Sunday, March 08, 2015

A Frugal Fiesta

I noticed newly sprouted buds on a dogwood this weekend. I also heard the calls of songbirds, saw ice melting off streams and eves, and heard tell of young coyotes wandering the neighborhood in search of mates. While the weather will certainly change (and change again) here in the suburbs of Chicago before anyone fires up their lawn mower, it doesn't take the shadow of a large rodent with [supposed]meteorological tendencies to know that spring is coming.

Instead of appreciating such portents though, this weekend's warmer temperatures left me feeling cold. Nonsensical, I know, considering today's mercury rose to +40F and I was blithely tolerating subzeros just a few days ago. Regardless, I felt chilled to the bone all weekend, craving warmth above all else... Which had me thinking of home.

My hometown of Stockton is by no means your stereotypical California city. There are no Stockton surfers, no endless beaches, no tanned hardbodies rollerblading on boardwalks. Still, Stockton is considered “Someplace Special” by some, for reasons ranging from it's milder climate (especially compared to America's Heartland where I now reside) to some of the West Coast's most delicious Mexican food. With snow still piled high at every Chicagoland street corner, the thought of sitting beside glittering water outside Stockton's Waterfront Warehouse in +70F weather, enjoying a favorite Mexican dish at Nena's Restaurant was, well... Let's just say it was a warm thought.

Which brings me to the reason for today's blog. My favorite Mexican dish is a delicious concoction made up of tomatillos, green chilies, and tender chunks of meat (usually pork or chicken) called chili verde. Though common throughout California, chili verde is one dish I've been unable to find in the Chicago area, despite the fact that there are many fine Mexican restaurants here. Perhaps that's a good thing, considering that I'm now a Weight Watcher's member and traditional chili verde is hardly Weight Watcher's friendly. In addition, chili verde can be expensive to make (cost-wise, above and beyond the Weight Watcher's points). Still, as I've blogged about in the past, a few simple tips and tricks can often allow you to adapt your favorite recipes to be both Weight Watcher's compliant and frugal.

That said, here's the recipe I made this weekend, which I hope you enjoy as much as I did!


2 tsp olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
2 medium green/bell peppers, seeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts
3 tbsp (or more, to taste) Tabasco-brand green jalapeno pepper sauce (Note: 3 tbsp green chili powder can be subsituted for the Tabasco sauce if you live in the southwestern US and are looking to reduce your sodium intake (also orderable from Spice Traveler in Prescott, AZ))
2 tsp ground cumin
1 lb husked, halved tomatillos (Note: Finely dice if using a hand mixer vs a food processor or blender)
8 4oz cans of diced green chili peppers, undrained
4 chicken bouillon cubes
4 c water

14.5 oz can diced tomatoes with chiles (or 'Mexican-style' diced tomatoes), undrained
14.5 oz can black beans, drained
2 c brown rice (not quick/instant)
4 c water
4 beef bouillon cubes
2 tbsp margarine or butter (optional)

Cut up uncooked chicken breasts into ~3/4” cubes, cover, and refrigerate until needed.

Puree the tomatillos and chiles in a food processor or blender (note: You can also use a mixer, as I successfully did this weekend, you simply need to finely dice the tomatillos instead of halving them). Set aside until needed.

In a graduated glass measure or other microwave-safe container, combine the bouillon cubes and water for the chili verde, and microwave on high for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring periodically, until cubes are dissolved (Note: You can substitute store-bought low-fat chicken broth, I simply prefer the cubes because they're less expensive). Set aside until needed.

Lightly coat the bottom of a dutch oven or other large saucepan with oil. Finely dice the onions and the seeded green/bell peppers and saute them with the minced garlic over medium heat until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the cubed chicken, Tabasco green jalapeno sauce, and cumin, and continue cooking over medium heat until the chicken starts to brown, approximately 6 minutes. Add the previously prepared/set aside pureed tomatillos and chiles, and the broth, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for around 30 minutes. Remove 1 c of liquid from the pan, use a fork or wisk to combine it with the cornstarch, then fork/wisk the liquid back into the pan. Cook another 15 to 20 minutes until thickened.

While the chile verde is cooking, combine the undrained can of diced tomatoes with chiles plus just enough water to make 4 c, pour into a medium saucepan, add the rice, the additional 4 bouillon cubes and the drained can of black beans (Optional: You can also add 2 tbsp margarine or butter at this point). Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 40 minutes (Note: Consult the directions on your brown rice, as cooking times can vary with brand).

Using a measuring cup or Weight Watcher's measure, serve ½ c of the rice and beans, topped with 1 c of the chili verde. Makes 12 servings, 11 Weight Watcher's points+ per serving (Note: This is a doubled recipe, as the servings freeze and reheat nicely, especially if you freeze them and then seal them via Foodsaver after they're frozen, as illustrated above).

A note to social media users: Here is a sample tweet you can use to share this recipe: 

  • A new #chiliverde #recipe, made from delicious ingredients purchased @AldiUSA: #blog #foodpics @WeightWatchers
Additional acknowledgements: Portions of the above recipe were adapted from a Turkey Chili Verde recipe from Weight Watchers (

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