Make What You Love with What You Have by Alyssa Perez

A Series of Substitute-Friendly Recipes

How many times have you opened your fridge and nothing screams “eat me!”

You sigh at the thought of having to actually make something. I’m a little different. I pride myself in being able to whip together a delicious meal regardless of what I have sitting in my fridge or pantry. Now, I want to share some of these substitute-friendly meals for those who struggle to see potential in their selection. The recipes in this series have been carefully designed to include a common substitution that won’t compromise the taste.

La Martina (Loaded Quesadillas)

Mija, can you make me a quesadilla?” I knew what my mom wanted to eat before she even asked me. The quesadilla was her go-to guilty pleasure after a long day at work. And I can’t blame her. It’s an easy, quick, and deliciously satisfying meal.

Inspired by mi mama Martina, it’s a classic Mexican favorite – the cheesy quesadilla – but with a loaded twist. This recipe incorporates my favorite foods into one satisfying dish.

Enjoy it as breakfast, lunch, dinner, or a snack.


 1 TB olive oil

2/3 C yellow onion diced

o   Sub: white onion; red onion

2/3 C black beans cooked and drained

o   Sub: pinto beans

1/2 tsp. Tajin

o   Sub: chili powder

1/4 tsp. cumin

2 flour tortillas

o   Sub: 4 corn tortillas

2 oz. Colby Jack cheese thinly-sliced

o   Sub: Chihuahua cheese; Shredded “Mexican-style” cheese


1.     Heat a medium-sized skillet over medium-heat. Once hot, add the olive oil and diced onions.

2.     Sauté the onions until slightly transparent, about 3 minutes. Stir often to prevent from browning too quickly.

3.     Add the black beans to the skillet and mix with the onions until warmed, about 2 minutes.

4.     On low-heat, add the Tajin and cumin to taste. Mix until incorporated.

5.     Remove the skillet from heat and set aside.

6.     Heat a separate medium-large pan (large enough to fit the width of the tortilla) over medium-high heat.

7.     Place one flour tortilla on the pan. Place the sliced cheese throughout the face of the tortilla, leaving about a half-inch around the edges. Allow the cheese to melt slightly, about 1 minute.

8.     Scoop the bean and onion mixture onto the cheesy tortilla. Place the other flour tortilla on top. Leave for about 30-seconds.

9.     Using a large spatula, carefully flip the loaded quesadilla. Heat until lightly browned.

10.  Remove the loaded quesadilla from the pan and place on a large plate or cutting board. Cut the loaded quesadilla into fourths with a sharp knife.

11.  Optional: Top with sour cream and guacamole. Enjoy!

Alyssa is a Chicago-native foodie based in Washington, DC. Through the pandemic and working from home, she has been able to focus on her love of food and creating simple-yet-delicious recipes from her own kitchen.  

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