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Fun Fridays: Kicking Off the Weekend with Healthy Mexican Fare

Monday you race to work and try to get back in the groove. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday roll by in a blur: work, work out (or vice versa), errands, dinner, obligations, a few minutes to relax, sleep and you’re back at it again. But FRIDAYS, now those are different. As minutes on the clock tick down, mellowness takes over and the transformation begins. Without even trying, you have slipped into a realm beyond space and time. Yes, my friends, you’ve just entered (cue Twilight Zone music) the Weekend Mode.
Okay, back to reality—you still have to eat, right? Right. But it is the weekend, so a little celebration is in order. Too worn out to get gussied up and head out, a better option is to kick off your shoes, pour yourself a cocktail and throw together a meal worthy of the night at hand. Nix the baked chicken and meatloaf, baby; we’re talking Fun Fridays!
Each week for the month of June, we will share a healthy recipe that is fun, quick and economical. A little pre-planning may be in order, but usually the ingredients can be (or should be) found in an FBE kitchen.
Tonight’s entrée recipe is Mexican Rice Skillet that only dirties one pan, easily feeds four and costs about $20 bucks to prepare—a heck of a lot cheaper than getting some greasy, microwaved food at the local taco joint.
You will also need one pound of lean ground meat—turkey, chicken, beef, buffalo—whatever it is you like. Or mix half and half if you are working on incorporating one of the leaner meats into your diet—you will never know the difference.
Chop one medium onion and ½ bell pepper. (I used some red and some green. And remember, a food processor is a healthy cook’s best friend!)
Brown meat with the onion and pepper in a non-stick pan. Drain well and add 3 tablespoons taco seasoning.
Add a 10-ounce can of diced tomatoes and green chilies, ½ cup water and 1 cup enriched long grain white rice. Cook covered over medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
While the meat/rice is cooking, dice up tomatoes and avocado.
Uncover, stir and cook 5 to 10 minutes more until rice is tender.
Here is the unscientific part. Throw some shredded lettuce on a plate. Place a couple of big spoonfuls of the meat/rice mixture on top of the lettuce and follow with crumbled queso fresco, tomatoes, avocado and salsa of your choosing. Oh, and if you like fire, don’t forget the jalapenos. Garnish with a handful of chips.
Wash it all down with a Pacifico or Corona.
A couple of things to consider:
I use jarred taco seasoning that contains no salt, just spices. If you taste the cooked meat with the spices, you might think it is a bit overpowering, but once you combine everything—it’s all good. A few chips on the side add enough salt.
If you are eating your recommended six servings of grains a day, about half of them should be whole grains. So, yes, the white rice is okay and, no, brown rice will absolutely not work in this recipe. Trust me.
The watery, cool crispness of iceberg lettuce lends itself well to this dish, but if you absolutely hate it, use whatever you like. Again, no, it is not the most nutritious but, yes, it’s okay—it is still lettuce after all. And it’s Friday night!
Queso fresco is a fresh (not aged) Mexican cheese. Mild, tangy and low-fat, it crumbles beautifully and gives the meal a bit more authenticity.
There you have it, your first Fun Friday meal. Check back next week to see what’s cooking! And in the meantime, tell us: What’s your favorite dish to cook on a Friday night? —Karen

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