Given that my life is currently like a cross between a Lifetime movie and a Law & Order episode, I haven’t been able to indulge in one of my favorite activities: cooking. Besides not feeling well enough most of the time, I don’t have my cookbooks, my utensils and gadgets, my pots and pans or my pantry staples. But I can’t eat out all the time so it’s a matter of making do with what I do have.
Whenever we travel, I take my deep 5 quart skillet and my own frying pan. In a bag, I have my own tongs, knives, a small whisk and a hand grater. I carry a bunch of bottles of spices and some essential groceries so that no matter what, there is always a way to make a yummy Vegan meal.
Last weekend I got to pick up some fresh vegetables – mushrooms, zucchini, yellow squash and spinach – to supplement the frozen vegetables I always have on hand. Daiya is always in the freezer too. Seemed I had all the makings of something delicious and after passing a Mexican restaurant on the street, I knew what I wanted.
A trip to the health store yielded two healthy finds: Joseph’s Flax, Oat Bran and Whole Wheat Flour Lavash Bread (who says quesadillas have to be round?) and Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Grain Tortillas.
Now I had everything I needed to make a really fast delicious dinner: Quick Quesadillas.
Canola oil spray
10 oz. package white mushrooms, sliced
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bell pepper, any color, sliced (I used the frozen multi-colored ones from Trader Joe’s)
1 zucchini, sliced into matchstick pieces
1 yellow squash, sliced into matchstick pieces
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. coriander
½ cup Daiya vegan cheese (I used a mix of mozzarella and cheddar flavors)
5 oz. fresh baby spinach
4 tortillas or wraps
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat a deep skillet and spray with canola oil (I use spray to keep it low-fat). Add onions, mushrooms and garlic to the skillet and cook for about 5 minutes until browned. Add bell peppers, zucchini and squash to the pan and mix well. Add spices and stir through. Let the mixture cook for about 10 minutes until the vegetables are softened and cooked through but retain some crunch.
Meanwhile, heat a frying pan and spray with canola oil. Add a tortilla or wrap to the pan. Put a layer of baby spinach leaves and some Vegan cheese on the tortilla. Cover with a generous amount of the vegetable mixture. Add more cheese and spinach and top with another tortilla. Let cook a couple of minutes (not too long; you just want to brown the tortilla).
Flipping this thing is the challenge. Here’s what I do: take a round plate and put it face-down on the quesadilla in the pan. Carefully pick up the frying pan with one hand, hold the plate with the palm of your other hand and turn the pan over. Now the quesadilla is on the plate. With a spatula, gently slide the quesadilla back into the pan so the other side can cook. After just a minute or two, slide the quesadilla back onto the plate and move it to the oven where it will continue to cook and get extra gooey, melty and crispy. Then go on to make another quesadilla in the pan.
Note: you can avoid the whole frying pan thing and just put the assembled quesadillas in the oven to cook, flipping them half-way through but the oven I have at the moment only has one rack and can just barely fit the one plate at a time.
Take the plates out of the oven (be careful, it’s REALLY hot!) and cut the quesadillas into quarters. Serve with Vegan sour cream, guacamole, salsa or whatever your favorite condiments are.
I make these quesadillas so thick with vegetables, I end up having to eat them with a fork and knife because they are too big and messy to pick up. They are so filling (but filling because of healthy veggies and whole-grain bread) that you won’t even need a side dish.