I just got back from a trip home to New Jersey where I spent a day with my parents, my sister Anne Marie and her kids. I don’t see them often but when I do, it’s a special time. Like many families, the centerpiece of the get-together is a family meal.
We all agree it’s nicer to make a meal at home rather than go out. (OK, my niece and nephew would prefer Taco Bell. But their votes get vetoed by those of us with driver’s licenses.) When we cook at home, we can chat while cooking. Plus, the food is fresher, the kids can run around a bit and it’s less expensive.
The challenge is deciding on the menu. While my dad is enthusiastic about any meal that gets us together, my niece and nephew will only ingest pasta, chicken, pizza and bagels (as far as I can tell.)
My sister prefers Diet Coke and opts out of most vegetables except iceberg lettuce. My mom tends towards vegetarian meals and I prefer to eat Paleo. That leaves us with – well, it leaves us with needing to make something we can all tailor to our tastes.
The answer is Fajitas for the Family. We all work together to prepare the meal and then let everyone fill their plate with their preferred combination of ingredients. Then, we declare, “What a delicious meal!” and happily enjoy each other’s company.
This recipe looks really long and complicated when I typed it out. It’s actually easy and fun to prepare as a group.
The ingredients below made about the right amount of food for my family of four adults and two kids. However, I’m the only one in the group who actually eats very much. If I were making this for Matt and my friends, we’d probably get three servings out of it. Adapt as needed to suit your family’s eating quirks.
Fajitas for the family
Coconut oil, 4 tablespoons
Onion, 1, chopped
Red peppers, 2, sliced into thin strips
Green pepper, 1, sliced into thin strips
Dried cilantro, 1.5 teaspoons
Chicken, breasts or thighs, depending on your tastes, 1.5 lbs
Chili powder, 2 tablespoons
Garlic, 2 cloves diced
Salsa, 1 ½ cups. (We just use store bought salsa. Take care to pick one without sugar listed as an ingredient, if possible.)
Spinach, 3/4 cup chopped finely
Lettuce, 4 cups chopped. (We usually end up using iceberg, since some of the picky eaters will eat it – but a romaine would be nicer.)
Tomatoes, 1 cup chopped
Olives, green and ideally high quality, ½ cup chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Other ingredients (for the non-Paleo. Quantities determined by size and hunger of non-Paleo eaters!)
Tortillas, 6″ round
To cook onions and peppers –
- Melt 2 tablespoons of coconut oil in large pan.
- Add chopped onions, salt and pepper.
- Cook over low/medium heat for 12 minutes or until onion is browned. Stir occasionally.
- Add red and green peppers and cilantro.
- Stir together with onions, salt and pepper and sauté until soft, about 6-8 minutes.
To cook chicken —
- Cut chicken into bite sized pieces.
- Melt remaining 2 tablespoons of coconut oil in a pan. (Don’t add in with veggies. Start with a fresh pan.)
- Add chicken and sauté over medium heat for 10 minutes until it starts to brown.
- Add chili powder, garlic and ¾ cup of salsa. (Put other ¾ cup of salsa aside for now.)
- Add finely chopped spinach and sauté until wilted and well blended with other ingredients, about another 6-8 minutes. (Note: This is my secret way of making sure that everyone gets at least a little bit of vegetables. Because I care. The spinach will wilt down and will escape the notice of all but the most vigilant veggie haters.)
- Reduce heat to low and let cook for another 5 minutes or so to let flavors blend.
- When done, remove from heat. Mixture should be little saucy because the sauce serves as sort of a salad dressing. If chicken mixture is too dry, add 2 tablespoons of water to moisten it up.
Other prep –
- Chop lettuce and tomatoes.
- Grate the cheese.
- Put sour cream and remaining ¾ cup of salsa into serving bowls.
- Get taco shells onto a plate.
To serve –
- Set up meal buffet style and let everyone put together what looks good to them!
My meal consisted of a cup of lettuce, a huge serving of veggies and a generous serving of chicken topped with tomatoes and olives. I might have even gone a little crazy and added a dollop of sour cream. My Taco Bell loving niece happily ate a tortilla with melted cheese, three bites of chicken and some salsa.