June 7, 2011
The first rule of (Dinner) Fight Club: you do not talk about (Dinner) Fight Club. The second rule of (Dinner) Fight Club is: you DO NOT talk about (Dinner) Fight Club! Third rule of (Dinner) Fight Club: if someone yells “stop!” or taps out, the fight is NOT over. It’s just time to add a dip, put it on a stick or shove it in a quesadilla.
Okay. I’m not really into fighting over dinner. You know that by now. But I couldn’t resist.
I’m also not likely to do a series of meals on a stick (dinner pops, groan) or encourage magically nutritious cheesy quesadillas (with disappearing veggies, double groan). That said, you can’t beat a good kabob or a tasty quesadilla and, let’s get real, the kids love ’em.
If you ask me, the key is using things that kids like to get them excited about foods that they might not otherwise receive well. Use the fact that food on a stick is enticing to serve veggie kabobs. (Throw in a nutritionally dense dip like hummus or a spinach-yogurt sauce for extra points.) That’s my fighting style, which is why, at my house, quesadilla time is veggie time. And not just any veggies, but challenging dark, leafy greens.
Spinach, kale, chard and other dark greens can be tough or stringy at best and bitter at worst. They are not easy to put in front of little ones. But serving them chopped and combined with cheese, like in spinach pie or in quesadillas, has proven a successful strategy. You know, relatively speaking.
My latest was a greens and mushroom combo. I sauteed tatsoi with onions and shiitakes and stuffed the tasty combo, topped with shredded cheddar, between two corn tortillas. Delicious. Any mushroom and greens combo will work well: portobello and spinach, buttom mushrooms and swiss chard… whatever is available.
I can’t guarantee a score with the kids. You know it doesn’t work that way. And, anyway, who needs a score when you’ve got the power to call foul. Or whatever they call it in fight club. (Hello mixed metaphors!) But I can guarantee that it’s tasty either way. And easy to make, too.
Shiitake & Greens Quesadilla
(can be adapted for kids 6+ mos)*
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 small or 1/2 a large onion, halved and thinly sliced (or chopped if your child will scoff at “stringy” onions)
1 large bunch of tatsoi or your favorite dark, leafy green
3 tablespoons chicken or vegetable broth (or water)
1 tablespoons butter, plus more for cooking quesadillas
8 oz organic shitake mushrooms, cleaned, stems removed and sliced
salt and pepper
shredded sharp cheddar
sour cream, for garnish (optional)
guacamole, for garnish (optional)
salsa, for garnish (optional)
1. Heat oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add onions and saute until they are golden brown.
2. Add greens and broth. Toss to coat greens and cook for about 2-3 minutes, until greens are wilted and broth is almost completely cooked off.
3. Push greens to the sides of your pan and add butter in the center. Once it melts, add mushrooms and mix everything together. It will seem like the mushrooms immediately absorb any remaining liquid and fat—don’t worry, they will exude moisture as they cook. In fact, after a few minutes it may seem like there is too much liquid. Still—don’t worry. Keep cooking until all the liquid thickens and veggies are soft. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper to taste.
4. Spread shredded cheese onto one of the tortillas and top the cheese with greens and mushrooms. Add more cheese on top of the veggies and top that with a second tortilla. Repeat with other tortillas—however many you need to serve four (this will depend on the size of your tortillas and how much filling you like in each quesadilla).
5. In a pan set over medium heat, melt just enough butter to generously coat the bottom. When very hot, but before the butter turns brown, add a quesadilla. Cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Flip and continue cooking until the other side turns golden brown, as well, and all the cheese is melted. Cut into wedges and serve with sour cream, guac and/or your favorite salsa.
*Note: To share with beginner eaters, puree the greens and mushrooms with a whole grain such as oats or quinoa or stir the greens and mushroom puree into whole milk yogurt. As kids get older, quesadillas make great finger foods. For little ones, you may want to chop the greens and mushrooms by hand or in your food processor or blender before adding to the quesadillas. (This is even a good idea for older children who are picky or sensitive to texture.) Also be sure to cut the quesadilla up into age appropriate bite sizes.