Chicken Fajita Bowls with Mexican Cauliflower Rice

So I’m pretty active on Instagram. I’m not the best at taking pictures of my food, so I really love scrolling through people’s Instagram feeds with beautiful food pictures. I try. I like to think I’m getting better at it, but still. Taking lovely food shots is not my forte.
 

One of my favorite types of pictures are when people do food bowls. I don’t know if this is a new trend or if it just photographs well, but they are so beautiful. The food is organized so cleanly and is usually very colorful. I can’t get enough of them!

All that was said to introduce this Chicken Fajita bowl I recently made. I’ve made similar things before and I swear I posted them on here, but I guess not. Which just means I need to make them again so I can post them again and practice taking better pictures of them! See, it all works out.

This is a super easy weeknight meal that is totally family friendly and can be customized to your tastes.

Chicken Fajita Bowl

Makes enough for 2-4 bowls, depending on how much you put in them

 

Mexican Cauliflower Rice:

– 2 tablespoons Olive oil

– ½ onion diced small

– 3 cloves garlic, minced

– 1 bag riced cauliflower (I used the 12 oz bag from Trader Joe’s)

– 1 ½ tablespoons (or so) of tomato paste

– ½ tablespoon each garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, chili powder

– Salt to taste     

Bowls:

Mexican cauliflower rice (you can use regular rice or Mexican rice if you want)

Shredded chicken (I used a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store)

½ purple onion, sliced

½ each red, orange, and green bell pepper, sliced

Shredded cheddar cheese for topping

Plain non-fat greek yogurt for topping

Guacamole or avocado slices for topping

Place the onion and bell pepper slices on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Toss with some olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Roast at 375 for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the Mexican cauliflower rice:

In a skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil, onion, and garlic and saute until just starting to soften. Then add the cauliflower rice and cook for about 7 minutes until cooked through. Add the seasonings and tomato paste and stir together until well mixed.

 


Once the rice and veggies are ready (either the cauliflower rice or whatever rice you want to use), you can assemble your bowls.

 

You can be fancy and do layers and sections and organize the whole thing by color or whatever. Or, if you are not planning on taking a photo and you couldn’t care less what your bowl looks like before you eat it because you are just going to mix it all up anyway, you can just throw everything together and have at it.

As long as it tastes good, who care? You do you, love.

Cauliflower “Fried Rice”

It never really occurred to me until a few years ago that food can be trendy. I figured food is food, right? But, alas, just as with overalls and midriff shirts, food also comes and goes with the times. 

Cauliflower “Fried Rice” is one of those current food trends. I can’t say for sure, but from my extensive research on the subject (meaning about 10 seconds doing a Google search), it would appear that cauliflower was the “It Girl” of the 2015 food world and that star-status has not yet faded out. 

As anyone who knows their way around Pinterest can tell you, there are about a trillion and one ways to use cauliflower to make it more flavorful and fun. Which is good, because on its own, it’s pretty gross (in my opinion). You can make pizza dough out of it, “tater” tots, mashed “potatoes”, alfredo sauce, and “fried rice” (like I’m going to show you). You can even cut it into steaks and grill it. I always viewed cauliflower as basically white broccoli, but it’s actually a lot more versatile. It is a really healthy substitute for carbs and starches. And when prepared correctly, really delicious. 

I tried making this “fried rice” a while back and it was not good. I don’t know what I did. I don’t remember what ingredients I added or didn’t add. I just know that I tried it and it was no bueno. I just figured I must not like cauliflower after all and I should just cut my losses. 

Fast forward to this week. Ever since my nutrisystem slim down success, I’ve been spending a lot of time researching clean and healthy eating. I feel like maybe I know a little more about the world of healthy eats now so I thought I’d give the “fried rice” another go. Besides, I really like the buffalo cauliflower so that sort of negated my theory about not liking cauliflower altogether. 

Like I said, I don’t remember what I did or didn’t do the last time, but this time I made sure to write it all down because it was SO FREAKIN’ DELICIOUS!! I made this twice this week. My hubby loved it. I made too much and ended up eating it as my main meal (which is fine with it being pretty much all veggies), but it would be a good side or entrée. I haven’t tried making a big batch to reheat later because I’m not sure it would reheat very well, but if any of you have any experience with that, please let me know. 

The best part? This is so easy to throw together. Trader Joe’s makes PRE-RICED cauliflower! Another reason Trader Joe’s is the greatest place on earth. They have it in the refrigerated section and the frozen section, so I just grabbed a few of the frozen bags and keep them on hand. There are a few other things I want to try with this riced cauliflower that hopefully I can sneak into the kids’ food.

This recipe is more a method than a hard and fast set of instructions. You can change up the veggies. You can add meat or seafood. It can be enough for a couple entrées on its own or four entrees with added chicken or shrimp (for example). Or it could be divided up even more as a sidedish. It’s entirely up to you and your tastes. The amounts are eyeballed, so again I say, use what you want and however much of it you want.

2 tablespoons oil

2 eggs, beaten

½ zucchini, diced

½ leek, diced

½ cup baby carrots, diced

½ cup frozen peas

1 to 1 ½ cups riced cauliflower (pretty much whatever looks good with the amount of vegetables you have in your pan)

½ tablespoon low sodium soy sauce

½ tablespoon toasted sesame oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

Garlic powder, to taste

*Tip: Since this is basically a stir fry, it will cook fast over high heat. Make sure all your veggies are prepped and ready to go before you start.

In a skillet, put ½ tablespoon of your cooking oil. I used the garlic infused olive oil from Trader Joes, but you can use regular olive oil, or canola oil, or even coconut oil if you want. Add your eggs and scramble. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Add the rest of your oil and the veggies. Start with what takes the longest to cook. I started with the carrots and then added the zucchini and leek. Sautee until soft.

Add your cauliflower and peas and cook until just about soft. Add the egg back in and then add the soy sauce, sesame oil, salt and pepper, and garlic powder. Mix together and continue cooking until the cauliflower is nice and fluffy (like rice) and cooked through. You can taste it at this point and more of whatever you want.

This is a fun dish to play around with so try it with the flavors you like. Any tips? Pass them my way!

Slow Cooker Teriyaki Chicken Bowls 

Growing up, my mom used to make teriyaki chicken a lot. I mean, really a lot. It sort of became a bit of a running joke in the family. It was good, but we just had it a lot. Now, my mom is and always has been an excellent cook and she definitely made other things, but we very often had teriyaki chicken. She would put the chicken in a baking dish, pour some Lawry’s Teriyaki marinade over top and bake in the oven. Serve with some veggies and bread and you’ve got yourself dinner.

Now that I am a busy working mom, I get why that was such a go-to meal for her. I mean, really, duh! Looking back, it is such a no-brainer. It fit all four major categories parents strive for in a meal: quick, easy, healthy, and delicious. When you’ve got a job, a house to maintain, and three kids all with different schedules and whatnot going on, you’re lucky to hit just “quick and easy” let alone, all four! 

Fast forward many years later to me cooking for my family and I’ve changed up my mom’s teriyaki chicken game a bit. In my opinion, it is still just as easy, healthy, and delicious. It’s not really quick, per se, because you use your slow cooker. But at the same time, because you are using a slow-cooker, you aren’t stuck in the kitchen the whole time. 

A little side note/kitchen tip before I start the recipe: I always have a supply of boneless, skinless chicken breasts in my freezer. You can get a pack of 24 at Costco for, like, $20. They have them at the regular grocery store too, but you don’t get as many and they cost more (not everything at Costco is a deal, but these are). For this recipe, you can use them frozen, but other times, I’ll just take a couple out of the freezer the night before or in the morning before I go to work, and then they are ready for me to use however I want for dinner that night.   

Now back to the recipe: 

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts frozen* (you can do this with thawed meat too, just adjust your cooking time)

1 bottle teriyaki sauce/marinade

¼ cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon honey

Broccoli

Carrots

3 tablespoons cornstarch

*2 may not seem like a lot, but trust me, when you shred it, add the veggies and serve with rice, you’ll get lot out of this. I would say at least 6 servings.

To your slow cooker, add the chicken, teriyaki sauce, brown sugar, and honey.

Cook on low for 4 hours or high for 6 to 7 hours.

In the last hour of cooking, add your veggies. This cooks the veggies, but also lets them keep a bit of their firmness. If you want them to be softer, cook them longer. 

  
When you add your veggies, you can also make a cornstarch slurry to thicken up the sauce a bit. Ladle out some of your cooking liquid, whisk in a few tablespoons of cornstarch. Add the slurry back into the slow cooker and stir around for a second. Put the lid back on and let it keep cooking.

When it’s done, serve the chicken and veggies over rice.

  

Paella (Spain)

Ah, Spain. España. Have you been there? I have not been to Spain, but it is definitely on my Travel Bucket List. The country is ancient and beautiful. I kinda *sorta* understand the language. The food looks amazing.

Since a trip to Spain is not in my near future, this dish is the closest I’ll get to it. Paella is widely considered the National Dish of Spain and originates from the Valencia region, along the Mediterranean coast. The main component of paella is rice, and you can make seafood paella, meat paella, mixed paella, vegetarian paella… you get the picture.

Around the 10th Century, the Spanish Moors began cultivating rice and the Valencian people would use that rice to make casseroles of rice, fish, and spices for family and religious feasts. By the 15th century, rice became a staple of Spanish cuisine. I read a quote from a Spanish food historian, Lourdes March, about paella that said, the dish “symbolizes the union and heritage of two important cultures, the Roman, which gives us the utensil and the Arab which brought us the basic food of humanity for centuries.”

I really loved that because that was sort of the whole point in my starting this blog. In a world that is as divided as today’s is, food is still so universal. Everyone loves food. Every culture has their own traditions. Most cultures even borrow from other cultures. We all sit down at the end of the day at the dinner table. The fact that paella has come to symbolize the unity of two cultures in Spain is beautiful.

From what research I’ve done, there are many ways to make this dish. You can even get a paella pan, but I just used a large skillet. This particular paella is shrimp and scallops because that’s what I had on hand, but I think doing a shrimp and chicken would be delicious.

A typical spice in paella is saffron. As you may know, this is the most expensive spice, by weight, in the world. The bonus is a little goes a long way. I found a small jar at Trader Joe’s that cost about $5 or $6, which is the cheapest I’ve seen for a jar. The one I saw at Pavilions was closer to $17.

The only problem I had with the recipe I used was that it made SO much rice! The rice to seafood ratio was so off. I would probably just make less rice next time. Otherwise, this recipe was delicious and I can’t wait to play around with this dish again and see what sort of delicious combinations I can come up with.

Shrimp and Scallop Paella

(recipe from What’s Gaby Cooking?)

¼ cup olive oil

4 shallots, minced (I used leeks because that’s what I had on hand)

6 cloves garlic, minced

4 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed from the stem

2 bay leaves

2 pinches of saffron

3 cups long grain white rice

¾ cup white wine (I’m sure you could just use chicken broth)

2 tsp salt

6 cups chicken broth

3 tomatoes, seeded and diced (I used a handful of cherry tomatoes because that’s what I had)

8 jumbo shrimp, peeled, split, and deveined

8 sea scallops, cleaned

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil, for drizzling

1 lemon juiced

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

In a large oven-proof skillet, add the olive oil over medium heat and saute the onions and garlic until soft and fragrant. Add the thyme and the bay leaves and cook for a minute or two. Add the saffron and the rice and stir for a couple minutes until the rice is coated with the olive oil.

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Add the wine, salt, and chicken stock, making sure the rice is evenly distributed in the pan. Raise the heat to high and bring to a simmer. Once it comes to a steady simmer, remove the pan from the heat and sprinkle in the tomatoes. Put the dish in the oven and cook for 20 minutes.

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After 20 minutes, take the pan out of the oven and add the shrimp and scallops. Put the pan back in the oven and cook for another 13 minutes until the seafood is cooked. This seemed like a very specific time, but I did exactly 13 minutes like the recipe called for and it came out perfect!

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Remove from the oven and sprinkle with parsley, drizzle with the olive oil and lemon juice and serve.

I had no expectations for this dish, but it turned out really good! I can see why Spain claims it as their national dish!

¡Buen Provecho!
 

Yesterday’s dinner, today’s lunch 

I know I already did arancini, but I just wanted to show you again how easy it is to use leftover risotto to make it.

I made risotto for dinner last night and there were, as usual, plenty of leftovers. The next day, the risotto is the perfect texture to make arancini.

Spoon out however much rice you need to make your arancini the size you want. Mine were about 1 ½” to 2”. Beat an egg in one bowl, spoon some flour in another, and panko bread crumbs in a third. I only made 4 balls because it was just a quick lunch for myself. I didn’t need much flour or bread crumbs, so just adjust as necessary to what you need.

Cut off about ½” piece of string cheese (for each ball) and form the rice around the cheese. Dip the ball in the flour and shake off the excess. Dip in the egg and shake off the excess. Then finally, coat in the bread crumbs. Make all your balls and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat your oil in a skillet, enough to come about a quarter of half way up the side of the arancini. Let it brown, turning frequently to get it golden brown on all sides. Should be about a minute or so on each side.

Serve with some marinara sauce for dipping and you have the perfect little lunch.


  

Pea and Parmesan Risotto 

You may remember back in October, I made arancini which was one of my favorite foods from my trip to Italy. I said you start with risotto. You can use that as your risotto recipe, but this is my go-to risotto recipe. And yes, I have to have a go-to risotto recipe because my husband loves the stuff and requests it frequently. Plus, it’s easy because it uses ingredients I pretty much always have on hand.

Pea and Parmesan Risotto

1 ¾ cups Arborio rice (this is important; it really needs to be Arborio)
4 cups chicken broth, warmed in a pan
½ cup dry white wine (optional. You can substitute for ½ cup chicken broth)
1 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
½ leek, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup of frozen peas
1 cup of shredded parmesan cheese

In a large skillet over medium high heat, melt the butter and olive oil. Add the leeks and garlic and cook until soft and fragrant. Add the rice and stir around until slightly toasted.

Add the wine to the rice and stir to combine into the rice. Turn the heat down to medium and about 1 cup at a time, add the chicken broth. Wait until each cup is absorbed before adding the next one. This is a low and slow process to allow the rice to absorb all the broth and release it’s starches, giving you a really smooth and creamy risotto. Make sure you are stirring frequently throughout.

After all the broth is incorporated, add your peas and cheese. The peas should thaw quickly and the cheese will melt into the rice.

And that’s it! It makes a great side dish, especially for chicken, which is how my hubby requests it.

Dish #8: Arancini (Italy)

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My husband and I recently celebrated our 6th wedding anniversary. We went to Italy on our honeymoon, so I decided to make something from Italy for this dish in honor of our amazing trip. (The first of many from Italy, no doubt. To try to only pick one dish from a such a culinary Eden as Italy would be an impossible task.)

I had heard of arancini before (thanks Giada) but never gave it too much thought. We found a small café near our hotel on Piazza San Marco in Venice (I’m kicking myself for not remembering the name). It was our last night there and we had an early morning flight, so we went in and grabbed a few things to take back to our hotel room to eat. One of them was arancini and it was delicious.
Arancini are basically stuffed rice balls coated in breadcrumbs and fried. Although we had our arancini in Venice, the dish is said to have originated in Sicily. The name is from their shape and color, which is a bit like an orange (arancina means “little orange” in Italian).

The arancini we ate had a tomato sauce mixed in with the rice, which is pretty typical. When I make the arancini, I tend to leave out the tomato sauce and instead put it on the side for dipping. There are lots of ways to make this dish. You can really put whatever you like it in, but here is mine.

Start with Risotto

INGREDIENTS

1 1/4 cups Arborio rice
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup leeks, chopped
2 cloves minced garlic
3 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon oregano

In a saute pan, melt the butter and add the leeks and garlic, sauteeing until soft and fragrant. Add the salt and oregano. Finally, add the rice and mix it around, coating it with the leeks and butter, letting it get all toasty.
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Slowly, ½ a cup at a time, add the chicken stock. Stirring frequently, over medium heat. Don’t add the next portion until the rice has soaked up the liquid, usually only takes a couple minutes. Make sure the temperature is not too hot and you aren’t adding the stock too quickly. The low and slow method is best here, because you want your rice soft and creamy. Cooking it this way, the rice’s starches are released, leaving you with a creamy risotto.

After adding the stock ½ a cup at a time for the first 2 cups, I added the last cup altogether and let it simmer until done, another about 10-15 minutes. Keep stirring frequently, so it doesn’t cook to the bottom of the pan.
Once all the liquid has been absorbed, add the parmesan cheese and stir. Transfer the risotto to a bowl and put in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to tighten up. (SIDE NOTE: If you just wanted risotto, you can stop here. It makes a yummy side dish!)

After the risotto has stiffened up a bit, you can begin to make the arancini.

Set up a dredging station: 1 bowl with 2 cups flour, 1 bowl with 2 beaten eggs, 1 bowl with 2 cups bread crumbs (I used panko, but regular is fine)

Form the rice into balls. I just eye-balled it to the size I wanted, but you could use an ice cream scoop. Stuff the middle with a small chunk of mozzarella cheese (my secret? Just cut up string cheese!), and roll the rice around the cheese. Dip the rice ball in the flour, then the egg, then coat with bread crumbs.

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Put the balls on a plate until done.
In a deep skillet or pan, add enough vegetable oil to fry the balls. How much will depend on how big you make them, but you want the oil to come up at least half way (once one side is done, you can roll them over). The oil is ready when it starts shimmering and bubbling.

Fry the balls in batches. Don’t over crowd the pan. It usually only take just a couple minutes per side, but it goes fast, so don’t walk away. Keep an eye on them and when they turn a beautiful golden brown, take ‘em out!

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When they come out of the oil, put them on a paper towel-lined plate to soak up the excess oil.

Serve with a simple green salad and tomato sauce for dipping!

Tomato sauce (version 1)
I’m going to call this “version 1) because I will more than likely make another version of tomato sauce for another post. It’s just one of those things I don’t have just one of in my repertoire. This is just a basic version of the one I usually make. Not super saucy, per se, but good for a nice burst of tomato flavor for dipping and adding to simple pasta dish.

1 28oz can diced tomatoes with their juice
½ yellow onion, diced
4-5 cloves garlic, minced (more or less depending on your affinity for garlic)
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 tablespoon oregano
1/2 tablespoon basil
Salt and pepper to taste

Add a couple tablespoons of olive oil to the bottom of a pot. Add the onions and garlic and cook until soft, stirring frequently. Add the oregano and basil. You can add a little salt and pepper here, but not too much. Wait until the end, that way you can taste it and see if it needs more salt or really any flavor you want. You can always add seasoning, but you can’t take it away.
Add the tomatoes and let simmer for at least 20 minutes. You can leave it chunky like this if you want, but I don’t like it this way, so I used my emersion blender. If you don’t have an emersion blender, you can use a regular blender or food processor. (I do suggest getting one, though. They are very useful if you like to make soups and sauces.)

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Enjoy!!

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