Cooking On A Budget: Mexican Chicken & Rice Skillet

You guys, these are officially the last few days of summer. Raise your hand if you cannot wait for fall weather to be here for good. Imagine me right now, jumping up and down like an eager 7 year-old voting for longer recess. I've already started my pumpkin binge but I've managed to hold off on the PSL because I have to save the first one for the most perfect first fall day. I cannot drink a PSL when it's 80 degrees. In other news, I've also been on a serious alt-music kick lately. I'm not sure if any of you remember My Chemical Romance but they're re-releasing The Black Parade on Friday in celebration of its 10th anniversary. Can you believe it's been 10 years? I am absolutely flabbergasted. Now, I'm not a band wagon girl. I am a huge alt-rock, emo-rock fan. Whatever you want to call it. I've been with Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance, Blink-182, Panic! At the Disco, 30 Seconds to Mars...all of them since day one. I've just been so overwhelmed with all of the new music and coming new music in this genre lately that I had to let it out. Yes, it has absolutely nothing to do with this tasty recipe I'm about to share but c'est la vie.  What are you listening to lately? 

Now I guess I can talk about the recipe we're sharing today. The next budget meal I have for you is another one-skillet and bursting with flavor. The ingredients are simple, affordable and exchangeable, meaning you can use whatever you have access to or find cheapest. Mexican rice is something that I've always loved. It's comforting yet still light making it perfect for that in-between summer and fall weather. Cut a few minutes off of your cooking time by using minute-rice or instant rice. Almost every brand has their version so I normally just pick whatever is on sale and I like to pick the whole grain or wild variety. As for the "chicken," I love using chicken sausage. It's more affordable than actual chicken and it's more tasty. There are also plenty of varieties and options. I normally go for either the store brand or if there's a more popular brand on sale, I'll choose that one. For this particular recipe, you could use a Chicken Apple Sausage but a three-cheese or spicy kind would work better. You want it to have similar flavors to the rice.

Now, be very cautious with your rice. I am known for always burning two things: rice and bread. I cannot leave bread in the oven because it will set on fire. I can't leave rice on the stove because it will always burn. So please, set a timer, check it every five minutes. Do what you've got to do in order to keep it from burning. I like to use chicken stock for at least half of the liquid used to cook the rice. It's an easy way to add flavor to an otherwise bland ingredient. Top the whole skillet with a little cheese when it's done, cover for a minute or two to allow everything to melt and voila! You have a cheesy, tomatoey dish that everyone is bound to love.

1 tbsp. Canola or Vegetable Oil
1 Jalapeno, seeded and diced
1/2 White Onion, diced
2 Garlic Cloves, minced
1/2 Bell Pepper, diced
2 cups 5-Minute or Instant Whole Grain Rice
8 oz. Diced Tomatoes with Chile
1/2 tsp. Cumin
1 tbsp. Chili Powder
1 3/4 cups Chicken Stock or Water
12 ounces Fully Cooked Sausage Links, sliced
1/3 cup Montery Jack or Cheddar Cheese
Salt & Pepper

1. Prepare the rice. In a large skillet, heat canola or vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add the bell pepper, onion, garlic and jalapeno. Saute 3-4 minutes until softened. Add the rice, tomatoes, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper to taste.

2. Add the chicken stock or water, bring to a boil, cover and reduce to a simmer. Cook 10-15 minutes until rice is tender. Add the chicken sausage and cooking until heated through, about 5 minutes. Mix together well, top with cheese and cover for 2 more minutes to allow cheese to melt. Serve.

What are you cooking up for dinner tonight?