Monday, March 28, 2011

Kid Friendly Whole Food Recipes with Mel of Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Could we be any luckier than to start the week with a guest post from Mel of Mel's Kitchen Cafe? Pro'lly not. We've talked a bit about cooking with whole foods lately, dismissing fears about eggplant, showing you what to do with kale, and proving that it's a snap to make your own hummus. Today Mel's sharing two kid-friendly, meatless recipes that incorporate super healthy ingredients like sweet potatoes and jicama. Awesome.

I don’t know about you, but I’m constantly trying to find new ways to get more vegetables and whole foods into my family’s diet. Enter two of our favorite vegetarian meals. Let me detail a few of their merits:

a) quick
b) healthy
c) vegetable-laden
d) potential for major ego boost when your family gobbles them up and makes you feel like chef of the year for giving them a week’s worth of veggies in one meal.

Now, I know I’m going to get this question: “Do your kids really eat this stuff?” And I’ll answer it for you. Yes. But that’s a loaded “yes.” Let me tell you what I do to get them excited about fare such as this. Because these are the types of meals that are easy to put together, I let my kids make their own. I lay out all the ingredients and give them a tortilla and say, “Go to town!” which basically translates into, “You can make your own quesadilla/wrap but you have to choose at least four of the vegetables (for the wraps)/two spoonfuls of the sweet potato mixture (for the quesadillas).” They get so wrapped up in the excitement of making their own that they usually don’t fight about the rules of the game. And amazingly they gobble up food they make much better than if I shoved a loaded vegetable wrap in their face that I made with my own hands and ordered them to eat up.

First up, the Sweet Potato Quesadillas. I’m not lying, friends, when I tell you that these are the most delicious quesadillas I’ve ever devoured. I was the ultimate skeptic when I first thought about making them. I’m not a huge sweet potato fan, I have to be honest here. And the only reason I figured it might be worth a try is that there were no marshmallows called for in the recipe. I’m sorry but the sweet potato/marshmallow holiday mixtures make me a teensy weensy bit vomitous. (I hope you can all still love me.)

For these quesadillas, the tender, mashed sweet potatoes are mixed with a sautéed mixture of absolute flavor: garlic, onion, red pepper and green chiles. Add in a bit of fresh cilantro for a pop in taste and these are out of this world. The blue cheese is entirely optional, but for me (I happen to be a blue cheese lover), it made the quesadilla. A perfect balance of flavor, these quesadillas are dee-vine.

Sweet Potato Quesadillas

*Makes 6 quesadillas

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium red pepper, seeded and chopped, for about 1 cup
1 medium yellow onion, chopped, for about 1 cup
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large poblano chile, roasted and chopped, or 1 small can chopped green chiles
2 large sweet potatoes (about 1-1/2 pounds), cooked, peeled, and mashed, for about 3-4 cups
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup blue cheese, crumbled
1 teaspoon salt
12 (8-inch) flour or corn tortillas
1 ½ cups Monterey Jack cheese, grated (can also use Pepper Jack cheese for an extra kick)

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat until hot and rippling. Add the red pepper, onion, and garlic, and sauté, stirring often, until the onion is translucent and pepper is crisp tender, about 4-5 minutes. Stir in the poblano chile or can of green chiles, if using.

Mix the mashed sweet potatoes with the red pepper mixture. Add the cilantro, blue cheese, if using, and salt. Blend well.

Place 1/2 cup of the sweet potato mixture in the center of a tortilla, and spread the mixture out evenly to within 1/2 inch of the outer edge of the tortilla. Sprinkle with 3 tablespoons of the Monterey Jack cheese. Place another tortilla over the filling. Repeat with the remaining tortillas until all of the filling is used.

Cook the quesadillas on a preheated griddle or skillet until browned and crispy and the filling is hot and cheese is melted, about 2-3 minutes each side. Alternately, you can preheat the oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a baking sheet with cooking spray. Bake the quesadillas for about 5-7 minutes, until the filling is hot and cheese is melted.

Now for the Santa Fe Veggie Wraps. Simple, both in prep and concept, these can be absolutely tailored with the veggies your family loves and prefers. The point is to load them with a variety of vegetables. If you have never used jicama, I encourage you to try. The crisp, slightly sweet flesh is similar in texture to a water chestnut and it’s unique texture gives these wraps a delicious crunch.

Santa Fe Vegetable Wrap (pictured at top of post)

*Makes 6 large vegetable wraps

6 (12-inch) whole wheat tortilla, any flavor
6 ounces light cream cheese, softened
¼ teaspoon chili powder
¼ teaspoon cumin
Pinch of salt and pepper
1 large head red or green leaf lettuce
Pepper jack or sharp cheddar cheese, sliced
2-3 tomatoes, thinly sliced
2 avocadoes, thinly sliced
½ red onion, thinly sliced
1 medium jicama, thinly sliced
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels, thawed (if frozen)
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained

In a small bowl, mix together the cream cheese with the chili powder, cumin and salt and pepper. Spread each tortilla with an even amount of the cream cheese mixture. Top the cream cheese with lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, avocadoes, onions, and jicama. Spoon corn and black beans evenly over the top. Roll up tightly. Slice in half diagonally and serve.

Thanks, Mel. I'm just sitting here salivating, wishing it were dinner time. I'm going to make those wraps tonight ... yummm!


Ann said...

Hey Mel. I read your blog and cook from it constantly. I wanna know why you don't post more meatless main dishes over there.

Not that I'm complaining! These look great. I know my kids wouldn't eat them with all their frills (ie, vegetables and seasonings), I might dumb down the quesadillas for them a little and have some success. Of course, when I eat them, I'll trust your recipe all the way.

Lu said...

Oh yum! These sound fantastic, and yet still pretty easy to put together. Thanks for sharing!

Melanie said...

Ann - truth be told, my husband is a meat-lovin' man and we don't eat meatless as often as I would the meatless meals aren't as frequent as the meat-filled ones. I have a few more up my sleeve, though, to post in the next couple of weeks!

Robin said...

Those quesadillas sound divine! I LOVE savory sweet potatoes, but those kind of recipes are hard to find for some reason. Unfortunately, I am on a low-carb diet right now, so they will have to wait. :( However, I think we can pull off the wraps. My kids love wraps and I can use a low-carb tortilla. I have heard of jicama, but never tried it. I'll let you know if I'm a convert!

Bloom said...

since I had a little sneak peak at these recipes I was able to make the wraps over the weekend and they were delicious! my family loved them. we added cilantro and tamed jalapenos - mmmm!

Kristyn said...

How did you know I was just assembling a list for my grocery store run?

Perfect timing, ladies!

Steph said...

Yay! I love Mel. I've been following (stalking?) your blog for a while now and have loved every. single. recipe.

I wish you were my next door neighbor.

Kimberly said...

YUM. Kid friendly translates to husband friendly for me. He's such a picky eater...

Heather said...

Yummy. These are great ideas! I cannot wait to make the sweet potato quesadillas, they sound amazing!! My kids will love these. Thanks for the new fresh ideas!

Ihilani said...

Those recipies look SO GOOD. My husband LOVES sweet potato, and it'd be great for our 1 year old too! This is definitely on our must try list.

Melanie said...

Steph - there is a house for sale right next to me. Wanna move to Wisconsin?? I'm in the market for a great next door neighbor!

sir kodak said...

Your articles don’t beat around the bushes exact t to the point.chef uniforms

A Bit of Brooklyn said...

These sound like great ways to use some of the veges in season now, thanks!

Wholesale Nuts said...

Philippine pili nuts from the Bicol region in the Philippines is a great Filipino or Philippines food orsnack. Pili nuts are very healthy and nutritious indeed, being a source of energy, potassium and iron.They also have protein, dietary fiber / fibre, and calcium as well as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.  I know they have no cholesterol, no trans fat, and the unsalted ones have no sodium. What is great about the pili nut snack or treat is that they are so crisp, rich, and delicious.

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