Not too long ago, Mexican food was considered exotic in the United States. Today, chips and salsa at parties are as common as popcorn at the movies. Many other Mexican-inspired foods are also everyday fare.

One of the most popular Mexican dishes in recent years is fajitas. The word fajita refers to the cut of meat - skirt steak - usually used to make fajitas. It looks like a belt, or fajo in Spanish.

Americans' love affair with fajitas has been going on for years now and has spun off a number of dishes prepared the same way and also called fajitas. There are shrimp fajitas, chicken fajitas and vegetable fajitas, for example. Fajitas now means anything marinated, grilled and rolled in a tortilla. Using a whole-wheat tortilla increases the fiber and, therefore, healthfulness of the dish.

Mexican cooking is earthy and intensely flavored. It's a simple cuisine that lends itself well to many cooking techniques and colorful presentations. Although Mexican food is attractive year round, fajitas seem especially appropriate in summer, when the temperature soars and we crave light as well as well-flavored fare.

These chicken fajitas are cooked on the stove rather than the grill.

Chicken Fajitas

Yield: Makes four servings.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into very thin strips
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1 Tbsp. canola oil, divided
  • 1/2 large white onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, seeded, cut in 1/2 inch strips
  • 1 to 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded, cut lengthwise in thin strips
  • 1/2 cup well-drained salsa
  • 2-4 Tbsp. (according to taste) minced cilantro leaves
  • 4 whole-wheat tortillas

Directions

  1. Sprinkle cumin over the chicken and rub in. Add chicken and lime juice to a container with a tight lid, cover and shake to mix well. Marinate in the refrigerator, 2 to 24 hours, shaking the container occasionally. About an hour before cooking the chicken, remove it from the marinade, pat dry with paper towels and set aside to allow it to come to room temperature.
  2. Add half of the oil to a medium, nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Stir in the onion, green and jalapeno peppers. Saute until onions are lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Transfer vegetables to a plate and set aside. Do not clean the pan.
  3. Heat remaining oil in the pan over high heat until hot. Add chicken and cook until slightly browned, 1 to 4 minutes, depending on thinness. With a slotted spoon, transfer chicken to a plate.
  4. Place a tortilla on each of 4 plates. Add one-fourth of the chicken to each in a narrow band, leaving a 1-inch margin at each end of the tortilla. Top chicken with one-fourth of the vegetables, then one-fourth of the salsa, then one-fourth of the cilantro. Fold ends of the tortilla over the filling. Roll up as tightly as possible. Serve immediately.

Nutritional Information Per Serving:
190 calories,
5 g. total fat
Less than 1 g. saturated fat,
26 g. carbohydrate,
17 g. protein,
3 g. dietary fiber,
350 mg. sodium

Diabetic Exchanges: 1 Bread/Starch, 3 Lean-Meat, 1 Vegetable

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