Have you ever tried calabacitas? It’s commonly served as a side dish in New Mexico, but when you add plenty of veggies, beans and a source of high-quality protein, this dish becomes a healthy and fulfilling meal.
I absolutely love preparing my own Mexican and New Mexican dishes because they contain healthy fats, plenty of protein and, when you use the right ingredients, satisfying complex carbohydrates. My huevos rancheros recipe and chicken enchilada recipe, for example, are delicious and loaded with nutrients that will leave you feeling energized and full for hours. I get the same feeling from my calabactias recipe, which is why it’s one of my go-to dishes during any season.
What Are Calabacitas?
Calabacitas is a traditional New Mexican dish that’s made with squash, corn and peppers. In Spanish, the word calabacita means “zucchini,” so clearly zucchini is the staple ingredient, but there are a number of calabacitas varieties out there. Some are made with cheese, some call for pork or other types of meat and some just include a combination of vegetables.
For my calabacitas, I use a mix of veggies like squash, corn, shallots, roasted red pepper, radishes, avocado and spinach, along with chickpeas and cauliflower rice. This makes my version vegetarian-friendly and gluten-free. Plus, you are getting plenty of healthy fats and immune-boosting nutrients like vitamin C and vitamin A.
What makes my calabacitas unique is the use of gluten-free cauliflower rice instead of grains. Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable, just like broccoli, kale and cabbage. Did you know that people have been cooking with cauliflower since around 600 B.C.? It first appeared in Asia and then became popular in the Mediterranean region. Today, cauliflower is used in nearly every type of cuisine, and cooking with cauliflower rice has become a popular way to keep meals free of gluten, while keeping the texture of grains in your dish.
The other star ingredients in my calabacitas are zucchini and yellow squash. These two veggies are closely related and boast a ton of health benefits. Did you know that a fully ripe zucchini can grow to be as big as a baseball bat? In fact, when we buy zucchini in the grocery store, they are still considered “immature,” but once they are cooked down with avocado oil (which I use in this recipe), they become soft and tasty.
The combination of these ingredients make for a comforting, hearty and satiating calabacitas recipe. And it’s super easy to prepare; it just takes about 20 minutes to chop the veggies and cook them down. It’s simple enough to prepare on a busy weeknight when you would be tempted to go for something a little less healthy.
Calabacitas Nutrition Facts
10 grams protein
14 grams fat
23 grams carbohydrates
8 grams fiber
8 grams sugar
115 milligrams vitamin C (153 percent DV)
2,809 IUs vitamin A (120 percent DV)
48 micrograms vitamin K (54 percent DV)
0.56 milligrams vitamin B6 (44 percent DV)
167 micrograms folate (42 percent DV)
0.74 milligrams manganese (41 percent DV)
1.7 milligrams vitamin B5 (34 percent DV)
0.35 milligrams vitamin B2 (32 percent DV)
0.27 milligrams copper (31 percent DV)
459 milligrams sodium (31 percent DV)
199 milligrams phosphorus (28 percent DV)
63 milligrams magnesium (20 percent DV)
1.6 milligrams zinc (20 percent DV)
10.9 micrograms selenium (20 percent DV)
3 milligrams vitamin E (20 percent DV)
793 milligrams potassium (17 percent DV)
2.7 milligrams iron (15 percent DV)
2.1 milligrams vitamin B3 (15 percent DV)
0.17 milligrams vitamin B1 (15 percent DV)
0.26 micrograms vitamin B12 (11 percent DV)
74 milligrams calcium (7 percent DV)
How to Make Calabacitas
To begin prepping your calabacitas, you’ll have to chop your veggies. You need one chopped zucchini, one chopped yellow squash and ½ cup roasted corn.
You’ll also need to chop three roasted red peppers and mince a shallot. Once you’re done chopping those veggies, get your herbs ready. This recipe includes ¼ cup finely chopped dill …
and ½ cup minced cilantro.
Now heat a large pan over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of avocado oil.
Once the oil is heated, add in your chopped veggies and herbs.
Then add in 1 teaspoon cumin, ¼ teaspoon chipotle, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Let everything cook down for about 10 minutes until the veggies become soft.
Now for the fun part. You are going to begin layering your ingredients to create your calabacitas. Lay out the number of bowls you need and divide up 2 cups of riced cauliflower at the bottom of each bowl.
Then add in your spinach, layering it right on top of the cauliflower rice.
Next to the spinach put a scoop of your veggie and herb mixture. Then add in a spoonful of chickpeas.
Now add a few slices of lime and avocado to each bowl; slice two small radishes to add in too.
The last food to add right in the middle of each bowl is a poached egg. It’s so easy to make poached eggs. Just add about a teaspoon of vinegar to water, bring it to a simmer and break the egg into a small bowl and gently slide it into the water. It only takes about 2 to 3 minutes for the egg whites to become firm.
The finishing touch is to add a touch of hot sauce to each bowl, if you like a little extra heat.
Wow, look at this healthy and gluten-free calabacitas. Enjoy!
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