One of the (many) fabulous things about living in Florida is that there are great little Mexican places everywhere. Nine times out of 10, when fiance and I are going out to eat, we end up at this one Mexican place because it is so good and so cheap. I’m talking bottomless tortilla chips and salsa and two entrees for usually less than $15. You just can’t beat that — and we usually have leftovers to take home. Even when we drink, it’s inexpensive. When my parents were here in March, the four of us had dinner and two pitchers of margaritas for less than $60.

Still, cheap as it may be, it’s not the healthiest place in town. We were traipsing through Target last week when fiance saw a quesadilla maker. It reminded him of the quesadillas he liked at a restaurant when he lived in Baltimore, and he said we should register for a quesadilla maker. The quesadilla maker at Target was fancy (bright red! with chile pepper decorations!) but I told him we could make quesadillas in a plain old skillet at home, for even cheaper than at our favorite Mexican place.

Fiance had ordered spinach quesadillas off the vegetarian menu at the Mexican place a few times so I used that dish as the inspiration for semi-healthy, semi-Mexican-inspired dinner. (Side story: He usually orders a vegetarian dish, and no matter what restaurant we’re at, the server tries to give it to me.)

I cooked a bag of frozen, pre-chopped, pre-mixed veggies  in a skillet until the onions were nice and brown. I love the cheapness and convenience of frozen veggies; you just really have to watch to make sure you get all the excess water out.

This is while they were still pretty soggy. I didn’t get very good photos tonight because I was hungry and focused more on cooking than photography! After the veggie mix was cooked to my satisfaction, I threw in some chopped spinach, which I’d thawed in the microwave and drained as best I could.

Meanwhile, I preheated another skillet, sprayed with cooking spray and put a tortilla in to heat up.

With any luck you will own more than one large skillet so your tortilla will not be falling out of your small skillet. The choice of tortilla can really make or break your meal as far as nutrition goes — we chose a high fiber wrap with added omega-3s, which was luckily on sale.

This was the first time I had ever grated my own cheese. Fiance bought a cheese grater during his “I’m going to cook” phase and said he used it once, if ever. It came in handy because we had a coupon for a block of Cabot cheese, and the jalapeno cheddar made with 1.5 percent milk sounded perfect (I’ve always preferred skim and didn’t know they made 1.5 percent milk, just 1 or 2 percent, but according to Cabot, they do). It melted as well as full-fat cheese.

It’s pretty simple after that — add the cheese and veggies to one side of the tortilla, fold it up and cook evenly on both sides!

Served with fire-roasted tomato salsa.


And the girliest, most deeeee-licious beer ever …

I’m sure a lot of people (fiance included) saw this beer and gagged a little, but I saw this beer at the grocery and started foaming at the mouth. I had to have it. I had a tough time choosing between flavors, but the dragonfruit peach is light and fruity and refreshing and the perfect summer beer. And it is the most satisfying 95 calories you will ever consume. 100-calorie snack pack? Mich Ultra’s got you beat.

As for the quesadillas? Fiance really enjoyed them, and I liked them, too. I’m always going to prefer my quesadillas with meat, but I really don’t miss it that much in a dish like this, and I really appreciate how many calories it saves to go meat-less. It was an easy way for me to get more greens in — everything tastes better with cheese! And believe me when I say (write) that these were very filling.

Are these quesadillas the same as the ooey-gooey-covered-in-sauce ones (well, I guess enchiladas are covered in sauce, not quesadillas, but anyway) we get at the Mexican restaurant? No. But they’re pretty close and really, really good. Finding low-cal substitutions for my favorite fatty foods is one reason I’ve succeeded at losing weight. From the beginning, I knew I was never going to be satisfied eating salads 24/7 — who would be? That’s why “diets” fail — “diet food” sucks.

But I’m not going to lie to you. While the healthy substitutions are good, they’re not the same, and you need to expect that up front. But over time, my tastes have changed. I’m not sure if I could have stomached a spinach quesadilla five years ago, but  trying different foods and being open to new tastes has been key to my weight loss.

What favorite foods have you lightened up or health-ified? I’d love to hear your recipes and ideas!