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Baked Chicken Chimichangas...Bringing Some Heat to the 47th Parallel!

Twas a cold, blustery day here last Thursday and the mere thought of hauling on my winter duds to run to the grocery store sent shivers up and down my spine! You'd think as a hearty Newfoundland Canadian, (I'm not even sure if that term exists but trust me....there's Canadians and then there's Newfoundland Canadians...we're a totally different breed!), I'd be well acclimated to hauling on my waterproof, guaranteed to keep your feet warm to -40 degrees Celsius, boots, wool hat and mitts and of course, three quarter length down winter parka. Sadly, despite having all 'da gear', I long ago came to the realization that I am living in the wrong hemisphere. I love heat and lots of it. I hate socks, not alone boots that will keep my tootsies warm in temperatures not fit for a polar bear not alone little ol' me!

Problem was, I had very little on hand to make some wonderful, foodie blog-worthy feast. Chicken breasts, green onions and tomatoes blinked innocently at me from the fridge. Thinking of my poor family depending on me to bring something wonderful and nutritious to their plates at mealtime, I glanced one more time out my kitchen window and saw a blustery swirl of frosty snow whisk the hat right off of my neighbourhood's head. Yup...da bys', aka. Stephen and Mackenzie, were gonna have to suck it up....I was NOT venturing out into the cold!

What I wouldn't have given at that exact moment to be lounging on some white sandy beach, looking out onto the Gulf of Mexico through sunglass clad eyes, a refreshing Margarita in my hand. Sigh....sunshine and warm weather, how I miss thee so! Wanting only to wrap up in a big warm blanket and take a long winter's nap, I sternly told myself to snap out of it. "So you don't live in the sunny south,(yet) and cabana boys bringing icy Margaritas are in short supply in Newfoundland! So what if it's cold enough to freeze the arse off a brass monkey! You have a roof over your head, clothes on your back, food in the fridge, a fabulous family who adore you and your bank account has yet to be overdrawn! got da bull by da horns, now get it together!"" While that's what my realistic inner self said, all my whimsical inner self didn't hear very much past 'Margaritas'.

Despite the cold and being stuck here at the 47th parallel, at least for the time being, there was no reason why I couldn't bring a little 'olé' to this weeknight meal. So what could I do with chicken breasts, green onions, tomatoes, cheese, salsa and some flour tortillas? Why, Baked Chicken Chimichangas of course! This recipe can be done two ways: using uncooked chicken breasts or thighs, or shredding up rotisserie chicken. I opted for the chicken breasts, which can be used interchangeably with boneless skinless chicken thighs. If you give these a try using already cooked chicken, like rotisserie, just combine all of the ingredients in a bowl to create your chimichanga filling, skipping the skillet step altogether.

To make these yummy delectables, you'll need:

2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bit size pieces (or 2 c. shredded pre-cooked chicken)

1 c. of your favorite salsa

1 tsp dry cumin

1 tsp dry corriander

1 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp dry oregano

1 c. shredded cheese (I use a cheddar mozzarella, Monterey Jack blend)

2 large greeen onions, chopped

6 x 8 inch flour tortillas

2 Tbsp butter, melted

Diced tomato, sour cream, guacamole, salsa, shredded cheese to top

First step, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Next, cut chicken breasts into bite size pieces and season with cumin, corriander, chili powder, oregano and a smidge of freshly grated sea salt and black pepper. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and add about 1 Tbsp canola oil. When the oil is nice and hot, add the chicken pieces, a little at a time, and cook until nicely golden brown and cooked through.

I thought my chicken pieces were just a little too big for my chimichanga filling, so I removed them from the pan, gave the chicken a rough chop and then added it back into the skillet. I then added in the green onions.

I turned off the heat under the skillet and then added in the salsa. The salsa I used was more 'juicy' than 'saucy', but that's what I had on hand so that's how it was gonna be! Regarldless of the consistency of the salsa, make sure when you're stirring it about to scrap up all of the yummy brown bits in the skillet from cooking the chicken...pure, delectable flavour!

I then added the shredded cheese and stirred it all up to combine. On my work surface next to the stove, I prepared two tortilla shells at a time, adding about 1/4 cup of the chicken mixture to the centre of each tortilla. I then pulled one side of the tortilla up over the fillig, folded up the ends and rolled the chimichangas and placed them seam side down on a baking sheet.

Although I suggest using 8 inch flour tortillas, I only had 6 inch tortillas on hand and, as such, had enough filling for 9 chicken chimichangas. In retrospect, the 6 inch shells worked even better because for lunches the next day, I had chicken chimichangas all ready to go! I brushed the top of the Baked Chicken Chimichangas with melted butter and then placed them in the preheated 400 degree Fahrenheit oven for 25 minutes, until they were golden and crispy.

I decided to whip up a little Mexican Rice on the side and although I have a fabulous recipe for 'Healthied-Up Restaurant Style Mexican RIce', I had neither the time nor ingredients to make it so I took a short cut and used a package of Knorr Mexican Rice, which is pretty yummy stuff, I have to say.

In under 40 minutes, dinner was ready to serve! I placed two Baked Chicken Chimichangas on each plate and a nice portion of Mexican Rice. For toppings I had guacamole, diced tomatoes, salsa and shredded cheese. Sadly, I was all out of sour cream....sour cream would have really prettied up the whole presentation with a splash of red, white and green just like the Mexican flag!

These Baked Chicken Chimichangas were so flavourful you'd swear they were cooked in an authentic Mexican restaurant. And the aroma? Hijole! (Which means 'wow' or 'my goodness' in Mexican...or so I've been told...). I skipped the margaritas but did indulge in a Corona with my meal and let me tell you, for just a few moments, I forgot all about the bitter cold outside my door.

Bringing a little heat to the 47th parallel was never easier than with Baked Chicken Chimichangas....easy, healthied-up, inexpensive AND delicious!

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