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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Mexican Lime Chicken

If there's one type of food I could eat for the rest of my life, it is Mexican food.  Guacamole, queso, fajitas, enchiladas, flautas, nachos, burritos, tacos- I love it all.  Sides? Give me beans- black, pinto, barracho- corn, rice- nom nom nom, love love love.  According to my mom, the first Mexican food I ever ate was at a family owned restaurant in Universal City, the town where my Granny and Grandad Strickland lived.  The restaurant, Leon's, was owned by a man who I called "Leon" and his wife, Nira.  I didn't even know Leon's real first name until he passed away a few months ago, and the obituary informed me that his name was actually Bacilio Leon.  My mom told me that I sat there in my high chair and ate my Cheerios, all the while dipping them in guacamole.  Even though I don't remember this, it clearly should have been an indicator of my future Mexican food addiction.

Leon's Mexican Restaurant, Universal City, Texas

The first Mexican food restaurant I can remember going to is El Rancho Grande in Fort Worth.  I remember being greeted by the twin sister owners, chowing down on chips and hot sauce, and asking my dad for pennies to throw into the blue tile fountain.  I started going back to El Rancho a few years ago, and good thing I did, because that's where I ended up meeting Andy- small world.
El Rancho Grande, Fort Worth, Texas

One night when I was about seven, my dad asked me if I wanted to try a new Mexican food restaurant.  I was skeptical, and wasn't sure how I was going to feel about this non-El Rancho place.  We turned onto Hemphill and pulled into the parking lot of Fiesta Mexican Restaurant.  We walked in, and I was instantly in awe by the tortilla machine off to the left.  The sweet lady making tortillas waved to me, and kept flipping those round patties of corn.  We were greeted by Anita Barriga, and her amazingly friendly, caring family.  The staff- hostesses, cashiers, waiters, and waitresses- was mostly made up of the Barriga family, and they were as kind as could be.
Fiesta Mexican Restaurant, Fort Worth, Texas
I remember that first night that I had chicken flautas for the first time, and I ate the crispy ends before the middle part because they were crunchier.  I ordered a "swirl," a virgin strawberry margarita, and I kept ordering them for the next 13 years.  The first time I went after turning 21, I thought the staff was going to have a heart attack when I ordered a real margarita.  They gave the children paper placemats with a Spanish number word find on them.  When I took friends there with our family, I would challenge them to see who could find the fifteen numbers first- my unsuspecting friends having no idea that I had the word find memorized.  When the line was out the door for people waiting for tables, I would help act as a hostess while I waited on my food.  "How many in your party?  And a name please?  Smoking, non, or first available?"  Then I tried to estimate how long the wait would be- I was probably wrong, but it was worth a shot.

We went to Fiesta almost once a week until I graduated high school and moved to Austin.  When it came down to planning a graduation party, I could think of no place more appropriate than Fiesta.  I had grown up there- watched it nearly double, then triple in size.  I shared smiles as I met new babies born into the Barriga family, and I shared tears when members of the family passed away.  I'm now listed as an organ donor because of Michael Barriga, a family member who died while waiting on a vital organ to save his life.  (Look into organ donation- give the gift of life!) 

When I moved to Austin, I thought I was in Mexican food heaven.  Matt's Famous El Rancho, Santa Rita Cantina, Maudie's, Trudy's, El Arroyo, Iron Cactus, Guero's, The Rio Grande- holy moly, it was never-ending.  Breakfast, lunch, dinner, or happy hour- there was a patio and a margarita waiting on almost every corner.  Tonight, I made Mexican Lime Chicken- not quite the amazingness that is El Rancho, Fiesta, or Austin Mexican food- but delicious, nonetheless.  I made Black Beans & Corn as a side, and that recipe is posted here.  And, yes, of course, I had a margarita while I cooked!

Mexican Lime Chicken
Servings: 2, Weight Watchers PointsPlus Value: 8

  • 1/2 c lime juice
  • 2 cloves garlic (or 1 tsp pre-minced garlic)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tbsp chile powder
  • 2 tbsp fat free plain yogurt
  • 2 chicken breasts
  1. In small bowl, mix the lime juice, garlic, cumin, chile powder, and yogurt together
  2. Place chicken breasts in a small pan
  3. Pour mixture over chicken- cover chicken completely
  4. Marinate for 2+ hours, flipping approximately every 30 mins
  5. Drain chicken, discard remaining marinade
  6. Grill on both sides until done (appr. 7 min on each side, depending on thickness)

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