Adding Nutrients to Familiar Meals

Adding color, flavor and nutrients to an old favorite: Quesadillas.

As we move towards transitioning to cleaner eating, I'm being more mindful of ingredients. One easy change, which became habit in my pregnancies, is adding nutrient-rich foods to what we are already used to eating. I'm not sure where I read it, or who told me, but the idea is to always ask this question when preparing a meal: "what healthy thing can I add to this?" It's a much easier concept to swallow than "I can't have that", so it's a painless way to get a taste for something new. We'll work on subtraction later, and it won't hurt so bad.

I don't know if every mom does this, but in our house I unconsciously covet all the fresh fruit and vegetables for the kids. For example, every time I cut a mango, they devour the whole thing, and I decide to save the other for them, as well. There are many things the kids don't like, also, and I've grown so sick of throwing things away. Sweet potato is a good example of something they both hate. Every time I buy one, I have good intentions, but it ends up in the garbage sooner or later.

This week I promised myself I would be allowed to eat from the fruit bowl, and I promised the sweet potatoes they would be loved. I vowed that this time I would take charge of their fate, and their life's purpose would be fulfilled. It was a shocking success!

I took a familiar meal, which the whole family loves (prepared three different ways, OF COURSE), and added sweet potato. Baked black bean enchiladas are a favorite in our house. It's a quick, easy, mindless weeknight meal made from pantry staples. There's certainly room for improvement as we think about a less processed version, or even a vegan version. I tried asking my husband, who did the shopping that day, to look for something "brown" (aka multigrain) in the tortilla section. "No way", he said, "that's gross". I tried.

Loaded quesadillas, for a quicker black bean fix at lunch
Adding sweet potato to black beans isn't a new concept for us, but we had forgotten the delicious combination. For my daughter, the less picky, I mashed the orange potatoes and folded them into the black beans. She loves beans, so she ate a big bowl of them, hardly noticing. The real gold medal I earned comes from tricking my extremely picky 5 year old into eating sweet potatoes and black beans well-mashed together and pasted into a quesadilla with cheese. He ate a whole 1/4 of the quesadilla before he quit and decided he didn't like quesadillas any more. My husband wanted to force him to eat the rest, but I felt so high from succeeding in my trick, I wanted to let it go. This shall be known as the day the boy ate yams.

Here is my basic recipe for enchiladas. It is in no way authentic, but we love this method in our house - the crispy ends are the best. Add your favorite vegetables to brighten it up.

Thinking of making it vegan? When we cut dairy, I'll skip the cheese (I'm not a fan of vegan cheese) and sour cream and serve only with guacamole.

Black Bean Enchiladas
Servings: 3
Total Time: 30-40 minutes


3 8 inch flour tortillas
1/2 C shredded cheddar, divided 1/4 C plus 1/4 C

1 T vegetable oil
1/4 C yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 14 oz can black beans, drained, rinsed
1/2 tspn dried oregano
1/2 tspn cumin powder
1/8 tspn garlic powder
1/8 tspn onion powder
to taste crushed red pepper flakes
to taste salt
1/4 C water

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 8 oz can tomato puree
1/4 teaspoon cumin powder
to taste 1/8 - 1/2 tspn cayenne powder or sauce
to taste 1/8 - 1/2 tspn red pepper flakes
to taste salt

cilantro, chopped
sour cream
hot sauce
avocado or guacamole
lime wedges


1. Preheat oven to 375 F.

2. Prepare the Filling: Heat oil in a small saucepan or skillet over medium heat. Sauté onion 2-3 minutes, add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the black beans and seasonings. Cook for 2 minutes and add water. Lower heat to simmer 8-10 minutes until the water is evaporated. Add a spoonful of water as needed to keep the beans just moist.

3. Make the Sauce: Heat oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Completely dissolve the chili powder in the oil, and then add the tomato sauce. Add seasonings to taste and set aside.

4. Assemble Enchiladas: Spray a glass baking dish with non-stick spray or olive oil.

Divide filling among 3 or 4 tortillas, placed in a line down the center of each. Sprinkle 1 Tablespoon of cheese on each. Close the sides of the tortilla and secure with a toothpick. Place in the baking dish, and top with sauce and the remaining cheese.

Bake at 375 F for 15-20 minutes, until browned.

5. Serving: Serve with fresh cilantro, sour cream, hot sauce, avocado, or other desired toppings.

*TIP: Make a double batch of the beans. They can be used for tacos, quesadillas, or frozen for a couple of months. Enchiladas do not reheat well, but if you save the ingredients aside separately, a second batch is only 20 minutes away!


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