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Friday, September 23, 2011


I've saved the best Christmas advice for the last!  BLACK FRIDAY!!!  I love it!  I usually start about 4 a.m.  YES -- 4 o'clock in the morning!  But here's the deal, by noon I'm done with all my Christmas shopping and back home in bed.  It is so fun and, at least in Kansas City, people are nice and friendly and in good holiday cheer.  Here's my tips to make it more fun and productive!

1.  Do your homework, check the website!  www.blackfriday.org is a great website that publishes the day after Thanksgiving ads before they come out.  You can subscribe and they'll let you know when they get a new one!

2.  Get the ads!  On Thanksgiving day in the paper they will have ALL the ads, I don't subscribe to the paper so I have to go pick one up at QT but it is worth the $2.  My mom, sister and I all make sure we have our own copies and after Thanksgiving dinner we sit down and look at them together and plot our strategy.  We also brainstorm gift ideas for people.

3.  Make your Map!  Figure out where you want to go first.  We always go to Walmart first because they are open 24 hours so you don't have to wait out in the cold, unlike at Target.  Also, they ad match so if something is at sale at Target and they have the same thing at Walmart they'll sell it to you for the same price.  So we get to Walmart at 4 and we walk around the store putting things in our cart that are not on the 5 AM Door Buster Ads, these items are in the aisles and wrapped up, they unwrap them right at 5.  At 5:00 when they pull the plastic off we finish our shopping and head to check out.

4.  Update Your List As You Go!  After each store we go through our shopping lists and our ads and figure out what our plan is.  Sometimes we plan on going to a store but after ad matching we can skip it all together.

5.  Don't Limit Your Shopping To Christmas!  There are deals this day that you will never see again so think ahead.  Get Easter basket stuff, birthday gifts or even just needed household items (last year we bought a 55" tv for our living room for $800!) 

6.  Avoid the Traps!  Best Buy is not worth it!!!!  The line will be forever long, like around the building long, and they won't have very many of the things they advertise.  Nebraska Furniture Mart also gets crazy busy, like lines around the building 3 hours before they open.  I do NOT wait in lines for 3 hours in the cold weather for anything! 

If you really don't want to go out I understand that this isn't for everyone but just so you know a lot of the advertised sales are available on line too.  Each store is different but usually they will start at midnight so if you don't want to get up early, you can stay up a little late and do some virtually Black Friday shopping.

Happy Shopping!  Maybe this year I'll see you out there!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Christmas Budget

Christmas is expensive!  Even if you have a frugal gift budget there are tons of other little expenses that crop up during this time.  Household decorations, new clothes for parties and pictures, travel expenses if your family is out of town, Christmas cards and postage, groceries for those fancy dinners.  There is nothing worse than the January Christmas Cash Hangover!  I like to make a budget each year and look for ways during the last quarter to skim that money out of the regular budget.  I make an Excel spreadsheet and list every expense in one column and the estimated cost in the next.  In the third column I try to track my spending so next year I know how close I came to my budget. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Make a Gift List

Yes, I know it is crazy but some people have already started Christmas shopping!  I myself have only purchased two gifts but mostly because I like Christmas shopping when it feels more Christmas-y (like the day after Thanksgiving - but that is another post!)  However, I do have my list made and when the time comes I'll be ready to go. 

I use Excel (shocking, I know!) and I list everyone I need to buy for in the first column.  On my side of the family we draw names so for now those are just place holders - Smith #1, Smith #2, etc........  The second column is where I write down what I actually buy.  The third column is my budget for that person.  The fourth column is where I eventually will fill in what I actually spent.  The last column is for brainstorming ideas.  I use this as a working document right up until I'm ready to shop.  Then I print it out and carry it with me for the rest of the shopping season, filling in the blanks as I go.  I do like to go back and fill it in on the computer because next year I just add a new tab to the file and start fresh.  I can actually go back as far as 2005 and see what I bought people, what my budget was, etc. 

Don't forget gift exchanges, work gifts, teacher's gifts.

My List for 2011!

As I said, when it comes time to shop I print this out and carry it with me.  I have tried in the past to save it to my Blackberry (or Palm Pilot at the time) but I really prefer having it bigger and its easier for me to fill out on the go when it is printed.  I also like to get a 5 x 8 envelope and keep it in there with any ads I am shopping from or pictures I clip out or website stuff I print off.

Tomorrow -- BUDGET TIME!!!!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

How Many Gifts Do You Give?

I had a friend whose family is still very young ask me the other day how many gifts I give for my kids for Christmas.  I think this is a great question.  When your kids are little you set the precedent as to how many gifts they will open over Christmases to come.  Jeff and I actually gave a lot of thought to this before Haley's first Christmas.  I come from a family where Christmas was HUGE!  I mean a living room FULL of gifts on Christmas morning.  While I loved it I thought it may be a tad excessive.  So here is what we came up with.

We give our girls each 3 gifts from us.  These are wrapped and they open them on Christmas morning.  We explained early on that we are celebrating Jesus' birthday and he got 3 gifts, so therefore they also receive 3 gifts. 

In addition to these 3 gifts, they also receive a pair of new pj's each year but they open those at my mom's house on Christmas eve so they can change into them right then and there.

Of course, Santa comes as well.  He fills each stocking and brings one gift that is not wrapped.  Usually the biggest gift of the year.  For us that has been a toy kitchen, a PS2, new portable DVD players, Barbie Jeep, and since 2006 -- A TRIP.  Whatever the biggest, flashiest gift is - that is what Santa brought.

These things combined with all the loot they pull in from Grandmas and Aunts is more than enough.  I don't think my children feel slighted in any way on the Christmas front.  Plus it is another way to add a meaningful touch to the celebration. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Christmas Is Coming!!!! 97 Days and Counting!

Its turning cooler, there is a bite in the air in the late evening and early morning, gets me thinking about the holidays.  This week I am dedicating to CHRISTMAS!!!! 

My tip for today is to make a LIST and a CALENDAR! 

Our lives are hectic, there is no doubt about it and when you add the craziness of the season somethings fall by the wayside.  Since Christmas is my absolute favorite season I hate to miss out on anything but by far the 4th quarter is my busiest at work.  So my family and I sit down in early November and make THE LIST.  The list of things we really want to make sure we do during the season.  It can include everything from the simple (like looking at Christmas lights) to the administrative (like sending out Christmas cards) to the special (seeing a show like Radio City Music Hall Christmas Tour or Trans-Siberian Orchestra.)  Every one gets to have their input.  Make sure you have your calendars close by.  Once the list is built go ahead and pencil them in on your calendar.  If you don't schedule them, they may not happen.  Here is my list for every year:

1.  Decorate the trees and house -- we try to do this on Thanksgiving weekend but last year I actually started the weekend before and it may be our new tradition.  We celebrate Thanksgiving at my mom's so no one is offended by the intrusion of the early tree and it gives us some breathing room on the holiday weekend.

2.  Go Christmas Light Looking -- we take a few hours one evening, get some hot cocoa and go out looking at Christmas lights.

3.  Christmas Parties -- Between work, church, friends and family we always have several we need to get on the calendar.

4.  School Christmas Concert

5.  Christmas Baking -- usually a day long activity, we used to do it with my dad, he has been gone for 3 years now but we still feel the loss heavily on that day.  I'm not a great baker so I keep the recipes pretty simple. 

6.  Christmas Cards -- I do love sending Christmas cards so I make them a priority.  I usually try to have them in the mail by the 15th of December but I make it as easy as possible.  I print address labels and enlist the kids and Jeff's help in signing, sticking and licking.

7.  Party for the Kids -- when they were little I used to host a cookie decorating party every year with their close friends and their families.  It was a great tradition that lasted many years but as the kids have gotten older we have abandoned it in the last year.  Now we are figuring out what the next tradition looks like.  I want them to have the opportunity to celebrate Christmas with some friends who are important to them so we are working it out still.  Thinking maybe a Christmas Eve Eve sleepover (following in the footsteps of my dear friend Laurie Dingwerth Hoover's mom and step dad who always had a houseful of teens over on 12/23 and made us a huge breakfast on the morning of Christmas Eve.)

Once the list is made Jeff and I get out our calendars and we actually schedule time for all of the chosen activities.  We schedule "Cocoa and Christmas lights" on an open Tuesday evening.  We set aside a Sunday afternoon for "Christmas Baking."  By putting these items on our calendars right along our work commitments and dentist appointments assures that we make time for what is really important this time of year -- FAMILY!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Appetizers and Snacks -- LAST DAY

This is one of my favorite dips because I always have the ingredients in my pantry.  The only fresh item is the mozzarella cheese, which I always have on hand. 

Mozzarella Cheese Dip

2 cups mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. Accent (you find this in the spice aisle)
1 Tbsp. parsley
1 tsp. garlic powder
2 cups shredded mozzarella

Combine all ingredients.  Chill.  Serve with chips or crackers.

That's all for my party food week.  Honestly I have hundreds of these types of recipes.  This is my favorite type of food so I'll share more down the road.  Now that you have 5 new recipes you should have a party this weekend!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Appetizers and Snacks -- Day 4

This one is amazingly yummy and simple.  I wish I could take credit for creating it but it has been floating around my friends and family for so long I have no idea where it started or else I would definitely give credit where credit is due.

Pesto Cream Cheese Dip

Spread 8 oz cream cheese in a 8" or 9" round oven safe pan.  A pie plate will work but a pretty pewter platter is great for presentation.  Pop open a jar of pesto sauce and spread over the cream cheese.  Take a pint of grape tomatoes and slice each in half.  Arrange the tomato halves in a circular pattern, starting in the middle and working you way out.  Bake in 375 degree oven for 20 minutes.  Serve with Triscuit crackers. 

I'm not kidding when I say this is delicious and will be a huge hit!


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Appetizers and Snacks -- Day 3

Buffalo Chicken Dip

2 - 10 oz. cans of chicken (or 3 breasts cooked and shredded)
2 - 8 oz. packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup Ranch dressing
1/4 cup Frank's hot sauce
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Mix chicken, cream cheese, dressing, hot sauce and half of the cheddar cheese.  Spread into 9x13 baking dish.  Top with remaining cheese.  Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes or until bubbly.  Serve with tortilla chips.

To make this in a crock pot, mix all ingredients in crock pot and cook on low for 2-3 hours or on high for 1-2 hours. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Appetizers and Snacks -- Day 2

Spinach Artichoke Dip

1 - 10 oz. package chopped, frozen spinach
1 can artichoke hearts
1 - 8 oz. package cream cheese
½ cup mayo
2 cloves garlic, grated or crushed
½ small yellow onion, finely chopped
¼ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
4 oz. shredded Monterey jack cheese

Melt cream cheese in microwave.  Add spinach that has been thawed and squeezed dry, chopped artichoke hearts, mayo, garlic, onions and Parmesan cheese.  Combine, spread in baking dish, top with shredded Monterey jack cheese.  Bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly. Serve with pita chips or tortilla chips.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Appetizers and Snacks -- Day 1

I love FALL!  It is by far my favorite season for many reasons.  The weather, the holidays, the football, Fall Festival, soups, parties.........so many fabulous things about fall!  In honor of my favorite season I will be sharing a new appetizer recipe each day this week.  Perfect for your next tailgate, football watch party, Halloween party or family gathering.

Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms

24 oz . white button mushrooms
½ small yellow onion, finely chopped
4 oz. cream cheese
½  lb. pork sausage
½ tsp red pepper flakes
1 clove garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ grated Parmesan cheese

Clean mushrooms by wiping with damp paper towel.  Remove stems and reserve half of them.  Chop the reserved mushroom stems finely.  Use ¼ tsp to scoop out a little more of the mushroom cap, being careful not to break through mushroom.  Place mushrooms open side down on a cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 for 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool.  In the mean time brown sausage in skillet, remove meat from skillet to paper towel lined plate to drain.  Discard drippings from pan.  Put a little olive oil in pan.  Over medium high heat saute chopped mushroom stems and onions.  Add the sausage back into the pan, add cream cheese and stir until melted.  Add grated garlic, red pepper flakes and salt and pepper to taste.  Remove from heat and let cool.  When cool add Parmesan cheese.  Turn mushroom caps open side up and fill with sausage filling.  Bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

Friday, September 9, 2011

What's for dinner tonight? Beef Stir Fry & Fried Rice

Mise en Place is a French term for "everything in place."  It refers to making sure you have all the required ingredients and tools in place before you start cooking.  I'll be honest and say I rarely do.  I'm much more a cook on the fly kind of girl, running from fridge to pantry to stove.  With this dinner though it all comes together so fast you have to have everything ready to go before you start.  So what's for dinner tonight?

Beef Stir Fry with Fried Rice

2 lb. round steak, cut into thin slices


3 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 Tbsp. lime juice
1/4 stir fry sauce
3 cloves garlic, grated with microplane
1/2" fresh ginger, grated with microplane  (TIP -- buy fresh ginger, peel it and keep it in your freezer in ziploc.  When you need it you just grate off what you need and put the rest back!)

Carrots, sliced
1/2 red onion, sliced
mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
Red Pepper, cut into big chunks
Broccoli, cut into bite size pieces
Snap Peas, washed and ready
2 cans sliced water chestnuts, drained

Early in the day slice your round steak and toss with the marinade.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to cook.  When it comes time to cook make sure all your vegetables are prepped and ready to go because this moves fast.  Place a very large skillet on the stove and pour some vegetable oil in the bottom.  Turn the heat up high and get ready to move.  First add the veggies that take the longest to cook, the carrots, onions, mushrooms and red peppers.  Let these cook for about 3 - 4 minutes, then add the broccoli and let that cook for a few minutes.  If the pan starts looking dry throw a little more oil in the pan.  When the broccoli looks a little darker green add the snap peas and the water chestnuts.  These need very little time so after about 2 minutes move all the veggies to the outside of the pan and add the meat with all the marinade in the middle.  Stir for a minute or two in the middle to sear the meat.  Then combine all the meat and veggies and cook another 2-3 minutes.  Turn out onto platter and serve with fried rice.

Fried Rice

Prepared white rice (use my fool-proof method from Wednesday!)
Vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 oz. deli ham
4 green onions, sliced
1/2 yellow onion, finally chopped
soy sauce to taste

In large skillet heat oil over medium high heat.  Saute yellow onion until  translucent.  Add ham and green onions and saute for 3 minutes.  Add rice, stirring until it starts to get golden brown, add more oil as needed.  When rice is lightly browned make a opening in the center of the pan and break the eggs into the open space.  Scramble the eggs and then combine with the rice.  Season with soy sauce to taste.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Do You Say Good Bye?

My husband and I met at the ripe old age of 20.  I wouldn't say it was love at first sight but it didn't take long before I knew this was the man I was going to marry.  Sure enough, at the age of 21 we were engaged, married at 22 and pregnant at 23 with the baby arriving at 24 (24 for me, it was a little before Jeff's 24th birthday.)  As that baby enters high school I have come to realize that Jeff and I don't really know how to be married without being parents.  We've never really been married and not been focused on children, either thinking about being pregnant or actually being pregnant or having kids.  I wouldn't change this for the world.  I love being a mom, it defines who I am in a large part.  I love being a young mom.  I love that I'm not even 40 and my baby is in high school and I'm hip (just ask her -- NOT :-).  I love that I'll most likely be a rather young grandma like my parents were and therefore have the energy to chase those grand babies around.  However, I am smart enough to realize that Jeff and I need to be pro-active or else when Haley leaves in 4 years and Liv starts high school we may find that our relationship as a couple is non existent.  

Recently I shared these concerns with Jeff (I have to point out here that I was a psych major so Jeff loves being analyzed by me :-)  and I told him that we need to work on this.  His response was "Okay, that's a good idea."  I said "We need action items."  He said "What?????"  Okay, so now I am mostly a project manager in my job.  I drive project after project from start to completion.  I assign responsibilities and action items.  Hey, it works!  I like to employ these tactics in my real life too.  So after some discussion we came up with three action items that I  think would be a great and healthy addition to any marriage.

1.  Intentional Good-byes and Good Nights -- It is so easy to just rush out the door without saying good bye to the people you love.  In fact, I am so not a morning person that I often find myself sneaking out the door without engaging anyone in any sort of conversation.  The same goes for Good Night.  I'll be lying upstairs watching tv and Jeff will be down on the couch and I'll decide I'm going to sleep.  So I do.  Our first action item is to never leave or go to bed without acknowledging it.  Make it your intention to say good bye or good night, every time you part and every night.  Make eye contact, maybe a kiss for the road, make a good night phone call when you are on the road.  Its not that hard but I think it makes a huge difference.

2.  Physical Touch Every Day -- each and every day we will have at least one physical touch.  A kiss, a hug, holding hands during Mass or while watching tv, a swat on the behind......whatever it is, touch your spouse every day in a loving manner.  As someone who has been married for 16 years and with my spouse for 18 years I will honestly say it is easy to go days without physically coming into contact with one another.  I gotta admit I love my king sized bed and my space but a little affection is good for the soul and the marriage.

3.  Us Time Every Week -- we pledge to spend 60 minutes a week just the two of us, with no tv, no kids and no friends.  Whether that be a walk, going out for dinner alone or just sitting down with a glass of wine and talking.  We "date" a lot but usually with other people.  And we "talk" a lot but usually about the kids with lots of stuff going on in the background.  This is our time to talk about us, our hopes, our goals, our concerns, our careers....whatever comes to mind....without dinner cooking on the stove and kids asking for homework help.

So that's it.  Those are our 3 action items for the time being.  I know that the reality is that my kids are going to move on and that is a good thing, we wouldn't want it any other way.  I am hopeful that when they do Jeff and I can rejoice in our freedom and ability to really reconnect with each other and not feel like we are starting from scratch with a stranger.  

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

I Hate Rice!!!

So I used to think I hated rice!  Turns out what I really hate is short, white, sticky, instant, bland rice.  What I love is well prepared, well seasoned, well flavored rice.  So here is my full proof method:

First, use Basmatti rice.  It is a longer grain and takes 20 minutes to cook but so much better than Minute Rice.  Second, in place of water, use chicken broth.  1 cup rice, 1 can chicken broth, some vegetable oil and 20 minutes is all you need.

Put a little vegetable oil in the bottom of a non stick 2 quart saucepan.  I don't measure this, just one twirl around the pan but if I had to guess I'd say it is around 1/2 Tbsp.  Next, turn the heat on high and add 1 cup of Basmatti rice.  Stir it to coat with oil and cook on high for about 2-3 minutes, don't walk away or let it burn, you will hear a little popping noise but we are trying to toast these rice kernels and add some flavor so that is okay.  When the rice starts to look a little translucent on the ends dump in your chicken broth.  Since the pan and rice are already very hot it will just take a minute or two until the broth is at a nice boil.  Now, cover that pot, turn the heat as low as it will go and let it sit for 20 minutes.  That's it.  I guarantee you will have yummy perfect rice every time and it is a great base for things like fried rice.....which is coming at you tomorrow!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Clean Coffee Maker = Yummy Coffee

I only make coffee at home on the weekends because during the week I drink coffee when I get to the office.  Lately I have noticed that my weekend coffee was a little lacking.  Had kind of a funny after taste, like unfiltered water at the lake.  Yuck!  Definitely not good!  So I decided to clean it and on Sunday I had the best cup (or actually 3 cups) of coffee ever!  Here's the how to:

Mix 2 cups white vinegar with 4 cups cold water and pour into your water reservoir then turn on the coffee maker and let it brew away (this will stink so light some candles.).  When it is done dump out the hot vinegar water and then put 6 cups of cold water in the reservoir and run it through.  Do the plain water cycle two more times.  That's it.   Your coffee maker is clean on the inside where it matters and tomorrow you will have the best cup of coffee ever!

Friday, September 2, 2011

What's for dinner tonight? Beef & Bean Burritos with Cilantro Lime Black Beans

One of the things I love to do is to double and freeze.  There are several recipes that I will double when I am making them and freeze the extras for another dinner or two.  Beef and Bean Burritos is one of those meals.  Below is my recipe and also a recipe for amazing black beans to serve on the side!

Beef and Bean Burritos

1.5 pounds ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 small can chopped green chilies
1 clove garlic
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/2 cup taco sauce
1 can refried beans
6-8 flour burrito size shells
8 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
1 lb Velveeta cheese
1 can Rotel tomatoes

Brown the ground beef (TIP -- Use potato masher to break up the ground beef as it cooks) and drain off the excess fat.  Add onions to pan and saute.  When onions are translucent add the garlic (TIP -- use your Microplane to grate the garlic), green chilies, oregano and cumin.  Stir to combine.  Add taco sauce and stir in.  Add the beans and combine them with the meat mixture.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare a 9x13 baking pan by spreading a few Tbsp of taco sauce on the bottom. Assemble your burritos; place 1/2 - 2/3 cup meat/bean mixture in the center of the shell, top with some shredded cheese and then roll by tucking in both sides and then rolling up, and place in the baking pan.  I usually get 6-8 burritos out of each batch.  Once they are all rolled and in the pan, cut the Velveeta into cubes, drain the Rotel tomatoes, add to the Velveeta and microwave on high for 2 minutes, stir and microwave for 60 seconds more at a time, stirring after each time, until melted.  Spoon about half the cheese sauce over the burritos (the rest can be served with tortilla chips with your dinner).  Bake for 20-30 minutes.  (TIP -- you can skip making your own cheese sauce by buying jarred Queso dip).  Serve the burritos with chopped lettuce, tomatoes, black olives, sour cream and/or salsa.
Beef & Bean Burritos

This is the single recipe.  If you double it you can wrap the extra burritos individually in foil and then put them in a ziploc storage bag and freeze them.  To cook them, thaw them in the fridge and then bake them for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.  You can bake them in the foil and then top individually with Queso or you can unwrap them all and put them in a baking dish with taco sauce on the bottom, top with Queso and then bake.  If you do it the second way, cover it with foil for the first 25 minutes and then uncover them for the last 20.

Beef & Bean Burritos -- Ready for the freezer!

Cilantro Lime Black Beans

If you like black beans you will love these!  They are so yummy!

1 T. olive oil
1 chopped yellow onion
1 clove garlic, grated or minced

1 can black beans
1 can chicken broth
2 T. lime juice
2 T. chopped fresh cilantro
Chipotle Tabasco sauce

In a medium skillet heat the olive oil and then saute the onions until translucent.  Add the garlic and saute for another minute.  Add the beans (do not drain or rinse them!).  Stir to combine.  Add lime juice and 1/2 cup chicken broth.  Simmer at low boil for 5 minutes.  If the beans get too thick add more chicken broth.  Add cilantro and Chipotle Tabasco to taste.  At this point you can add salt and pepper to taste as well.

Cilantro Lime Black Beans

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Quesadilla Crazy

In my house we are Quesadilla Crazy.  We make all types of Quesadillas for all types of meals -- breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, side dishes.  The possibilities are endless.  I always keep soft taco sized flour tortillas in my fridge.  I find these are the best size because you can either make a single tortilla quesadilla by topping one tortilla and folding in half or you can make a double tortilla quesadilla by putting one on top of the other and it still fits in the skillet and is manageable for turning.

We don't limit ourselves to typical quesadilla ingredients.  I mean, don't get me wrong I love myself a plain, old cheese quesadilla or a chicken quesadilla using leftover fajita meat but we have come up with some pretty good variations that step a little out of the box.  Today I'll share my "technique" and two of our favorite combinations.

The technique is pretty basic.  I make them like grilled cheese sandwiches.  I butter, oil or spray the tortillas with I Can't Believe It's Not Butter spray (depending on the ingredients and my caloric concerns at the time) and then cook them on a flat griddle pan, griddle or in a skillet.  The key is to keep the heat medium (like 6 or 7) so the contents get warm before the outside burns.  Don't walk away.  I'm very impatient so unfortunately many a quesadilla (and grilled cheese for that matter) end up in my trash can.  It can also be helpful to heat up any meat and/or veggies you are putting in the quesadilla before you put them in with the cheese.  This ensures that all the ingredients will be toasty warm.  

Pizza Quesadillas

1 soft taco flour tortilla
olive oil
pizza sauce
mozzarella cheese

Brush the tortilla lightly with olive oil.  Spread a very thin layer of pizza sauce over it.  Top half of it with pepperoni and cheese.  Cook at medium heat until cheese starts to look melty, then fold in half.  Continue cooking until outsides are golden brown.  

Turkey Swiss Quesadillas -- This is my favorite

1 soft taco flour tortilla
1 slice deli smoked turkey
Hormel bacon pieces
shredded Swiss cheese
green onion, finely chopped
dijon mustard
sour cream

Spread a very thin layer of butter on one side of the tortilla, set aside.   Chop up the deli turkey and green onions and then warm in a small skillet with a few tsp. of olive oil and the bacon pieces.  Place buttered tortilla on griddle, top with Swiss cheese and turkey, onion, bacon mixture.  Cook until cheese starts looking melty, then fold in half.  Continue cooking until tortilla is golden brown.  Mix up 2-3 T. light sour cream with a tsp or two of dijon mustard for a yummy dipping sauce.