By now you’ve figured out that I have a serious love of food.
Grandma Ollie used to hypnotize me with the movement of her wooden spoon, creating intoxicating aromas in the kitchen at the ranch with the simplest of ingredients. And, when I wasn’t at the ranch, my smoking, 500-pound, denture-wearing, narcoleptic, poem-reading babysitter (best. babysitter. ever.) would lovingly knead potato rolls then slather them with jewel-toned homemade jelly once baked, all while I sat on top of the kitchen table, anticipating the very moment she would hand over that pillowy-sweet treasure.
My Ma, however, has been known to use a spatula to flip a tortilla and to leave biscuits in the oven for so long they become unrecognizable. And, don’t get me wrong. Ma can cook – she can cook very well. She just doesn’t love cooking.
Ma’s gift is being a phenomenal and profoundly impactful educator, and her true passions in life are history, reading, writing, and teaching. If any recipe has more than a handful of ingredients and takes more than 20 minutes to cook, she’s not interested. And, she’ll tell me so.
“Nope. Ya me cansé. Stop talking.”
“By the time you finish chopping, I could have eaten twice.”
“No, no, no. Let’s go get Whataburger.”
“How can you stand it? Cooking for so long?”
“I’d rather be reading.”
And, yet, the two dishes that mean more to me than any culinary memories or adventures combined are my Ma’s Pollo con Calabaza and her Arroz con Pollo. They are the two dishes it took me the longest to master and the two dishes she can make blindfolded with her hands tied behind her back. They are the epitome of comfort food for me. They are what I smell and taste when I think of umami. They are her signature dishes, and no one else can make those dishes better than my Ma.
So, as I got more and more comfortable in this better choices journey (28 down and still counting), I started to think about all the foods I love to eat and how I can make them with better choices. Naturally, the first two things I wanted to tackle were my Ma’s signature masterpieces.
I needed some reliable comfort foods to “cheat” with – just in case my whole “make better choices” journey left me sad and hangry. Thankfully, that hasn’t been the case at all, but I still wanted to eat what I love.
Well, I gave up on the Arroz con Pollo pretty quickly because if I’m going to eat rice, I’m just going to eat rice.
I’m not making brown rice Arroz con Pollo. That would suck. It would ruin my life, give me nightmares, and make me terribly depressed. It would be like a “no bacon for life” sentence. And, that’s pretty bad if you’re me.
Instead, I focused on the Pollo con Calabaza (Chicken with Squash).
Making it meets Ma’s 20-minute limit. It’s a one-pot meal, and the ingredients are ridiculously simple.
Plus, Ma’s version was already pretty healthy but used skin-on chicken legs or wings and vegetable oil. So, all I had to do was a couple of minor adjustments to get this bad boy under 250 calories per serving!
Not only is she the Kung Fu Master of Pollo con Calabaza, but Master
Po Ma’s methods will allow us to become the Grasshoppers of Pollo con Calabaza!
Will you walk with me, Grasshopper?
1 TBS Coconut Oil
18 oz Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast, cubed
3 Medium Cloves Fresh Garlic, minced
1 Medium Onion, chopped
1 tsp Onion Powder
1 tsp Ground Cumin
1 tsp Garlic Powder
1 1/2 TBS Knorr Caldo de Tomate Bouillon
3 Small/Medium Yellow Squash, cubed
1/3 Cup Fresh Cilantro, chopped
1 Cup Low Sodium Chicken Broth
1 Cup Warm Water
In a large skillet, heat the coconut oil on medium-high. Add the chopped onions and minced garlic. Saute, stirring frequently, until the onions start to become translucent. Avoid browning the garlic too much, as that creates a bitter taste. Add the cubed chicken to the skillet.
Saute the chicken and onion mixture for about a minute, then add the onion powder, ground cumin, garlic powder, and bouillon to the chicken. Continue cooking for another two minutes, ensuring the seasoning has been incorporated well. Then, add the cubed squash to the skillet and stir. Do not add salt, as the bouillon and broth you’ll use have plenty already.
Add the chopped cilantro and combine. Pour in the chicken broth, and then pour in the water. Stir gently to combine thoroughly.
Simmer uncovered for about three minutes. Then, cover the skillet and lower the heat to medium-low. Simmer covered for 20 minutes.
You have learned well, Grasshopper.
LET’S KEEP IT REAL: First and foremost, I do everything for the love of food. Most of what I write about is because I love it! If I don’t love it, I tell you about that, too. From time to time, I may receive monetary or product compensation for mentioning products, offering recommendations, providing endorsements, or including links to products or services when I blog. While that may be the case for some posts, it is not the case for all. When it’s sponsored, you’ll see #sponsored when I post. When I’m just sharing the love, I won’t use that particular tag or hashtag. What you need to know is that I only give shout outs when I actually use the product or love it so much it deserves a shout out, sponsored or not.