Chicken Apple Reduction Quesadillas-Working Woman or Good Mother? Be Both!

Hi all. I received a post with a very common sentiment of “guilt of bad mothering” today:

This is the aspect of my mothering that I’m pretty sure my children will talk about endlessly in therapy: I loathe cooking, hate dealing with dinner especially–I work full-time and I’m TIRED at that hour of the day–and can count on one hand the number of times I’ve made an elaborate sit-down meal for my family that provides all the
food groups and involves niceties like cloth napkins and proper beverages. I also have zero food imagination, so can never just look at what’s in the refrigerator and come up with something anyone would want to eat. My new year’s resolution, in fact,
is to actually THINK about dinner before the minute I step in the house at 6 pm.

As you can see, I’m a desperate case, probably worst than most. We subsist on take-out, my husband’s cooking (though he gets home late several nights a week), or dishes that are less cooked than assembled, like “burritos” with already-shredded cheese and refried beans out of a can rolled into a flour taco.

It’s sad. I throw myself on your mercy.


Oh, Katherine! Thanks for the post. You have come to the right place! There are so many of us women who feel concerned that we are not providing healthy and homemade meals for our kids or providing them with “heirloom recipes” that they will make for their children. So many women feel the guilt but also feel discouraged and helpless. It is so easy to not cook in this culture of take-out and prepared foods. Have you all noticed that just a few years ago, supermarkets just had salad bars but now have full meals that are hot and ready to be taken home for dinner for the entire family? Who knows what is in that food? Our take-out culture along with the U.S. food industry has enabled those who are less inclined to cook to not ever have to cook. At what cost to our sense of nurturing and health?

We are all busy whether we are stay-at-home mothers or working mothers but why do some cook and some not? The question I pose to those out there struggling with their role in the kitchen is this: What were mealtimes like in your family of origin? Who were the significant cooks in your life growing up and who are the significant cooks in your life now? Were your early cooking efforts supported/ rewarding experiences? What associations do you have with cooking that you may not have thought about before?

These are some of the questions we need to ask ourselves before we try to organize our lives around cooking simple meals because if we don’t explore the root of the issue, we will set ourselves up for failure once again and continue to deny ourselves and our loved ones the tasty, healthy dishes we may want to prepare for ourselves and them.

I truly believe that we need to do some basic self exploration if we want to change our non-cooking ways because it is not just about having enough time and being organized. It is about resistance to change and about what that change of behaviors might mean for how we think about ourselves. This is not to say that preparing meals ahead of time is not important-it is. But it is only one piece of the cooking puzzle. We need to understand what got us to this point before we attempt a behavioral change.

For the instant gratification piece of the post…Here is a recipe that I made tonight that you can prepare easily and feel good about. It will take a bit of preparation but you can feel good that it is primarily homemade. By the way, there is nothing wrong with assemblage meals as long as they are healthy. Get rid of those preconceived notions of what is acceptable and what is not in the kitchen.

Chicken quesadillas with apple cider reduction

Whole wheat or whole grain tortillas
Low fat shredded mozzarella cheese
Sliced chicken breast, cooked at 350 degrees in oven or fried up in a non-stick pan until cooked through
Olive oil
1 Gallon of Apple Cider, boiled for about 1 1/2 -2 hours in a big pot, until it becomes a little syrupy and is reduced to about 2 cups. Let it cool and then store in a glass tupperware (or plastic).This may look really fancy and hard, but you basically leave it sitting on the stove to boil while you take care of other things. It is delicious and will last in a glass container in your fridge indefinitely. You can use it on salmon, chicken or tofu. Make this cider reduction on a weekend morning and then it is out of the way. You’ll feel so good that it is homemade.


Take the chicken and lay it on one tortilla, top with cheese and put in a 350 degree oven or toaster oven or nuke in a microwave until cheese melts. Take other tortilla, spread with reduction, top other tortilla and make a sandwich. Heat a non-stick pan on moderate heat, add olive oil and when it is hot place sandwich in there for a minute or so until it turns golden brown. Flip carefully and do the same to the other side. Serve with a green salad and you are done.
Cook the chicken beforehand and just keep in a tupperware in the fridge. Just keep a whole lot of darn chicken in the freezer. Remove some of it in the morning so it is defrosted by dinner time.

A little planning goes a long way. We have this for dinner one night a week so I always keep a store of tortillas, shredded cheese, frozen chicken and my reduction on hand.

You can do it, one meal at a time. You have the luxury of a lifetime of having to cook which will help you to practice. Good luck, ladies!


4 Responses

  1. Your tip about keeping precooked chicken in the freezer to then add to recipes is great. Every couple of weeks I buy several packages of chicken cutlets (which I usually shred) or ground beef/turkey, etc. and cook it up with minimal spices, if any, and freeze dinner portions in small tupperwares. Then, for a quick meal, I can just defrost whichever I need, prepare (or unbottle) a quick sauce, steam some vegetables and we’re all set.

  2. Alma, you are so right about the need for people to look back to their origins to understand their cooking selves. I agree about the challenges we face given the take out and prepared food options of today. It’s almost too easy not to cook. Combine that with the Hamburger Helper, microwave and quick Fix Tool generation of our parents, and we realize how our cultures tried to do everything to push us out of our kitchen. By taking a few moments, as you suggest, I think many of us will soon understand how much of who we are in the kitchen today is out of control, and rather a function of society’s making. By doing so, it will give us the strength and understanding, as you say, to “Take back the kitchem.”

  3. I like the ideas about assembly… I often brown extra hamburger and freeze it so it is on hand for future use. Whenever we have grilled steak or chicken we usually make fajitas out of the leftovers the next day or two. Anyway, I think the “root causes” thing is really good! (Come to think of it, I’m surprised I ever learned to cook!)

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