Pulled Turkey Pizza w/ Rhubarb Chutney

In a time when people chatted over the fence rather than the internet, backyards had rhubarb patches. The big, old-fashioned plant with its huge ruffled green leaves is easy to grow and its extremely hardy. The same roots can produce rhubarb for up to 15 years. Pioneer women smuggled rhubarb cuttings across the plains, even though they were not supposed to take anything worth less than a dollar a pound because of the crowded covered wagon conditions.

Most often we cloak rhubarb in sugar for cake, cheesecake or pies. This recipe shifts rhubarb to the savory side, a chutney that is fabulous in pulled turkey pizza. This pizza concept changes up the usual tomato sauce base with a spiced rhubarb chutney. Chutney is good with pretty much everything and takes on unexpected flavors when paired with different foods.

This pizza was an experiment that turned out to be amazing with the combination of salty and sweet. The addition of a potato crust and some caramelized onions, what’s not to like?! Of course, you have to start with being a rhubarb lover.

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Pulled Turkey Pizza w/ Rhubarb Chutney
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Ingredients
Rhubarb Chutney
Caramelized Onions
Potato Pizza Crust
Pulled Turkey
  • 250 gm pulled turkey Either slow roast some turkey thighs or pick up at a deli counter already cooked
Servings
SLICES
Ingredients
Rhubarb Chutney
Caramelized Onions
Potato Pizza Crust
Pulled Turkey
  • 250 gm pulled turkey Either slow roast some turkey thighs or pick up at a deli counter already cooked
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Instructions
Rhubarb Chutney
  1. In a large heavy pot, combine sugar, vinegar, ginger, cumin, cinnamon & pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer over low heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add rhubarb & onion; increase heat to medium high & cook until rhubarb is tender & mixture thickens. Cool completely. (I prefer to make this a day ahead).
Caramelized Onions
  1. In a skillet, heat oil until hot. Add onion & sprinkle with salt. Cook & stir about 15 minutes or until moisture has evaporated & onion is soft. Reduce heat; sprinkle with vinegar. Cook & stir until golden. Add brown sugar, stirring until caramel brown in color. Remove from heat & cool. ( I prefer to make these a day ahead as well).
Potato Pizza Crust
  1. Cook potato in microwave, peel, mash & cool.
  2. Combine yeast with lukewarm water & allow to sit about 3 minutes until foamy. Add butter, salt, sour cream & potato; mix well.
  3. Stir in flour until completely blended. Turn onto lightly floured work surface. Knead dough until elastic & smooth. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap & allow to rise in a draft-free place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
Turkey & Cheese
  1. If you are slow roasting your turkey thighs its best to have done this a day ahead so you had ample time to 'pull' the meat. Shred the cheese & set aside.
Assembly
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. On a large sheet of parchment paper, roll or press potato dough into a 16-inch circle. Transfer dough (& paper) to a 14-inch pizza pan.
  3. Carefully spread 1 1/3 cups rhubarb chutney over bottom of pizza crust. Sprinkle with a bit of grated cheese.
  4. Layer with the pulled turkey meat & caramelized onions. Top with remaining grated cheese & bake 15-20 minutes or until crust is baked & cheese is melted. Remove from oven; cool slightly & slice.
Recipe Notes
  • When I slow roasted my turkey thighs for this pizza I used a covered roasting pan. To give them a nice flavor I poured a bottle of Zesty Italian Dressing over them. They were super tender & so flavorful, perfect for this pizza.
  • Alternatively, you can purchase the meat (either turkey or pork) as well as a pre-made pizza crust if time is of the essence.
  • We have also tried this pizza with pulled pork.
  • Any extra rhubarb chutney will come in handy for another kind of meal.

Plantain Lasagna Rolls w/ Guacamole

If you follow this blog, you have probably noticed numerous entries on plantains. For many years, prior to Brion & I living in Ecuador for three months, I saw them but didn’t take much of an interest. After tasting this veg/fruit, it definitely changed my attitude about them.

Plantains are like a cousin to the banana and depending on the ripeness you cook them in different ways. The main difference between bananas and plantains is that the former has more sugar and less starch, while the later has just the reverse and has to be cooked before eating. A plantain’s taste depends on how ripe it is. When it is almost black, that’s when its the sweetest.

If you like the combination of sweet and savory flavors, you will enjoy this meal. Basically it consists of a slice of baked ripe plantain, formed in a ring and filled with a spicy, ground turkey mixture, topped with cheese. Of course, you would never want to forget to serve them with guacamole!

It’s hard to experience another cultures food without something making an impact on your taste buds it seems. But, I guess that’s what is supposed to happen.

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Plantain Lasagna Rolls w/ Guacamole
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Guacamole
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Guacamole
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Instructions
Plantains
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Using a sharp knife, cut both ends off the plantain. Slit a shallow line down the long seam of the plantain; peel only as deep as the peel. Remove peel by pulling it back. Slice the plantains horizontally into 6 pieces.
  2. Spray a baking sheet & place plantain slices on it in a single layer. Lightly spray over plantains with baking spray & bake for about 12-15 minutes. Turn slices over after about 8 minutes. Plantains should turn slightly brown. Remove from oven.
Filling
  1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, brown ground turkey in oil & season with salt & pepper. Use a wooden spoon to break it into small pieces. Add onions, garlic, green pepper & saute until tender crisp. Add tomato sauce, water, olives & spices. Reduce heat to low & simmer covered about 7-10 minutes stirring frequently. Remove from heat & cool slightly. Grate cheese.
Assembly
  1. Preheat oven (if it was turned off after baking plantains) to 400 F. Lightly butter a 9 X 13-inch baking pan. Cut 6 of the slices into 4 pieces each. With the remaining 12 slices form rings & secure each with a toothpick. Place the rings in baking pan then place 2 cut pieces in the bottom of each ring to form a 'bottom'.
  2. Using 1/2 of the turkey filling, divide evenly between plantain rings. Using 1/2 of the cheese, place some in each ring on top of the turkey then repeat, making another layer with remaining filling & cheese. Drizzle or spoon beaten eggs over stuffed plantain rings (it will help to hold them together).
  3. Bake 15-20 minutes or until plantains are heated through & egg is set. Remove from oven & allow to sit for 5 minutes then remove toothpicks before serving. Serve with guacamole.
Guacamole
  1. While plantain is baking, mash avocado & add remaining ingredients. Combine well & serve with stuffed plantain.

Shrimp Chili w/ Cornbread

Cornbread is one of those culinary creations that pairs well with almost anything. Over the years, I have prepared so many cornbread ‘pairings’, I have lost count. Needless to say, I love ‘everything corn’.

When it comes to chili, the version made with ground beef usually comes to mind. Although, Brion & I enjoy the original, this shrimp chili is a nice change up for us seafood lovers.

These little cornbread ‘cakes’ have only a hint of honey. This makes them a good compliment to the spicy chili as opposed to the sweeter, dessert version of cornbread (which, of course is wonderful too!)

March seems like a good month to still enjoy a bowl of chili before our thoughts turn to some lighter meals for the spring & summer.

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Shrimp Chili w/ Cornbread
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Shrimp Chili
Cornbread
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Ingredients
Shrimp Chili
Cornbread
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Instructions
Shrimp Chili
  1. In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion; cook, stirring often, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add mushrooms & garlic; cook, stirring for 30 seconds.
  2. Stir in zucchini; cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes. Stir in spices & salt; cook for 20 seconds. Pour in tomatoes with their juice; bring to a simmer. Remove from heat. Stir in shrimp & cilantro. Pour into a 9 x 13-inch baking pan.
Cornbread
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk cornmeal, flour, baking powder & salt. In another bowl, whisk together milk, oil, egg & honey until smooth. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring only until just moistened.
  3. You can either drop heaping tablespoons of the cornbread batter over the shrimp mixture OR bake it in greased individual pans.
  4. Bake until the cornbread is golden brown (& the filling is bubbling) about 40-45 minutes if baked as a casserole. If your cornbread is baked on its own, test the cakes for doneness after about 15 minutes.
  5. Garnish with grated cheddar & sliced green onions before serving.
Recipe Notes
  • We enjoy the addition of some black beans in this chili as well.

Chili Mostaccioli

Mostaccioli, known in Italy as ‘penne lisce’, are a specialty of the Campania Region in Southern Italy, which includes the cities of Naples, Capri and Sorrento. This pasta is smooth in texture, tube-shaped with angled ends cut to resemble a quill or pen point.

Without realizing it, the pasta shape we choose plays an important role in the outcome of the dish. Long or short, smooth or ridged, thick or thin, with or without curves and crevices, different shapes of pasta capture sauce differently.

Shaped pastas pair well with sauces that have some texture. The crevices and twists will give pieces of meat and veggies a place to nestle into.

Short tubular pastas are great for sauces that are thick and chunky.

Long, thin, dried pasta need lots of lubrication. Olive-oil based sauces will coat, but not drown the pasta. The thicker pasta, like fettuccine can stand up to cream sauces and ragus. If your adding vegetables or herbs, cut them string-like rather than in cubes for ease in blending them.

This is a quick, low-cost meal but has good flavor.

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Chili Mostaccioli
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Course Main Dish
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Instructions
  1. In a bowl, combine meat, milk, crumbs, garlic, onion & seasonings; shape into 4-5 oblong patties. In a skillet, brown patties in hot oil. Remove to drain on paper towel.
  2. Drain any liquid from skillet & wipe with paper towel. In the skillet, combine soup with water & bring to a simmer. Add meat patties; gently simmer, covered for about 10 minutes then add drained & rinsed kidney beans. Simmer 5 more minutes until beans are hot.
  3. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. Place on a large warm serving platter. Arrange patties over mostaccioli pasta. Pour sauce over meat & pasta; sprinkle with Parmesan cheese & serve.

Tortilla Crepe Stacks

To some of us, Mexican food terms get a little confusing. I mean there is the taco, burrito, quesadilla, enchilada and taquito just to name a few. Before anything, one needs to know what a tortilla is. Simply put, it is wheat or corn plain bread that is used as a wrapping material around different types of filling ingredients to make the various Mexican dishes. 

Masa Harina is a traditional flour used to make corn tortillas and tamales as well as other Mexican meals. To make masa harina, field corn (or maize) is dried and then treated in a solution of lime and water called slaked lime (or wood-ash lye). This loosens the hulls from the kernels and softens the corn. In addition, the lime reacts with the corn so that the nutrient niacin can be assimilated by the digestive tract.

The soaked maize is then washed, and the wet corn is ground into a dough called masa. It is this fresh masa, when dried and powdered, that becomes masa harina. Water is added again to make dough for the corn tortillas or tamales.

Cornmeal and masa harina are very different preparations of corn. Do not try to substitute cornmeal or regular wheat flour in recipes calling for masa harina as they will not produce the same results.

Today, I want to make some tortilla crepe stacks. Crepes as we all know, have always been a hallmark of French cuisine. So the question is, ‘how did they come to be in Mexican cuisine’? In the 1860’s, French forces invaded Mexico. They came, they conquered, they cooked and then they got kicked out. Cinco de Mayo commemorates that victory for Mexico from 1862. However, it took another five years before the French left Mexico for good. During their stay, the French left their mark on the country’s cuisine.

One of the reasons I have always loved crepes, is that they are so easy to make and taste so good. You can either roll the filling inside or just stack them with their fillings and make a ‘cake’.

These tortilla crepes are made with half masa harina and half white flour. Next, I made a mushroom rice & barley pilaf and some guacamole. You can pick and choose when it comes to the extra filling add-ons. I guess it did get a bit more involved but worth it —.


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Tortilla Crepe Stacks

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Instructions
Tortilla Crepes
  1. In a blender, beat eggs with milk & oil. Gradually add masa harina, white flour & salt, beat until smooth. Allow to stand for 1 hour or longer. Heat an electric griddle to 350 F. Using a 1/4 cup measure, scoop batter onto griddle. With bottom of 1/4 cup, make circles in the batter, gradually enlarge to size of tortilla you wish to make. I made 3 for each crepe stack. Cook each crepe for a few minutes on each side then remove to a wire cooling rack.

Rice & Barley Pilaf
  1. In a saucepan, saute onion, garlic & mushrooms until tender crisp. Add chicken broth & bring to a boil. Add all remaining pilaf ingredients & reduce heat to simmer. Simmer until barley & rice are cooked & liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat; place in a dish & set aside to cool.

Guacamole
  1. Mince onion & sun-dried tomatoes & mash avocados. In a small bowl, combine avocados, onion, sun-dried tomatoes, & remaining guacamole ingredients. Blend well, cover & refrigerate.

Crepe Stack Fillings
  1. Cook chicken & shred, Grate cheese & prepare all filling ingredients.

Assembly
  1. Spread 4 tortillas with guacamole, reserving a bit for 'decorating' the top of each stack. Over the guacamole, put a layer of rice/barley pilaf. Top each of them with chicken, green peppers, olives, corn, red onion, fresh tomatoes, zucchini, black beans & a sprinkling of cheese. On 2 serving plates, place one filled tortilla topped by a second one. Complete each stack with another corn tortilla. 'Decorate' each with remaining guacamole, salsa, sour cream & remaining cheese. Heat each crepe stack for a few minutes in the microwave before serving.

Fish Tacos with Guacamole

The countryside around Merida, Mexico is home to many plantations or haciendas.They grew a cactus of the Agave family and processed the leaves to remove the fibers inside to make what is called a ‘sisal’ rope and other  related cordage products. Although most haciendas laid abandoned for  many years after the Mexican Revolution and the invention of synthetic  fibers, today many have been restored and turned into luxury hotels,  restaurants, museums and attractions.

On one of our day trips we went to Hacienda Sotuta de Peon. This is a  restoration project focused on preserving the history of how a native plant was farmed for its fibers and made into rope. You can witness the whole process step by step; from plant in the ground, to raw material, to fibre and finished product.

This tour of the plantation was very interesting!  The ‘grand hacienda’, or landowner’s home, was one, very long building. The rooms from kitchen through the bedrooms were all in a row connected by doors. The veranda ran the length of the house  overlooking the pool and beautiful gardens. Sheer opulence in comparison to the conditions of the factory workers a short distance away. Over in the factory, the sisal leaves are lifted up from the street onto a conveyor belt  where it is arranged by hand for maximum efficiency. Equipment,  powered by a loud diesel engine, with overhead drive shafts and big  leather belts, squeezed the leaves. Rivers of green pulp and liquid ran  down to the carts below. The cleaned leaves came out the other side and  workers made individual batches of the fibre and sent them down a rail to the room below where they would be hung out to dry in the  sun.

In the next process, machinery separated short and long fibers, spun it  into grade rope or baled it. When nylon and other synthetic materials  were created it changed the economics of this industry. No longer able to  compete they ultimately had to shut down. At the end of this part of the  tour we were taken on a mule drawn, covered cart to see the fields of the  sisal growing. What was interesting about the ride was that the mule  pulled all of us around the plantation in this cart attached to the same rail  system  that was used over a century ago to transport the workers.

I’m including some of the highlights of Brion’s photos of that day for you  to enjoy. In keeping with the Mexican theme, here is a tasty little recipe  for some fish tacos as well.

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Fish Tacos with Guacamole
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Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine American, Mexican
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Instructions
Fish
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Place a metal rack over a baking sheet & spray the rack with vegetable spray. Set aside. In a shallow bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, cumin, chili powder, salt & pepper. Set aside. Cut fish fillets into fingers & brush with olive oil. Toss the fish fingers a few at a time into the flour mixture until well coated. Transfer fish to baking rack. Spray the top of fish lightly with vegetable spray. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden & cooked.
Guacamole
  1. In a large bowl, coarsely mash avocados, lime juice, salt & cumin using a fork; stir in tomato, garlic, onion & cilantro. Cover & refrigerate until ready to assemble tacos.
Coleslaw
  1. In a bowl, combine coleslaw with ranch dressing.
Assembly
  1. In each (heated) tortilla, place a small amount of coleslaw. Top with a couple of fish fingers, guacamole, red onion, diced tomato, grated cheese & the remainder of coleslaw. Serve any extra guacamole on the side. Of course, nothing wrong with adding a bit of salsa to the equation!

Pork Medallions w/ Apricot Brandy Sauce

This is a meal that has a lot of interesting flavors going on. First you are marinating dried apricots and figs in brandy, then rubbing the pork medallions with a cumin-ginger spice combo.

Some years ago I became interested in using the cumin spice. If you have not yet tried it, the flavor is very distinctive. It could be described as slightly bitter and warm with strong, earthy notes. Cumin is an essential ingredient not only in Mexican and Southwest-inspired dishes but in the more trendy foods of North Africa, India and the Middle East. This delicate looking annual plant has slender branched stems. It is fast growing, with tiny white flowers that yield the cumin seeds. Farmers have to manually harvest the seeds by pulling the whole plant out of the ground and thrashing the seeds off of the plant onto a sheet. They are then sun-dried and hand sifted over a screen to separate out stems and twigs.

Although you need very little cumin in most recipes, it gives a great flavor. Like most spices, you must develop a taste for it to really enjoy it.


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Pork Medallions w/ Apricot Brandy Sauce

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Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, marinate figs & apricots in brandy. Slice pork tenderloin into medallions. Combine cardamom, cumin, ginger, salt & pepper in a plastic bag; add pork medallions & toss to evenly coat with spice rub.

  2. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add pork, brown nicely on each side & remove to a plate. Return skillet to medium-LOW heat & add butter & onions. Gently saute onions for 5 minutes; add figs & apricots but NOT brandy. Saute 1 more minute.

  3. Turn heat back to medium-high & pour in the brandy & allow to simmer 1 minute. Add chicken broth & return pork to skillet. Cover & cook until pork medallions still have a hint of pink. Best to not overcook.

Egyptian Kofta

Over the years, our travels have taken Brion and I to many interesting places in the world. Each has left us with amazing memories.

In November of 2009, before Egypt was in such disarray, we explored this ancient country. You could safely say that time has not lessened the mystique of the world’s oldest tourist attraction. No matter how many pictures you look at, or how much you read on the internet, there is just nothing as powerful as seeing the real thing. Brion’s ability to speak fluent Arabic was a huge bonus for us while in Egypt.

The flight from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada to Cairo, Egypt was a bit grueling at 16 hours long but we ‘recovered’ fairly fast. To make the most of our vacation, we divided it into four segments; – five days in Cairo, six days in Alexandria, eight days on a Nile River cruise and the last week at Sharm El Shiekh on the Red Sea.

The Nile River cruise was definitely the highlight of the vacation. We boarded the ‘Helio’ cruise ship in Luxor which took us to Aswan and back. Each day the ship would dock at various sites along the way and our personal guide would take us to explore temples, tombs, the high dam and the beautiful botanical gardens at Kitchener Island. It was such an incredible experience viewing the sights and sounds as you slowly sailed along. Travel is a good reality check to make us appreciate what we have in our own lives and so often take for granted.

Every evening, the supper buffet on the ship was created with a different theme. One of the items Brion really enjoyed was ‘EGYPTIAN KOFTA’. Egypt’s local and rich resources of fresh foods coming from the Nile Valley, has given the world some of the most coveted cuisines. Egyptian food is a mixture of all the different civilizations that came to Egypt in the history of its existence.

The word kofta (or kefta) has its origins in Persia. Although you can make meat, seafood or vegetarian kofta, the most popular in Egypt is a mixture of ground beef and lamb combined with onions, garlic, parsley and a ‘BAHARAT’ spice blend.

Along with my recipe today, I thought you may enjoy to look at some of the photos from our Nile River cruise. 

 

 

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Kofta
This is the burger meat of the Middle East.
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skewers
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Servings
skewers
Ingredients
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Instructions
  1. Soak 16 wooden skewers in water for about 1 hour; remove from the water when you are ready to begin. Lightly oil grates of grill or BBQ & preheat to medium high temperature.
  2. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients thoroughly. Divide meat mixture into 16 portions. Mold each onto a wooden skewer to form a 'kofta kebab' about 1-inch thickness.
  3. Place kebabs on lightly oiled, heated grill or BBQ. Grill for 4 minutes on one side, turn over & grill for another 3-4 minutes. Serve immediately with mini pita breads, tahini, hummus or yogurt dip.

Pita Pockets

From what archaeologists can determine, pita bread originated with peoples west of the Mediterranean. Pitas have been both a bread and a utensil throughout the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean.It is a rather  simple bread that could be made with limited technology. Pitas are cooked quickly at a relatively high temperature. The flat dough expands dramatically to form an interior pocket from steam. 

Pitas’ popularity is partially attributed to using the pocket like a sandwich bread. Many traditional cultures use the pita more like a soft taco or the pita is pulled apart into pieces and dipped in a variety of sauces.

The possibilities of being able to pack, dip or wrap whatever you choose in the pita bread is limitless. Their taste can only be appreciated when eating your pita with different foods that will compliment them.

Although pitas are enjoyed all through the year, they seem like an easy summer meal to enjoy.

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Pita Pockets
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Instructions
Filling
  1. In a large skillet, cook beef, onion & green pepper over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. Add the Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, garlic powder, cumin & Italian seasoning; mix well. Simmer, uncovered, for 5-10 minutes.
Sauce
  1. In a small saucepan, bring all the sauce ingredients to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered for 5-10 minutes. Spoon meat mixture into pita halves; top with sauce, tomatoes & lettuce.

Chicken Fajitas

When I’m working in the yard, summer always tempts me to spend less time in the kitchen. As much as I love to cook, I find the ‘gardener’ in me takes over. I can’t simply just go out and do a bit of looking. The first thing I know, there’s a little weed that needs to be picked or a plant to prune and that does it — I’m hooked for hours. Nevertheless, one thing for sure and that is the fresh air and exercise builds an appetite which brings me to a fast-to-fix meal.

Today, I’m thinking some chicken fajitas for our evening meal. Before I even go outside, I’ll do a bit of quick prep work, that way it will be a ‘no brainer’ later when I’m tired.

Technically, only beef was used in fajitas, but the term has become ‘blurred’ and describes just about anything that is cooked and served rolled up in a soft flour tortilla. The origin of the fajita goes back to Mexican ranch workers living in West Texas (along the Rio Grande on the Texas-Mexican border) in the late 1930’s or early 1940’s. When a steer was butchered, the workers were given the least desirable parts to eat for partial payment of their wages. Because of this, the workers learned to make good use of a tough cut of beef known as shirt steak. The first print mention of the word fajitas anywhere in the world didn’t occur until the 1970’s.

The chicken breast I’m using in this recipe is marinated for a number of hours making it nice and spicy as well as tender. This is a great little, quick and easy hand held meal.

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Chicken Fajitas
Instructions
  1. In a large resealable plastic bag, combine 2 Tbsp oil, lemon juice & seasonings. Add chicken. Seal & turn to coat; refrigerate for 1-4 hours.
  2. In a large skillet, saute peppers & onions in remaining oil until crisp-tender. Remove & keep warm. In the same skillet, cook chicken over medium-high heat for 5-6 minutes or until no longer pink. Return pepper mixture to pan; heat through. Spoon filling down the center of the tortillas; fold in half. Serve with cheese & choice of other toppings.
Recipe Notes