Please forgive me for whining just a little, but this particular week seems to quickly be turning into one of “those” weeks when not only multiple things are vying for my attention, but I'm coming down with my now-annual and oh-so-annoying head cold to boot. And you know something? I'm beginning to feel the stress creep in like an arthritic shoulder senses the rain when it's on its way. Certainly you can relate, because you yourself have most likely been there, too, at some point. And even as I sit here and write this post, I have my cell phone within arms reach as I wait for the guy from the car dealership's service shop to call me with news (bad, good?) of what exactly that loud “roaring” sound emanating from the front of my otherwise-quiet Prius is when I drive it on the freeway, and (gulp) in-turn, how much lighter our bank account will be afterwards because of it. Oy! Talk about split focus — the kind I'd rather do without. And though my stomach feels a bit tide in knots at the moment because there are also other things on the glorious horizon to grab at my limited mental storage space presently, the day must go on, issues must be handled, needs must be met, and dinner, of course, must be still be served. Ah, good ol' din-din!
There's something very comforting to me about a simple, colorful and flavorful “one-pan” meal where just a handful of tasty ingredients come together to satisfy, and to connect us to one another as we enjoy that meal. It brings a little joy and a pop of much needed flavor to those moments when those very qualities are especially needed, and can be the very thing that centers and stills us, even if for just those moments when we sit down to enjoy it. Sometimes the “waters” of life can be fairly calm, and we gently bob up and down, gliding over the glassy surface with ease and with minimal disturbance. During moments like these, we turn our face toward the sun, blinking our eyes at the brightness of it all, and allow the gentle breeze to blow through our hair as we listen to the calming “schloop, schlip” of the little waves tapping up against us, nudging us rather lovingly. We float seemingly effortlessly, like babies with little water-wings, just enjoying the peace that surrounds. Ah, but then...then, as if to keep us on our toes and not luxuriating in just resting, life'll send in the clouds which cover the warmth of the sun, and from those clouds fall the showers complete with wind gusts and turbulence, and we feel like we're fighting to keep our little noses above water. Life seems to like to play with us, doesn't it? It's perfectly set-up to keep us on our toes, reaching upward toward what is above us, on every level; reaching toward the joy and color that lies beyond the turbulence, just waiting for us to connect to it. And though I feel myself become uncomfortable in the turbulence when I find myself in the center of it, I know that nothing stays as it is, and that a break in the clouds will reveal that beautiful, shimmering sliver of sun again. And in my mind, it's quite something when a simple one-pan meal with flavorful bits and pieces is a little tasty catalyst that brings us together so that we may realize we have strength in unity, and also in that Force that lives above us just beyond the turbulence.
So though I don't know exactly what this particular day (week, month) holds for me — whether the sun will show its face to me fully or if I'll encounter a bit of drizzle — what I do know is that it's nothing that a bowl of Fiesta Fried Rice can't provide a little comfort in the midst of. Because when there's already enough on my proverbial plate to keep me mentally full, there's still my soul and my belly (and the bellies of my family members) that can certainly use the nurture of a colorful one-pan meal, for when keeping things simple is simply a must.
Taste what's good and pass it on.
Fiesta Fried Rice with Blackened Chicken, Fire-Roasted Bell Peppers, Black Beans and Corn, drizzled with a Smokey-Sweet Hoisin BBQ Sauce
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(Serves about 4)
2 chicken breasts (skinless and boneless), cut in half horizontally to create 4 thinner cutlets
1 ¼ – 1 ½ teaspoon creole cajun seasoning, or “blackening” seasoning
• Olive oil
2 eggs, beaten
3½ – 4 cups cold, cooked rice (*see note)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
• Black pepper
12 oz jar fire-roasted yellow and red bell peppers (drained and patted dry), diced finely
½ cup black beans (canned)
½ cup corn (canned or frozen and thawed)
4 green onions, chopped, divided use
• Smokey-Sweet Hoisin BBQ Sauce (recipe below)
1 lime, quartered, for garnish
(*You can prepare the rice the day before. To make this amount of rice, use 1 ¼ cups of Jasmine rice combined with 1 ¾ cups of water, and cook for 15-20 minutes, or until tender; fluff with fork and let cool completely; keep in fridge until ready to use.)
-Place the chicken cutlets into a bowl, and add in the creole seasoning plus a pinch or two of salt; set aside for 10 minutes to marinate.
-Place a large, non-stick pan or skillet over medium-high heat, and add in about 2 tablespoons of oil; once the pan/oil is hot, place the chicken cutlets in and allow them to sear until golden-brown on both sides, about 3-4 minutes per side; remove from pan, and set aside to rest for a few minutes, then slice or dice the chicken into bite-sized pieces; hold warm.
-Place the same large non-stick pan or skillet over medium-high heat, and add in about 1-2 tablespoons of oil; once hot, add in the beaten eggs and scramble them for about 30 seconds or so, gently using a spatula; once scrambled, remove them from the pan and set them aside for a moment; next, add in 2-3 more tablespoons of oil, and then add the cooked rice and stir it to fry and “crisp” it for about 3-4 minutes; next, drizzle the soy sauce over, plus a couple of pinches of salt and black pepper, and stir to combine.
-Next, add in the diced peppers, black beans, corn, chicken pieces and about half of the chopped green onions, and fold those ingredients in to incorporate them; gently stir the mixture to allow it to continue to “fry” up for another 3-4 minutes, or until lightly crispy around the edges and bottom; to finish, add the scrambled eggs into the rice mixture and stir to incorporate.
-Spoon the Fiesta Fried Rice into bowls, drizzle over some of the Smokey-Sweet Hoisin-BBQ Sauce, and garnish with some additional green onions, a wedge of lime, and even some jalapeno slices, if desired.
Smokey-Sweet Hoisin BBQ Sauce ingredients:
½ cup hoisin sauce
½ cup smoky BBQ sauce
1 teaspoon rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar