Happy 4th of July from the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. team! Today we are celebrating with our recipe of the month – Sweet and Tangy Chicken Quesadillas.
I enjoy using sweet and savory flavors in a meal, but, I confess, I had never had fruit in a quesadilla until I tried this recipe. I was skeptical when I first made these quesadillas, but now I enjoy trying different fruit and vegetable combinations in my quesadillas. This recipe combines canned peaches, chicken cooked in the juice drained from the peaches, and cheese in a whole wheat tortilla to make a delicious quesadilla.
This recipe is easy to adapt to the foods you have on hand. I have substituted beans for the chicken to make a meatless meal and I have used canned pineapple when I was out of peaches. You can have fun making many tasty combinations.
Sweet and Tangy Chicken Quesadillas
Serving Size: 1 quesadilla | Serves: 4
Cost Per Serving: $1.04
- 1 can (15 ounces) peaches in 100% juice
- 1 cup boneless, skinless chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 3/4 cup shredded cheese
- 4 8-inch whole wheat tortillas
Optional: black beans, cilantro, corn, jalapeño pepper, onion, salsa, tomato
- Strain the juice from the peaches into a bowl. Cut peaches into small bite-sized pieces. Set the peaches aside.
- Heat a skillet to medium. Spray it with cooking spray. Add chicken and peach juice.
- Cook the chicken, stirring occasionally, until internal temperature reaches 165°F. Remove chicken and peach juice from skillet.
- Put 1/4 of each ingredient (chicken mixture, peaches, cheese, and optional ingredients) on half of each tortilla.
- Fold the empty side of the tortilla over the cheese, chicken, and fruit like closing a book.
- Cook quesadillas in skillet until lightly browned on both sides. Make sure they are warmed through and cheese is melted.
- Substitute other fruit, such as pineapple or apricots.
We have blogged on the Salty Six before, but since so many of our readers are interested in reducing their blood pressure, we decided it was worth another post!
Many people think that reducing sodium means putting down the salt shaker. There is some truth to this. However, most of the sodium we eat doesn’t come from salt we add at home, but rather from sodium added to packaged foods and restaurant dishes.
The American Heart Association created the Salty Six list to educate Americans about the foods that tend to hide an unexpected amount of sodium. These foods aren’t always particularly ‘salty’ in taste, but they pack a sodium punch!
If some of your favorite foods are on this list, there are a few things you can do:
- Check Nutrition Facts labels, you may find that some brands don’t add as much sodium as others.
- Look for reduced sodium or no salt added varieties.
- Enjoy the foods you love, just eat them less often.
Remember the Salty Six next time you make your grocery list and check those Nutrition Facts labels while you’re shopping!
I am a soup lover from way back. I eat it most days in the winter and it is one of my favorite things to cook when the weather gets chilly. Homemade soup is often much healthier than soup from a can and it tastes so much better. Even though I love to make soup, it took me years to get up the guts to try making my own stock. It seemed like the people who I saw doing it were chefs on TV and that’s just not me.
I jumped the hurdle and did it myself and was pleased to find that it really is easy and the stock tastes much richer than what I was buying at the grocery store. Here is a link to a general guide on making your own stock. The guide involves making a few choices, here are the exact steps I took. My apologies for the extra-long blog, but I thought you all would want the details!
|1. Put bone-in chicken pieces in the bottom of a large pot. I used a mix of thighs and breasts because that’s what I had. I used about two pounds or so. You can use bones from roasted chicken instead of chicken pieces, but since I wanted the chicken meat, I went ahead and used pieces.
| 2. Add a few carrots, a few ribs of celery, a garlic bulb cut in half the long way and two large onions (I used three because mine were tiny). You can add other root vegetables like turnips or parsnips if you have them. This is a great use up for veggies that may be getting close to spoiling. Just clean the veggies, there is no need to cut them up, they’re going to get strained out anyway.
|3. Fill the pot with water so the vegetables are covered.
| 4. Top off with herbs and spices. I chose the following:
- 2t dried parsley
- 2t black pepper
- 5 bay leaves
- 15 sprigs fresh thyme
- 5 sprigs fresh rosemary
| *Note: fresh herbs are not necessary, dried versions of these herbs would have been fine too. I just happened to have them growing in a pot on my back patio. If you choose dried, use two teaspoons thyme and 1 teaspoon rosemary. You’ll see I didn’t include salt. This is because the recipes I use this stock for will call for salt and I can add it at that time. I can keep the sodium in my recipes down if I don’t salt it twice.
|5. Pop a lid on the pot, bring it to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and let it go for about two hours. In the meantime, enjoy the awesome aroma!
|6. Once the stock is finished cooking, fish out the chicken pieces using a pair of tongs and set them aside to cool. Once cool, remove the skin and bones and refrigerate the chicken for your next recipe.
|7. Once the stock has cooled a bit, place a large strainer over an even larger bowl and pour the stock through the strainer. The big pieces of vegetables will get caught in the strainer and they can be discarded. You’ll be left with beautiful golden stock. Having a helper for this step is a good idea. My apologies for no picture of this step, I got a bit distracted with trying not to burn myself!
|8. At this point, you’ll want to refrigerate or freeze your stock. Once it is cold, the fat from the chicken will harden and you can spoon it right off.
|9. You’re ready to use your homemade stock for soups, steaming vegetables, cooking rice or thinning sauces.
Let’s be honest, it took a while to make my own stock, but most of the time I was able to do things around the house. I didn’t need to tend the stock for the full two hours and my homemade stock is healthy, delicious and inexpensive. I made six quarts of stock for about $10. The stock at my grocery store costs about $2.50 per quart, so six quarts would cost about $15. It feels good to know I can do it myself. I hope you’ll give it a try!
My family and I love pasta with alfredo sauce, but I am not a fan of the fat and calories that go along with traditional alfredo sauce recipes. Our recipe for June is Chicken Alfredo Pasta and it is an alfredo sauce makeover that you will enjoy. It has all the creamy cheesiness of a traditional recipe with fewer calories and less fat.
The goal of a meal makeover is to improve the nutrition of a recipe. This can be done by adding fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and by reducing or replacing ingredients that are high in fat, sodium, or added sugar. In this alfredo sauce makeover, nonfat milk and low fat cream cheese are used in place of cream and butter. This switch reduces both the fat and calories. Combine the alfredo sauce with whole wheat noodles, broccoli, and chicken then add some fruit on the side and you have a complete meal.
Put this recipe on your menu soon, and you will have your whole family asking for more!
Chicken Alfredo Pasta
Serving Size: 1 1/3 cups
- 1 pound boneless,skinless chicken breasts
- 1 tablespoon oil (canola or vegetable)
- 2 1/2 cups whole wheat penne or rotini pasta
- 1 package (16 ounces) frozen chopped broccoli
- 1 cup nonfat milk
- 8 ounces low fat cream cheese, cubed
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Remove fat from chicken and cut meat into bite sized pieces on a cutting board. Wash hands.
- Begin heating water to boiling in a large pot for pasta.
- Heat oil in a large skillet on medium high. Add chicken cubes to skillet when oil is hot and stir to coat with oil. Cook the chicken for 20 seconds before stirring again. Cook the chicken for 7 to 9 minutes. Turn the chicken cubes every 20 to 30 seconds.
- Remove chicken from skillet when it is done cooking and is 165ºF. Cover it to keep it warm.
- Cook the pasta using directions on package. Add the frozen broccoli the last 3 minutes of cooking. Drain the water from the pasta and broccoli. Return food to the pot. Do not cover.
- Add the milk and cream cheese to the skillet. Stir the mixture constantly over low heat. The mixture will thicken and be smooth.
- Add the garlic powder, Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper. Stir mixture. Then add cooked chicken and heat mixture.
- Combine meat mixture with the pasta and broccoli mixture. Serve.
• You can use boneless chicken thighs and legs or leftover chicken instead of chicken breasts.
• You can use other vegetables instead of broccoli.
• Add a few red pepper flakes for color and spice.
• Be sure to use a clean cutting board. Wash your hands before and after handling raw chicken.
When it is hot outside heating the oven to cook seems counterproductive and sometimes I’m just too lazy to start the grill. A dish that will cook quickly on the stove top seems to work the best. This recipe does require some chopping, but it goes together very fast. Plus, when you make it yourself you control the amount of fat used, which can be an issue with restaurant meals.
As the first step indicates, partially freezing any meat or poultry will make these slices possible. Likewise, a sharp knife for cutting the onion, peppers and tomatoes will make your life much easier. Just make sure to wash your knife and cutting board after you work with the chicken.
As with all of our recipes, you need to adjust this one to your family’s tastes and what is available. Use the color of peppers and onions you like or have on hand. Use corn or wheat tortillas and substitute beef or pork for the chicken. You could also go meatless and use 1 can (15 ounces) of drained and rinsed black beans.
Serving Size: 1 tortilla with 2/3 cup filling
Serves: 6 (makes 4 cups of filling)
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
- 1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 6 whole wheat tortillas, 8-inch
- Optional Toppings:6 ounces shredded low fat cheddar cheese; 1 cup chopped tomato;, chopped cilantro; sliced jalapeno
- Freeze chicken 30 minutes until firm and easier to cut. Cut chicken into 1/4-inch strips. Place in a single layer on a plate. Wash hands, knife, and cutting board. Sprinkle both sides of strips with chili and garlic powder.
- Add oil to a 12-inch skillet. Heat to medium high. Add chicken strips. Cook about 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add bell peppers and onion. Stir and cook until vegetables are tender and chicken is no longer pink. (Heat chicken to at least 165°F).
- Scoop chicken mixture ( 2/3 cup each) onto tortillas. Top with your favorite toppings.
- Serve flat or rolled
- Heat cold tortillas to make them easier to fold. Cover tortillas with a moist paper towel and heat 30 seconds in microwave.
- Wear plastic gloves to handle hot peppers. No gloves? Wash hands with soap and water before touching your face, your cooking utensils, or another person.
- 3 cups of pepper = 2 medium peppers
Our feature recipe for March is Fiesta Skillet Dinner. Fixing up the recipe was easy while following the simple directions. The recipe calls for 2 cups of cooked chicken. I decided to cook boneless, skinless chicken breasts, but you can use packaged, precooked chicken or precooked canned chicken.
While cooking the chicken, make sure the raw chicken reaches an internal temperature of at least 165°F. Poke a meat thermometer in the middle of the chicken to test for doneness. Overall, the recipe took about 30 minutes to cook from start to finish. Cooking the boneless skinless chicken breasts took the longest amount of time. To save time with cooking, I suggest cutting the raw chicken into cubes before cooking.
This dish is relatively inexpensive. The cost per serving is only $1.26 and 1 ½ cups is one serving.
This dish is loaded with flavor from the creamy cheddar cheese to the mild spice from the tomatoes and chili powder! My fiancé was very pleased with the robust flavor and dished up a second helping! Pair the dish with crunchy, raw vegetables such as carrots and slices of green pepper. Add a fruit for sweetness like a vanilla banana pudding parfait! If you are looking for a simple way to curb your taco or burrito craving, try the Fiesta Skillet Dinner today!
Allyson Woltman , Iowa State University Dietetic Intern
Serving Size: 1 1/2 cups
Cost Per Serving: $1.26
- 1 cup prepared brown instant rice (1/2 cup uncooked)
- 1 can (15.5 ounces) Mexican style tomatoes
- 1 can (15.5 ounces) black beans, rinsed
- 1 cup frozen corn
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 2 cups cooked diced chicken
- 1/2 cup 2% reduced fat cheddar cheese, shredded
- Prepare the brown rice according to package directions.
- While the rice cooks, mix the tomatoes, black beans, corn, chili powder, and chicken in a large skillet. Cook over medium heat until heated through.
- Add the cooked rice and stir thoroughly. Top with shredded cheddar cheese.
- Serve hot.
- This recipe freezes really well.
- Putting the cheese on top gives more flavor, but with less cheese.
- Using canned corn increases the sodium.
- Wrap in a tortilla to make a sandwich.
Rinsing canned beans removes about 40% of the sodium.
Ramen Noodle Skillet was a hit with my kids when they were in school and it still is one of my favorite recipes. I think the noodles were the attraction for them. I like it because you can use just about any vegetable that you have in your garden or vegetable drawer, only one pan gets dirty, and you can have the meal on the table in 15 minutes.
Meat is the more expensive part of meals in the US. The bad news is that the money people are saving because of the gas price drop in recent weeks is likely to be offset by increased prices in beef, pork, and chicken. USDA is predicting meat prices to increase 3.5 percent to 4.5 percent in 2012.
The Ramen Noodle Skillet recipe can help you stretch your meat dollar. If you have leftover chicken, pork chop, or roast, you can store them in the freezer instead of letting them dry out in the refrigerator. When you have about 2 cups, thaw, for Ramen Noodle Skillet and you have another meal without additional meat expense.
Ramen Noodle Skillet
- 2 teaspoons vegetable or olive oil
- 1 cup onion, chopped (about 1 medium onion)
- 1 carrot, chopped or sliced into small pieces
- 2 cups frozen broccoli stir-fry vegetable mixture, thawed
- 2 cups cooked meat or poultry cut into bite-size pieces
- 1 cup water
- 1 (3-ounce) package beef-flavored instant ramen noodles, broken into pieces
- Heat oil in a large skillet. Add onion and carrots and sauté until soft (about 5 minutes).
- Thaw the broccoli mixture in the microwave and drain.
- Add the broccoli and cooked meat to the skillet. Stir and heat (about 1-2 minutes).
- Add the noodle seasonings to the water and stir into the pan.
- Break apart the ramen noodles. Add to the skillet when the water simmers. Stir to moisten the noodles. Cover the skillet and cook until done (about 2 minutes).
- Serve immediately.
- Use cooked meat and vegetables from other meals.
- Substitute 1 pound of ground beef or turkey to yield two cups of meat.
- Rinse cooked, crumbled ground beef with hot tap water to reduce fat by 50 percent.
Our featured recipe this month is Cheesy Chicken Enchilada Bake. It is a very easy recipe that costs about $.80 a serving. You can use any combination of 4 cups of meat and beans that you have. The recipe also calls for salsa. I use medium, but if you want a little more heat you could use a spicier salsa, add a hot pepper, or add a little hot sauce. Be sure you save a little of the enchilada filling to spread on top of the enchiladas.
When I make this dish, I put the enchiladas in two baking pans. I cook one and I freeze one. Then all you have to do is add fruit and milk. The frozen enchiladas will take about 30 minutes at 350⁰ F to thaw and heat through.
Chicken Safety Tip: Washing raw poultry before cooking it is not recommended. Bacteria in raw meat and poultry juices can be spread to other foods, utensils, and surfaces. This is called cross-contamination. Rinsing or soaking chicken does not destroy bacteria. Any bacteria that might be present on fresh chicken are destroyed only by cooking. Also, make sure you wash the cutting board and knife right after you use them.
Cheesy Chicken Enchilada Bake
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast (about 2 cups)
- ½ cup water
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 can (15-ounce) low sodium black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 cup frozen corn
- 1 cup salsa
- 8 whole wheat tortillas
- Cooking spray
- ½ cup 2%-fat shredded cheddar cheese
- Cut chicken breast into 4-5 chunks. Simmer in a large saucepan with water and chili powder. Cook until internal temperature is 165° F (about 10 minutes).
- Remove chicken from pan. Cut or shred into small chunks and return to pan. Add beans, corn, and salsa to saucepan. Cook until hot, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Spread 1/2 cup of chicken mixture down the center of each tortilla. Roll up and place seam-side down in greased 9×13 pan.
- Spread any leftover chicken mixture over the top of the enchiladas.
- Bake at 375o F for 12-15 minutes.
- Sprinkle cheese on top of the enchiladas during the last 5 minutes of cooking.
- Serve immediately.
Grocery and discount stores like to promote groups of different products for the same price (i.e. mix and match for a $1.00). Some are good buys, some are the regular price, and sometimes they are more.
Last week this picture and ad caught my attention. It looked good. I wondered how they did the breading and if the chicken was baked or fried.
A closer look told me that the store is really selling raw chicken breast that has been marinated. The chicken will not be cut in strips and it will not have breading. It will have some marinade on it. The cost is $2.67 a pound. Here is how I figured the cost.
10-6 ounce breasts = 60 ounces or 3.75 pounds (60 ounces ÷ 16 ounces in a pound = 3.75 pounds) $10.00 ÷ 3.75 pounds = $2.67 a pound.
Another store has boneless, skinless chicken breasts for $1.79 a pound. I think I will buy them and save about $0.90 a pound. I will use a little Italian dressing for the marinade.
–pointers from Peggy
Soup is a great comfort food for winter meals, and so good for you too. Our featured recipe for January is Mexican Chicken Soup. Making this soup takes less time than getting in the car and driving through your favorite takeout place. You don’t have to cook the chicken ahead of time. Just place raw boneless chicken in the pot with the other ingredients. After cooking for about 20 minutes, take the chicken out and shred it into bite-size pieces. Serve it with tortilla chips or bread, apple/orange slices and you have a meal with something from each food group plus plenty of fiber. For extra instruction, check out the preparation video under the recipe instructions.
This recipe would be super economical if you made your own chicken broth and cooked dry beans instead of buying them canned; click on the hot links above to see the directions. Another advantage of doing it yourself is that you can control the amount of sodium.
If this soup scores points with your family, check out the other soup recipes in the Cook section of the SpendSmart.EatSmart web page. All our recipes are healthy, low-cost and easy.
Mexican Chicken Soup
- 2 (15-ounce) cans diced tomatoes (Mexican-style)
- 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 2 cups frozen corn or 1 15-ounce can corn, drained and rinsed
- 1 (14.5-ounce) can sodium-reduced chicken broth or 2 cups Homemade Chicken Broth
- 2 cloves garlic, minced or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast
- Add tomatoes, beans, corn, broth, garlic, chili powder, cumin (if desired), and pepper in large saucepan.
- Remove and discard any visible fat from chicken. Cut chicken into large chunks and add to the saucepan. Heat to boiling, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes, or until chicken is tender.
- Remove the chicken and place on a plate; use forks to shred the chicken. Return the shredded chicken to soup.
- Serve with choice of garnishes, such as baked tortilla chips.
-pointers from Peggy