My diet is probably 80% comfort food (thanks to exercise for making that statement possible). So when I'm cooking, I obviously don't avoid comfort food all together. Instead, I try to modify it in some way so that I can still enjoy it, but as a healthier version of it. Of course, I'm a big girl so that means I make sure whatever I'm eating fuels my body in some positive way. But at the end of the day whether the dish is healthy or makes me happy, food is meant to be enjoyed!
I used to go to this wonderful restaurant at the end of the Malibu Pier, called Malibu Farm Pier Cafe. On their lunch menu, they serve one of the best quesadillas I've ever had. Lucky for us, the founder, Helene Henderson, came out with a cookbook and my favorite quesadillas are in it! I obviously own a copy of this cookbook - and you can, too. Grab your copy on Amazon. I'm excited to share the recipe with you. Mine turned out a little different from Helene's (you'll see). It's funny how even though you follow a recipe, somehow it turns out differently. The taste is still great though, and I had so much fun making it!
So, are you ready to modify a classic Mexican-inspired dish? Helene's quesadillas are as tasty as they are healthy; this recipe is an example of turning a popular comfort food dish into a healthy alternative by incorporating ground chicken and broccoli! Trust me, it can be done. Just remember this: no matter what you're preparing, it all comes down to being clever in the kitchen and investing in quality ingredients.
WHAT YOU NEED, according to Helene:
- 1/2 lb of cooked chicken breast, chopped fine
- 3/4 lb shredded jalapeno monterey jack cheese
- 1/2 cup quick-cooked broccoli florets (I added close to a cup)
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
- 2 green onions, cut thin (I improvised with half a yellow onion)
- 2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and cut fine (I don't like tomatoes so I left them out)
1). These quesadillas can be served either as an appetizer using mini-round tortillas or as a main dish using regular-sized tortillas. Determine whether this will be an appetizer or a main dish.
2). In a food processor, pulse chicken, cheese and broccoli until they just combine but not so long they turn gooey.
3). Move combination into a bowl and stir in cilantro, green onions and tomatoes.
4). Place the filling inside tortillas, whichever size you're using.
5). If you're making mini-quesadillas, saute to order. Regular-sized tortillas can be grilled until the tortilla is crispy brown and the cheese is melted.
6). Serve with a squeeze of spicy aioli on top (I improvised using Trader Joe's Sriracha Ranch Dressing).
* Quesadillas can be frozen and made ahead, which I did!
Sounds (and looks) delicious, right? Sometimes all we need is someone to change up the game. I am truly grateful that Helene managed to achieve a beautiful balance between health and comfort. I know I can't get enough. Hopefully this post inspired you to start a new habit of cooking for yourself. Implementing a healthy balance between comfort and health can surely awaken tasty experiences you never saw coming. Until next time!