Last week I made quesadillas for dinner, but I made a horrible, horrible mistake. I didn’t make the kind my kids were expecting, you know, rice and beans and cheese. Standard. Comfortable. Familiar. I had a couple of sweet potatoes and a big box of baby kale in my fridge, and I was tired of the same old, same old. So I threw together some sweet potato and kale quesadillas. I’ve actually made these before, but my boys weren’t around for the prep process and they didn’t see what was in them. They gobbled them up that time.
This time, they walked into the kitchen and saw me dicing sweet potatoes. “What are you making, Mom?” my oldest asked. “Quesadillas,” I innocently replied, knowing how much both boys claim to despise sweet potatoes. “Well, what are you doing with those,” he continued, pointing to the pile of diced sweet potatoes on the cutting board in front of me. “I’m chopping them up,” I replied, answering his question, but not REALLY answering his question.
As they headed back to their bedroom, I knew I had been caught red handed. When they returned 15 minutes later, I tried to play it cool. I was just finishing up assembling the first quesadilla, and they saw me scoop a giant pile of sweet potatoes and kale on top of the gooey cheese and salsa-covered tortilla. Things quickly went downhill.
“Mom, I’m going to make my own dinner tonight,” announced my oldest.
“No, you aren’t,” I replied, “I have dinner right here.”
“You said I could if I didn’t like what you are making,” he countered.
Damn it, why do they always remember the empty threats you make in the heat of the moment?
“Well you haven’t even tried it yet, so how do you know you don’t like it?” I asked.
“I DON’T LIKE SWEET POTATOES AND I’M. NOT.EATING. IT.”
Um, excuse me?
Emboldened by his older brother’s forceful declaration of independence, my youngest quickly followed suit. “I am not eating that. That’s disgusting. I want mine with rice and beans.” (Insert crossed arms, a pouty face, and a stomped foot here.)
“Listen, you had these before and you liked them,” I tried to reason.
When more whining and general snotty attitudes continued, I pulled out the big guns. “You are eating them. You are at least trying them, and if you don’t, you can both go straight to bed.”
With that, my youngest started sobbing. While he likes to test the boundaries of his independence and can be very stubborn, punishment ranks right up there for him with a doctor visit to get shots. Where my oldest could care less about being punished, my youngest finds it tragically, utterly, painfully, heartbreaking and ends up like putty in my hands. He knew he was finished. I had sapped all the fight out of him, so he let out one last desperate, guttural cry. “But Mom, THERE’S NO CREATIVITY IN THIS DISH. I CAN’T EAT IT!”
I simultaneously wanted to burst out laughing and crying.
No creativity my ass. The whole reason we are in this debacle is because I had to go and get creative with your quesadillas. Clearly we’ve been watching way too much Food Network.
Fortunately, I was saved by a moment of inspiration. Live by the Food Network, die by the Food Network. What’s the thing the Chopped judges always say elevates a dish? A sauce.
While I didn’t have a sauce, I did have a tub of sour cream.
“Would you consider this dish more creative if I added a dollop of sour cream to your plate?” I asked.
With that, the waterworks stopped and all was right in his world again. He nodded his head yes and gave me a sheepish grin as he began picking at his plate.
One clean plate later for my youngest, and one half-eaten quesadilla later for my oldest (quite the accomplishment for the kid who pretty much won’t eat anything I make these days), and I decided the dish needed to find a more regular spot in our dinner rotation. It’s a good thing, because my youngest has asked every day since when I could make those quesadillas again.
Sweet Potato and Kale Quesadillas
Makes 6 Quesadillas
1 TBSP olive oil
2 medium sweet potatoes, diced
4 cups baby kale
1 tsp chili powder
Fresh ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (I used Daiya Cheddar Style Shreds to keep the dish dairy-free.)
1 cup of your favorite salsa (I used Muir Glen Organics Mild Salsa.)
Heat olive oil in the bottom of a large skillet over medium heat. Add the diced sweet potatoes, chili powder and sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste. Stir well so all the sweet potatoes are coated with the oil and spices. Cover and cook for 7-9 minutes, stirring frequently, until the sweet potatoes are tender.
Meanwhile, heat another skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium/medium-low heat. Spread 2-3 tablespoons salsa on a tortilla, then sprinkle 1/4 cup of cheese on top of the salsa. Place the tortilla in the skillet and cover. Check it every minute or two until the cheese is melted.
Back at the sweet potatoes, once they reach the point of being tender, stir in the baby kale. Don’t worry, it will cook down A LOT.
Scoop 1/2 – 3/4 cup of the sweet potato mixture onto one half of the tortilla, fold the other half over, cut, serve and enjoy.
These are delicious straight up, but clearly there’s an argument to be made for adding a dollop of your favorite sour cream (either dairy or non-dairy).