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Sunday, January 25, 2015

BBQ Chicken Quesadillas and Chicken Tortilla Soup

Hotel gift shops tend to be terribly overpriced.  But, that was my only choice last week.  We'd flown to Palm Springs for my broker/dealer's investment advisory conference.  Talk about the luck of the Irish.  Connie'd bought the tickets for 6pm instead of 6 am.  That meant we'd get in AFTER the conference had started.  Turns out we had an ice storm in Indy so we had a better shot at getting out at 6pm rather than rescheduling from the cancelled 6 am flight.   Once we landed in Palm Springs, Connie started talking about In and Out Burgers.  Animal style.  With special sauce and sautéed onions.  Thank you to my wonderful friend Robin for teaching me that trick!  Even at 10 at night the burgers were wonderful.  The fries, not so much.  But the burgers, really memorable!  Then we were off to the hotel where we pretty much tossed our suitcases on the floor and crashed.  The keynote speaker the next morning was one of my all-time favorites, David Kelly.  He's an economist who's originally from Ireland so he delivers his analysis in the most delightful brogue.  Four pages of notes and an hour later, we were ready to dig into the breakout sessions.  Over the one and a half days, we did ten sessions.  Only one was a clunker.  The second morning the keynote was Brian Billick.  One of the stories he told was of having to cut guys from the roster prior to the season opener.  He realized about halfway through cutting a fellow that he was in the midst of cutting a guy he wanted to keep.  So, he pointed his finger at him and said, "Now, you know what it feels like to be cut.  I don't ever want to see you in here again.  Get out there and get busy!" 

Tuesday evening after drinks in the lobby bar with our friend Windus (who was VERY comfy - lol,)

we went to a lovely restaurant called Cork Tree with our friends, Nadine, Helene and Nadine's hubby.  Talk about perfection.  The service was great and the food was fabulous.  If we lived nearby we'd be regulars.  We all started out with duck confit tacos.  Then, Connie and I split scallops with a heavenly lemon risotto and a duck breast with a wild mushroom risotto.  It was amazing.  Our incredible waiter, Michael, suggested a bottle of Patz and Hall Pinot Noir.  That will become a regular with us!

Dinner was early and the sun was still out so we enjoyed another glass of wine on our balcony.  Here's the view:

Wednesday morning during one of the breaks, I headed to the Marriott's gift shop.  I'd seen some cookbooks in the window so thought I might just find something I'd love.  Ten cookbooks later and they were all overpriced and I wasn't excited.  Then, I saw the one by Donna Kelly called Quesadillas.  Still a bit overpriced but it did look really good.  So,  I bought it.  I was a couple of seconds late to the session taught by the chief legal officer of the holding company.  Who I've known for years and who greeted me by name as I slunk into my seat...  Sorry Gerry!  It was all I could do to leave the cookbook in the bag and listen.  I'm glad I did because Gerry did a great job of presenting.  Afterward Connie came up and laughed and said, "Cookbook."  Like this is a surprise!

From the conference we headed out on a Desert Adventures Tour.  Turns out there's an 840 acre ranch a bit northeast of Palm Springs that's used for these San Andreas Fault tours.  There's an oasis, a recreated Indian village and lots of fantastic rock canyons.  We tasted several of the plants that the Indians would have used as one of their primary food sources.  Fascinating.  Bonnie, out tour guide, was a wealth of knowledge.

see the line going across?  those are coyote tracks

that's palm fruit hanging down.  tastes just like dates!

water on the oasis

After that, our friends Gerry and Edna (who live "next door" in Yucca Valley) met us for dinner at a local Italian restaurant.  It was so good to get to spend time with them!!!

Thursday, we had breakfast at the hotel then walked the grounds.  Along the way, we met the fellow who owns the hawk who scares away the pesky birds like the sparrows who will swoop down and steal diners food! 

Then, we were off to Indy and freezing temps once again.  But, it was good to be home and see our furry kids and get back in the routine. 

Tuesday, I tossed a couple of chicken breasts in the crockpot with about half a cup of water.  About 10 hours later, I put them into a refrigerator container.  Finally, Friday, we were home for dinner.  It was time to try one of the quesadilla recipes.  I started with the bbq chicken one.  Now, we always have a ton of cheese on hand.  Not so much Friday.  No smoked cheese.  None.  It was time to improvise.  Instead of smoked gouda I used about half queso fresca and half extra sharp cheddar.  I also sautéed the red onions for a bit to soften the flavor. I'd highly recommend doing that.  We gave these quesadillas a five out of five.  And, a different quesadilla recipe is on the menu for next week!

The second chicken breast went into chicken tortilla soup.  Actually, truth be told, 2/3 of it went into the soup.  The other third was Connie's lunch.  You see, he's having a colonoscopy and was allowed plain chicken and cottage cheese for lunch.  Yum, huh?  I'd been reading Pioneer Woman's latest cookbook and it had a tortilla soup recipe so I decided that'd be a great place to start.  And, I'm glad it did because it was wonderful!  I made a couple of changes to the recipe.  First, I added a splash of lime juice.  Then, instead of the Rotel tomatoes, I used some leftover salsa.  I used the broth from cooking the chicken and added a couple of cups of water along with a bit of chicken Better Than Bouillon.  And, I left out the tomato paste and cornmeal.  LOL, I know.  Connie's going to faint if I ever serve him a dish made exactly as the recipe is written.  Now, one note, the recipe looks a bit intimidating given the long list of ingredients.  Just make sure you've got everything chopped and your mis en place ready to go and it'll come together in no time flat.

Barbecue Chicken Quesadillas


1 large chicken breast, cooked and shredded
1/3 c barbecue sauce (we use Sweet Baby Rays)
1/2 c thinly sliced red onion
1 t olive oil
1 T olive oil
1/4 c minced cilantro
4 c grated smoked Gouda or an equal amount of crumbled queso fresco and sharp cheddar
4 10" flour or wheat tortillas


In a small skillet, sauté the onion in the olive oil.  Once it's softened, toss it with the chicken and barbecue sauce.  Lay two of the tortillas in a large skillet that's slicked with about half a tablespoon of olive oil.  You'll want half of each in the skillet with the other half hanging over the edge.  Put 1/8 of the cheese on each tortilla.  Then top that with 1/4 of the chicken mixture on each.  Then, top with another 1/8 of the cheese and 1/4 of the cilantro.  Fold the other halves of the quesadillas over.  Once the bottoms are crisp and browned, flip the quesadillas and cook the other sides.  We didn't garnish our with anything but the recipe suggests you could use a sour cream paprika sauce or a white cheddar sauce.  As far as I'm concerned, these are perfect just the way they are!

adapted from Quesadillas

Chicken Tortilla Soup


2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (poached and shredded or use a rotisserie chicken and shred the breast meat)
1/2 t cumin
1/2 t garlic powder
1 T olive oil
1 c diced onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 c diced green bell pepper
1/4 c diced red bell pepper
10 oz can Rotel Diced Tomatoes and Green Chilies
4 c low-sodium chicken broth
3 T tomato paste (I omitted this)
2 t lime juice
4 c hot water (I added water and Better than Bouillon)
1 15 0z can black beans, drained and rinsed (the recipe called for two)
3 T cornmeal (I omitted this)
5 small corn tortillas (I used a handful of Tostitos Scoops, crushed)
diced avocado
diced red onion
sour cream
chopped cilantro
shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese


Ree's recipe calls for baking the chicken after drizzling it with olive oil and sprinkling some of the seasonings on it.  You can do that if you've got the time.  I didn't and it was just fine.  So, I started out by putting the broth, shredded chicken, seasonings, salsa (in place of the Rotel tomatoes,) and black beans in a big saucepan.  Then, in a medium skillet I sautéed the onion, garlic and peppers in the olive oil.  Once they were all softened I added them to the soup and heated everything through.  After the soup was in the bowl, I added the splash of lime juice and garnished it.  That's a bit more cumin on top of the sour cream. Here's how the soup went together:

adapted from the Pioneer Woman Cooks, Food from my Frontier

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