Chicken Chili with Quesadillas, and The Spice Called Encouragement

Chili and Quesadilla

There are delicious moments in which words don’t seem quite adequate to describe how precious and utterly irresistible I find my fellow human beings to be. I feel my heart leap as it becomes infatuated with the goodness and quiet humility that I witness in various, insignificant-enough exchanges that could easily be thrown away and forgotten, but instead they hook me and stop me in my tracks, leaving a small smile on my lips. And that’s as it should be. To feel my heart so very full of gratitude for the winks of encouragement and moments of grace that get brought by others into my life, is heart breaking in the most precious and true sense of the word. Surely I am not alone in needing these delicious moments of “spice” in my life, these moments that bring the flavor and the zest into daily living, however brief. Certainly each of us craves the moments in which we can witness displays of kindness, and experience care and concern. Being on the receiving end of encouraging words that are coupled with the quiet acknowledgment of the connectivity between us, can feel like heaven; it helps us to remember who we all are and why we are here, together, partaking in this meal called life in the first place.

Chili and Quesadilla

This past week has been a particularly interesting week; I’ve experienced a number of encouraging exchanges, and they’ve truly been like a salve for me. This blog has been a unique gift in a number of different ways, and has been a special catalyst for bringing people I otherwise wouldn’t have had the chance to interact with into my realm of awareness. What others choose to share with me, in the ways in which they choose to open their hearts, has been one of the biggest unforeseen blessings and highlights in this whole adventure so far—what a privilege it is indeed. I’m no different from anyone else; I appreciate knowing that what I share has even a seedling-sized significance to another. Weekly, I cast my line out into the water, never knowing if there’ll be a tug on the other end of the line. And so often, it comes. It shows itself as a simple response, a kind word, a duplication of feeling, a show of trust, or opening up of a heart to show appreciation. What could be better? It never ceases to amaze, and I never take it for granted, this spice of encouragement that tastes so good.

3-Cheese Quesadilla

A meal with good spice is a meal to be savored; it warms the belly and creates energy for the body. It is no different than the food of encouragement and care that we have the opportunity to nourish one another with, as that feeds the soul and invigorates the spirit. Moments when my fellow human beings are precious and utterly irresistible to me are the moments I want to thoroughly enjoy for the flavor that they bring, to be inspired and renewed by what we give to one another.

Taste what’s good and pass it on.


Chili and Quesadilla

Zesty Chicken Chili with Smoky, 3 Cheese-Stuffed Whole Grain Quesadillas
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(Serves 4)

Zesty Chicken Chili ingredients:

2 split chicken breasts (bone-in, skin on), about 1½ pounds
½ teaspoon black pepper, divided use
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
2 Anaheim chilies, seeded and chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon chili powder
1 ½ cups frozen, fire-roasted corn (or sweet, white corn)
2 (15 ounce) cans organic pinto beans, drained and rinsed
3 cups chicken stock, hot
1 tablespoon limejuice
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped, divided use
4 tablespoons sour cream, for garnish
1 lime, cut into 4 wedges for garnish


-Place a large soup pot over medium high heat; while the pot becomes hot, season the chicken breasts with a ¼ teaspoon of the black pepper and the salt; once the pot is hot, add the vegetable oil in, and then place the seasoned chicken breasts, skin side down, into the hot pot, and allow the skin to sear for about 3 minutes, until golden brown; once the skin is golden, flip over the breasts, and sear the bone-side for about 2 more minutes, and then remove the breasts from the pot onto a clean plate to hold for a moment.

-Next, add the chopped onion and the chopped Anaheim chilies to the pot, and sauté for a couple of minutes; then, add in the garlic and the smoked paprika, the ground cumin, the chili powder and the remaining ¼ teaspoon of black pepper, and stir; next add in the corn and the pinto beans, stir to combine, and then add back the chicken breasts, bone-side down on top of the vegetables; next, add in the hot chicken stock and gently stir to incorporate the stock, and allow the chili to simmer on low, uncovered, for about 30 -40 minutes.

-After the chili has simmered for about 30-40 minutes, turn the heat off, and take the chicken breasts carefully out of the chili and place onto a plate; allow the chicken to cool just enough to handle, and then remove the bones/ribs and skin from the chicken and shred the meat into large chunks, using a fork and your fingers.

-To finish, add the shredded chicken meat back into the chili, and add the limejuice and 2 tablespoons of the chopped cilantro leaves, and stir to combine; keep the chili warm while you prepare the 3 Cheese-Stuffed Quesadillas (recipe below).

-To serve, ladle the chili into bowls, top with a tablespoon of the sour cream and a sprinkling of the remaining chopped cilantro, and serve with a lime wedge on the side along with a Smoky, 3 Cheese-Stuffed Quesadilla.

Smoky, 3 Cheese-Stuffed Whole Grain Quesadillas ingredients:

1½ cup shredded Jack cheese
1½ cup shredded extra sharp, white cheddar cheese
1cup grated smoked Gouda cheese
8 whole grain flour tortillas (or whole wheat)
1 (14.5 ounce) can fire-roasted, diced tomatoes, pureed in food processor
• Pinch salt
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
• Canola cooking spray


-Preheat your oven to the “Warm” setting, or 200 degrees; line a baking sheet with foil, as you will use this to place the finished, grilled Quesadillas on to hold warm in the oven while the rest are prepared.

-Place a large grill pan (or heat your outdoor grill, if you prefer) over medium-high heat, and allow the pan (or outdoor grill) to get very hot.

-While the grill pan heats, place the Jack, the sharp white cheddar and the Gouda cheeses into a large bowl, and toss them all together to combine them; set the cheeses aside for a moment.

-Prepare the Quesadillas by placing the 8 tortillas in front of you, in two rows of 4; spoon about 2-3 tablespoons of the pureed, fire-roasted tomato “sauce” onto 4 of the tortillas, and sprinkle a pinch of salt over the sauce; next, add 1 cup of the 3 blended cheeses evenly over the sauce of each of the 4 tortillas, add a sprinkle of the chopped, fresh cilantro leaves, and cover each tortilla with the top tortilla.

-To grill the Quesadillas, work in batches; spray a little of the canola cooking spray onto the grill pan, and place one quesadilla (or more, if you have the room) onto the grill pan, and allow it to become hot and golden on that first side, roughly 2-3 minutes; once that side is golden and grill-marked, use a large spatula to gently flip the Quesadilla over in the pan, and grill another couple of minutes, until the cheese is melted and the Quesadilla is golden and grill-marked on that side; place the finished Quesadilla onto the foil-lined baking sheet, and place into the oven to keep warm while you prepare the remainder of your Quesadillas.

-To serve, cut each Quesadilla into 4 large wedges, and serve along side the Zesty Chicken Chili.

{ 2 comments… add one }

  • CJ August 16, 2012, 4:55 pm

    Hi, nice site, I’ve perused some of your tasty recipes and am impressed with the photos too so I’m nominating you for my Illuminating Blogger Award for informative, illuminating blog content. I hope you’ll check it out and participate. You will also discover new blogs and possibly make more new web friends. Please feel free to see the details at my website … foodstoriesblog dot com …& go to the “Illuminating Blogger Award” at the top of the page. Thanks & I hope you’re having a wonderful day. CJ

  • Madonna August 17, 2012, 9:47 am

    I am enjoying your site. I like that you use gouda for the quesadillas. I find that I am developing a sensitivity to the orange cheddar. Weird, I know. It is nice to know I can find an alternative.

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