Chris Cooks

Healthy-ish Chicken Quesadillas with Chive Yogurt Dip

September 18, 2013

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Something that bugs me is when people use the word “healthy” to describe anything that addresses a food allergy or restriction. For example, I’ve seen so many recipes for “healthy pizza with cauliflower crust” – I mean, it’s cauliflower! Soooo healthy!!! Yeah, then you read the ingredient list and find out that you use as much cheese as you do cauliflower. Just because it’s gluten-free, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. So I try to keep this in mind whenever I label a recipe as “healthy,” because I don’t want to abuse the term. That said, I really do view these quesadillas as healthy, even with the cheese and plain ol’ flour tortilla. Check it.

So the first thing you do is make the chive yogurt dip and set it aside so the flavors can mingle. Super simple:

• 3/4 cup plain, nonfat yogurt
• some chives
• like 2 tsp green Tobasco sauce
• pinch of garlic powder
• pinch of salt

Chop the chives, mix it all together, boom – done.

Now the quesadillas. Here’s what you need:

• Cheese, shredded – I used a mix of cheddar and mozzarella
• Large tortillas – use whatever kind you want. I just went with a classic flour tortilla
• 1 full chicken breast, cooked in olive oil with salt, pepper, cumin, paprika
• 1/2 red bell pepper, sliced
• 1/2 onion, sliced
• 2 jalapeños, deseeded and sliced
• 1 avocado, scooped out and mashed with juice of 1/2 lime
• 2 ears of corn, grilled then cut from the cob – use frozen corn if that’s all you have
• 1 tomato, diced,
• few leaves of mint, chopped
• few leaves of cilantro, chopped

First, cook the red bell pepper, onion and jalapeños in a little olive oil with a pinch of salt, cumin and paprika. Once that’s done, put it in a bowl and do the same with the rest of your ingredients. Then start assembling like so:

pardon the poor lighting

1. Sprinkle just a little cheese on one side of the tortilla
2. Add the sautéd vegetables
3. Add the corn
4. Add the chicken and spread some avocado on the other side of the tortilla
5. Add cilantro and mint on top of the avocado
6. Sprinkle with a little more cheese
6a. Add some tomato on top of the cheese on the non-avocado side (not pictured)
7. Fold the avocado side over on top of all the stuff
8. Cook it. As you can see, I use my George Foreman. Sandwiches and quesadillas are the only things I use my Foreman for – it’s cheaper than a panini press and works great.

Now you’re probably wondering, “Does the sequence really matter?” Yes, and here’s why. Quesadillas that fall apart are awful. What keeps them from falling apart? The cheese. The more ingredients you add to a quesadilla, the more difficult it becomes for the cheese to hold it all together. Therefor, instead of just piling on the cheese, you add a thin layer on the bottom, then a thin layer on top, and this will help everything stick together while keeping the cheese calories low. This sequence also makes it easier to deal with the avocado and tomato. That may sound strange, but just trust me.

Hot off the Foreman. And another, sliced up and served with the chive yogurt:

And there she is. This thing is packed to the brim with healthy stuff, and we keep it all together with minimal cheese. For anyone skeptical about the chive yogurt, you could swap the yogurt for sour cream, but I would really encourage you to try the yogurt first. We use yogurt in place of sour cream for almost all uncooked uses now. You’ll be surprised how much you like it.

So what would you put in your quesadilla? Anything you would add? Anything you would take out? Let’s toss out some ideas for what we can quesadilla-ize next! Cheers, all.

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What do you think?

  1. Katie says:

    Quesadillas are like ‘healthy’ grilled cheese :) I make ones just like these using a panini press or I put them under the broiler. And, they’re so versatile– we had some delicious roasted b-nut squash, caramelized onion, thyme and goat cheese ones the other night.

  2. Mylena says:

    I always wonder what the he** people think is healthy nowadays? Eating gluten-free, or dairy-free or alien-free has nothing to do with “healthy”. What’s healthy eating? It’s eating from all the food groups in reasonable and proportionate amounts. If one needs to exclude gluten/dairy/alien, that’s ok, but that doesn’t make a recipe healthier than the gluten/dairy/alien laden original.

    That said, I definitively call your quesadillas healthy. You’ve got lots of veg, some protein, some fat and some carbs. And they look scrumptious to boot :-)

    Top tip for the yoghurt Chris, get yourself an old fashioned 1-cup coffee filter holder (the plastic thing you slide a coffee filter in and set over a cup to brew a single cup of coffee). Pour your yoghurt in there (with filter) and set over a cup in the fridge for a few hours. You’ll loose a lot of the whey that is still present in yoghurt and end up with yoghurt so thick you can stand a spoon in! Great if you really need to replace the consistency of sour cream or fromage frais!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Don’t knock the cauliflower pizza crust – not sure which one you saw that had equal cheese and cauliflower… the recipe I use doesn’t. :) This is not my recipe – here’s a link to the one I use. Blend some diced tomatoes for sauce, some ground turkey sausage and a sprinkle of cheese – yum! ;)

  4. Brandilyn says:

    Your blurb about “healthy” food made me laugh. David’s allergic to dairy and gluten, so people always say, “Wow, he eats so healthy!” Well, he does for the most part…but there’s dairy-free ice cream, which has just as much sugar as regular ice cream. GF/DF cake and cookies are still loaded with oil, eggs, sugar, and chocolate. Eating healthy still has to be a conscious choice, allergies or not!

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    • Awesome! We’re actually strictly corn tortilla people when it comes to tacos, but for quesadillas I just can’t give up the flour. The corn just doesn’t do it for me in that application.

      Glad you’re enjoying the cutting board! :)

  6. To make it truly gluten free, what would you use in place of a flour tortilla? Does anyone make a soft a corn tortilla or would it be too hard and make it more of a taco?

    • That’s a great question. Achieving the right texture in the tortilla with corn would be difficult – probably impossible. There are two issues:
      1. Corn and gluten-free tortillas tend to disintegrate when they come in contact with liquids. This is why taco vendors double up their corn tortillas for tacos. Many of the ingredients of this quesadilla would cause corn tortillas to fall apart.
      2. Cooking a corn tortilla will help it stay together better, but then it becomes crisp and will end up more like a tostada or hard shell taco.
      That being said, these ingredients would make some killer hard shell tacos, which is an option. But another one you could try is this:
      She mentions these tortillas:
      I’ve never tried them, so I can’t vouch for them. But if you’re able to steam them to make them pliable, then fill them with your stuff and use that for the quesadilla, maybe it would turn out. Good luck!

  7. Kelly says:

    That picture with the corn and cheese oozing out looks delicious. You probably know this, but greek yogurt is closer in texture to sour cream for a sub. Or you can mix the two together. There’s also a product called Vegenaise that I started using because I’m trying to limit dairy intake. I will cut it with a little plain non-fat yogurt, or halve it with regular mayo in a recipe, then season with salt and onion power to use as a dressing for chicken salad or a dip. It doesn’t taste like mayo, but it has way less calories and when mixed with stuff, you can’t even tell. I don’t know if I’d sub it on a sandwich though. (If you’re trying to lose weight Chris, I highly recommend cutting out diary temporarily. I lost 10lbs in a month doing nothing but that. Dairy is full of hormones and high in calories. Dairy is also effing delicious though, so I know it’s hard.)

    • Thanks for the tips, Kelly! I hear ya about cutting out dairy. I’m sure doing that would definitely help me drop the pounds, but knowing myself I would feel too restricted and eventually cave and go on a cheese bender. I have significantly reduced my cheese intake, though, which I think is helping. :)

  8. jglitter says:

    Pear with Gruyere cheese, roasted butternut squash with black beans and goat cheese are two of my favorite fillings. Also, living in Texas – we like a good breakfast quesadilla filled with scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese, mushrooms and green onion. Your quesadilla looks really tasty, thanks for sharing!

  9. Kirsten says:

    This looks delicious!

  10. A + S says:

    Great idea using the foreman! i’m going to have to try that. And i would put in some black beans … I love beans:)

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