Summer Meal Series #11: Turkey Quesadillas

This summer, I’m going to be posting a series of fifteen low-cost, tasty, and easy-to-prepare meals that are literally straight from my own kitchen.

Most of the meals I’ve shown so far in this series are perfect dinners. But what about the humble mid-day meal, where you just want something smaller and lighter – and something that’s very quick to prepare? I thought I’d share one thing that we often make when we find turkey deli meat on sale.

Finished meal

This meal includes fresh cantaloupe from the garden, baby carrots (on sale!), and some iced sun tea (that I’ll mention below). The quesadillas are the main part, though, and they’re very simple to make.

Tortilla about to be cooked

Simply take a tortilla, put a piece or two of turkey deli meat on top, add some salsa and some shredded cheese (cheddar, monterey jack, whatever cheese floats your boat), and fold it over nicely.

Tortillas folded in skillet

Just take these folded-over quesadillas-in-waiting and put them in a skillet – you don’t need any butter or anything like that in the skillet. Turn the heat to medium-low (closer to medium) and cook until the bottom side has a few brown spots on it (as a good cooked tortilla should). Then flip it and continue cooking until this bottom side has a few brown spots on it.

Tortillas cooking

You’re done. We cut them in half, but you can eat it whole if you’d like. Fresh vegetables and fruits – especially ones that can be eaten as finger foods – are a perfect accompaniment.

Finished meal

This is a real hit with our family and it takes about ten minutes from “we ought to have lunch soon” to having a finished meal on the table. Plus, the cost of that plate above is less than a dollar, it’s quite tasty, and it’s fairly healthy, too.

Bonus: Sun Tea
You’ll notice in the photo above that I’m drinking a reddish-looking beverage. It’s actually pomegranate green sun tea.

Sun tea is an absolutely wonderful thing, something we drink a lot of during the summer. It’s incredibly tasty and very inexpensive to make. All you have to have is some tea bags and a sealable container to sit on your porch all day.

Sun tea starting

Above, we’re starting a batch of that pomegranate green sun tea. In a half-gallon of cold water, we just added four of the tea bags from a Republic of Tea canister we had in the cupboard – roughly $0.75 worth of tea. If you used other types – Lipton or even Celestial Seasonings – the cost of the tea would be much less for a half-gallon of tea.

Just fill your container up, put four tea bags in it for every half-gallon of water, and sit the container on your porch or deck where it’ll be in the sun most of the day. You can go to work while it sits – just go about your normal day.

When you get home – an hour or two before you’ll drink it – just take it inside, use a spoon to retrieve the tea bags out of the liquid, and sit it in the refrigerator to cool (you can use the freezer, but don’t forget about the tea).

Pomegranate green sun tea

Here’s our sun tea not long before it came inside. The tea was delicious – we just added a tiny bit of honey to the half-gallon and the whole thing was sublime. A big glass of it only cost about $0.15, too, which is far cheaper than buying equivalent quality bottled tea at the store.

It’s also a fantastic thing to serve guests. Make a couple containers, each with a different flavor, for some variety. For example, I myself really like the sun tea made by the Celestial Seasonings Mandarin Orange Spice tea bags, available for about $2 a box at most grocery stores.

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  1. Meghan says:

    http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/267618/is_sun_tea_safe_to_drink_pg2.html?cat=51

    You should probably mention that brewing tea in the sun is a great way to create lots of bacteria. There are safer ways to brew tea in the sun, but it’s probably best to make tea by boiling water and making a concentrate.

  2. alex says:

    I’ve done these things for a while, but never thought of adding salsa. It seems perfect! But I find myself wondering what salsa you’re using? Since you make them so fast I assume either a salsa that you’ve previously made yourself and stored (in which case…. can we get a recipe :]) or some store bought salsa? Very curious which route you went…

  3. zoe says:

    I’m always amazed at how small your meals are. I would still be hungry after two plates of that, although it does look good and would make a good appetizer.

  4. Barbara says:

    With all due respect, deli meat in a quesadilla? That does not sound appetizing to this California native. Not at all.

    What’s next? A spam enchilada?

  5. justlemmon says:

    I use lipton decafe. After fishing out the tea bags add a little bit of sugar and a small handful of fresh basil leaves. Stir, then chill and fish out the basil before serving. Yum

  6. Johanna says:

    - How about putting some vegetables in the quesadilla? For a quick meal like this, a little bit of frozen spinach might work well.

    – For anyone else who doesn’t do dairy, there’s a newish non-dairy cheese called “Daiya” that’s becoming available in more and more stores (at least in my area) and goes very well in quesadillas.

    – You can make iced tea directly in your fridge, whether the tea says “brews in your fridge” or not. It might not be as strong as sun tea, though – I haven’t done a side-by-side comparison. I especially like to use any kind of white tea.

  7. RamiroV says:

    Jamaica leaves make a delicious tea/concentrate for cool drinks. Just follow the same directions and pour over 3 o 4 ice cubes and add splenda/sugar and half squeezed lemon/lime. Jamaica is widely found in Hispanic food isles.

  8. Steve says:

    I’ve never heard of sun tea. Why don’t you use hot water from the tap or stove? It might cost you a few pennies in energy but it brews much faster (and stronger) that way.

  9. valleycat1 says:

    Another tea that tastes good either hot or cold is Licorice Root Spice tea (no licorice – ick – licorice root is something different). It’s sweet on its own (or you can add a little sugar) & is similar in taste to cola – I’ve found it a good substitute as I downsize my regular cola habit – & I’m a diehard single variety fan.

    I’m with commenter #1 on the proportions. This plate looks really skimpy on the fruits & veggies & heavy on meat/cheese, whether intended for the kids or mom/dad.

  10. Michelle says:

    Sun tea is a very southern thing. Brings back memories of my grandma’s house in Mississippi. No meal was complete without a big ‘ole glass of sweet sun tea!

  11. Dorothy says:

    LOL, #2 Steve! My family has been drinking sun tea for generations and it’s plenty strong.

    You don’t even need to put the tea in the sun. Tonight, just put the teabags into the water and stick the pitcher in the fridge. Tomorrow — tea! And it will already be cold.

  12. Mister E says:

    @#3

    Black licorice is delicious.

    I just had to jump in and stick up for black licorice.

    Sun tea sounds worth trying though.

  13. Rebecca says:

    Sun tea is a tradition here in WI too. Blueberry or Raspberry zinger from Celestial Seasonings is a personal fave. Plain ole green tea is nice too. Ditto on the Daiya “cheese” its pretty good. We also like the Teese brand fake cheese, also vegan. And you need way more fruit and veggies in your meals.

  14. JJ says:

    I’m very confused about the sun tea. Is this any different from brewing it the normal way and sticking it in the fridge?

  15. That tea idea is brilliant.

  16. Riki says:

    Trent, I have to confess that looking at your portion sizes make me feel very, very hungry. Either you eat many tiny meals during the day, or you survive on way less food than I could. If I ate that at lunch time, I would probably be ready to devour my shoe by 1:30.

  17. deb says:

    I do fridge tea all the time, it’s so easy. I’ve heard there can be a bacterial problem with sun tea (don’t know if it’s true so don’t jump on me).

    But PLEASE, eat more veggies! Who can survive on a skimpy meal of a quesadilla, 4 baby carrots and what looks like 1/4 cup of canned peaches? It’s summer, how about fresh green beans, fresh peaches and a salad for your sides? Save the cans and prepackaged veggies for the winter.

  18. Deb says:

    My experience with sun tea is that it can become VERY strong from steeping in the sun. It can be tood strong for me but it has a different flavor than if made with hot water on the stove.

  19. kristine says:

    deb, I agree. Why canned produce in the summer, when most fruit is cheap and plentiful? I have noticed a glaring lack of green in the meals. I will have to assume all the green veg are in the meals on other days? My produce store sells dandelion leaves for 1.49 a pound! You can go out to the yard and pick a gourmet salad.

    I just made 3 high-domed peach pies from the peaches on my backyard tree. Nasty, hard, blotchy yellow red and black speckled skins, but once peeled- perfectly beautiful peach innards. Yes, time consuming, but you will never, ever, taste a pie so fresh! I really love those peaches so I shook that tree!

    And sometimes I use the green un-ripened peaches cubed in salad as a tart crouton alternative. Yummy, and free! We also have a fig tree, and raspberries. I rent, and those are the ones that came with the house.

    I planted, from seed in plastic cups,: tomatoes, pumpkins, sage, rosemary, strawberries, squash, basil, brussel sprouts, egyptian onions (very cool plant), and sugar snap peas. Almost all of that is in curb-shopped gigantic plant pots. Our beehive fell off the house, so fewer bees has kept my tomato and pumpkin crop small this year, but the herbs are so plentiful- I ordered a wholesale case of spice jars, and guess what al the relatives are getting for Christmas- dried sage and rosemary! And frozen pesto.

    My money investment is only the seeds and soil, and I am carrying over seeds for next year too. Just yesterday I rescued two huge wood planters from a restaurant that was being renovated- the owner was about to put them in a dumpster when I drove by. I should have a bumper sticker: I brake for large planters! No produce tastes as sweet as that which goes from garden to table!

    But I digress…sun tea does taste different. The slow brewing perhaps? It’s great because you can make decaf if you want- hard to get out.

  20. Kara White says:

    Sun tea is less bitter, in my experience. It’s plenty strong, though. In fact, you can get it to be strong without becoming bitter. When you brew it with boiling water it can become very bitter. When I was growing up, we’d have “moon tea” in the morning, and “sun tea” in the afternoon. The only difference between the two is that moon tea is brewed at night and sun tea is brewed during the day.

  21. Robin Crickman says:

    It is cheaper to use loose tea than to buy tea bags. Get a tea ball (little metal device) and put the loose tea into it. When done, simply throw away or compost the used tea leaves and rinse the tea ball. Not only cheaper, but you can blend the tea leaves yourself (assuming you can get a good supply of different tea leaves) to get the exact personal taste you prefer in tea.

  22. Rachel says:

    Trent very clearly said that the fruit on his plate was fresh cantaloupe from the garden. Why do you people care what he eats? Maybe he wasn’t very hungry.

  23. Bill says:

    My mom called those “Mexican toasted cheese” and they were delicious. A few sliced pickled jalapeno will kick it up a bit if you like peppers.

  24. Gino says:

    Sun tea can harbor dangerous bacteria. See http://www.snopes.com/food/prepare/suntea.asp

  25. kristine says:

    Rachel, lol. You are so right. But when you put yourself out there as an example, like your own blog, you can expect the more than normal level of dissection, and too-fast readers not paying enough attention. But if he couldn’t stand the heat, he’d get out of the kitchen! Oooh, my corny punificense!

  26. J.O. says:

    @ deb & kristine

    That was not canned fruit, it was fresh canteloupe, and don’t forget the tomato salsa inside the quesadilla – it qualifies as a vegetable.

  27. Systemizer says:

    @Rachel: “Why do you people care what he eats?”

    My guess is readers have memories of a previous post.

    TSD, Dec 28 2009: “2010 Resolution #1: Lose 40 Pounds”

    Specifically:

    “If I’m not highly careful with my diet choices, I gain weight really quickly.”

  28. Amy H. says:

    I love sun tea! Especially Red Zinger from Celestial Seasonings. Will have to make some soon.

    Sadly, Trent’s last small comment brought home to me how much more groceries cost in the big city (or maybe it’s the coast?). 20-bag boxes of Celestial Seasonings tea are over $4 at our local Safeway. Gah.

  29. Milo says:

    I second using loose leaf tea; it is cheaper and tastes better. This is because tea bags nearly universally use filings to brew tea faster without the same depth of flavor. Magic Leaf is a good tea bag, but costs a ridiculous premium. I would strongly recommend a quality filter like Swiss Gold rather than a tea egg; make sure there is room for tea to expand to brew properly.

    I am not sure where there are good tea shops in Iowa, but Tea Source in Minnesota is great, and I was very impressed by Red Blossom in San Francisco (mostly specializing in Chinese teas). Both have websites that let you order online.

    You can save money, enjoy better tea, and enjoy the process (or ceremony) of making great tea. I recommend tea as a frugal luxury.

  30. michael bash says:

    Trent advocates soaking beans as opposed to opening a can. Bravo as I said, but then he turns around and calls for tea bags = dust, stems, leftovers. Use real tea leaves for a superior flavor.

  31. Gretchen says:

    I care what he eats because it’s a freaking post about what he ate.

    Which is somehow healthy. I don’t like the food series.

    I used to make a ton of suntea growing up (I don’t know why it doesn’t get bitter like overstepped hot tea, but it doesn’t) then had heard the same bit of news about bacteria and never have since.
    Not sure on the bacteria details- maybe it’s only if you make it with lemon or leave it out for days.

  32. Cheryl says:

    I never thought of doing quesadillas with lunchmeat. They gave me an extra pound of ham this week, so maybe I will try that tonight.

    As for the sun tea, I was amazed it is only 4 bags, must be because it steeps all day. I was making iced tea with hot water and one tea bag per cup, so I will give it a try. Right now, I like the green tea flavors and was going to throw in a chai for flavor.

    Off topic, but I came across a good post on alternatives to buying swiffer refills…
    http://www.squawkfox.com/2009/07/23/swiffer-allergies-dust-cleaning/

  33. Amy says:

    I enjoy seeing you cook and appreciate your creativity! That being said, I agree with the posters who insisted on more veggies. Fiber is sooooo important, too — and this quesadilla is sorely lacking in much since animal products bring zippo fiber to the table. How about using the smaller tortillas and making your quesadilla quarters about the size of the carrots and cantaloupe, then making the rest of the plate full of a huge salad? To achieve your weight loss goals, Trent, as well as to increase your intake of fiber and antioxidants, you ought to use meat as more of a condiment or side dish and focus more on plant foods as your main meal. Plants foods protect from chronic disease, whereas animal foods do not.

  34. Carole says:

    I like to read your food and recipe posts. Your love for food (and frugal food at that) comes through. I always want to go whip up a batch of whatever you were writing about. Hmm think I’ll make some sun tea now

  35. NMPatricia says:

    This sounds like a great lunch sandwich. I am going to try this one.

    I grew up on sun tea – and the operative word is grew up. However Colorado State University Extension has come out with evidence that it supports bacterial growth http://www.ext.colostate.edu/safefood/newsltr/v3n2s06.html.

    And, like Gretchen, I haven’t done it since then. However, I am a bit confused. And sad.

  36. McGillicuddy says:

    According to snopes.com, the bacteria issue is real, as sun tea brews at about 130 degrees, an ideal temperature for bacteria growth. Washing the container always helps, but the bacteria in question is common in water, which is an important component of tea. All that science being said, I can tell you I drank plenty of sun tea growing up and never had a problem. These days, I just brew it in the fridge though because I figure why chance it, and I’m going to have to put it back in the fridge anyway. I load up on Lipton when it’s BOGO.

  37. Cheap Texan says:

    Here’s what I found on the bacteria…
    http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/267618/is_sun_tea_safe_to_drink.html?cat=51

    As far as the meal goes…I just don’t read these. The meals may be frugal, but the health factor doesn’t seem to be very high. I too remember the losing weight goal and this meal doesn’t seem to help with that. I think half of the quesadilla should be on the plate with double fruit and VEG!!! I put spinach in everything – it’s flavor isn’t that strong in many things and my family doesn’t know the difference.

    I also prefer to buy turkey tenderloins and cook them myself. Lunchmeat seems to be loaded with preservatives. Plus, you can add a ton of flavor when you cook it yourself.

    A better alternative to the quesadilla would be a turkey, black bean soup that you put a bit of shredded cheese on top and maybe a couple of crunched up tortilla chips. A salad on the side makes it much healthier and balanced.

    I really would like to see healthier, frugal meals.

  38. Lily says:

    Fridge tea is tastier because sun tea tends to cloud up.

  39. Rachel says:

    #17 and #20-

    Ooorrrr, perhaps Trent is paranoid to post what his plate really looks like, because, as you so clearly stated, Systemizer, you are Trent’s food police. If he put more than four baby carrots on his plate you might criticize, “TRENT! What a PIG! Aren’t you trying to LOSE 40 lbs., as you said on Dec. 28th?

    Good Lord.

  40. Lily says:

    Fridge tea is tastier because sun tea tends to cloud up. Overnight fridge brewing is the best!

  41. littlepitcher says:

    1-You can get a good quality stainless steel acorn tea ball on eBay for not much. The clasps on the screen wire variety break within weeks of purchase. Once you have that tea ball, you can purchase green, black, and herb teas by the pound, cheap, off eBay or from Frontier Herb and Spice or other Internet providers, or grow your own herbs.
    Save your tangerine and orange peels and dry them for orange spice tea. Grow mints, anise hyssop (the essential ingredient in “licorice” teas, and Mexican marigold for a great root-beer flavor.

    Black teas often mildew in tropical climates and teas not made with boiling water give mildews, yeasts, and well-water coliform bacteria a great head start. If you really want sun tea, get a solar oven and boil your water in it.

  42. Jonathan says:

    Sun tea does include some risk of bacteria, but there are some safety guidelines to follow like washing the jar, do not sweeten the tea while it brews, do not leave it in the sun more than 3-4 hours, and do not use herbal or caffeine-free teas. Also, try to use all the sun tea in a single day. As noted, brewing in the fridge is safer, but I think sun tea is fine. If bacteria is present, it’s pretty easy to tell. Don’t drink sun tea if you see weird stuff growing in it.

  43. Jane says:

    So, you can brew normal tea bags in the fridge overnight? And here I have been paying more for Lipton’s Cold Brew tea bags!

  44. Jayfish says:

    Your summer meal series has been very interesting, some recipes I’ve considered more than others. But none of them seem to have much “eye appeal”… very bland-looking on the plate. Either get colored plates or add some color with greens–salad, celery and bell pepper slices, etc. Maybe it’s because I’m from California?

    As for the sun tea, have found that all day in the sun isn’t necessary, and agree with the advocates of “fridge tea”.

  45. Sue says:

    I do believe I like the view from your porch more than I like the sun tea ;-)

  46. Joan says:

    Trent: I really like your series.

    #1 Johanna, thanks for the information about the non-dairy cheese (daiya). There is also a margarine on the market made from rice. It is Low-fat, just 5 calories compared to 100 calories. It is put out by Promise. Promise also makes the regular oleo. Not all stores in my area stock the rice oleo and it is considerably higher in price when I can find it. But my whole family really likes the taste.
    P.S. You cannot cook with this this product.

  47. Pat Woodruff says:

    LOL the sun tea got way more comments than your quesadilla!! Looks tasty!!

  48. Alaina says:

    Here’s a little grammar mistake I noticed. In the following sentences you should have used “set” instead of “sit”
    …and sit the container on your porch…
    …and sit it in the refrigerator…

  49. Systemizer says:

    @Rachel

    Leaving out “what a pig” it’s a legitimate question.

  50. bookwoman says:

    We drink sun tea all the time, too. I also use sun tea as a juice stretcher, 1/4 glass juice to 3/4 glass tea. Red zinger is great with cranberry juice and black or green tea is great with the juice from canned peaches.

    And it is worth it not to turn on the stove or run hot tap water, it only costs a few cents worth of energy per pitcher, but if you make a pitcher per day…

  51. Courtney says:

    I’m enjoying the Summer Meal Series. Seeing what other people eat helps me with inspiration and ideas when it comes to feeding my own family.

    We go through a huge number of tortillas in our house, as my kids much prefer tortillas to bread. I was looking for a cheaper and healthier alternative to store-bought tortillas and came across a simple recipe for homemade tortillas. It is nothing more than flour (I use white whole wheat flour), salt, water and olive oil. They are so delicious! Store-bought tortillas taste like plastic in comparison. I’ve been making four or five dozen at a time and sticking them in the freezer. They are quick and easy to make, especially since my kids love to help roll them out, and it has saved us quite a bit of money.

  52. Kathy says:

    You’re allowed to splurge once in awhile when you’re on a diet, you know. It’s not going to kill a person to eat full fat cheese occasionally. Just don’t overdo it.

    People are so missing the point of this post. The point that Trent is trying to make is that you can throw together simple meals out of what is in your fridge INSTEAD of just running out for a burger or junk food. His quesadilla is still healthier than your average fast food meal and cheaper, too.

  53. jo says:

    @ deb & kristine

    That isn’t canned peaches on the side, it’s cantelope.

    And the salsa inside qualifies as a vegetable too. Or a fruit. Or a berry. Depending on what you read. lol

  54. Ill observe that this is not a particularly healthy meal and thats true wether one is trying to lose weight or not. Basically half of the meal is the carb and meat (actually less than half). Now if trent had mroe carrots, or a large slice of cantaloupse, perhaps it would be different. But I find most of these meals both low in the fruit and veggie quotiend and frankly, not what I would consider summer meals for the most part, realizing that i live further south. a healthy meal would be twice the fruits and veggies and half the carbs and protien, and trent probably wouldnt have to struggle to lose wieght so much.

  55. Adam says:

    I have to agree with some of the others that tossing on a piece of processed turkey meat from a deli (watch the sodium there Trent) and heaping on the cheese/jar of salsa and frying this up with 4 carrots and some fruit on the side isn’t really meeting your initial criteria by my definition of this summer meal series other than being cheap and not time consuming.

    Between the flour tortilla, deli meat, salsa and cheese, I’d be surprised if this one quesadilla didn’t have over 800mg of sodium in it. How’s your blood pressure these days, Trent?

    My suggestions, green beans are wonderfully in season right now! Save root vegetables for the fall and winter. Throw some spinach in the tortilla, and I think a substitute for deli smoked turkey slices could be found with less sodium and other processing. Cooked chicken breast slices?

    Unsweatened tea is one of the best things you can drink outside of water, but I too would question throwing honey in a jar of water and sticking it out in the hot sun for hours at a time then drinking it…surely not the best thing to inhibit bacterial growth. Maybe if you added the honey after it had brewed tho it would be better, I’ve never made sun tea so pardon my ignorance on that.

  56. marta says:

    Okay, so we have got 11 recipes so far and most of them seem to involve tortillas or crepes: burritos, taquitos, quesadillas, and the like. Chicken and tuna are the main ingredients in many meals. The sides seem to be uninspired — fruit or dessert served on the same plate as the main meal. No proper salads whatsoever — at most, a bunch of spinach leaves or broccoli.

    When I think of summery meals, I think of all sorts of salads (all this produce!), grilled fish, delicious sandwiches, seafood and so on.

    I am sorry, but I find this series to be a bit lackluster. You talk often about your homemade meals, how healthy and delicious they are and so on, and this is what we are getting instead. :/ I found the series from last year to be more interesting and varied — perhaps because the recipes weren’t yours in the first place — even if I disagreed with many of your substitutions.

  57. Sarah says:

    There are food blogs (which have “inspired” and beautiful meals) and frugal blogs. It is harder to overlap the two, but a few do attempt. But most food blogs (rightly so) stress high quality fresh ingredients, which don’t always overlap with inexpensive and easy/quick.

    They types of food featured seems pretty familiar to me, having grown up in the midwest. A lot of it doesn’t appeal to me, but I do really appreciate the posts and the ideas. Modify his recipes to take out what you hate (sodium?) and replace with whatever you want, or move on.

    Anyone interested in easy salads (including trent!) google “101 summer salads bitman” (no link for faster comment approval, but you’ll find it)

    Trent – there IS something to be said for “plate appeal”, especially on food blogs. I know you aren’t a food blog, but… consider it.

  58. Leah W. says:

    The plate appeal definitely leaves a lot to be desired for this entire series. I think it’s true what the celebrity chefs say: you eat with your eyes first. Food should look appealing and taste delicious. All Trent really needs is some COLOR, preferably in the food rather than just different colored plates!

    Also…this is another recipe to which I say yuck, but it’s personal preference. I only eat turkey deli meat if it’s shaved or sliced really, really thinly. And it has to be straight from the deli. Prepackaged = not fit for consumption.

  59. Mule Skinner says:

    Perhaps someone should inspect a drop of sun tea with a microscope. For comparison, also look at drop of fresh water, and drop of hot brewed tea.

  60. marta says:

    Back for a bit more of what is intended to be constructive criticism (not enraged negativity)…

    Other people are right when they say a large part of a meal’s appeal is in its presentation. You don’t have to go all fancy and buy expensive photography gear to improve in that area.

    You always take pics of the plate from above, very far away (yes, I know you are very tall). It’s be better to go for closer shots, and from a low angle view. The food should be closer, as if we could smell and taste it already. You don’t need to show the entire plate either. Look at pics in some food blogs to see what I mean. SimplyRecipes, for example.

    More colour: some of your plates look monochromatic. Look at the one above: white flour quesadillas, orange baby carrots and cantaloupe, on a white plate, set against a wooden table background. Salad greens, with tomatoes would have provided some extra colour. Non-white plates could help in some cases… in others, just a colourful table towel or napkin would be enough.

    And then there is the small details, that might not matter much in the context of a family meal, but probably shouldn’t be ignored when taking pics to share with thousands of people…wiping any extra sauce or food from the edges of the plate would help tons with presentation.

    I don’t know if you are still considering that food blog you kept teasing us with for *years*. In any case, I think the suggestions above shouldn’t take a lot of work and would improve the quality of your pics quite a bit.

  61. Oliver's Mum says:

    While I also aspire to have low cost meals and I adore quesadillas, I’m not impressed w/ this one. First of all, the turky meat looks like very cheap deli cut, which is very high in sodium and who knows where the ‘turkey’ came from.

    I have a suggestion. Instead of deli turkey, try cooking up good quality chicken (or turkey) from Whole Foods or a local farmer in advance. I keep several pounds cooked in the fridge each week. Then you can throw that on a tortilla or use the small flour/corn tortillas and make tacos instead. Also, the cheese used is important- cheap is good, but ‘real cheese’ like a good cheddar is much better if you grate it yourself. And w/ good stuff you can use less. I’d also add fresh greens, a couple of chopped cherry tomatoes and maybe some fresh tomatillo salsa-which is super easy to make and full of fresh herbs/veg- w/ no sodium or salt.

    I also always have a batch of ancho/chili sauce that I make in advance in the fridge. It’s very easy- buy peppers, seed, simmer for 20 min, then blitz in the blender and you have star quality sauce for ANYthing. You can make it as hot or not as you like. You can put it on any meat/bean combination to give TONS of flavor and no salt. Adding lettuce and some red onion (which i keep chopped in a diluted vinegar solution)adds more fresh veg, crunch, and flavor.

    One other note of caution: I love tortillas, but they also can have high sodium content if you aren’t careful.

  62. Johanna says:

    I don’t know – I kind of like the photographs. They’re very matter-of-fact looking. It’s almost as if Trent intends these posts for people looking for ideas of things to cook, rather than people who want to sit at their computers looking at pictures of other people’s food. And if that’s what he’s going for, kudos to him, and I mean it.

    What bugs me about this series, though, is the disconnect between the meals Trent showcases here and what he says elsewhere about the foods he likes to cook and eat. He’s talked about “eating like a vegan most of the time” as a way to improve his diet, but almost all of these meals have been centered on meat and/or dairy. He talks about splurging on expensive cheeses, but we see no evidence of that here. Just the other day he wrote a post about how he loves dried beans, but only one of these meals has included beans at all – as a “side dish” – and they were from cans.

  63. marta says:

    @Johanna: I can see how other people might like the pics as they are. I am a very visual person, so some things will bug me more. :)

    I agree with you on your second point, though. That disconnect has been particularly glaring, and I would love it if Trent could address this in a future post. I find it really hard to believe he eats like a vegan most of the time, though, judging from all the meals we have seen in this series and in other posts as well. There’s a trend with those and it certainly is not vegan!

  64. Michael says:

    I’ve actually really liked this series though I haven’t yet remembered it when I was doing meal planning for our house and added some of the things in.

    I get what Johanna is saying in 39 about the disconnect but here would be my “rebuttal.” He says he’s trying to do “low-cost, tasty and easy-to-prepare meals.” We’ll leave out “tasty” since that’s obviously an individual opinion. Adding in expensive cheeses would impact the low-cost part of the equation. More complex preparations (which for some, at least, the dried beans might be) would impact the “easy-to-prepare” side. And as far as the choice of ingredients, I could be thinking of another blogger, but I thought Trent said that he mostly keeps meats to dinner time and — except for this one — I think all of the prior items were intended to be for dinners. The one other thing is that it seems very skewed to his family’s tastes — I saw broccoli three to five times going back through the meals just now. That’s great for me — it’s one of my favorite veggies. But for someone who doesn’t like broccoli, it would blow a big hole in the series.

    It *would* be neat to see some sort of veggie chili or something like that in the series, if he could make it quick and cheap enough. I’m not saying you’re completely wrong; there *is* some monotony to what he’s offered so far. But I think on the whole he’s been faithful to what he “promised” in the series. (If there was an intro post which went into more detail and I missed in a quick scan back, and I’m totally all wet about what he advertised it as then never mind!)

    Maybe next he could try to do a series of “15 meatless meals which you can prepare in under 30 minutes.” That would certainly be interesting and might allow for more branching out from what we saw here.

  65. JuliB says:

    I like the casual nature of the pictures! I am a very picky eater, so I am used to not wanting to make/eat 75% of what’s out there. And I’m a ‘plain’ eater and sometimes super simple is best.

  66. Johanna says:

    @Michael: I get what you’re saying too, but Trent also says that these recipes are (literally!) straight from his own kitchen – that is, this is what he actually eats. So I think it’s reasonable to expect them to have some connection to what he’s said elsewhere about what he actually eats.

    If you’re right, and he’s deliberately using cheap cheeses for the sake of this series (or if he’s only showing us the times he uses cheap cheeses), he could mention something to that effect. “I’m using ordinary Swiss cheese here, but often I’ll splurge and use Emmental.” Or vice-versa: “I’m using Emmental here, but if that’s outside your budget, any old Swiss cheese will do.”

    Same goes for the beans. It’s easy enough to say “I’m using beans that I soaked last night and cooked from dried, but you can use canned beans if you want to.” But we don’t see him using any beans at all, canned or dried.

    On the meatless issue, you’re probably right – I think when he said “eat like a vegan most of the time,” he was just telling other people to do that, not saying that that’s what he does. But I think that anyone who eats like a vegan any of the time would have some more respect for vegetables than Trent’s been showing here when he drops them around the edges of the plate as interchangeable unseasoned “side dishes.”

  67. Evita says:

    The “homey” pictures do not bother me, I find them rather charming…. :)
    But I hate Tex Mex food (cultural preference, I guess, I am from the North). And I dislike processed foods and especially meats also. Unfortunately, this is mostly what Trent proposes.
    But I will try Sun Tea, sounds delicious!

  68. Jackie says:

    The photos don’t bother me. I agree with others thought that that meals don’t seem particularly healthful to me, and as a mostly-vegetarian, I don’t think they’re particularly helpful in the recipes themselves. I did however like it when he was breaking things down by cost. I’m one of those folks who never learned to cook and the thought of making complicated meals sends me into alarm bells of “too expensive”, it’s nice to see reassurance that that my alarms are not correct.

  69. John S says:

    Trent, that’s an awesome sun tea container. What brand is it and where did you acquire it?

    I’ve been idly keeping an eye open for a good sun tea container for months now, since my previous one (a Martha Stewart K-Mart special) started leaking out the spigot.

    My only other comment is: Yellow dye-added cheddar? Ewww.

  70. Michael says:

    @Johanna, didn’t get back here for a couple days. Good points about doing things like explicitly mentioning options; that makes a lot of sense and I hadn’t thought about that.

  71. Al says:

    I drank lots of sun tea growing up also, but I have stopped because:

    (1) the bacteria issue – the CDC has a warning about it – I’m not sure it really matters since I think we are all too paranoid about bacteria most of the time, but still… gross…

    (2) there is no reason to put it out in the sun for eight hours instead of your fridge, or even just on your countertop… tea + water + time = beverage… the sun element is not necessary at all…

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