While most 12-year-olds might rip open a bag of Lay’s or pour a bowl of cereal when they get home from school, Serene Villars whips up something a little more gourmet: a “Banana Split Quesadilla.” The recipe nabbed this Superior seventh grader a top-10 finalist spot in Jif’s Most Creative Sandwich Contest. Her dessert-like quesadilla features sophisticated touches like a caramelized sugar exterior, a strawberry-pineapple salsa garnish, and a side of softened vanilla ice cream.

Villars, who has been helping her mom in the kitchen since she was six, loves sweets and cooking shows like Cupcake Wars and Cake Boss. She and her mom stumbled across the Jif contest one day while Googling new recipes. Why not, she thought, nothing to lose.

To reach the next step—the top five finalists win an all-expense-paid trip to New York City—Villars must rack up online votes on Jif’s website. The grand prizewinner receives a $25,000 college fund, the four runners-up a $2,500 one. Villars talked to 5280 about her inspiration and her goals for the future.

5280: How did you come up with this creative “sandwich” idea?

Serene Villars: I like making sandwiches with the Jif chocolate hazelnut spread and bananas—we usually make it like a grilled cheese, in a pan. And I thought, well, I like quesadillas too, and that’s more creative. Why not do it that way? So I started with the hazelnut spread and the bananas. And then we made it more dessert-like with caramelized sugar and some sweet things on the side.

5280: What would be the best part about winning?

SV: My mom went on a trip with her sisters to New York recently but I couldn’t go. I’ve always wanted to go and if I made the top five, I would finally get to. I hear there are a lot of cool, big stores there. Also, we could put the winning money away for college.

5280: It’s a long way off, but…any idea what you want to be when you grow up? Or where you want to go to college?

SV: I like writing a lot. [Language Arts] is my favorite course in school. I really want to stay in Colorado, so I think CU. It’s pretty and close to the mountains.

To help Villars make it to the Big Apple, vote for her Banana Split Quesadilla here before February 7.


Want to make Villars’ creation yourself? Here’s the recipe:

You’ll need:

4 tablespoons Jif Chocolate Flavored Hazelnut Spread

Half a banana

2 small flour tortillas

3 strawberries

1 tablespoon butter

1 pineapple ring

1/2 cup vanilla ice cream

Whipped cream

1 teaspoon white granulated sugar


Spread one and a half tablespoons of the chocolate hazelnut spread on each side of each tortilla. Slice banana thinly and place on one chocolate side of a tortilla. Place the other chocolate side down on top of the banana tortilla. Melt butter in a nonstick pan on medium high. Place quesadilla in pan, flipping to coat both sides with butter. Sprinkle each side with sugar and cook until golden brown on both sides. Remove from pan and cut into four triangles. Melt the remaining chocolate hazelnut spread in the microwave for 30 seconds and drizzle onto quesadilla with a spoon. Serve with a side of chopped strawberry-pineapple salsa and softened vanilla ice cream. Garnish with whipped cream.

—Image courtesy of The J.M. Smucker Company