Taco Chicken

Okay. I’m being a board hog today. I’m also craving Mexican food. One of the major disadvantages to living in the South is that there is very little in the way of good Mexican food, so I have to make it myself. I’ll be posting a recipe for Chicken Tortilla Soup on Friday, but I wanted to share some tips with you today as well as a recipe for chicken that you can use for anything–fill small flour tortillas with this chicken, some cheese, a little cabbage, guacamole, and pico de gallo, and you’ll think you’ve gone to heaven. Make taco salads with this instead of ground beef. The best thing about it is that you probably have (or will have) all or most of the ingredients in your house and that it’s EASY.

Here’s the lineup (other than chicken of course):

Juice 2 limes and combine them with a couple splashes of red wine vinegar and some garlic. Pour over chicken. This will not completely cover the chicken; just turn it occasionally as needed. Marinate for at least 4 hours, no longer than 8.

Heat an outdoor grill (you can also use a grill pan inside. Or your broiler in your oven.) Combine salt, chili powder, cumin, and black pepper in a small bowl. Remove chicken from marinade and rub the spices all over the chicken. Isn’t raw meat disgusting-looking?

Grill about 7 minutes per side.

Remove from heat and allow to stand a few minutes so it doesn’t lose its juiciness. You can either eat the chicken as it is, maybe with Mexican rice and beans, or use slice it up and use it as you would taco meat.

Southwest Pasta Salad

“Can you bring a salad?” “Um…how about a salad?” “A salad would be great, any kind.” “Your assignment: salad”
Seriously, am I the only one who feels like they are constantly taking a salad to something? Parties, pot-lucks, church events, bridal showers- always need a good salad. I think for that reason, I’m always trying to think of new and interesting flavors to incorporate because it seems like you always see the same types of salads. This one is great for a party or gathering because it can sit around without wilting and it’s really unique. It’s also filling. But it’s not just for parties, I’ve actually never taken it to a party. Probably because I just made it up last week. Next party, this salad is invited.
I actually made it a few times, and we love it for lunch and dinner. This salad relies on pasta, but it has just as much, if not more additions so the veggie to pasta ratio is really high. Fresh veggies, black beans, sweet corn and more. It makes a great vegetarian meal, or you can add grilled chicken to make it more filling. I served it with some cheese quesadilla wedges and my whole family (even kiddos!) gobbled it up. This sits well in the fridge too, so you could make it one night for dinner and then take the leftovers to work the next day. Great one-dish meal. Definitely one of my new faves!
See all of the yummy {and healthy!} stuff I packed in there? Black beans, green onions, diced tomatoes, bell peppers, and corn.
I use Barilla Plus Pasta and I love it. (Not a sponsored comment, just my opinion!) If you have a hard time incorporating whole grain pastas (some can be hard and chewy) this one is awesome. You really can’t tell it’s any different than normal but it’s packed with all sorts of healthy stuff. Anyway…
One of my best tips for making a good pasta salad, or pasta in general is to SALT YOUR WATER. Yes I had to yell that because I think a lot of people skip that step. It does wonders for any pasta, but especially a pasta salad, which can often turn out bland.
As soon as your pasta is done, run it under cold water to cool it off.
Place it in a big mixing bowl (you can’t see because I’m so sneaky, but underneath all of that pasta is the zest of a few limes- limes you will be using in the dressing.)
and then dump on all the good stuff! Look at all of those gorgeous veggies- they sing to me. Not really. I’m not a crazy person who hears singing vegetables, but they look purdy, right? In the recipe I only call for one bell pepper, I had a variety so I used a third of a red, yellow, and orange, just for color.
Mix that all up. If you’re adding chicken, then add that here as well. I used Taco Chicken, which I cooked the day before and it was awesome. Any cooked chicken will do, but grilled pairs well with the Southwest flavors.
And then pour on the amazing dressing. You can make the dressing while the pasta is cooking, or even a day or two ahead of time. I started out with Kate’s awesome Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette. That dressing is fantastic on its own, but one problem with pasta salads is that they just suck up flavor. I’ve found I have to make dressings that are almost too strong for a regular salad and then they’ll be perfect for a pasta salad. Otherwise they just taste bland. So I started with the vinaigrette, decreased some of the oil, and replaced it with lime juice and additional spices. It’s a party in your mouth I tell ya!
Sprinkle on the cheese just before serving. I used queso fresco, which is a Mexican cheese you can buy at the grocery store. You could easily substitute Cotija (another Mexican cheese you can find at the grocery store) or use grated pepperjack, jack, or cheddar. Or leave the cheese out completely. Honestly, I added it because I think it looks pretty, don’t tell.


Now that summer weather is finally starting to peek out in my neck of the woods, I’m pulling out some of my most favorite grilling recipes. This one is on my most-requested list. That may be because I make it so often for company. And that may be because it’s always a reliable hit. It’s one of the very first recipes I ever posted here on the blog and it was longoverdue for a photo makeover! If you haven’t discovered this one, then definitely put it on your to-make list. And check out my recommendations for side dishes at the end of this post, because it’s so, so great with a yummy rice dish, and I’ve got several for ya! It’s a pretty quick marinade:
Start with a little somethin’ somethin’ sweet: brown sugar.
And some freshly grated ginger.
Brown sugar + fresh ginger = love.
And some fresh garlic.
Brown sugar + fresh ginger + garlic = supa’ love.
For a little kick, toss in some red pepper flakes. It does add a little bite, but not crazy spice. My toddlers eat it. They also eat sand and stuff they pick out of their noses, so maybe they’re not the best judges, but take it for what it’s worth.
And some curry powder. Love curry.
Make this easy on yourself and toss all of this in a ziplock bag.
Now that we’ve got the dry flavors- add the liquids.
A squeeze of fresh lime juice.
And some soy sauce.
[Insert picture of imaginary soy sauce here. You know, the one that you didn't forget to take because you weren't trying to cook while at the same time taking pictures while feeding a 10 month old, aka bottomless pit, while a toddler emptied out an entire gallon of milk while trying to pour a glass himself because you were too focused on taking pictures. While cooking. While feeding a baby...you get the idea. My life is complicated.]
Squish it all together, and add your chicken.
And seriously, make it with chicken thighs. Don’t argue with me.
Then grill it up on your bbq (or use an indoor grill pan or broiler if you don’t have a bbq)
One of the reasons I love this chicken is that it can be served with so many things. You can go Asian-ish, or Thai-ish, or Polynesian-ish.
I love it with this Lime-Cilantro Rice with Pineapple, and it’s also great with Sweet and Savory Coconut Rice, or even Fried Rice. When I made it for these photos I made some Jasmine rice and when it was done cooking I added a few pats of butter, a handful of both sliced green onions and cilantro, some diced mango and salt and pepper. It was soooo good. The mango sort of melted into the rice and just added this amazing sweet and savory thing. Loved it. Kids loved it. Hubby loved it. It was perfect with the chicken.
And if you end up with extra chicken, try this Asian BBQ Chicken Pizza!