Sunday, March 1, 2015

Shrimp Fajita Quesadillas

Around here, we like fast dinners.  We especially like fast dinners that involve cheese (something tells me I have mentioned this before..).  Quesadillas are both fast AND cheesy!

The Shrimp Fajita Quesadillas are especially nice because they have a lot of healthy ingredients and are filling enough to be a full meal, all on their own.  

The ingredient list is fairly simple and the prep takes all of 20 minutes.  This recipe made 4 quesadillas, plus I had some leftovers to mix together with salad greens for lunch the next day.

  • 2 Bell Peppers 
  • 1 Anaheim Pepper
  • 1 Jalapeno Pepper
  • 1 Red Onion
  • 3 Garlic Cloves
  • 1 Avocado
  • 4 Cups Grated Cheese (I used a Tex/Mex blend & Monterrey jack, but whatever you choose)
  • Whole Wheat Tortillas (or regular flour ones ... more on this in a minute)
  • 1 Can Black Beans (as usual, I prefer low sodium)
  • Coriander
  • Cumin
  • Chili Powder
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1/2 Cup Beer, Tequila, or Chicken Stock (to deglaze the pan)
  • 1 Lime (for serving)
  • Sour Cream (for serving)
  • Salsa (for serving)
  • Pan Spray 
  • Cooking oil of choice

And of course, SHRIMP!

I used half of a pound of raw shrimp (deveined but not peeled) that I picked up at the seafood counter in Raley's. 


A few notes on the ingredients:

Regarding the cheese; I've heard several arguments about the merits of freshly grated cheese vs. buying cheese that is pre-grated.  Honestly, I haven't noticed a huge difference.  I say, use what works for you.  If you have a block of cheese that you want to grate and use up, USE IT!  If you don't want to bother with a grater like me buy this stuff.  

As for the tortillas .... I bought a whole wheat full-of-extra-fiber tortilla to try.  

I just thought, by the time you add cheese and shrimp and salsa, they can't be that bad, right?  Well.... not entirely correct, it turns out.  The quesadillas were very good and very filling and fairly healthy when all was said and done.  But I have to say, the whole wheat tortilla was not my favorite.  Next time, I'll probably scrap the wheat and use regular plain ol' corn or flour and just eat an extra salad in the following days.  But if you've found you like whole wheat tortillas, GREAT, have fun with it.  

Basically, use what works for you and your family.  


This is the type of recipe where you need to have your prep work all done before you start cooking.  The vegetables can be prepped first; then the shrimp.  Raw meat products are full of germs; if we prep the shrimp last it saves having to stop and disinfect the cutting board, knife, hands, and surface in the middle before the veggies come out.  Disinfecting will still be necessary, but at least this way you'll only have to clean up once!

First, the bell peppers.  Peppers are very fast and easy to prep.  Start by cutting off all of the sides, going around from stem to stern.  You'll end up with 4 or 5 pieces.

Then, cut off the bottom.

Then, voila!  You have the core, including the seeds and stem, all intact (to pitch or add to stock) and the nice fleshy part ready to cook with or eat.

Since we're doing the veggies fajita style today, we're going to julienne everything into pretty little strips.

Next, the prep the yellow pepper and the Anaheim pepper, the exact same way...

Then, the jalapeno.  The jalapeno starts the same way as any other pepper, first taking off the sides...

Followed by cutting it into strips ...

But then, since Red Beard and I aren't fan of big pieces of jalapeno (but we like the heat), we're going to dice it small.

Chop the garlic.

Slice the onion.

Chop the cilantro.

Drain and rinse the black beans.

And prep your avocado.  First, cut it in half and remove the pit.

Now, cut the halves into quarters.

Now DO NOT grab a spoon and mangle them, trying to get the flesh out of the skin.  Instead, just gently peel off the skin from each quarter.

Slice and set aside.  Usually, you'd need to add lime or lemon juice to keep the slices from browning, but they aren't going to be out long enough this time to worry about it.

Last, the limes.  I learned this trick from a visiting professor my second semester of culinary school.  Before cutting the lime into quarters (wedges), first cut off each end to flatten it.

THEN cut the lime into quarters.  You end up with a citrus wedge that is easier to squeeze because the flat ends make it easier to grip (and, as he pointed out, it just looks cleaner).

After the peppers and onions, garlic, limes, cilantro, and avocado have all been cut and set aside, it's time to start on the shrimp.  Start by peeling and pulling the tails off.

Then, slice them all LENGTHWISE in half.

They still look like shrimp, but now there are twice as many pieces.  Plus, they are a little flatter; we are going to jam so much stuff into these quesadillas that having the ingredients be a little flatter is very helpful.

Wash your hands (raw shrimp germs are nasty). Now, add lots of seasoning.  I used coriander, cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper.  

Time to start cooking!

For recipes like this, I love coconut oil.  I've tried several brands, from Raley's and Trader Joe's and Whole Foods, but this one, from Costco, is by far my favorite:

Of course, feel free to use olive oil, or olive oil and butter, or just butter.  I'm a big fan of all of those.  Lately, I've just noticed that I prefer using coconut oil for Tex/Mex and Asian cooking.  

Add about 1 and a half tablespoons of oil to a skillet (coconut oil comes out solid at room temperature, rather like butter) and bring up to just under medium heat.

When the oil is hot, toss in the shrimp.  Let them cook about 2 minutes before you move them around.  They cook really quickly (especially since they were cut in half) and you want to get a little color on them. 

When they are pink and done, but not dry and hard (over cooked shrimp are tough), put them in a bowl and set aside.  Add the peppers, onions, jalapeno, and garlic to the skillet.

Don't worry about any brown bits from the shrimp.  Brown bits equal flavor, learn to love them.  Season the veg with salt and pepper to taste.  I also added a few shakes of chili powder. Give the veg about 5 minutes on medium heat, until you start to see some color (more brown!).

Then, add your liquid (either beer, tequila, or broth) to deglaze the pan.  I used a bottle of Corona we had hanging around in the fridge.  The mystery is, we can't figure where this single bottle of Corona came from.  Red Beard hates it, so we never buy it... and most of the people who come to our house bring Elephant Beer or Stella.  

As you pour and stir, scrape the bottom of the pan and get all the good stuff up.

There will be lots of sizzling and a happy fragrant cloud of steam.  Enjoy it!  When the veg have some color, and they are cooked, but the peppers are still a little crispy, empty them into a bowl and set aside.  Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel and get ready to assemble your quesadillas.  

To make the assembly go smoothly, lay everything out on the counter where you can grab it easily.  

I used pan spray (instead of butter) to cook the quesadillas:

Coconut oil again!  Ever since I discovered the coconut oil version of  Pam (vs. vegetable oil) it's all I've used; I like the flavor (or lack of) much better than the vegetable oil sprays.  While I am a fan of butter (please, don't start thinking I don't like butter), I can burn butter almost as fast as I can burn bread under a broiler.  Coconut oil has a nice high smoke point that results in a longer cooking time on the quesadilla (meltier cheese) without anything burning.  

Heat the skillet over low-to-medium heat, and spray. 

Add your tortilla to the pan, keeping in mind that it is going to be folded in half (the finished product will look like a half circle). Add some cheese, keeping mostly to 1 half of the tortilla, leaving plenty of folding space (cheese is the yummiest glue around).

Folded quesadillas are easier to flip.  Trust me.

Then add some shrimp and avocado slices.

Followed by some black beans, fajita veggies, and cilantro.

And more cheese.  Then fold over the tortilla and flip when you think the cheese is melty enough.  Whole wheat tortillas don't get as perfectly crisp as corn/flour tortillas do, be warned.  When it's as toasty and melty as you like it (about 90 seconds to 2 minutes per side), pull it out of the pan and lay on a cutting board for slicing (some how, the pictures of the last layer of cheese and the flipping got deleted; sorry folks).

To serve, cut in half or thirds. Serve with salsa, sour cream, and a lime wedge.

Overall, these were a hit.  Yes, the tortillas were a little odd (think cardboard...) but once some salsa was smeared around everything was perfect.  

Recipe coming soon to Tasty Kitchen!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Bruschetta with Roasted Peppers

Last night for dinner, we had bruschetta.  Not the traditional version, with the garlic-rubbed grilled bread and the cold toppings.  MY version, that includes piping hot yummy toppings with melted cheese.  Also known as The Fastest Dinner Ever that Doesn't Involve Take-Out.

It's pretty much an open-faced grilled cheese sandwich.  And who doesn't like grilled cheese?

It's fast, super easy, and most of the ingredients are things I usually have on hand anyway.  Or, the toppings can be adjusted to include whatever you have on hand.  It's very versatile!  And did I mention, gooey cheese?!


  • French bread
  • Unsalted Butter (softened & spreadable)
  • Italian Parsley
  • Havarti Cheese (sliced)
  • Gouda Cheese (sliced)
  • Roasted Peppers (in the jar, it's about speed)
  • Prosciutto (thin sliced)
  • Salt 
  • Pepper

That's it!  I prepped 8 pieces because there were only two of us, but there's enough ingredients here to assemble twice that.

Start by slicing and buttering your bread.

Arrange the buttered bread on a sheet pan.  As always, spray the pan first - melty cheese is hell to scrub off.

Toast under the broiler until the bread looks extra yummy.  Watch it closely!  As you can see, I left it in about 15 seconds too long.

Once the bread is done, set it aside and preheat your oven to 425º.

Next, chop your parsley.

Drain the peppers and lay them out on paper towels to dry a bit.  If the peppers are wet, they'll make the bread soggy.  No one likes soggy bread.

Peel apart the prosciutto slices (they come packed with plastic sheets between the slices); I did about a slice and a half per slice of bread.  If your cheese slices are much bigger than the pieces of bread (mine were), cut them in half; I did one half slice of each type of cheese per piece of bread.

Now it's time to assemble!  First, prosciutto. 

Then, a sprinkle of parsley.

Then roasted peppers, topped with some salt (lightly with the salt, the prosciutto and the cheese are both salty) and as much pepper as you feel like.


Finally, the whole thing goes into the oven (425º, remember?) for about 15 minutes; but keep an eye on it!  In fact, it's probably best to set the timer for 10 minutes and check it.  We like our cheese really melted and starting to toast - but some folks like their cheese not-so-cooked. 

Yay!  Dinner's done!  And hardly any dishes!

  • Caprese, layering sliced tomatoes and basil over the prosciutto, with fresh mozzarella on top.
  • Antipasto, layering salami or soppressata on the bread, topped by roasted peppers and chopped olives, and basil, with provolone. You can get all the fancy meats at pretty much any decent grocery store deli these days. 
  • Sausage & Peppers, layering sliced (cooked) Italian sausage on the bread, followed by roasted peppers, parsley, and any cheese you like.
  • Pesto & Goat Cheese, layering prosciutto with a dollop of pesto (jarred is awesome!), followed by crumbles of goat cheese and few pine nuts.
Printable version coming soon to Tasty Kitchen!