Saturday, October 6, 2012

Easy Chicken & Lime Tacos

So, there are a few things I didn't anticipate missing when I changed my diet.

I knew the big ones, of course: easy pasta, delicious breads, the entire world of cakes...sure, there are gluten free varieties, but they just aren't the same.

But crunch. Oh, the crunch! That, I never would have guessed.

Fun fact to all you blissful people living in a world with gluten nowhere near your radar: it's kind of crucial. It's the "glue" in grains; a protein that helps hold everything together and makes it all light and fluffy...and, I've also found, allows it to hold a crunch.

That's right. In gluten free bread, there's no flaky, buttery, crisped outside crust (at least that I've experienced). I know what you're thinking: that's the best part of a fresh-baked loaf! I know, I know. Even gf pretzels don't have that snap.

That's why after a few weeks of going gluten-free, I found myself *craving* something crunchy.
For a while I did with potato chips.
Then, I decided to try something else: tacos.

The problem with tacos, however, is that they usually contain a decent amount of spice, and cayenne and chili peppers are now off-limits for me (speaking of other things I miss...).  But the good thing about tacos is that you can essentially make them anyway you want. They're a dream come true for families with varying tastes or any other personalizer extraordinaire. And, with hard (corn) taco shells, you're not missing out! Because they're not specifically made or changed to be gluten free, you get the exact same taste as you would be getting if you were anyone else, which is great especially for still-adjusting taste buds. Count me in.

 Now, something you may not know about me: I am a fan of limes. A huge fan, you might even say. I've been known to bite in to one or two on occasion without any real direction or purpose, other than just straight up enjoying it. After some nights of experimenting, I found these to be the perfect solution to providing my tacos with unmistakable flavor, while avoiding the realm of spice-laden taco seasoning.

I didn't get any photos of the finished was late, I was hungry, and it's been a long couple of weeks. Forgive me?

These tacos are simple. Like, incredibly simple. They almost shouldn't taste this good. I also think this provides the perfect base for changing or spicing it up a little, if you so choose. (Though I obviously haven't tried it, I can see a little bit of cayenne pepper fitting right in with these flavors.)

Ingredients (for approx. 3 tacos--though I like to double it and eat leftovers the next day):
  • 2-3 limes
  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, or 3 chicken tenderloins (I like to keep frozen chicken and defrost it in a sealed bag under hot water for 10-15 minutes)
  • approx. 1-1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • approx. 1 T olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • brown rice (I'm guilty of regularly using boil-in-a-bag rice...what can I say, I like convenience!)
  • pico de gallo (I actually quite like WalMart's pico...I know, I was surprised, too.)
  • hard taco shells*
  • any other toppings you may like
*Note: I feel most comfortable with Whole Food's brand yellow corn taco shells for those of you with gluten sensitivity. They're made with simple, clearly distinguishable ingredients and I feel slightly better about the cross-contamination risk. I've gotten away with others, but just never feel quite as good.

Place thawed chicken in a gallon-sized plastic bag. Add olive oil; at least enough to lightly coat all chicken. Press and roll limes against the counter to make them easier to juice, then slice in half and squeeze juice into bag, reserving one lime half for cooking (don't worry if seeds or pulp get in). Add garlic, salt, pepper, and seal bag, turning so that the ingredients coat the entire chicken. Let marinade in fridge for about 1 hour (longer is fine, too).

Lightly coat a skillet with olive oil (or cooking spray, but I like the extra flavor) and place on medium-high heat. Remove chicken from marinade, and discard excess liquid. Slice chicken into bite sized cubes and add to the pan. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir regularly to keep the chicken cooking evenly and to prevent pieces from sticking together. When chicken is essentially cooked through (this will happen relatively quickly because of the small size), add the juice of the reserved lime and allow to brown lightly.
While chicken is cooking, begin boiling rice and warming taco shells according to directions. Turn cooked chicken on low heat to keep it warm while you wait.

Assemble tacos with rice, chicken, and pico. If you have leftovers, simply heat up new taco shells the next day and assemble from the reheated remains!

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