Friday, April 1, 2011

Cyclone fajitas (and fajita salad)

For those of  you that don't know it, Mexican food is bad for you, and I mean BAD for you!  There seems to be a correlation with anything that tastes wonderful being a belt buster, I mean Mexican food is like comfort food to me.  The unlimited chips and salsa at the beginning of the meal probably pack 500 calories in before I even get my entree....but who's counting, right?  My jeans, that's who.  My jeans do the counting for me and sometimes their math is brutal. 

Anywho, my favorite dish at Mexican joints used to be steak fajitas piled with lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, salsa, and now guacamole thanks to my friend Michelle's hubby who got me to overcome my hatred for it with his wonderful guac recipe.  I never order fajitas if we go out anymore and I'll tell you why.  Mine are better.  Im talking hands down better.  The ones at restaurants are super greasy, and the veggies are all soggy, they taste like they were scraped out of the bottom of a pan compared to mine.  Not trying to toot my own horn but....toot, toot!  In my fajitas the veggies are crunchy, the meal tastes fresh, and they pack a minimum of probably half the calories the real ones deliver (hard to figure since most places dont post nutrition info). 

So, I made chicken fajitas on Wednesday night after my run and boy they hit the spot.  I will share this recipe with you only if you promise to follow my directions to the T, and sing the Iowa State fight song after your dinner table prayer.  Pinky swear?  Ok, here you go:

Cyclone fajitas:

1 large yellow bell pepper
1 large red bell pepper
1 large white onion
1 large tomatoes
*fajita sauce mix (I will explain this in a minute)
2-3 chicken breasts, pork chops, or lean sirloin steaks (Ive even used a pound of shrimp before, or mixed a couple meats together depending on what I have laying around)
toppings (lettuce, tomato, salsa or hot sauce, fat free sour cream, 2% mexican cheese, whatever floats your boat)

*If you want to make your own fajita sauce mix, Ive used this recipe before. 
  • 3 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 2 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp. salt
  • 1 Tbsp. paprika
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2-1/2 tsp. crushed chicken bouillon cube
  • 1-1/2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin

It didnt really change the taste to make it from scratch, its pretty cheap (like 69 cents or so), and just as healthy to buy the sauce packets like you would for taco seasoning.  Do what you please, I usually prefer the quick method with a packet like the one pictured below.

To start, you cut up your veggies (bell peppers, onion, and tomato) into large slices.  Spray your skillet with non stick Pam (I use olive oil flavored because I like to cook without oil but with the taste of oil, and that stuff is fat free).  Throw the veggies in the skillet...and saute on medium heat for 5 minutes or so, stirring constantly.

While your veggies are cooking, season the meat of your choice with lawrys, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, etc...whatever flavor you like.  This step is sort of a wing it take some creative liberty and season away!  When the veggies are still crunchy but have been sauteed for about 5 minutes you take them out of the skillet and spray it with Pam again before throwing your meat in to cook, as I said I chose chicken breasts this time around.  This next step is the secret trick to keeping the veggies crunchy:  Put them into a bowl with a lid on top, or a plate, whatever works.  The veggies will steam themselves in the bowl while the meat is cooking....leaving you with crunchy veggies instead of wilty ones when you chow down in a minute.  While the meat is cooking, mix your fajita mix with a half cup of dont need much water, the juice of the meat and veggies will be good for that later.

When the chicken is done (or even close to done, it can be pink in the middle since its going to cook more when you add all the mixings together with the sauce), pull the skillet off the burner and cut the chicken into bite sized pieces.  I wouldnt recommend doing this in the skillet as you will scratch your pans (believe me, Ive done it) so I usually pull it and slice it on a plate.  Throw the chicken back in the skillet, throw the veggies in on top, and stir the fajita mix liquid in on top and toss it around for a few minutes to make sure everything is coated.  The result:

FREAKING YUM!  And with a tortilla, fat free sour cream, and 2% cheese you are sitting around 350-400 calories per fajita depending on how liberal you are with the cheese and sour cream (mow down on the lettuce, tomatoes and salsa as those are basically free toppings).  I usually only need one...but sometimes sneak another half down the hatch because they taste so darn good.  If I am really trying to cut calories, I just make a salad with it like I did the other night...just skip the tortilla and add extra lettuce and you cut out the 120 calories for the tortilla.  Make sure you look at the nutrition info on the tortillas by the way.  Ive used a million different kinds: 98% fat free, carb balance, etc.  The best Ive found for you that also taste the best are these (which was actually sort of surprising as they dont advertise being healthy like some of the others do):

Total time in the kitchen would be about 40 minutes, I would estimate.  BUT, if you want to cut down on time for weeknight meals, cut the veggies up ahead of time and/or cook the meat ahead of time and just add it to the skillet to warm it instead of cooking it through.  You could throw these on the table in 15 minutes or less if you have all the prep work done. 

So, in the end, my salad was exactly what I wanted....

Justin was happy with his fat kid tasting meal (I wont mention he had another one after this one, whoops)....

And all was right with the world.  GO STATE!!

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