Guest Post: Chipotle-Style Rice Bowl

One of the most important aspects of this blog is engaging my community in the discussion of sustainability, pragmatism, and healthy lifestyle on a budget. In order to hear different voices and perspectives I have asked some peers to contribute their thoughts and experiences. Every few weeks I will feature a guest post discussing issues, sharing experiences, and raising questions on the subject. Message me if you're interested in contributing to the discussion.  
This week my coworker, Hanna Wintz, shares her go-to recipe for a take to work lunch. Hanna moved out to NYC from the West Coast a little under 2 years ago. Ever since she's been busy seeking out comparable burritos, produce, and weather patterns. Food-wise, she specializes in meal-prepping, chocolate making, and crepes, with her favorite kitchen item being a silicone spatula. 

NYC is a city where you run your life by paying for conveniences. From having someone wash and fold your clothes for you, to having a man on a bicycle drop off your piping-hot lunch at your desk, to paying someone to deliver bubble tea to you, NYC has mastered and normalized the outsourcing of chores so that you can dedicate as much time as possible to working, drinking, and working. Living in a culture that never seems to let you slow down or have time to yourself isn't easy on the wallet - and with rent, loans, and bill balances piling up, something's gotta give (and I can tell you, it's not going to be my $12 cocktails...).

If I had to name one convenience I hate to pay for, it'd be buying lunch. There never seem to be many healthy options past boring salads and soups, and even with the emergence of healthier options (think Dig Inn), I can never totally trust it's as healthy as they claim, because, after all, it's rather easy to soak those sweet potatoes in olive oil to make them more appealing. More importantly, buying lunch 5 times a week comes out to close to $60, which comes out to $240 a month! I have a long list of things I'd like to spend $240 on, and it doesn't include salads or rice bowls . 

I thought I'd give a little glimpse into my Sunday afternoons, where I spend around an hour prepping meals for my week. First, chicken thighs are one of my go-to meats. Coming in at less than $3.50 a pound with all of the juice, flavor, and tenderness that chicken breasts just don't deliver. (Even better, they're less difficult to overcook than chicken breasts, making thighs easier for those less cooking-inclined. I use them in most of my meal prep and they never disappoint!) Next - if you don't own a large container of Cumin, I would suggest you go out and get yourself one. It is such an incredible spice that can bring a dish from bland to complex - I use it in most of my dishes in combination with paprika and chili powder (apply generously). Last, although not featured in this post, roasting vegetables is my go-to for making large batches of tasty, delicious food. If you think you aren't a big fan of vegetables, it's because you haven't had properly roasted and spiced ones! I urge you to try it out (375 degrees, 30-40 mins)

So here is my prep for the week, please enjoy!

Chipotle-Style Rice Bowls

Ingredients:

  • 4 tomatoes on the vine
  • 1 medium sized onion
  • 1 bunch of cilantro
  • 1 lime
  • 1 jalapeno, 1 habanero pepper
  • 5-6 chicken thighs
  • 1.5 cup uncooked white rice
  • 32 oz black beans
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 3 tsp paprika
  1. Dice tomatoes, dice onion, chop up cilantro and mix it all together. Add salt, pepper, and lime juice. Set aside. 
  2. Debone and dice chicken thighs, set aside. 
  3. Dice jalapeno and habanero.
  4. Bring 1.5 C rice in 3 C water to a boil, then set to lowest simmer for 20 mins. Stir frequently.
  5. While rice is cooking, heat up a pan with some olive oil. Once hot, add peppers to simmer for a couple of minutes to make sure the olive oil absorbs the spice. Add chicken and cook through, adding salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, and chili powder.
  6. Remove chicken from heat, leaving juices in the pan. Once rice is nearly done cooking, transfer to pan and add beans to simmer and absorb chicken juice. Add more spices to taste.
  7. Split across tupperware equally, starting with rice & beans, then chicken, shredded cheddar cheese, salsa, and top it off with some sour cream!
  8. Store in fridge and pull out as you go through the week. (You can also freeze the remaining for 2 days to ensure freshness, although I've never had any issues).

Summer Chicken Salad

I've been in NYC for a little over 3 months now and last week found myself in a situation which called for stepping up my lunch packing game. You see, I've been very irresponsible - hitting up the Sweetgreen, Gi-Gi's, Hale & Hearty, insert standard $12 NY lunch place here, for my workday lunches. $12 here and there doesn't seem so bad but a quick glance at my bank account at the end of the month left me red in the face. Lunch, coffee, snacks... it adds up. Big news, I know. 

                                                                                        You see a cityscape, I see temptations for endless $12 salad. 

                                                                                        You see a cityscape, I see temptations for endless $12 salad. 

Getting engaged inevitably means facing the harsh reality that it's time to start saving for a wedding - you only have a year, every cent counts, and no you can't afford that latte anymore. So, in an effort to stop buying lunch I started going through all my standard salad and wrap recipes (my workday meal of choice) and found myself underwhelmed. There are only so many variations of Greek, Caesar, and kale a girl can eat before she gets a wandering eye. My eye wandered into my fridge where it landed on the remains of a chicken I had roasted. 

                                     Roasted chicken, before it's demise. 

                                     Roasted chicken, before it's demise. 

Confession: I never know what to do with the remains of roasted chicken. Last week I prepared a gorgeous bird, stuffed with lemons and fruit, topped with an array of spices. We ate it for dinner, followed by sandwiches the next day. What was leftover is what is always leftover - not enough for a full meal, but bits and pieces, hanging out in quiet desperation. To fight my lunch time slump and solve my leftover dilemma, I started looking through recipes online which called for small amounts of chicken. So my goal became two fold, figure out a new meal for lunch and start a collection of recipes for leftover roasted chicken.

For my first installment of repurposed chicken leftovers I landed on chicken salad- an obvious choice for some. For me, for whatever reason, this classic has never really hit the spot. Most of the time it feels too heavy, the mayo makes my stomach hurt, and the grapes add sweetness that tastes out of place. As it turns out, I had very few of the ingredients necessary for the standard chicken salad on hand. So instead, I decided to improvise. The result has become a staple in my lunch repertoire. This salad is modern, crisp, fresh, and super simple to prepare. It doesn't have the heaviness of traditional chicken salad and won't make you feel antiquated in your cooking. I rolled mine up in a spinach wrap but it's good enough to eat on it's own too! (I'll be tripling the recipe and serving it up at our first late summer dinner!)

 

Summer Chicken Salad

Ingredients

  • leftover chicken, diced (about 2-3 cups)
  • 2 cups red grapes, sliced
  • bunch chopped parsley (about 1 cup)
  • 2-3 chopped scallions (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2-1 cup chopped pistachios (almonds would work too!)
  • 1/2- 1 cup sliced radish
  • 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 -2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp. mayo
  • s+ p to taste
  • 1 spinach wrap or serve with bread

I am a firm believer that salad recipes don't always have to be exact. It depends on your tastebuds and what you have available in your fridge. Since this salad is about leftovers, keep it simple, use your judgment. It's not like baking a cake. 

  1. In a bowl combine sliced chicken, radish, grapes, pistachios, and parsley. 
  2. In a cup or bowl whisk together lemon juice, mustard, mayo.
  3. Mix all ingredients together and season with salt and pepper to taste. 
  4. Wrap like a burrito in a spinach wrap or eat as you would any other salad. 

Squashing Fear of Squash: Mediterranean Squash Salad Wraps

SPRING. It's happening. Sort of. 

Last week 8 inches of snow hit the DC region and then a day later the sun came out, the temperature sooooared to a balmy 56°F, and I took great big strides around the apartment discussing how it was time to start bringing out sandals and dresses. Premature, I know. 

I don't really believe in Spring cleaning- I like to waltz into the warmer months feeling organized, all my ducks in a row. I reserve the last few cold weeks of the year for sorting through unread magazines, paying off straggling bills, and destroying evidence of money thrown into the bowels of the Target Corporation during fruitless attempts at cheering up in frigid weather. For the record this winter left me with: 5 grey sweatshirts, 15 pairs of socks, 3 bowls, 4 spatulas, 10 lip glosses- all same color... 

In other words, basic Spring cleaning activities but earlier and at a very slow, deliberate pace. The last of my winter purge is reserved for a vast stock of root vegetables acquired in December through late January. It's during this time of year that things get dim and I imagine myself a lonely homesteader on the Russian steppe- headscarf, all grey and taupe wardrobe, looking for inspiration in beets and potatoes.

I took inventory of my kitchen last week and realized that I tend to fall into a pattern. Every winter, without fail, I buy squash. Every year, I think that this will be the year that I master this mysterious, turtle shelled, indigenous vegetable. Every year, like clockwork, I put it on the counter and it stares at me. Day in, day out... Week in, week out... Month in, month out... After I purchase my first winter squash it's only a matter of time before a different, gorgeous variety tempts me. By February I have no less than 3 varieties of squash sitting there, side by side, watching me cook up every other kind of winter vegetable. The situation got so bad at one point that I found myself actually saying out loud to someone that "squash is only for decor, I don't even like how it tastes". What's the word for convincing yourself you dislike that which you do not understand? Yeah, that's me and squash. By March, warmer weather has arrived and I either throw the squash away or continue to watch it watching me... hoping one of us will just find a way to deal with the other. It's a tumultuous relationship.  

This year, while doing my pre-Spring cleaning, I decided that the status quo was going to change. I am in the possession of three types of squash and I vowed to learn how to cook, clean, and enjoy them. One of my New Year's resolutions was to cut out food waste and I am really trying to stick to it. If you share my irrational fear of squash, then you know it's gone on too long. Together, let's stop objectifying squash only for it's outside beauty and learn to feast on the substance within.  

Squashing Fear of Squash:

1. Consult this handy article to find out what kind of squash you purchased. 

2. Wash the outside of your squash with a brush or sponge. 

3. Cut the squash with a large, very sharp knife. Scoop out the insides.

4. Brush the inside with olive oil and roast cut side up in the oven for 30 min at 350°F until the skin is fork tender then peel/stuff the squash with your favorite mix of grains/meats/veggies.

OR

 This video tutorial is the best I've found with loads of super easy preparation tips for different varieties of squash. 

It's that easy. Seriously, four steps and you're ready to crack open and enjoy a vegetable that has been feared far too long. Squash is awesome because it's not super expensive, loaded with nutrients, and a great substitute for meat in dishes that call for something hearty. During the cold months it's great mashed and pureed into soups. Now that the weather is warmer and I'm craving lighter foods my favorite recipe has quickly become these Mediterranean inspired salad wraps. Easy to make and full of flavor they're great for lunch and dinner!

Mediterranean Squash Salad Wraps

Ingredients (makes 4 wraps)

  • 1 acorn/ butternut squash
  • 4 large pitas OR tortillas
  • schmear of hummus (optional)
  • 2 cups spinach leaves, roughly chopped
  • 3/4 cup orange/red bell peppers
  • 1/2 cup pickled beets, sliced
  • 1 small red onion sliced thin
  • 1/4 cup olives
  • 1/4 cup feta
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic OR red wine vinegar
  • salt + pepper to taste

For Squash: 

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Cut your squash in half and scoop out the insides. 
  2. Bake, cut side up for 15 min. until the skin is fork tender and skin peels off easily. 
  3. Cut into cubes and place on baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, s+p. Bake for 15 more minutes. 

While your squash is baking:

  1. Combine spinach, bell peppers, olives, beets, onion, feta in a bowl.
  2. Drizzle with olive oil, balsamic or red wine vinegar, s+p to taste.

Once the squash has finished baking and is fork tender, assemble the wraps by spreading hummus on your pita/tortilla, place the warm squash in the center, and add the salad on top. Fold the sides together or wrap like a burrito, enjoy!!