Mexican rice and fajitas take gold in Culinary Challenge

Each semester, Middlebrook eighth graders participate in a Culinary Challenge Competition.
Jack Cromwell, Flynn Crowther, Gabby Horicka, and Tyler Previte of this year’s winning Loaded Dishwashers Team had their Mexican rice and fajita stir-fry meals featured on the school’s lunch menu on Wednesday, May 6.
Here are the recipes for the team’s meals:

Mexican rice


  • 12 ounces canned, crushed tomatoes.

  • 1 medium white onion.

  • 3 medium jalapeños.

  • 2 cups brown rice.

  • 1/3 cup canola oil.

  • 4 minced garlic cloves.

  • 2 1/2 cups chicken broth.

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt.

  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, minced.

  • 1 lime.


  • Adjust rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit.

  • Process tomato and onion in processor or blender until pureed and thoroughly smooth. Transfer mixture to measuring cup and reserve exactly 2 cups. Discard excess.

  • Remove ribs and seeds from 2 jalapeños and discard. Mince flesh and set aside. Mince remaining jalapeño. Set aside.

  • Place rice in a fine mesh strainer and rinse under cold running water until water runs clear — about 1 minute and 30 seconds. Shake rice vigorously to remove excess water.

  • Heat oil in heavy bottomed oven-safe 12-inch straight-sided sauté pan or Dutch oven with tight fitting lid over low-medium heat for about two minutes. Drop a few rice grains in and — if they sizzle — then it is ready. Add rice and fry, stirring until rice is light golden and translucent, about 6-8 minutes. Be careful that the oil doesn’t get too hot too fast or the oil will splatter.

  • Reduce heat to medium, add garlic and two minced jalapeños and cook, stirring constantly until fragrant, about 1 minute and 30 seconds.

  • Stir in broth, pureed mixture, and salt. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to boil.

  • Cover pan and transfer pan to over to bake until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, 30-35 minutes. Stir well after 15 minutes.

  • Stir in cilantro, minced jalapeños to taste, and pass lime wedges separately.

Fajita stir fry


  • 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast.

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced.

  • 1 large red bell pepper, cut into strips.

  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced and separated.

  • 3 tablespoons lime juice.

  • 2 tablespoons oil.

  • 2 teaspoons cumin.

  • 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch.

  • Served with: flour tortilla, avocado, tomatoes, salsa, sour cream and cheese.


  • Cut chicken into one-inch strips that are 1/8 inches thick.

  • Place skillet on high heat. When hot, add one tablespoon oil and stir fry meat until browned.

  • Transfer meat to bowl.

  • Add one tablespoon oil to skillet and add garlic, onion and red pepper.

  • Stir fry until onion is soft, about three minutes.

  • Stir together cumin, lime juice and cornstarch, then add to skillet.

  • Return meat to pan and stir fry until mixture is hot and bubbles.

  • Transfer to bowl.

  • Serve in tortillas with garnishments.