I haven’t posted a recipe in a while, since I’ve been crafting like a madwoman.  But I made these quesadillas the other night, and they were good, so I thought I’d share.

Back before we had kids, I used to make this recipe all the time called Snappy Spinach Packets.  It’s from an old Vegetarian Times magazine; I clipped the recipe probably fifteen years ago and its in my little collection.  It was a staple for a long time, and then it kind of fell out of the rotation.  I tried making it a few times a year or so ago, but the kids balked.

I wanted to try again, so this time I adapted it by turning it into a quesadilla.  The original recipe calls for wrapping the filling up in a tortilla and sautéing it, so it really wasn’t a stretch to simply use two tortillas with the filling in between.  And the kids LOVED them.  I didn’t tell them they had turned their noses up at basically the exact same thing.

The great part about this meal, too, is that it gives you lots of veggies, black beans, and a whole grain all in one.

main ingredients: cheese, black beans, tomatoes, spinach

Snappy Spinach Quesadillas

adapted from Vegetarian Times

  • 1 lb. baby spinach, well rinsed
  • 1 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 4 oz. Monterey Jack cheese, grated
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes, seeds removed
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 8 whole wheat tortillas
  • vegetable oil

In a large pot, place the spinach and 1/2″ of water. Cover and steam over high heat, stirring until wilted, about 4 to 5 minutes. Drain the spinach in a colander, rinse under cold water and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Coarsely chop the spinach.

In a large bowl, combine spinach, beans, cheese, tomatoes, salt, and pepper.

Heat a skillet over medium-low heat. On one tortilla, place approximately 1/4 of the spinach mixture, or enough to evenly spread a layer over the tortilla. Top with another tortilla.  Add a small amount of oil to the pan, swirling to coat, and carefully lay the quesadilla in the pan. Cook, turning once, until each side is golden brown, about 5 minutes total. Repeat with remaining tortillas.

Cut into triangles and serve warm.


One of my most vexing kitchen tasks is stirring a new jar of natural peanut butter.  You know how the natural ones have that layer of oil on the top?  And then you have to stir it in, and the oil-less peanut butter below is really thick, so not only is it hard to stir, sometimes your knife slips too violently and then spills peanut oil all down the side and onto your hands.  And peanut oil smell doesn’t wash off easily, so then you smell like a circus for the rest of the day.  Oh, the horror.

Someone once told me a trick to make this task a little easier, and it couldn’t be simpler: store your unopened jars of peanut butter upside down.  That way, all the oil is at the bottom of the jar when you open it, which makes stirring a little easier since it’s already mixed a bit.  But perhaps more importantly, the oil is at the bottom, so it’s much less likely to spill over the top as you stir.

Have you heard this tip before?  Do you store your peanut butter upside down?

(Image: Flickr member Dr Stephen Dann)


Cake Night: Heaven and Hell

Last night we had a cake night for the first time in what seems like forever.  If you don’t remember about our cake nights, we used to have them nearly monthly; I bake a cake and my foodie friends bring an entree.

Since my good friend Karen was here from New York, we knew we had to plan an extravaganza.  I decided to make this Heaven and Hell cake from Saveur.  Angel food cake, devil’s food cake, peanut butter mousse and ganache.  Um… YUM.

I mixed it up, though, since I wasn’t sure about some of the elements.  First, I changed the ganache from a milk chocolate one to a dark chocolate one.  Everyone agreed that was a much better choice.  And then, I cut the mousse recipe in half, since it called for 4 cups of peanut butter, 1 1/2 lbs of cream cheese and a bunch of powdered sugar.  Someone had commented on the post that the mousse was more like cheesecake, so I figured less is more, in this case.  And I’d say it was.

It turned out pretty well; it wasn’t my favorite but my guests all seemed to agree it was delish.

The ganache also posed a few problems for me.  The recipe asks you to let it sit at room temp for four hours, and then to spread it onto the cake.  But the ganache was so hardened, it wouldn’t spread.  I melted it in the microwave, but then it was so runny it wouldn’t stick to the sides of the cake very well.  I tried to do the standard ganache “drip” off the edges once I’d kind of covered it, so that’s why it looks a little… rustic.

So I’d recommend something in between: heat your ganache about fifteen seconds in the microwave, stir it up, and then try to frost with it.  It does need a little softening, but even a minute in the microwave nearly completely melted it.

Karen and I had been out shopping earlier in the week, and we saw this “table saw.”  Karen had to get it as her contribution to this and future cake nights.  I tried to use it to cut the cake…

But it wasn’t quite delicate enough.  It kind of smashed all the ganache.  I used a regular chef’s knife instead.

Turns out, the Heaven and Hell cake was a perfect accompaniment to the awful, hellish Oscar ceremony we were watching while eating.  Honestly, who thought any of those bits were a good idea?  From the terrible Les Miz number that Anne Hathaway, to her credit, tried to sell, to the inane banter to the difficult-to-open Oscar envelopes, it was just a train wreck.  It may go down in history as one of the worst Oscars ever, I’d predict.

I also decided to burn many of the candles I have recently made at the party.  Check out how the star taper candle melted down:

Cool, no?  RD Husband said, “So, you spent all that time making the star on this candle and then it just melts?  Just like that?”  And I said, “Yep.”  And he said, “Wow, that seems like poor design.”

Hope you had a lovely Oscars evening.


I know, you’re thinking, “Really?  That’s all she’s got?  Storing carrots?”

It was an issue for me.  Maybe it’s been an issue for you?  I thought I’d share my ridiculously simple but perhaps unusual solution.

First, the problem.  The four year old generally won’t eat carrots unless they are cooked.  He doesn’t like to have to work so hard in the chewing department.  When I make a batch, I usually make enough for two or three meals, so I don’t have to keep cooking new batches afresh.  But when you put cooked carrots into a container for storage, very quickly they end up getting… slimy.  Have you experienced this?

It’s actually a problem with raw carrots, too.  I often buy the bags of baby carrots, even though I know it’s lazy and cheating and I don’t want my kids growing up thinking that’s what carrots look like out of the ground.*  But still.  These bags usually contain some moisture to keep the carrots from drying out.  And after I’ve stored the carrots in their resealable bag for a few days, the ones at the bottom get slimy, too.  They’ve been marinating in the water constantly, and they go bad kind of quickly.

I do remember my mom storing carrots fully immersed in water when I was a kid.  She’d get the bag of carrots, peel and cut them all into sticks, and then store them in a Tupperware– and back then, I’m pretty sure it was an actual Tupperware.  It was this tall, thin, orange plastic container that I think was supposed to be for a beverage, because it had a pop spout on the top.  But she always stored carrots and celery sticks in there.  And I remember when you went to get some out, you froze your hand because you had to immerse it into the refrigerator-cooled, carrot-storing water.

Anyhoo.  What to do?  You need some moisture so the carrots don’t dry out, but if the moisture isn’t mediated in some way, it leads to sliminess.  So I decided to store all my carrots with paper towels in their containers.  And you know what?  It totally works.

First, I line the container with a clean, dry paper towel.  For small containers, I only use a half of a paper towel, and I fold it into thirds.

Usually, I’m putting the carrots in straight from cooking, so they are already a little wet.  This moisture wets the paper towel just a tad.  And then, while they are stored, the towel stays damp enough to keep the carrots fresh, but not overly damp.

This is often how I put the kids’ carrots into their lunchboxes, too.

Voilà.  I know it seems so simple, but it has really helped me with my root vegetable storage.

So there you go.  By the by, this system also works great for greens like Swiss chard or kale; put the washed leaves in a ziploc bag with a paper towel, and they stay fresh for a really long time.

*Side story here.  The other day, the four year old says to me, “Mom, are carrots bohnzalay?”  Or at least, that’s what I heard.  I kept asking him to repeat because I could not figure out what he was saying.  Finally, he says, “Are carrots BONES of LEGS???”  (He was super exasperated with my stupidity.)  After some more conversation, I discovered that he thought carrots were leg bones from some animal.  Heavy sigh.  What kind of job am I doing on the nutritional education front???  You should probably not listen to me.

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