Salsa verde chicken & rice bake

I adore my 13-year-old, especially his sense of humor and flair for the dramatic. And yes, even the fact that he’s a chronic malcontent – a trait often showcased to its full effect using the previously aforementioned qualities.

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My son recently entered that phase every kid goes through: The need to get away from home into those far-flung pastures that obviously all are greener. (And the sphere of discontent continues to expand; the other day he said, “There just really isn’t anything to do in the United States.” True story.)

His culinary sense of adventure hasn’t quite caught up with the rest of him, however. In fact, we recently discussed how I’d like him to be – if not more daring – at least less picky. “Just because it isn’t your favorite food doesn’t mean you can’t still derive nourishment from it.”

Shrugging, my blasé child said, “There’s just nothing good to eat around here.” (Our grocery bills would indicate otherwise.) “There’s no good North Dakota food.”

The ensuing stare-down seemed to last forever. “Jack,” I said in my calmest voice. “There are pork carnitas with pico de gallo in the fridge. There is baked ravioli. There is chicken curry with basmati rice and flatbread.”

“See?” he said. “That’s what I mean. I just don’t like North Dakota food.”

After a second interminable stare-down – with bonus eye-roll – the kiddo wisely hopped up and said, “Guess I’ll try the carnitas. They didn’t smell too bad when you were cooking them.”

Faint praise indeed. But I’ll keep trying to expand my kiddo’s palate to include other North Dakota specialties, like this hot and hearty chicken and rice bake with a Tex-Mex spin – just like Great-Great-Great Grandma Alwina probably used to make when her family was settling the prairie.

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