My son was eating way too much of his favorite fast food — the Chicken Burrito Bol from Chipotle — and I set out to help him curb the habit.

First, the money approach.

By my estimations, he was spending $100 a month on the burritos alone, but when I pointed this out, he just shrugged. (Maybe my mom skills are lacking, but try controlling a starving teenage boy with a part-time job and a driver's license.)

Next, I aimed straight for the gut.

"Fast food is so unhealthy," I said.

"Not Chipotle," he shot back. "It's all natural."

Finally, I found the ammunition I needed at my son's second-favorite place (after Chipotle) — the Internet. The Web site Chipotlefan.com has a nutrition calculator that lets you plug in ingredients and toppings from Chipotle, and it tallies the calorie and fat content. (Check it out at www.chipotlefan.com/index.php?id=nutrition_calculator.)

The damage from my son's Chicken Burrito Bols? A grand total of 645 calories and 31 grams of fat each.

"Wow," he said. "That's a lot of fat."

I hate to be a spoilsport, so to make it up to him, I adapted a recipe from chipotlefan.com to construct a lower-calorie — and vastly cheaper — version of his favorite meal. We've served today's Copycat Chipotle Chicken to top off salads, quesadillas and nachos and as a filling for burritos. It's got a spicy kick that my son admits tastes similar to the real thing.

"Now just think of all the money you can save for college," I pointed out. My son rolled his eyes.

Menu suggestion: Copycat Chipotle Chicken

Salad greens with balsamic vinaigrette

Crusty rolls

COPYCAT CHIPOTLE CHICKEN

Start to finish: 5 minutes preparation, 8 to 24 hours marinating time, 10 to 12 minutes grilling time

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds), defrosted if frozen (see Cook's notes)

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 Knorr chipotle cubes or 2 teaspoons chili powder (see Cook's notes)

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon cumin powder

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Cook's notes: Chipotle uses thigh meat, which is higher in fat but more flavorful. If you can't find skinless thighs without bones, substitute boneless, skinless chicken breast or tenderloins, and test for doneness when cooking.

Knorr's chipotle cubes look like bouillon cubes and are sold in a small box.

Put the chicken in a gallon-size zipper-top plastic bag. Add the oil to the bag, seal it, and toss and turn the chicken pieces inside the bag until they are well coated.

Mix all of the spices in a small bowl, crushing the chipotle cubes with the back of a spoon. Add the spice mixture to the bag, seal it, and toss and rub the chicken through the bag to coat well with the spices. Refrigerate the chicken in the bag for at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours.

Heat a grill to about 400 F. Grill 5 to 6 minutes per side, until the chicken is cooked through but still tender. Remove from the grill and serve. (The chicken may be cut into bite-size chunks for use in burritos or other recipes.)

Makes 4 servings.

Approximate values per serving: 248 calories (54 percent from fat), 14.5 g fat (3.5 g saturated), 93 mg cholesterol, 26 g protein, 2 g carbohydrates, 1 g dietary fiber, 117 mg sodium.


Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross are co-authors of "Desperation Dinners!" (Workman, 1997), "Desperation Entertaining!" (Workman, 2002) and "Cheap.Fast.Good!" (Workman, 2006). Contact them at Desperation Dinners, c/o United Media, 200 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10016. Or visit the Desperation Dinners Web site at www.desperationdinners.com © United Feature Syndicate Inc.