Mom’s Best Friend: A little time, little mess, BIG flavor dinner

I’ve been working on perfecting a few relatively healthy, quick and easy dinners for my family for those nights when I just can’t be bothered to produce multiple courses. John isn’t a huge fan of meat and I’ve been losing my carnivorous urges lately, so some of the dinners I’ve been putting together have been vegetarian friendly. This particular one is not.

I’ve been known to pick up a rotisserie chicken every now and then when I’m low on time and don’t want to go out somewhere for dinner. Sometimes I’ll saute some yellow squash and zucchini in extra virgin olive oil with onions and garlic and boil brown rice in low sodium, organic chicken broth and presto- dinner is ready. I almost always have salad stuff on hand, so another easy (though not the healthiest) dinner solution is a really great chicken Caesar salad. I’m talking fresh grated parmesan cheese, your favorite dressing (mine is Ken’s Steakhouse brand), croutons, fresh cracked pepper- the works. Slice the chicken and top the salad, maybe have some garlic bread on the side. You could easily skip the croutons, bulk it up with some more veggies like cucumbers, carrots, yellow and red bell peppers, asparagus, onions, or your favorite salad toppings, and substitute the dressing for a homemade vinaigrette for a much healthier option. Forget the chicken and go with black beans, garbanzos, or both for a protein-packed vegetarian option. Maybe I’ll post my recipe for (my favorite) homemade sweet citrus apple cider vinaigrette sometime when it isn’t past 3 a.m.

Well, the other night I picked up a chicken and decided to do something a little different. I was inspired by two avocados that had been hanging out in my crisper drawer for a few nights and decided to make guacamole. I bought fresh cilantro from the grocery store (or so I thought- it was parsley. womp womp.) and already had limes and a sweet yellow onion. John makes some of the best guacamole I’ve ever had and he aways uses red onion, but I don’t get down like that. With my guacamole serving as inspiration, I fired up my griddle, pulled the white meat chicken off the bone by hand, saved half of a pack of burrito-sized tortillas from certain death on the bread shelf of my pantry, and used half of a pack of Tillamook cheddar to make chicken quesadillas. The whole endeavor took maybe thirty minutes and the outcome was yummy, no fuss, and easy to clean up after. I added some sliced onion to the last quesadilla and in the future, I’ll definitely get creative with the spices- cumin and garlic salt would definitely jazz these up. This was a pretty basic, spur of the moment thing that my sister and I did to keep our stomachs from eating themselves since neither of us had eaten all day. (While my daughter was vacationing at my parents’ in Louisiana for two weeks, I didn’t keep the best eating schedule.)

The griddle and a spatula were my only cooking tools for the quesadillas and I used my Magic Bullet for the guacamole, so cleanup for that consisted of a cutting board, knife, and the cup and blades from the blender. It’s worth noting that I only used the Magic Bullet for a quick, rough blend of the ingredients. If you let it run too long, you’ll end up with a completely smooth avocado smoothie that doesn’t have the nice, chunky texture that guacamole should (in my humble opinion) have. We ate the guacamole with Garden of Eatin brand tortilla chips. They’re multigrain, seasoned with sea salt, and are made with organic whole grains and flax seeds. Plus, they’re certified GMO-free, which is awesome. They’re also maybe the most delicious tortilla chips I’ve ever tasted, which doesn’t hurt. As you’ll see in the picture below, I’m not too much of a health nut because I definitely keep a full size bottle of Taco Bell hot sauce in my fridge. The food at Taco Bell is pretty awful but dammit, if I don’t love those little sauce packets.

I recommend making the meal a little more substantial by adding some Mexican rice and maybe even black beans or fat free refried beans. My go to accompaniment, the tossed green salad, would also be a great green addition to this plate that wouldn’t add anything to your prep time. While the tortillas and cheese are melting, you’re washing lettuce and chopping up a cucumber. Easy peasy. You could also easily forget about the chicken altogether and stuff those quesadillas with your favorite vegetables for a meatless option. I personally recommend spinach, onion, and garlic for a yummy, healthy combination. Use whole wheat tortillas to maximize the nutritional value. The possibilities are endless. It’s truly a totally customizable dinner that’s quick, easy, and fun.

I hope my little ideas help the next time you’re scrambling for a fast, satisfying dinner with super easy cleanup. The less time I spend over the stove, the more time I get to spend eating the food my daughter cooks in her play kitchen. That’s the most important dinner time in my book.

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