This post contains affiliate links. I was not compensated for this post and all opinions are my own. I received one complimentary night at an Extended Stay America in order to complete the cooking challenge. See the end of this post for a special offer for you from Extended Stay America! If you book a stay through this site, I receive a small commission. Don’t worry, I’ll spend it on something good!
As a huge fan of TopChef and other culinary reality shows, the idea of a kitchen challenge sparks my interest. This Spicy Mexican-Style Protein Bowl is the result of such a challenge…
The Back Story:
Last summer, Scott had some business travel that kept him on the road for a week. He had training, meetings and strategy sessions that occupied his time all day and sometimes into the evenings. We’d catch up on the phone every night – and ever the food blogger – I always asked what he’d had for dinner. Usually it was a meal at a nice restaurant with colleagues. This time, I was surprised to hear that he was cooking dinner in his room. Whaaaat???? Well, he was heating up a leftover pork chop from a restaurant meal the night before and he had stopped at the grocery store to pick up some microwaveable vegetables and salad for dinner. He said the hotel was an all-suite variety that included a small kitchen and even provided cookware and dishes. It was an Extended Stay America.
If you’ve ever had to travel for work, you know it’s not so bad for a day or two, but when it drags on for one, two, three weeks or longer, it can get old — fast. And the one thing that you miss most (aside from family) is a home-cooked meal.
So when I was approached by Extended Stay America to stay in one of their hotels and cook a meal in one of their kitchenettes, I was intrigued. Could I really make dinner in a hotel room? I wanted to find out.
Conceptualizing Spicy Mexican-Style Protein Bowl
Before the stay, I gave my grocery list careful consideration — even though the kitchen was well appointed, it wouldn’t be stocked with my everyday pantry items or a good all-purpose chefs knife. So, I bought a few convenience ingredients like pre-chopped onions, celery and bell peppers and jarred salsa verde.
It actually went smoother than I thought it would, as the kitchen was equipped with a full-sized refrigerator, microwave oven, two-burner electric stove, coffee pot and a toaster. It even had essential cookware, dishes and flatware. Better than my first college apartment!
Upon our arrival, the staff welcomed us and checked us into a clean, modern, spacious room with a king-size bed and a cozy kitchenette. I unpacked the groceries, gave the appliances and cookware a quick inspection and started cooking. I wanted to make something healthy and fresh with tons of flavor, that I would want to eat even if I were at home. A Spicy Mexican-Style Protein Bowl.
I seasoned the chicken breasts and used the large skillet to sear the meat on both sides before I transferred them to a plate to rest. I added a little olive oil to both the skillet and a large saucepan and divvied up the pre-chopped vegetables to saut?. To the skillet, I added half of a chopped jalape?o pepper (I managed to slice it with the serrated knife provided) and some of the salsa verde and brought it to a bubble.
I tucked the chicken and accumulated juices back into the skillet, reduced the heat and secured it with the lid to simmer while I added a can of black beans and few spoonfuls of salsa to the other saucepan. The bag of frozen quinoa and brown rice mix (found in the frozen foods section) just needed a few minutes in the microwave before assembling the bowls. I started with a few scoops of quinoa, a layer of sliced chicken breast, followed by several spoonfuls of black beans, slices of fresh avocado, cilantro, green onions and a little more salsa verde and a squeeze of lime. Wow!
After snapping a few pictures, we opened some cold cervezas and sat down to eat! Oh-ma-Gawd! Spicy, savory, with a great blend of flavors. Delicious! You must make this whether at home or on-the-road!
After this experience, I could easily stay in an Extended Stay America suite and cook healthy, satisfying meals well beyond a tv dinner or macaroni and cheese. This concept is perfect for someone traveling on business who doesn’t want to abandon their healthy habits while on the road.
It’s also ideal for cost-conscious families — Kids under 17 stay FREE at their family friendly hotels! Eating out for every meal can be expensive, especially with the whole family to feed, so grab n’ go breakfasts and a few home-cooked tasty meals in your room will save money and maybe afford you another day at the theme parks this summer.
Salsa Verde Whole Grain Protein Bowl
- 2 chicken breasts I used organic
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 1 cup prepared chopped trinity mix or 1/3 cup diced onion from the produce department, 1/3 cup diced green pepper, 1/3 cup diced celery
- ~1 1/2 cups salsa verde or get the recipe on this site for charred salsa verde
- 1/2 jalapeno pepper seeded and diced - use more if you like spice
- 1 8 ounce can black beans
- 1 1/4 cups package of frozen quinoa and brown rice mix - or 1 1/4 cups prepared quinoa or brown rice -- or a mixture of the two
- 1/2 avocado sliced
- fresh cilantro
- lime wedges
- In a small bowl mix together the cumin salt and pepper. Sprinkle both sides of the chicken breasts with half of the spice mixture and set aside. In a skillet over medium high heat, add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Carefully add the chicken to the hot skillet and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side until golden brown. Transfer chicken to a plate.
- Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the same skillet over medium heat. Add a half cup of the trinity mixture and the diced jalapeño. Saute until vegetables are tender and slightly translucent. Stir in 1 1/4 cups of salsa verde (eyeball it). Add the chicken breasts back to the pan, cover tightly with lid and reduce heat to medium low. Simmer for 10 minutes until chicken breasts are cooked through.
- Meanwhile in a small pot over medium heat, add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and the other half of the trinity mixture. Saute until tender and slightly translucent. Stir in the black beans (liquid and all) and about 1/3 cup salsa verde. Heat to boil and reduce heat to a medium simmer, cook for 5 minutes.
- Heat the brown rice and quinoa mixture in the microwave according to package directions.
- To assemble the bowls, divide the quinoa between two bowls. Slice the chicken into 1/2" strips and place on top the the quinoa. Spoon black beans along one side of the chicken and a spoonful of the sauce from the chicken saute on the other side. Tuck a few wedges of avocado into the bowl. Sprinkle with cilantro and a squeeze of lime. Serve.