Four Names Eats: Tex Mex Baked Chicken Wraps

I am a big fan of quick meals, but I  am not a fan of sacrificing the healthfulness of the food I feed my family. When I go grocery shopping, I make a list and try to plan out my meals, but inevitably, one of us ends up eating the broccoli for the broccoli rice casserole as a snack or I Elliott refuses to eat anything but cucumbers for three days straight, so I don’t have any left on the night I planned to soak them in homemade vinaigrette. I try to make a point of not bringing (too much) junk into the house so it’s easier to resist temptation, but that can limit my ability to roll with the punched sometimes. So, inevitably, I spend a lot of time making stuff up as I go along. This meal was one of those.

We don’t eat a ton of meat usually, but we’re definitely omnivores in this house. With that said, as a family, we eat a fraction of what most people would consider a single serving or two when it comes to meat. I like to buy free range, antibiotic-free, vegetable grain-fed, air chilled chicken breasts in the family packs when they go on sale at Central Market. That’s a lot of adjectives for one pack of chicken, but you can truly taste a difference. At least I can! Anyway..

30 Minute Meal: Tex Mex-style Baked Chicken Wraps
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For four servings, I use one to two breasts (depending on size), fully butterflied. Bake the breast filets in foil packets at 450 degrees for 20 minutes. Quick, easy, and no pan to clean later!

While the chicken is baking, start your pot of black beans. I use the Central Market Organics canned black beans, drained and rinsed. Add a wedge of sliced onion and a piece of bacon for flavoring (if you want).

While the chicken continues baking and your black beans start to boil, dice your veggies. I used sweet Vidalia onions, red bell pepper, cucumber, tomatoes, avocados, and canned green chiles (all organic). I take out what I need for my guacamole and put the rest on a plate, which will be used as the fillings for everyone to make their own wrap at the table.

Wash and chop your lettuce of choice (I use romaine most frequently) and whole leaf cilantro. I buy the romaine hearts in a 3 pack, usually no more than $2 for organic. Can’t beat it. Toss the romaine in your favorite dressing. I usually make a homemade citrus white balsamic vinaigrette, but that’s a post for another time.

Shred your cheese of choice. This time, I used Tillamook habanero jack. I always shred my own cheese because the pre-shredded stuff has cellulose (a.k.a. the compound that gives wood its strength and is commonly added to food as an anti-caking agent). Even the organic cheeses shredded in the store at Central Market contain cellulose if you read the ingredients. I’ll take 2 or 3 minutes out of my cook time to shred my own cheese.

Using a fork, mash your diced avocados, finely chopped cilantro, red onion, diced tomatoes, and fresh squeezed lime juice in a bowl until your guacamole is as chunky or smooth as you like. Hint: the longer you smash and stir, the less chunky it’ll be. More avocado= thicker, more lime juice= creamier.

Cut limes into wedges for drizzling over your finished wraps.

When the chicken is done, cube it and add it to your plate of fillings. Grab your wraps (I used Mission brand Tomato Basil tortilla wraps) and get started filling. The black beans can be tossed in the wraps or served as a side dish along with the guacamole and chips. I buy Garden of Eatin’ chia seed tortilla chips.

Squeeze a wedge of lime over everything and enjoy!

 

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Less time in front of the stove, more time at the table together: A quick, delicious dinner

It may sound cliché or unlikely, but I absolutely love the housewife part of being a mother and live-in girlfriend or domestic partner or whatever the proper term would be for my role in my family’s home life. While I don’t necessarily love cleaning, I do know how to do it well and I take a lot of pride in my home. More so than cleaning, I love love love to cook for my family. I love coming up with my own recipes and putting effort into something that my family can sit down and enjoy together. Few things please me more than my two year old going back for seconds because dinner is so “yummy in the tummy.” As beautiful as those sentiments may be, however, it is a fact that sometimes cooking can be a chore. A lovable, gratifying, time-consuming chore. Meals like this make cooking just a tad less time consuming because the family part of family dinner is the most important part, but that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice taste or healthfulness. I give you my 30 minute stir-fry. This particular recipe is meat-less, but you can easily add chicken, pork, beef, shrimp, or whatever protein you like. The great thing about this recipe is the flexibility of it. You can pretty much toss whatever veggies, fresh or frozen, you have on hand into your wok (or in my case, large non-stick skillet), add whatever protein you’d like, and the outcome will be delish.

My ingredients: Pasta- I used thin spaghetti, but it’s just personal preference here. (Linguine would work, spaghettini, traditional spaghetti, whatever) Fresh broccoli (though I always have a pack or two of florets in my freezer) Baby carrots, halved lengthwise Yellow onion Green bell pepper

chop veggies

If I were to make this tonight, I’d add some frozen shelled edamame, some shredded cabbage, and bean sprouts.

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Spices/Sauces: Black pepper Onion powder Garlic powder (or garlic salt, which is used more sparingly) Crushed red pepper Olive oil (for sauteing) Soy sauce Rice vinegar 20131003-170112.jpgYou can also use broth (veggie, chicken, beef, whatever) if you want your pasta to be a bit more saucy, but I like it drier with the flavor of the soy and vinegar.

So, put simply, while I boiled the pasta, I chopped my veggies into fairly uniform bite-sized pieces, sautéed in olive oil, sprinkled with my spices in no particular measurement. (Not the best instructions for a recipe, I know, but I keep it simple.) I pretty much just coat the surface of my veggies with the spices, most heavily with garlic and onion powders, more sparingly with the red pepper (unless you want it spicier).

By the time the veggies have softened, the pasta is done and drained. I then added the pasta to my skillet, drizzled with more olive oil, and added enough soy sauce to wet all of the noodles, tossing the pasta continually to ensure even coverage. I then drizzled the rice vinegar, which is more for taste, and continued tossing the pasta and veggies. Another sprinkling of the garlic and onion powders, a few more turns, and the pasta was done.

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One cutting board, one skillet, one pot. Super simple, super quick, super easy. Most importantly, super delicious. This is something I like to serve with a simple green salad. It’s a pretty healthy meal and by skipping the salt while cooking, the soy sauce doesn’t overwhelm your body with sodium. Toss some veggies into a skillet with some soy sauce and rice vinegar, make some brown rice or pasta to go with it and you have a simple meal that’s satisfying, cheap, and (at least in our house) toddler-friendly.

Mom’s Best Friend: A little time, little mess, BIG flavor dinner

I’ve been working on perfecting a few relatively healthy, quick and easy dinners for my family for those nights when I just can’t be bothered to produce multiple courses. John isn’t a huge fan of meat and I’ve been losing my carnivorous urges lately, so some of the dinners I’ve been putting together have been vegetarian friendly. This particular one is not.

I’ve been known to pick up a rotisserie chicken every now and then when I’m low on time and don’t want to go out somewhere for dinner. Sometimes I’ll saute some yellow squash and zucchini in extra virgin olive oil with onions and garlic and boil brown rice in low sodium, organic chicken broth and presto- dinner is ready. I almost always have salad stuff on hand, so another easy (though not the healthiest) dinner solution is a really great chicken Caesar salad. I’m talking fresh grated parmesan cheese, your favorite dressing (mine is Ken’s Steakhouse brand), croutons, fresh cracked pepper- the works. Slice the chicken and top the salad, maybe have some garlic bread on the side. You could easily skip the croutons, bulk it up with some more veggies like cucumbers, carrots, yellow and red bell peppers, asparagus, onions, or your favorite salad toppings, and substitute the dressing for a homemade vinaigrette for a much healthier option. Forget the chicken and go with black beans, garbanzos, or both for a protein-packed vegetarian option. Maybe I’ll post my recipe for (my favorite) homemade sweet citrus apple cider vinaigrette sometime when it isn’t past 3 a.m.

Well, the other night I picked up a chicken and decided to do something a little different. I was inspired by two avocados that had been hanging out in my crisper drawer for a few nights and decided to make guacamole. I bought fresh cilantro from the grocery store (or so I thought- it was parsley. womp womp.) and already had limes and a sweet yellow onion. John makes some of the best guacamole I’ve ever had and he aways uses red onion, but I don’t get down like that. With my guacamole serving as inspiration, I fired up my griddle, pulled the white meat chicken off the bone by hand, saved half of a pack of burrito-sized tortillas from certain death on the bread shelf of my pantry, and used half of a pack of Tillamook cheddar to make chicken quesadillas. The whole endeavor took maybe thirty minutes and the outcome was yummy, no fuss, and easy to clean up after. I added some sliced onion to the last quesadilla and in the future, I’ll definitely get creative with the spices- cumin and garlic salt would definitely jazz these up. This was a pretty basic, spur of the moment thing that my sister and I did to keep our stomachs from eating themselves since neither of us had eaten all day. (While my daughter was vacationing at my parents’ in Louisiana for two weeks, I didn’t keep the best eating schedule.)

The griddle and a spatula were my only cooking tools for the quesadillas and I used my Magic Bullet for the guacamole, so cleanup for that consisted of a cutting board, knife, and the cup and blades from the blender. It’s worth noting that I only used the Magic Bullet for a quick, rough blend of the ingredients. If you let it run too long, you’ll end up with a completely smooth avocado smoothie that doesn’t have the nice, chunky texture that guacamole should (in my humble opinion) have. We ate the guacamole with Garden of Eatin brand tortilla chips. They’re multigrain, seasoned with sea salt, and are made with organic whole grains and flax seeds. Plus, they’re certified GMO-free, which is awesome. They’re also maybe the most delicious tortilla chips I’ve ever tasted, which doesn’t hurt. As you’ll see in the picture below, I’m not too much of a health nut because I definitely keep a full size bottle of Taco Bell hot sauce in my fridge. The food at Taco Bell is pretty awful but dammit, if I don’t love those little sauce packets.

I recommend making the meal a little more substantial by adding some Mexican rice and maybe even black beans or fat free refried beans. My go to accompaniment, the tossed green salad, would also be a great green addition to this plate that wouldn’t add anything to your prep time. While the tortillas and cheese are melting, you’re washing lettuce and chopping up a cucumber. Easy peasy. You could also easily forget about the chicken altogether and stuff those quesadillas with your favorite vegetables for a meatless option. I personally recommend spinach, onion, and garlic for a yummy, healthy combination. Use whole wheat tortillas to maximize the nutritional value. The possibilities are endless. It’s truly a totally customizable dinner that’s quick, easy, and fun.

I hope my little ideas help the next time you’re scrambling for a fast, satisfying dinner with super easy cleanup. The less time I spend over the stove, the more time I get to spend eating the food my daughter cooks in her play kitchen. That’s the most important dinner time in my book.

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