You all know my seven-year-old son, Mr. Picky. I need to re-introduce you to Daughter #2, who just announced last night that she is now a vegetarian. That’s Miss Vegetarian to you. Hmmm…..She is the same child that asked to try clams and mussels when she was 3 years old and would chomp on a steak bone until it was dry. She’s 12 now and has always been my easiest child with respect to food. What a pleasure it has been to feed a child who willingly tries and eats anything and everything! Not that I can take credit for her adventurous eating; she came into the world this way. But effective today, she is no longer eating meat, fish, or eggs if they look like eggs (it’s fine if they’re baked into a cookie, of course.)
I have lots of parents in my classes who have children with dietary restrictions or predilections. We routinely discuss how to adjust each recipe to accommodate Janie’s gluten-intolerance or Jack’s aversion to the color green. I am convinced the universe gave me Mr. Picky and Miss Vegetarian so that I would be more understanding of the challenges my students face. That I am.
The good news is we had fajitas last night for dinner! The reason I say it was good news is because fajitas really lend themselves to each person customizing his or her plate. So whereas Mr. Picky likes to load up on chicken and guacamole with one token slice of zucchini, I am happy with the reverse, choosing mostly vegetables. I didn’t stress out about feeding Miss Vegetarian last night since we also had black beans and shredded raw cheddar cheese from the farmer’s market. She made two lovely roll-ups with sprouted grain tortillas and all was wonderful, at least in the protein department. (She really needs to stop borrowing her sister’s clothes without asking.) The next great thing about fajitas is that if you have leftovers, they can go into a darn good omelet or quesadilla the next day. Daughter #1 had some of the extra chicken and vegetables chopped up and added to some leftover green rice from my class the day before (I’ll have to give you the recipe one day) and brought it to school in a thermos.
I think the traditional preparation of fajitas using skirt steak is just fine, but we don’t eat much beef here. Regardless, you can use the same marinade for beef and it will be delicious. You can also broil the meat, if you don’t want to grill. But more than that, I never limit the vegetables to just bell peppers and onions. I usually make an additional pan of sauteed zucchini and shiitake mushroom strips and find that to be my favorite, although I also love julienned carrots and sauteed spinach, too. There is always something to please every palate!
- There are lots of tortillas that are more healthful than white flour tortillas. Try Rudi’s Organic Spelt or Multigrain with Flax; Food For Life Brown Rice Flour; or French Meadow Bakery's Hemp Tortillas (Mr. Picky's favorite.)
- Marinade for chicken or meat:
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or to taste
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- ½ cup fresh lime juice
- ¼ cup unrefined, cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil
- 2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro (optional)
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast cutlets (thinner pieces cook more quickly reducing the exposure of the meat to the grill) or thighs or skirt steak
- 2 Tablespoons unrefined, cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil
- 2-3 bell peppers (green and red is a good combo), sliced thin or mix it up with sliced shiitake or portabella mushrooms, julienned zucchini and/or carrots to mix with the peppers and onions
- 1-2 red onions, halved and sliced thin
- 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
- Sea salt and black pepper to taste
- Accompaniments: 12-16 warmed flour or rice tortillas, guacamole, pico de gallo (salsa), sour cream, shredded cheese
- Combine garlic, sea salt, pepper, cumin, lime juice, oil and cilantro in a non-reactive container, such as glass. Add meat to marinade and turn to coat well. Marinate for at least 1 hour at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator, turning occasionally.
- Preheat the grill to medium heat. Remove chicken from refrigerator 30 minutes before grilling. Grill chicken a few minutes on each side until cooked through.
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add peppers, onion and garlic. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Saute the mixture, stirring, for 10-12 minutes, or until softened. You can add the cooked, sliced meat to the vegetable mixture and combine everything or serve both separately.
- Warm tortillas on both sides over medium heat on a griddle pan. Or if you are heat a large amount, wrap the entire stack in parchment paper, then aluminum foil and heat through in a 350 degree oven. Serve with desired accompaniments.
Do Ahead Timesaving Tip: earlier in the day or the night before, marinate the meat and/or slice all the veggies. Keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator.