut Oil & Moroccan Spices

1 large potato {peeled if not organic}, cut into chunks
3 large carrots {peeled if not organic}, cut into chunks
1 medium onion, cut into chunks
Coconut oil
Freshly ground salt & pepper
Moroccan Spice Mix {recipe below}
2 cloves of garlic, mashed into a paste

Cut the potatoes, carrots & onions into pieces that will cook in about the same amount of time.  Put in a bowl large enough to comfortably {& neatly} toss the vegetables with the coconut oil & seasonings.  Start with about 1 tbsp. of coconut oil; if that coats all the vegetables nicely, then that’s enough-you don’t want greasy vegetables.  Season with plenty of freshly ground salt and pepper, and a generous dose of the Moroccan Spice Mix.  Line a sheet pan with foil, then spray with pan spray to prevent sticking {I used coconut oil spray}.  Arrange the vegetables on the pan in a single layer.  Roast in a 375 degree oven, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes.  You can leave them in for a while after they are tender, because they will turn a lovely golden brown, which makes them super tasty.  When they are golden brown, put them back into the big bowl.  Add the garlic paste and mix it all up.  The heat from the vegetables will cook the garlic and impart a delectable garlic flavor.

Serves about 3 roasted vegetable lovers

Moroccan Spice Mix

2 tsp ground cumin {preferably whole seeds toasted, then ground}
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp chili powder  {I used my homemade chili powder; use whatever chili powder you like}
1 tsp sweet paprika
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
Pinch of ground cloves
Mix it all up & store in a tightly lidded jar.

Homemade Chili Powder

3 T sweet paprika
1 T ground cumin {preferably whole seeds toasted, then ground}
2 T oregano {preferably Mexican}
1 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder {yes, there is the occasional use for garlic powder!}
1 whole dry ancho chile, broken up
1/2 tsp celery seed
1 tsp coriander seed

Put all ingredients into a small food processor or blender, and process until the pieces of ancho chile are ground.  Store in a tightly lidded jar.

Bon Appetit!


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“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”  ~John Dewey

For some reason, I am having a hard time settling down to write.  My mind has been wandering quite a bit lately, as I think about my friends in the Central Kitsap School District who gathered together again this past Monday, after about 8 weeks of well-deserved summer vacation. This is the week of back to school teacher meetings, sprinkled with moments to prepare classrooms for the children, who are coming next week.  Going back to school is a mixed bag of emotions; it means the return of early morning alarms, and giving up your free time but at the same time, you get to see your friends and the kids again for the camaraderie and excitement of a fresh new year.  Here’s hoping for a wonderful school year for all!

I’ve wanted to write about yogurt for a while now.  We eat yogurt because it tastes good, but also because it is a healthy food.  If you want to eat yogurt for its health benefits, there are a few things to be considered.  Cultured or fermented foods, of which yogurt is one, provide beneficial bacteria for your gut, which is a good thing.  But all yogurts are not created alike.  Look for yogurt that contains the most variety of live active cultures; the more the better.  Yogurt that has fewer ingredients is better for you.  Some yogurt is full of added sugars, colors, stabilizers and other such ingredients which are not needed.  We like to buy plain low-fat yogurt, specifically Nancy’s.  Using plain yogurt allows you to customize your yogurt any way you like.  Plain yogurt is like a blank canvas.  Here is a generic “recipe” to follow to create a fabulous yogurt breakfast.  It’s really up to you to add whatever you like.

Put some yogurt in a bowl.

Add fruit if you want.  This can be frozen fruit, fresh fruit, fruit jam that you have made preferably with minimal added sugar {like our peach jam that I told you about}.

Add a grain.  This can be cooked quinoa, brown rice, 2 tbsp of Buckwheat Chia Crunch, raw oatmeal {regular, not quick cooking, which can make your blood sugar spike} or granola {this granola is our current favorite-I reduce the maple syrup to 1/2 cup and the brown sugar to 1/4 cup}.

Make it nutty!  Toss in some nuts or seeds and maybe some cacao nibs for a little nutritious chocolate “punch.”

Mix it all up & taste it.  If it needs a little sweetening, add a little local honey or Grade B maple syrup.  Maybe a few splashes of vanilla would be tasty.  Once you get used to plain yogurt, you will find the presweetened stuff way too sweet.  If we use a drizzle of maple syrup or honey it is most likely for the nutrients more than the need for additional sweetness.

Sprinkle with cinnamon {tastes great & is good for your blood sugar}.

Enjoy your nutritious bowl of deliciousness!

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Buckwheat Chia Crunch for Yogurt

1/4 c hemp seeds
1/4 c buckwheat {I prefer untoasted buckwheat groats.}
1/8 c chia seeds
1/8 c ground flax seeds {best to grind your own in small quantities as needed}
1/8 c dried fruit, cut into small pieces {optional}

Mix together in a small jar.  When ready to eat, shake it up so you get all of the ingredients.  Use about 2 tbsp per serving.

Makes about 3/4 cup

Here are a couple more ways that we like to jazz up our plain yogurt.

savory yogurt This is my savory breakfast yogurt.  It includes diced cucumber, tomatoes, minced jalapenos, cilantro, cumin & a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.  It is delicious with a Ry-Vita Cracker spread with butter, or a buttered piece of toast.

mixed berry yogurt This has Buckwheat Chia Crunch, unsweetened flake coconut, cacao nibs & mixed berry jam {made from Costco frozen mixed berries & a little sugar}.

This is an excellent article about. the healthy bacteria in our bodies.

Sources:
The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth {Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., C.N.S.}
Super  Foods {Steven Pratt, M.D.}