South of the Border Sunday

Today we decided to go south of the border for lunch, figuratively speaking. Maybe next week we will head toward Asia, but today it was to Latin America. In her book, Dinner Time, The Pioneer Woman has a recipe for Burrito Bowls. Flora and I had talked about cooking it quite a while ago, but completely let it slip by. It was the perfect choice for today.

Burrito bowls are basically burritos or fajitas without the tortilla, each ingredient layered into a bowl. I like the simplicity of the seasonings and the fact that you pick and choose what you want. Choices offered were rice, steak, chicken, vegetables, black beans, lettuce, pico de gallo, cheese and avocado slices.

Cilantro-Lime rice

The perfect base for this meal was rice. The rice is cooked in chicken broth, then enhanced with cilantro and lime zest and juice. I am not a cilantro fan; I am one of those for whom eating fresh cilantro can be like chewing on a bar of soap. However, we did want to try it the way it was written to see if, by some miracle, the lime juice would tame the soapiness of the cilantro. As it turns out, it was pretty good. Next time, though, I will either use a *small* amount of freeze-dried cilantro, or skip it altogether. This rice was really the perfect start for the burrito bowls.

Here Comes the Meat

The recipe called for sirloin steak and chicken thighs. You cut them into bite-sized pieces (strips would have worked as well), season them in their separate bowls, and cook one after the other on fairly high heat. We kept the chicken and steak separate up until plating time, when we offered them side by side on a platter for easy access. The seasonings on the meat were salt, chili powder and cumin. And it was perfect, especially when it had the flavor of the lime juice from the rice or the pico touch it. Perfect.

Black beans go well with these burrito bowls, so we cooked some up with the same seasonings used on the meat. Easy Peasy!

Viva los Vegetales!

If you have seen any of our other posts, you know we love our vegetables. The meat was fantastic, and the vegetables were even better. The recipe called for zucchini, squash, onion, red and yellow bell peppers and a jalapeno pepper. We left out the jalapeno because there just weren’t any decent looking peppers at the store today. In its place we added some mushrooms. (Again, I love how easy it is to make substitutions in these recipes to match your own preferences!)

The skillet used to cook the meat was also used to cook the veggies, so you get a wonderful marriage of flavors there! The recipe does not call for as many veggies as we cooked, and it would have been easy to get them to cook more quickly, taking on the color from the high heat and remaining seasonings if we had used less, but we wanted more. Since we cooked a lot of veggies in a very large pan, the veggies did create a lot of liquid in the pan as they cooked, even on higher heat. In order to get the veggies to turn golden, I made sure to remove the liquid once it started to pool. This way the veggies would carmelize and not turn to mush.

I do believe my lunch tomorrow will be any remaining veggies. That thought makes me quite happy.

Pico de Gallo

Pico de Gallo is basically a condiment that I can usually take or leave. Again, it is usually quite rich in fresh cilantro, and that is just not my favorite (soapy) flavor. Obviously, I was not the only one we were cooking for today, so we used the fresh cilantro, just not as much as you get in the pico de gallo served in restaurants.

Pico is basically a blend of small-diced tomatoes, corn, onion, salt, lime and cilantro. Some people also throw in some heat in the form of jalapeno. There was some plump corn on the cob at the grocery store today, so we cooked up 4 ears of corn and cut the kernels off for the pico. We juiced some fresh limes for the rice and pico today, and it was scrumptious. Even with the cilantro!

All the Fixin’s

We set out some lettuce, black beans, sliced avocados, shredded sharp cheddar cheese and salsa to go along with the meat and veggies. We also made a quick queso dip (Velveeta-style cheese product, nuked in the microwave until melted, with a can of diced tomatoes and green chilies stirred in). So many things would also go with this: sour cream, tortilla soup, chips, etc. We had plenty of food for the bowls, so we didn’t add anything else. Honestly, I didn’t even put salsa on mine. It was so tasty; it really did not need it.

Burrito Bowls. We Will Do This Again.

The bowls were both delicious and filling. The flavors of the lime and chili powder/cumin complemented each other so well, and are a prominent combination in Latin American cuisine. This meal is going on our list of keepers, because with only slight adjustments (less rice and corn, maybe), it is a very healthy dish, tastes absolutely fabulous, and leaves you satisfied.

Better Than Chicken

Okay, it IS chicken, but it is by far the best chicken I have ever had! This weekend Flora and I decided to prepare three recipes from Ree Drummond’s book, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food From My Frontier.

Peach-Whiskey Chicken and Roasted Cauliflower

Peach-Whiskey Chicken

Since the chicken would take the longest to prepare we cooked it first. Our families are large, so we tend to cook for an army when we are together. The recipe called for 12 chicken drumsticks, we cooked 24. We followed the recipe for the peach-whiskey sauce, except for two changes. For one, the fresh peaches in our grocery were anything but fresh, so we used two large cans of sliced peaches, drained. Second, we could not find peach preserves, so we used a peach spread, and since this jar held just over the 1-cup that the recipe called for, we put it all in. We debated doubling the sauce recipe to go with the extra chicken, but decided not to. It was a good decision! The outcome: this was some of the very best chicken we have ever eaten! Four thumbs up!

Next up: Roasted Cauliflower

The Pioneer Woman’s recipe for Roasted Cauliflower was delicious. The only change we might consider making next time would be to try less (or no) panko. The buttered panko was delicious, but with this meal it was a bit much. When you roast the cauliflower, you break it into pieces and roast it on a cookie sheet for 20 minutes, then place in final serving dishes, top with the buttered panko, and roast for another 5 minutes. We thought it would be wonderful with just the butter. Super delish, even our kids loved it!

Finally: Knock you Naked Brownies – YUM!

This is the recipe that we ended up making most changes to. This was partly due to our need to double the recipe and only finding enough caramels for a single batch, and partly due to not reading ahead to see that these brownies really should have gone into the fridge for a while to set the melted caramel and chocolate layer in the middle. Friends, it did not matter that we only made one recipe of the middle layer and two recipes of the brownie dough! And even though the warm brownies were super, super sloppy, these brownies were absolutely sinful. Sinful, sinful, sinful!

Flora is a wonderful baker. She is also a preschool teacher and has a wonderful way with children. My granddaughter was with us for the weekend, so Flora put her to work! She showed her how we can use a glass bowl over some hot water to melt caramels so we don’t burn them (or ourselves!)

They worked together to make the brownies, and this child had a blast!