Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Mini chicken taco bowls

Is there a food in your fridge or pantry that you tend to forget about?

For us, it's 6-inch corn tortillas.  I'll buy a pack for enchiladas or tacos, use 5 or 6 of them for a specific recipe, and toss them back into the fridge.

A week or two later, I'll find them stashed on the second shelf, way in the back, all alone.  Then, every time I open the fridge, that bag of corn tortillas will be the only thing I see.  Tunnel vision, if you will.

I'll become obsessed with using them up, like, yesterday.  And I'll turn it into a challenge to come up with a new way to eat them, too.

There are two basic categories of foods that involve tortillas.  One is soft and gooey, like quesadillas and huevos rancheros.  The other is snappy and crunchy, like chips and taco bowls.

Oooh, taco bowls.

How long had it been since I'd had a taco bowl salad?  (Or is it taco salad bowl?)  Long enough that I couldn't remember, which in itself is saying something because my memory for food is almost always spot-on.

In theory, I love taco salad bowls.  Seasoned beef or chicken, tomatoes and beans, sour cream, salsa, and lots of cheese cradled in a crispy tortilla shaped like a bowl.  What's not to love?

Well, two things specifically.  First, the bowl is invariably fried and secretly loaded with unnecessary oil.  I don't know about you, but I'd rather eat a cookie than waste calories on unseen (and untasted) oil.  And two, the crispy-at-first tortilla bowl is so large and contains so much that it's inevitably soggy by the time you reach the bottom.  Ain't nobody got time for that.

If you find yourself with the same reservations, then I've got an easy solution for you: mini chicken taco bowls!

Small corn tortillas are shaped into pint-sized bowls thanks to some creative thinking and a standard cupcake tin.  Turn it upside down, fit tortillas between cups, and pop into the oven for a few minutes to hold the shape.

Once the bowls are ready, fill 'em to the brim with all the good stuff you'd want in a taco: diced seasoned chicken, tomatoes, salsa, cheese, and cool sour cream.  Beans, seasoned ground beef, shredded lettuce, chopped olives or jalapenos would all be great additions, too.  Use your imagination!

We couldn't get enough of these little taco bowls!  Crispy to the very bottom, or side if you like to break off pieces and create "chips" for dipping into the yummy filling.  Mom always said I liked to take apart my toys...

What began as a way to use up some sidelined ingredients turned into a new go-to quick meal for us.  We've had these with various fillings for lunch and dinner, even breakfast with scrambled eggs and browned sausage!

Speaking of leftovers, I'm reminded that there's some sour cream lingering in our fridge after looking closely at these photos.  I can picture it now -- bottom shelf, in the back left-hand corner.  Sour cream blueberry pancakes for breakfast tomorrow... or dinner tonight! 

One year ago: Monkey bread
Three years ago: Apple spice French toast

Mini Chicken Taco Bowls
-serves 2

A few notes: Since cold corn tortillas tend to break when folded/rolled, I suggest popping them into the microwave for 20 to 30 seconds.  Once warm, they'll be more pliable and less likely to crack.

4 6-inch corn tortillas
2 6-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Ground cumin
Garlic powder
Onion powder
Ground black pepper
1 tomato, seeded and diced
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
Salsa, for topping
Sour cream, for topping
Hot sauce, optional

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Season chicken breasts with cumin, garlic and onion powders, salt and pepper.  Cook until done, about 15 to 20 minutes.  Remove and cool slightly.  Thinly slice or chop cooked chicken and set aside.

(See note about prepping tortillas.)  Fit tortillas between four cups on an upside down muffin pan.  Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until tortillas begin to turn golden at edges.  Remove from pan and cool slightly.  Fill with cubed chicken, tomato, cheese, salsa, and other condiments.  Enjoy immediately!

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