Creamy Salsa Chicken – warm comfort in the slow cooker

I love Mexican food.  It is one of my favorite cuisines – the spice, the flavor and the simplicity – yummy!  My all-time favorite is fish tacos topped with cabbage slaw.  My husband is not a huge fan of fish or cabbage for that matter so I have never made them at home.  I am slowly getting him to expand his palate so it’s going to happen one of these days…when he is least expecting it.  It will be okay as long as I make him a delicious dessert.  When we were in Hawaii a couple of years ago I think I had them about ten times in less than 3 weeks.

Well, tonight it wasn’t fish tacos but I was craving Mexican.  I didn’t have a lot of time to cook so I needed something easy.  Since the crock-pot was calling my name I came up with this experiment.  A good friend of mine taught me a great recipe for salmon with these flavors and I absolutely love the combination so I put a spin on it and turned it into a crock-pot chicken meal.  I have to say it was pretty yummy.  I was worried that it might be too spicy because the only salsa I had was hot but the cream cheese tamed the heat and it was delicious in the end.  I wanted to add black beans but I didn’t realize I was out.  I will definitely add them next time, and there will be a next time.  It could definitely handle a full 15 ounce can of corn but since “someone” isn’t a fan of corn I could only sneak a little in.  He cleaned his plate so I don’t think he minded the corn one bit.  Generally if he spots an ingredient he doesn’t like it gets pushed to the corner of his plate…we have come a long way. 🙂

I served the chicken over cilantro lime brown rice – my copycat to Chipotle’s rice but a healthy version.  I have made the rice before, a number of times, and the recipe has evolved a bit.  I usually end up adding a bit more lime than I indicated below but that is just because I love the flavor and the punch of lime!  This chicken would be just as yummy over plain rice or even store bought Spanish rice if you don’t have the ingredients handy.

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Salsa Chicken Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup canned or frozen corn (drain if canned)
  • 1 (15 ounce) jar of salsa
  • 1 (4 ounce) can diced green chilies
  • ½ cup chicken stock
  • Approximately 1 to ¼ pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 (8 ounce) package reduced fat cream cheese

Instructions:

Add all of the ingredient’s up to the chicken stock to the crockpot and mix together.  Trim any fat from the chicken.  Top the mixture with the chicken and set the crock pot to low for 4 to 5 hours.  About 30 minutes before you are ready to serve it remove the chicken and shred it.  Return the chicken to the crock pot and mix it through the salsa mixture.  Add the cream cheese on top of the chicken mixture and just press it into the center a bit and close the lid.  Don’t worry about mixing the cheese through yet.  The cream cheese will soften so you will be able to mix it up before you serve it.

I am not a fan of fast food, well, except for Chick-fil-A, but I really like the rice at Chipotle’s. Whenever I eat something I like I try to pinpoint the ingredients that I taste so I can attempt to recreate it.  Fortunately this one is not rocket science but it has such a great flavor.  There are a few version of this online, after a lot of trial and error this is what I have come up with.  I like to serve this with shredded chicken or pork.  It also makes a great side with tacos.

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Cilantro Lime Brown Rice

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 2 cups unsalted chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt (kosher salt works as well)
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil, separated
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro

Directions:

Add the rice to a colander and rinse it well.  Shake the excuse water out of the rice.  Heat a small pot over medium heat, add one teaspoon of olive oil in the pan.  Add the rice to the pan and mix it around to coat.  Add the stock and salt to the pot and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover pot and simmer until liquid is completely absorbed and rice is just tender, about 40 minutes. No peeking until then; valuable steam escapes! Remove the pot from the heat and let it sit for 10 minutes then uncover and fluff the rice with a fork.  Add the chopped cilantro, lime juice and remaining teaspoon of olive oil.  Toss carefully until mixed well.

Serve the chicken over the rice and enjoy – we cleaned our plates and my husband complimented it a couple of times – he is not much of a foodie so it’s always great to hear that he enjoyed something.  The picture really doesn’t do this justice but I have to say it was delicious!

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I love using fresh herbs but I can never manage to use them up while they are fresh.  Recipes generally call for a small amount.  After wasting far too much money throwing them away after they sat in the fridge for too long I decided to try to freeze them.  Originally I found a cool idea on Pinterest.  Place cupcake papers in a Tupperware container and fill each cup with diced herbs.  It was a cool idea because the herbs would stay sorted but there was only one container to dig for.  The problem I had was that too much air surrounded the contents so they would get freezer burn before long.  One day I had way too much parsley and decided to dice it and throw it in a ziplock.  I knew it would get buried in my freezer so I threw it into the plastic container that my cilantro and basil usually come in.  Its the larger plastic herb box at Stop & Shop.  It was perfect because it fit on the door perfectly and the contents were wrapped up.

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I use this trick all of the time and loving having the herbs fresh and ready to go whenever I want them.  Now I buy them when they are on sale.  After I wash them and lay them out to dry I either chop or dice the herb depending on how I would use them most.  I fill a sandwich or snack size ziplock and label it with a black sharpie marker.  I put the bags into a plastic container that I buy my basil and have fresh herbs ready to go.DSCN1263

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