Summer Meal Series #10: Grilled Chicken-Salsa Burritos and Fresh Tomatoes

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This summer, I’m going to be posting a series of fifteen low-cost, tasty, and easy-to-prepare meals that are literally straight from my own kitchen.

One of the best parts of summer is when fresh tomatoes start coming in from the garden. This past week has seen the first of our tomatoes and we were eager to sample them at the end of a long day of outdoor fun.

Of course, another part of eating frugally (beyond the garden) is preparing meals in advance and in bulk. One thing my wife and I like to do is to make a huge batch of burritos, eat them for a meal, freeze the leftovers, and save the frozen ones for the future, thawing them individually for lunches down the road.

Today, we’re going to do both.

Burros, applesauce, and tomatoes

The source for the tomatoes is obvious (the garden) and the applesauce is 100% natural – literally ground-up apples, also easy enough. But what went into the making of those burritos?

When we woke up that morning, we put three pounds of chicken into the crock pot. You can choose whatever chicken pieces you wish to include as long as they’re de-skinned and you’re willing to de-bone them after cooking. If you like all white meat, use breasts; we like a mix of pieces ourselves.

Usually, we buy chicken in bulk when we find a sale on it, buying 15-20 pounds of various pieces, keeping them in the freezer, and using them slowly over time as we need them. This reduces the cost of each meal substantially.

So, back to the chicken:

Cooking meat

We literally put the chicken into a slow cooker, set it to “low,” and allowed it to cook all day (8 to 10 hours). In addition to the chicken, we also added three cups of fresh salsa and stirred it in with the meat. You can add any vegetables you like – we added a diced onion and a bit of leftover bell pepper, too.

We spent the day having fun. When we were in the house, the smell of the simmering chicken and salsa was delicious.

At about five in the evening, we removed the lid from the crock pot and began the next step: shredding the now-cooked chicken.

Cooked and about to shred

The shredding process is simple. Just take two forks, use one to hold a piece of chicken in place, and literally use the other to shred the chicken by sticking the chicken in the meat, then pulling the fork away from the stationery one, shredding the meat into small, uneven pieces as you pull. The big reason to do this is to increase the surface area of the meat, which allows it to sop up more of the delicious remaining salsa.

Shredded meat

At this point, you have a bunch of moist, delicious-smelling cooked and shredded chicken soaked in salsa and with a lot of cooked vegetables around it. Time to start assembling burritos.

Preparing one

The process is quite easy. Just take two or three tablespoons full of meat/salsa/vegetable mix from the crock pot and spread it across the center of a tortilla, like so. The above picture is a pretty chicken-heavy one, for example.

You can also put a bit of cheese on them – or a lot, as you wish. Just use whatever type of shredded cheese you like. We used a sharp cheddar and used a healthy pinch of cheese on each one.

We had three pounds of meat, plus all the salsa and vegetables, so we had a lot of mix to use.

We made a lot!

We stacked them high on one plate, then stacked them high on a second plate (the one originally used to shred the cheese). In all, we made twenty five burritos as depicted here. Some were wrapped in wheat tortillas, some in white – we simply used what we had purchased on sale and with coupons.

Now, for a final touch – a bit of grilling.

Grilling the burros

We just put a bit of canola oil in a skillet, just enough to coat the bottom and sizzle a bit on medium-high heat, then tossed in four burritos. With a spatula, we pressed down on the tops, then after a couple of minutes, we flipped them. We kept flipping them until both sides were a beautiful golden brown and the insides were nice and warm.

Then we repeated until all the burritos were cooked.

Six of the burritos went away at meal time, leaving us nineteen more for the freezer. We wrapped them individually, dated them, and put them into frozen storage, to someday be thawed and cooked for a delicious quick lunch.

The cost per burrito? $0.30.

Burros, applesauce, and tomatoes

The fresh tomatoes were a sublime match to the burritos. We originally planned to have fresh strawberries as well (we have a bunch of everbearing strawberry plants this year), but our daughter ate the majority of the ones we’d picked and cleaned as an afternoon snack, so we broke out the applesauce as a vegetable accompaniment.

Delicious, simple, quick, and cheap. What more could you want?

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68 thoughts on “Summer Meal Series #10: Grilled Chicken-Salsa Burritos and Fresh Tomatoes

  1. sta·tion·er·y
    n.
    1. Writing paper and envelopes.
    2. Writing materials and office supplies.

    I think the word you’re looking for here is “stationary.”

    With the exception of the kebabs, I don’t get what’s so “summery” about this meal series. Also, since when did apples or applesauce become vegetables?

  2. I make a variation of this too. You can skip the oil if you bake them in the oven, and you still get the awesome crispy tortillas. You can probably find a YouTube video that explains how to roll a burrito with the sides tucked in. It’s not hard, after a few tries (I learned at my first job, but I have taught plenty of people in my kitchen) and it makes the burritos easier to store because they’re completely self contained.

  3. We make versions of this as well, sometimes using a packet of taco seasoning instead of salsa. We tuck in the sides, spray with non-stick spray and stick in the oven until browned.

  4. Good pictures and explanation, but in the last month or so you’ve started using the word “literally” WAY too often in your writing. It’s beginning to make me cringe everytime I read it.

  5. Just because I am not handy in the kitchen, can you explain how you thaw & prepare to eat? Do you just microwave them or do you actually cook them more? Thanks!

  6. I agree with Angie #1

    these are taquitos…not burritos (burritos are folded in) taquitos are rolled…. FYI

  7. Yeah… I like your blog generally but I have to agree with Jill… I hate criticizing people but the word ‘literally’ has no place in a recipe, much less 3 times.

  8. Too late for me, the round steaks have been cooking in the slow cooker all day with Ro-Tel (Hot). Perhaps I can find some tortillas. Good posting.

  9. We make the same thing but use Rotel Tomatoes and add fresh squeezed lime at the end and then instead of frying them in a pan make tacos with them, topped with fresh cilantro. My favorite meal.

  10. @bethany, I’m not sure how Trent does it but there is no need to thaw chicken before putting it in the crockpot. Just plop it in when it is frozen solid and then set the crockpot to low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours and it cooks nicely.

  11. What more could I want? Healthy. I hate to be a critical commenter, and in general I find everything you post on this site to be really great. The financial guidance and advice has been very helpful to me, and I find your story motivating and inspiring.

    And this meal series has been useful to a point, if only because it has some good real-life examples of cooking cheaply. But I wouldn’t consider any of the meals you’ve featured here so far to actually be healthy. They’re healthier than fast food, of course, and healthier than food you’ll get in most restaurants. But they’re all heavy on the carbs/dairy/meat and low on the veggies and whole grains. I’m not a nutritionist, and I know that there’s a lot of difference in opinion among food experts, but I KNOW that dark leafy greens and whole grains/legumes are significant sources of nutrients and we should be consuming each of those every day. This meal (and many others you’ve featured) doesn’t have either of those things, and it doesn’t even really have vegetables. Tomatoes are commonly considered vegetables, but are high in acid and water and low in nutrients (though they’re certainly better than nothing!). Most dinner meals really ought to have a green vegetable, and there are TONS: spinach, chard, kale, lettuce, broccoli, watercress, bok choy……

    I know you’re not a chef or a food expert of any kind, so I don’t fault you for this. I do think, though, that considering HEALTH in cooking should be equally important to MONEY.

  12. We seem to have some crabby posters here – stationary/stationery, taquito/burrito, applesauce/vegetables, grill/saute —- who cares? This is a nice post about a low cost meal that looks good Trent.

  13. Yum…that chicken mix makes for a killer mexican pizza topping too! Take pizza shell, add more salsa for sauce, spread chicken over, then mexican cheese blend on top. You can add olives or whatever else sounds yummy…bake 10-13 mins till bubbly and good!

  14. you could also freeze them before frying them in the pan, and use them for enchiladas. enchilada sauce is easy and fast to make from scratch.

    (frying them in the pan makes them flautas, not burritos).

    usually i just poach chicken breasts, but your chicken looks really good with the salsa and pepper added. i’ll have to try it.

  15. Yeah, literally not burritos, even by literally low-Midwestern standards. But still literally tasty-looking!

  16. OMG, that looks sooooo yummy!!! I want to pull out my slow cooker from my wedding (9 years ago) and make this TOMORROW!!

    Except I need chicken and salsa and tortillas. But I can go to the store! And I’m thinking lunches FOREVER!

    Thanks for sharing this yummy-looking, EASY-looking (most important for me) recipe!

  17. @14 Deb
    “stationary/stationery” I grew up in the mid-west and can’t spell, I would have missed that one because the spell checker would have missed it.

    “taquito/burrito”, really? You/Trent have never ordered either and couldn’t crack the mystery?

    “applesauce/vegetables” I can see arguing that the tomatoes where a vegetable, but an apple?

    “grill/saute” You don’t think it is important to use the correct words when conveying information? What if he had substituted the word “beef” instead of chicken or “boil” instead of “grill”

    Trent isn’t a your average commenter, he is a professional writer, his words are his tools.

  18. Wow, this is a tough crowd. It is a great posting with pictures and an efficient recipe.

    But if you are going to be picky about it, then the recipe is far more a burro than a taquito. All the ingredients and taste are that of a burrito, but it has a few characteristics but not the ingredients of a taquito. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taquito

    And if you are a true Mexican food aficionado, it is a “burro” and not a “burrito.” In the US you only see “burro” on the menu in authentic Sonora style restaurants in Arizona and NM. Perhaps restaurants are afraid customers will think the meat comes from an equine animal, but “burrito” just means a “little burro”. If a menu lists a “large burrito”, that means it is a “big little burro.”

  19. Trent,what about a post for the salsa recipe? I can’t find one the family like’s.The food look’s delicious.

  20. Trent,
    Do you ever do any seafood recipes? I live in New England, and we love seafood, but it’s always one of the more expensive options. Would love to see some lower-cost seafood ideas.

  21. hope you’re not thawing chicken, cooking it and then re-freezing it again to thaw out again. it’s a breeding ground for e coli and I hope you wouldn’t encourage readers to – have you ever had food poisoning before? not nice.

  22. Not a lot of cheap, decent quality seafood in the midwest (which was one benefit of moving to the Gulf for me!).

  23. We do a slight variation on this, and it is one of the few meals the entire family will eat. We add taco seasoning to the salsa. Then we usually mix the chicken with rice and a little sour cream. Yum.

  24. In addition to growing your own vegetables to help keep costs low, you can also utilize wild game for many of the meal ideas posted throughout this series. If you have the equipment you need, a place to hunt/fish free of charge, and the willingness to process deer, turkey, waterfowl, fish, etc., you drastically reduce the cost of protein in your meals – you’re only paying for a hunting/fishing license and transportation costs. Another benefit is that you know where your meat came from and how it was processed and stored prior to it being consumed by your family. Using wild game, in addition to our garden fruits and veggies, our (me and my wife’s) grocery bill averages just over $30/month.

  25. Melon, plums, peaches, watermelon, and other fruits are so plentiful, I’d hope you’d use some of those instead of applesauce. Unless, they’re too expensive in your town. I like this because you’ve used the crockpot and the low cost, of course. Thanks

  26. I am going to have to stop reading the comments here. I already don’t read them on sites like Yahoo because they show the lowest, basest form of human nature. I would think that readers here would be different, and a couple of years ago they certainly were. Perhaps this degree of success really brings out the loonies?

    At any rate, it’s simply depressing. Anyone who really cared about the darn grammar and spelling and so on could contact you privately.

    Is this really what our world is coming to? A complete lack of civility? If these comments are any indication, I guess so.

    I’ll be sticking to the feed from now on.

  27. I can’t wait to try this! I’ve loved all the recipes I’ve tried from your site. Keep them coming!

  28. Those look delicious! I’ve had a slow cooker for a while and haven’t had much luck with it so far, but I’ll give this recipe a go.

    Trent, did you make your own salsa? If so, could you share the recipe?

  29. Thanks for this recipe. I will have to try slow-cooked shredded chicken. Just an FYI for readers concerned about sodium: I found that the amount of sodium in commercial tortillas (wraps) varies widely so it pays to read the nutrition statistics carefully. Because of sodium sensitivity I cannot always purchase the brands that are on sale. In my area I have been pleased with Tumaro’s multi-grain low-carb tortillas.

  30. All the negatives commenters can go away, Trent, please keep these types of articles up. I LOVE the fact they can be tossed in the freezer to be zapped in the microwave @ work later. I’ve got these in a regular pot in my oven slow-cooking right now, and I’m really looking forward to them for dinner.

    Not only are they a low cost, they aren’t all that bad for you. Salsa is super low in calories, and the chicken is a good source of protein, as long as you don’t go crazy with cheese, this is also a very healthy dinner!

    Made the calzones last weekend, best calzones I’d ever had! Hopefully next weekend I’ll make that recipe too! Keep up the great work!

  31. It’s an issue because Trent talks about how much he values cooking and that he wants to start a cooking blog. Trent presents himself as someone who is knowledgeable about cooking and then makes basic errors. Yes this is his blog, but I’m sure if he were making these kinds of errors about money and frugality people would be less forgiving.

  32. I don’t know that I would consider a meal made mostly from chicken to be low cost, even when its on sale it is still a rare treat for us. Now cook up some beans with salsa, chilies and onion, spices, and make burritos with that. That would be cheap, healthy and still full of protein.

  33. Why is it that Trent’s recipes seem to high in carbs, fat, and full of cheese? I guess it is the American diet these days.
    Personallly I would have filled that burrito/taquito/whatever with green leafy vegetables and not fried it in oil.

  34. @ Bethany

    You could check your crockpot manual, but everything I’ve read about frozen meat and crockpots state that it’s not safe to cook from a frozen state. It takes too long to reach a high enough temperature to kill bacteria that may be present. You can thaw meat in the fridge or use the quick thaw method in cold water. Try Googling food safety (choose a reputable site).

  35. Do not place frozen meat in a crock pot. They operate on very low heat and the frozen meat will cause the temperature of the liquid to drop even further. There is a potential for growth of bacteria, etc. when cooking meat at the resulting low temperature.

  36. I have to politely “third” the requests to use “literally” correctly and less. Could the meal figuratively come from your kitchen? Could you figuratively put the chicken in the slow cooker or figuratively use the other fork to shred it? If not, then “literally” doesn’t make sense and can just be dropped.

    These are good, but my favorite misuse has to be from a tv news report a couple of years ago: “Along the border, Mexican immigrants were literally coming out of the woodwork.” Can you picture a giant wooden wall with people squeezing out of it? That’s what they said. Pretty funny stuff.

    Great recipe–can’t wait to try it! Thank you very much.

  37. Trent, thanks for the great recipe! I tried it yesterday, using salsa made from my garden (This year is my first attempt at gardening and it’s so cool to use my own produce!)and served it with sliced cucumbers, also from the garden. My family loved it!

    For those concerned about cooking meat on low in the slow cooker – try it on high for the first hour or so, and then lower the temp.

    For the person who asked about freezing, I froze half of mine yesterday in a single layer in a gallon ziploc bag and then took them out today for lunch, put them on a paper towel and just microwaved on high for a few minutes, until they were hot – still quite tasty!

    Thanks for the awesome idea!

  38. I have been looking at the recipes offered for some time, and wondering where the green veg is. A strawberry is not a veg, nor is applesauce. ( I recommend simply downloading the gov food chart.) Sauteing and grilling are not the same. Hey, I agree this recipe is fun, and it offers something. AND, I know the author has a new baby, which makes you tired and busy. But for goodness sake, when the author has published books, and the blog is a form of livelihood, I sure would expect due diligence on matters of proper terms. I am haphazard and do not spell-check comments, but it is not my profession. At work, I could never be accused of coming off as amateur. I cross my Ts, and dot my Is. This blog, of late, could be construed as amateur. Never-the-less, I continue to read, because the ideas are there. But the writing hopefully will get back to par as life settles down for the author. I have noticed that the book excerpts garner little or no comments. The most commented upon posts are ones that inflame the readers. If I were the author, I would take this as sign that I might want to branch out, and analyze if this particular bog has run its course. I do not think so, but I think it needs more attention to thrive. In his favor, he is one of few bloggers that posts twice a day, which fickle folks like me appreciate.

  39. I think that’s a bit critical. I am sure the author is aware that applesauce is not a vegetable, but it is taking the place of what would be served as a vegetable in this meal. Whether it’s sauteeing or grilling, the process is explained, so it’s no mystery how it is being cooked. The blog is free to readers, and blogging is meant to have an element of spontaneity, so I think a little poetic license is certainly permissable. As Kristine made a rather prominent typo in her comment, I think she might be able to appreciate that.

  40. A great addition to this would be onion and green pepper, sauteed or grilled fajita style. It would add tons fo flavor and texture…

  41. @2 and @30 Um yeah, since when were strawberries and apple sauce (apples) a vegetable??? That’s not a well-balanced meal at all..SMH

    Otherwise, I may try this recipe out because it certainly looks tasty..I would use a “real” vegetable though such as green beans, peas, etc.

  42. Actually, he’s not technically sauteing his burritos. To Saute would imply he is consistently moving the ingredients in his pan. He’s probably just browning the tortillas. And if grilling is defined as cooked by radiant heat, that is a more correct term than saute.

  43. Can I get an “Amen” to #14 Deb? Certainly seems to be some crabby nitpickers lurking around here. I just appreciate the great recipe and thank you , Trent, for posting it.

  44. @ Alexandra “but it is taking the place of what would be served as a vegetable in this meal.”

    The applesauce, made from a fruit, took the place of strawberries. Strawberries are usually also fruit. Just sayin’

  45. Way to go Melody. I’ve heard that misery loves company but trying to drag others down won’t make them feel any better. Trying to bring others up on the other hand…

  46. Looks delish!

    I make grilled cheeses sandwiches in a frying pan (doesn’t everybody?), so perhaps he is using “grill” in that way. If you’re nitpicking about grilling, a George Foreman grill isn’t really a grill either ~ it just leaves grill marks on your food.

  47. I have to wonder if some of the commenters are reading these blogs thoroughly. I doubt Trent is claiming that apples are a vegetable. He states quite clearly that they added onions and bell peppers into their recipe. The pictures are nice, but don’t rely on them to tell you the whole story.

    On that note, I have a question about cooking vegetables in a crock pot. Would you add the vegetables in the beginning or would you wait until the last minute to prevent sogginess? I’ve been making a big effort to cook more at home and I haven’t quite mastered the art.

  48. I have my chicken and salsa (with a little corn and some taco seasoning) in my crock pot right now and I can’t wait until it’s finished!

    A quick question, though. Did you freeze the leftovers before or after grilling them?

  49. Made these and they are AWESOME. We used 3 lbs of boneless breasts and 3 lbs of boneless thighs, homemade salsa, a huge onion, fresh chili’s from the garden, and a big can of diced potato. The cost was super low per burrito and they microwave up great for work lunches. These will be a new staple of my freezer.

    Trent, You are the best!

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