Heidi Harkopf

Mary Poppins Might Have Had it Wrong! It’s Cheese, Not Sugar!

When they are toddlers it seems so easy. They all seem to enjoy their baby food and most of us parents take such pride thinking we have done such a good job in teaching them to enjoy wide variety of foods.

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Feeding is such a pleasure at this age!

And then they go to school! All of a sudden, the foods they liked that gave me bragging rights as a parent started to become more challenging. Worse yet, came the requests for foods that all their new friends were eating, most of which I was hoping no one saw me put into my shopping cart. Yes, we parents all cave at some point to the pressure in the supermarket!

So throughout childhood, I have found my children seem to have hidden “re-set” buttons on food preferences. I am still hoping to figure out where they are so I can trigger them myself!

But in this adventure, I have learned the cheese is the magical introduction food. Ahh, the power of cheese! No matter how strange or new something is, top it with cheese and watch the magic happen.

So as the children have grown, my family recipes continue to adapt to newly discovered, and recently abandoned food preferences.   And I relish those recipes that have the flexibility to adapt with us. One such favorite of mine is Black Bean quesadillas.

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Black Bean Quesadillas

When the children were real little, I would simply prepare it with just cheese and tortilla. Each time I made it a few more black beans would go on top of the cheese before topping it with the other tortilla. So as they grow, we inch towards the full flavor, spicier version that my husband and I so enjoy. The best part is that it’s the perfect weeknight recipe with the ability for flavors to be swapped in and out depending on what is in your pantry that day.

If you need some guidance in feeding the little ones in your family. Check out our newest brochure “Airplane, Choo-Choo: A Guide to Feeding your Baby the First Two Years”.

And if anyone has song writing skills, I am looking to rework that Mary Poppins song because its cheese that makes new foods introductions happen in the “most delightful way”.

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Credit: Disney

And to my pleasure I find it’s the husband pleaser as well!


Black Bean Quesadillas Recipe

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6 oz. shredded Monterey Jack cheese (or Pepper Jack cheese for an added kick)

15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed

½ small onion, diced

1 roasted red pepper, chopped

1 tsp. chili powder

½ cup fresh cilantro

Black pepper to taste

Flour tortillas

Salsa for topping



Combine first 7 ingredients in a bowl (through black pepper) to create a bean/cheese mixture. Place one tortilla in a non-stick skillet (no need for oil). If using a small tortilla, top with about ½ cup of bean/cheese mixture. Use 1 cup of bean/cheese mixture for large tortillas. Top with another tortilla. Place skillet on stove over low heat, let the filled tortilla heat so that the cheese slowly starts to melt. Place large plate on skillet, quickly flip skillet and plate so the tortilla lands on the plate. Slide filled tortilla back into skillet so the other side has a chance to slightly brown. When cheese is melted, serve with salsa.

Note: For a spicier version, add more chili powder and use Habanero Cheese


Heidi Harkopf

Heidi is a registered dietitian and the Director of Nutrition Programs for New England Dairy & Food Council.   During her free time Heidi can be found in the kitchen or driving her 2 teenage children to activities all over her home state of Connecticut!  A firm believer that healthy food doesn’t need to be complicated or time consuming, Heidi loves how dairy helps her pull meals together in a jiffy. Sound like someone you want to get to know? Contact Heidi at hharkopf@newenglanddairy.com.

Category: Recipes

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