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Chicken quesadillas a fun food on the go

Thursday, April 18, 2002

By Suzanne Martinson, Food Editor, Post-Gazette

If you've got hungry boys ready to speed off to a hockey game -- or even if you don't -- Nancy Jackson's quickie quesadillas may be just the dinner for you.


This delicious dish couldn't be easier and took less than 20 minutes. Couldn't be handier, either. "Sometimes they're eating in the car," Nancy says.

Nancy and husband Ray live in Scott with sons A.J., 17, and Shawn, who'll turn 15 on Monday.

"They get home from school, get their homework done and four out of five nights they need something quick because they play hockey," she says. "They love these chicken quesadillas."

She created the recipe herself and prefers Manny's tortillas, which provides a crispness she likes, and either fresh or frozen chicken breasts can be used. Add a jar of salsa, often Chi-Chi's at the Jackson house, and here's dinner. "I like mild, but the boys do like spicy."

Her two sons play for Chartiers Valley High School, as did their brother, Justin, who recently married and moved to Milford, Mich. He works in a police dispatch office.

The family has "nine years of hockey in, four more to go," Nancy says.

She calls back to add that her husband is also a good cook, and once owned a restaurant called Smokey Joe's in Morgantown, W.Va., and even won the Rib Cook-Off in South Park. "He makes the best hickory-smoked ribs you've ever tasted," she says.

Today the couple own their own light and sound company. Recent jobs included the PPG ice rink Downtown, as well as the new club Sanctuary. She says the office work keeps her busy, but not too busy to start the Chartiers Valley Hockey Scholarship, for which the boosters club raises $1,000 that goes to a senior player.

Nancy was born and raised in Scott, but her husband, originally from Birmingham, Ala., went to Canevin, a big rival.

Her father-in-law, Ray Jackson, who had transferred here for 10 years with U.S. Steel, also likes to cook and had recipes featured in Southern Living magazine and The Pittsburgh Press.

"He was a big big cook -- always sending in recipes," she says.

Janet's parents, the late John and Eileen Oehm, were both from Heidelberg, and her aunt and uncle owned Rydzon's Bakery in Heidelberg.

Fast & Easy Chicken Quesadillas

1 package tortillas (she uses Manny's)
1 medium-size jar chunky salsa (any degree of hotness you prefer)
4 or 5 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cubed
8-ounce package Mexican-blend shredded cheese
Sour cream (optional)

Spray a skillet with Pam and cook the chicken until no longer pink, about 5 to 6 minutes. Drain off any liquid. Add salsa and cook for another 5 minutes over medium heat.

In another skillet sprayed with Pam, "fry" a tortilla for 30 seconds on each side. Sprinkle some cheese over the entire tortilla and spread the chicken salsa mixture on one-half. Add more cheese over the salsa mixture. Flip the other side of the tortilla over the salsa mixture like an omelet. Transfer to a plate and top with more salsa and sour cream, if desired. Cut into wedges.

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