My dinner has a Napoleon complex!

Eating right is not easy. It’s not impossible, of course, but you definitely have to train yourself to constantly be conscious about the choices you’re making throughout the day (and most people don’t generally like having to be held accountable for their actions). It’s not about dieting, it’s changing your lifestyle so you can live better. I don’t believe in completely cutting things out of your diet (because that’s what makes people binge and go crazy; rolling around in that item, throwing it in the air trying to catch it in their mouths, snuggling with it in bed at night…), rather choosing to limit the foods you shouldn’t have as often and eating more of those that have greater nutritional value. But above all, I believe in taste. No matter what I’m eating or drinking, it HAS to be worth it. I want my tastebuds to tingle with every mouthful, while I roll my eyes toward Heaven and am thankful that such great foods grow out of our earth. I need to savor, enjoy, FEEL the food nourish and excite me. Bland is for pets and old people (sorry old people, it’s true)! Like it says above: love life, love food!

Therefore, I have another [fairly] healthy yet extremely satisfying dish to share. It’s getting pretty ridiculously hot out here (it hit 113 the day I made this recipe) so we’re not always in the mood for a big meal. I don’t know why the heat kills my appetite, but I’m sure it’s a good thing since it makes me a bit lazy too. I wanted something fun but light for dinner, so I browsed The Pampered Chef website and found that last year’s Season’s Best cookbooks had a cute little item called Mexican Chicken Napoleons. Now, I love any kind of food that’s stacked on top of MORE FOOD, so I was immediately curious. It also helped that there are only 300 calories per serving! My only concern was that the description (and later the actual plating) made it seem a little small. I was nervous that it wouldn’t be filling enough and I’d end up eating a second one, which would of course ruin the whole purpose of making a low-calorie dinner by doubling my count. My plan was to cut the recipe in half, so that I could give two servings to Jeremiah and only have one serving available to me. I was still concerned that my appetite would be insatiable once I had such great flavors lingering in my mouth, though. Oddly enough, my cute little meal was quite satisfying, and I even found myself drawing in those long breaths toward the end (as if the air will make more room in my stomach or something). It’s funny that a psychologist once decided that Napoleon Bonaparte’s overly-aggressive behavior was due to his lack of height (even though he was actually 5’7, British newspapers had been joking and portraying him as much smaller). Although MY little napoleon wasn’t exactly aggressive in spite of its vertical challenges, it definitely packed enough of a punch to fill me up! Plus, they were delicious! If I WAS still hungry (or if I wasn’t and kept forcing more food just for the taste, like I used to do), I could’ve had 3 or 4 because they were THAT good! In fact, at one point I eyeballed Jeremiah’s last layer before I decided it was a mental habit and not actual hunger.

The only changes to the recipe I made this time was adding extra chopped jalapeno to the chicken mixture (as well as the salsa) and putting extra cilantro in everything (cilantro is life!). I happened to have run out of red onion, so I substituted sweet yellow onion instead (and only about half the amount it called for), which I actually prefer anyway. I have no idea what chihuahua cheese is (and the name kind of scares me, haha!), so I grabbed a bag of shredded Mexican cheese mix and added a little Cotija just for giggles. I may have burned the tortillas, but it said “golden brown” so I’m sure “undeniably brown” wasn’t too far off the mark. They didn’t taste burnt so perhaps it was the Pam spray accelerator that gave them such a good tan. The fresh pineapple kiwi salsa was so fabulous that I saved the leftovers for us to munch with plain tortilla chips later! The only trouble I had was figuring out how to actually eat the napoleons. They weren’t small enough to be shove-in-mouth-and-cover-with-hand-until-you-can-chew-properly size, but they were too little to be able to justify a fork and knife (unless we were wearing pastel sweaters around our necks and calling everyone “Buffy”). I was just about to snap the double-decker tower in half with a spoon when I looked over and saw the most amazing thing – Jeremiah’s brain working harder than mine!! He deftly picked up the top half of his napoleon with his hand like a mini tostada and dug right in. Genius! Tackling the food one layer at a time was infinitely more easy to manage, and I was grateful that I saw him BEFORE I made a big sloppy pile of squished napoleons all over the plate that would require spooning and scraping like baby food.

Overall, a successful dish that was low in calories and high in protein (and although it has some fat and carbs, an active person needs a little daily fuel anyway). Since I can control the tortilla size, I might even try making them smaller next time and use them as appetizers! Or perhaps throw the chicken mix into a hollowed out beefsteak tomato half and cut out even more carbs. You never know what kind of shenanigans this Napoleonic tyrant will pull with her food next, but let’s hope it’s tasty…

Mexican Chicken Napoleons

12 (6-in./15-cm) corn tortillas
2 cups (500 mL) diced cooked unsalted chicken breasts
1 can (14.5 oz or 398 mL) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 medium red onion, divided
1 cup (250 mL) loosely packed fresh cilantro, divided
1 cup (250 mL) shredded Chihuahua cheese or Monterey Jack cheese, divided
1/4 cup (50 mL) light mayonnaise
2 garlic cloves
1/4 tsp (1 mL) each salt and coarsely ground black pepper
3 kiwi, peeled
1 jalapeno pepper, stemmed and seeded
1-2 limes
2 cups (500 mL) diced fresh pineapple

1. Preheat oven to 450F (230C). Stack tortillas in groups of four. Trim off rounded edges using Pizza Cutter to make twelve 4-in. (10-cm) squares. Spray both sides of squares with nonstick cooking spray. Arrange squares on Large Bar Pan, overlapping slightly. Bake 8-10 minues or until squares begin to brown; remove pan from oven. Turn squares over with Mini-Serving Spatula. Return to oven; bake 5-7 minutes or until golden brown and very crisp. Remove pan from oven to Stackable Cooling Rack.

2. Meanwhile, place chicken and beans in Classic Batter Bowl. Coarsely chop onion and cilantro with Food Chopper; add half of the onion and cilantro to batter bowl, reserving remaining for salsa. Add 3/4 cup (175 mL) of the cheese, mayonnaise, garlic pressed with Garlic Press, salt and black pepper; mix well with Small Mix ‘N Scraper. Microwave, uncovered, on HIGH 2-3 minutes or until heated through, stirring once halfway through.

3. Remove six of the tortilla squares from pan; arrange remaining squares on pan in two rows. top evenly with half of the filling. Place reserved squares over filling and top evenly with remaining filling. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup (50 mL) cheese. Bake 4-6 minutes or until cheese is melted. Remove pan from oven.

4. Meanwhile, for salsa, finely dice kiwi with Utility Knife; finely chop jalapeno with food chopper. The Pineapple Wedger and Serrated Peeler can be used to easily core and peel the pineapple and peel the kiwi. Juice limes to measure 2 tbsp (30 mL). In clean batter bowl, combine pineapple, kiwi, jalapeno, lime juice, reserved onion and cilantro. Serve salsa with napoleons.

Yield: 6 servings

U.S. Nutrients per serving (1 napoleon and 1/3 cup/75 mL salsa): Calories 330, Total Fat 12g, Saturated Fat 4.5g, Cholesterol 65mg, Carbohydrate 36g, Protein 23g, Sodium 470mg, Fiber 5g

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