Healthy Burrito Bowls with Amazing Spiced Chicken

Healthy Burrito Bowls with Amazing Spiced Chicken

http://www.dinneratthezoo.com/burrito-bowls-chicken/

So, as mentioned in yesterday’s review of tilapia tacos with pineapple salsa, if I’m making one Mexican recipe in a week, I usually like to make at least one more so I can use up all the toppings before they go bad (cilantro, sour cream, etc.). These burrito bowls seemed like a good followup; pretty simple, a little bit on the healthier side with no tortillas or cheese, and I could use the remaining pineapple salsa from the taco recipe.

To be honest, I didn’t have super high expectations at the start; I mean, it seemed tasty enough, but I was mostly looking for an easy way to use up leftovers. But! The marinade for this chicken is absolutely bonkers delicious. I’m a sucker for smoked paprika; I love the savory, complex, hint-of-barbecue flavor it lends to everything it touches. This marinade had a pretty large amount of it, and it worked perfectly. Garlic, onion powder, smoked paprika, and chili powder is a pretty foolproof combo, actually.

I marinated my chicken for the full eight hours, so it had plenty of time to soak up the flavor. (I also ended up having to cook the chicken almost twice as long as she suggested, because my pieces were super thick.) Just this week, I finally bought a meat thermometer; considering that my husband is basically a carnivore, I’m not sure how we didn’t have one until now. So far I’ve mostly used it to monitor oil for deep frying, but it’s already changed my life. In the same Amazon order, I got both the meat thermometer and a kitchen scale, and I’m so relieved that I never have to rely on my intuition again. (Wait a minute, you say – you seem like at least a semi-serious cook, how is it that you didn’t have a scale *or* a thermometer?) The official answer is that last year, we were trying to get ready for an international move, so we were pretty intentional about not acquiring anything we didn’t urgently need. We had already filled every inch of space in our tiny condo kitchen, and didn’t want to shove anything else in there if it could reasonably wait until we got into our new house. In retrospect, a thermometer and a kitchen scale take up almost no room, and if I’d realized how much I would enjoy using them, I would have made the space and gotten them much sooner. But, the past is past, and I expect I’ll make up for lost time by obsessively measuring all the things every day from now on. 🙂

In any case, the meat thermometer would have been really handy to have for this recipe; as the outer coating on the chicken grew increasingly charred, I was paranoid that I was going to end up with a dry, inedible mess. But it turned out fine, luckily. I kicked myself later for totally forgetting to put the beans on; I must have been frazzled from worrying about the chicken. But it was tasty anyway; just a simple combination of rice, chicken, salsa, and avocado, topped with sour cream, cilantro, and lime. (And diced red cabbage, which I did not remember in time for the photo but did add later.) I can definitely see myself throwing this together in the future any time I have Mexican toppings that need to be used up, and it’s very easy to configure based on what you like and have on hand.

Deliciousness score: 8
Easiness score: 7

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Tilapia Fish Tacos with Pineapple Salsa

Tilapia Fish Tacos with Pineapple Salsa

 

https://www.dinneratthezoo.com/tilapia-fish-tacos/

As you all have probably picked up by now, one of my not-so-secret pet peeves is when recipe blogs publish a weekly menu consisting of seven recipes that share no common ingredients. I get that if you’re cooking for a big family, using up ingredients is less of a concern; you can make bigger batches of everything, and worry less about whether the leftovers keep well. But I’m only ever cooking for myself and my husband (and really, since there’s so little overlap in the foods we both like, it’s usually just myself).  So, when I’m building my list each week, and especially when I’m considering what kinds of produce I’ll need, I do my absolute best not to buy anything that will only be used in one dish and then spoil by the end of the week.  And ideally, I try to find a bunch of recipes that all use the same ingredient in different ways.

This week, red cabbage was the star player. (How often do you hear that? Has that even been said before, ever?) I really like the crunch and color of red cabbage on tacos, but I often skip it because I know I won’t use it for anything else. This week, I was delighted to find four different recipes which could all benefit from cabbage. Two of them are Mexican, one is a hearty salad, and one is an Asian-inspired veggie quinoa bowl. It’s exciting to be able to use up a full head of cabbage (or close to it), but not be locked into tacos for the entire week.

That said, I’ve got nothing against tacos! These tilapia tacos with tropical salsa are some of my favorites; I’ve made this recipe several times, and keep coming back to it when I’m in the mood for a unique summery taco. This fruit salsa is another exception to my rule about savory fruit dishes. I typically avoid fruit in salads or any savory dish, but in this case I enjoy it. The spice of the jalapeño and the light taste of the tilapia pair really nicely with a little bit of citrusy sweetness.

I usually prefer corn tortillas to flour, but in this case I had flour tortillas on hand and wanted to use them up. They were fine, though in the future I will stick with corn. I was surprised that I couldn’t find corn tortillas in my local grocery store; possibly another casualty of moving to Canada, where Mexican food isn’t as popular. Someday I’d like to try making my own. It’s a more complex process than you might think, and the history and chemistry behind it are totally fascinating. There’s an amazing Alton Brown episode all about it if you want to know more:

If/when I get a tortilla press and actually try this myself, I’ll post a full breakdown, but in the mean time Alton explains it pretty entertainingly.

Deliciousness score: 7
Easiness score: 7

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Vegetarian Crispy Chickpea Tacos

Vegetarian Crispy Chickpea Tacos

https://www.macheesmo.com/crispy-chickpea-tacos/

These tacos were the hands-down star of chickpea week. I’m already a big fan of Macheesmo, and these definitely didn’t disappoint. A creative change of pace from standard taco fillings, they’re a perfect snack or entree for hot summer days. No oven required; you just sauté the chickpeas for a little while on the stove.

I was initially skeptical of the prep time for these (prep time 10 minutes, total time 25 minutes), as recipes in general (and Macheesmo recipes in particular) often take me longer than the stated time. I may be timing it differently; I start counting when I walk in the kitchen door, but I think many recipe authors assume that some of the basic prep work is out of the way first. Things like getting out your knives and cutting boards, getting the spices out of the cupboard, untying the knots on the plastic produce bags (which I assume some adorable person out there is actually doing; I just rip into them obviously) and throwing them away. My kitchen layout is pretty middle-of-the-road, neither notably efficient nor irritatingly horrible, but I do find that logistical stuff like this adds up. I’m also still learning what order works best for each recipe I make; sometimes I realize I started the wrong thing first and could have saved a lot of time by chopping one thing while something else was roasting, etc. I’m getting better at it, but with a new recipe it’s not always obvious right away.

Anyway, all that to say that I was pleasantly surprised with how quickly this came together. I mixed up the chickpeas first and started them frying while prepping the other ingredients. Since the cooking time for the chickpeas is pretty flexible, it worked out really well.

I also saved time by using a pre-chopped broccoli slaw mix in place of radicchio, since I find radicchio too bitter. I looked for sliced cabbage at my grocery store, but broccoli slaw was the closest thing they had, and it turned out great. Honestly, I think you could substitute a lot of different things and still get a great result. You’re just trying to add a little crunch; any firm, mild-tasting green veggie, cabbage, or even kale or lettuce would probably be fine.

I also couldn’t find queso fresco at my local market. (My Canadian fiance tells me that Mexican food isn’t a big thing up here, which is good news as far as he’s concerned but super disappointing for me.) I substituted bocconcini, which as far as I can tell is some kind of mozzarella relative. I knew that queso fresco was a simple cheese, not aged at all but eaten fresh, and the bocconcini seemed to fit that description. It turned out fine; I think cheddar or spicy jack or even feta would also be tasty.

It all looked so pretty laid out in taco bar form.

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The lime sour cream sauce was fantastic – so simple to throw together and super delicious. I actually used the full lime’s worth of juice with the same amount of sour cream, and the extra citrus zing was really nice.

Keeping the sauce and veggie slaw separate makes it easier to store, too. I packed everything up and enjoyed it just as much for lunch the next day. But if you were serving a crowd, you could toss the veggies with the sauce to save a little time.

All in all, a super satisfying, light, and tasty recipe that I’ll definitely be making over and over this summer.

Deliciousness Score: 9
Easiness Score: 6

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