22 June 2009

put the kid to work: quesadilla day

Jules loves to cook. I guess I'm lucky that way. For a kid who has never really shown a lot of patience when it comes to fine motor skills (he's more of a run around like crazy, high energy guy), he sure can contain himself these days when I assign him to be my "kitchen helper." This wasn't always the case. And getting through those times when he was a little ball of nerves, flicking batter, smearing sauce, *squeeeeeeeezing* and kneading whatever bread or cookie-like concoction I put in front of him until it was a gray, sweaty mass of yuck, was trying, to put it lightly.

I won't lie. There were times when I lost it. When I, more immature than he, would yank the spoon, whisk, bowl, what have you, out of his hands and growl at him, "how many times do I..." or send him to his room for punishment for whatever "misbehavior" set me off.

But most days I'm better. And so is he. Now I know to just relax about my fear that raw eggs will kill him and just let him lick the batter and smear it all over his face (and be ready with an arsenal of warm washcloths to deal with the aftermath). I let him have "just a little taste" of anything. Baking powder? Why not? Cayenne? Well, I wouldn't go that far. Straight sugar? There are limits, but yes. He gets away with his fair share of "pinches" and "just a little taste"s.

Most often, he's been my "baker's helper," but I've been letting him in more and more on the dinner prep these days, too. I find that A) it keeps him mostly out of my hair since it's a time where he's (more or less) following my orders rather than me following his (which seems like most of the day), and B) I find I'm less stressed out about not spending "quality time" with Jules in order to prep dinner, because we are doing just that when we cook together.

So to give you an idea of how we work as a cooking team, I'm sharing a recipe I make often, with many variations, this being my latest one. Quesadillas are one of Jules's (and my, to be honest) favorite foods, so getting him involved in making them was easy. These are on the table at our house a few times a month, are quick to prepare, and relatively healthy (this one especially).

On this particular night, I had a big bag of sweet potatoes and a bunch of rainbow chard languishing in the fridge, so I started with these, grating the sweet potato, and tossing it in the pan with some sliced onions, chili powder and salt. I chopped the chard and added it, too, cooking that while Jules spread some pureed black beans on tortillas. A sprinkle of cotija (Mexican cheese with an almost feta-like consistency, but very different taste), another tortilla, and dinner was served. We usually eat these with some fresh (or store-bought) salsa, sliced avocado, maybe even some sour cream, whatevers on hand. Variations on fillings have included spinach and mango, too. It's all good.

The sweet potatoes, onion and chard combined were sweet enough (and grated/sliced fine enough)that Jules didn't really even notice he was eating veggies, though we did also just feed him a few slices of plain bean and cheese to be sure he'd be eating SOMETHING if he discovered (and snubbed) the veggies.

So there you have it. It would go nice with a simple green salad.

Sweet Potato and Rainbow Chard Quesadillas
8 large(ish) flour tortillas
1 can black beans (or 1 cup if you've made your own)
2 small(ish) sweet potatoes, peeled and grated
1/2 medium onion, sliced thin
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cups Rainbow Chard (about 5 large leaves), stems removed and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1 Tablespoon chili powder
Cooking oil or spray (for light frying)
Cilantro, a handful, chopped
Avocado slices (optional)
Sour cream (optional)

Put black beans in a blender and puree until smooth. Spread bean puree over 4 tortillas.

Saute onion, garlic and chili powder in olive oil on medium-high heat for a few minutes, until onion begins to soften. Add sweet potato and continue sauteing until mixture begins to brown a bit. Add chard and continue to cook for a minute or two after chard begins to wilt. Spoon sweet potato mixture onto bean puree/tortillas. Sprinkle cotija on top and cover with another tortilla. Working one at a time, fry quesadillas in a pan coated with cooking spray for a few minutes until tortillas begins to brown. Flip and brown on the other side. Serve with salsa, avocado, sour cream, cilantro etc.


  1. I have been trying to post a comment all day long... (Did you have a problem with the blog?). And now I don't remember what I wanted to say... and I don't remember how I got here in the first place.
    LOVE your logo!
    Love your honesty about cooking with your child. I know it's not always fun/easy.

  2. Nurit: thanks for posting (and persevering in your post!). Funny, I just found your blog yesterday, too (btw, I LOVE the photo of your Grandma on your banana bread post, and was happy to see your kids are mango lovers, too!)Not sure what the problem is with posting. You are the second person to have problems. Maybe that's why comments are still so sparse! I hope that's the reason anyway...


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