What to do with breasts. Specifically chicken ones.

We eat a lot of chicken in our house. For a while, I almost always bought skin-on split chicken breasts because they’re easy to roast and use in a lot of different dishes. They are also pretty much the only chicken parts that Ina Garten’s recipes ever call for, and we know how I feel about her. (Side note: if you like Ina Garten, you need to Google Ina Garten memes – so funny)

I used to avoid buying boneless, skinless breasts unless I was making chicken cutlets. I never knew how to cook them without them being dry and boring. However, in my efforts to save a few bucks, I’ve been buying big packs of them, so I had to find some tasty ways to use them. Good news…I found some!

Caprese Chicken – I found this one on Pinterest and I love it because it has a ton of flavor and requires very little prep or chopping. I shave two or three minutes off the cooking time on the chicken and use regular mozzarella instead of buffalo because I’m strange and don’t like buffalo mozzarella.

On a whim, I bought this Balsamic Reduction glaze and it’s so good. The caprese chicken is perfectly delicious with regular balsamic vinegar, but when you can drizzle this sweet syrup on it, why wouldn’t you??

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One-Pan Chicken Burrito Bowl – Here’s another one I found on Pinterest. I loved it so much that I think I made it three times in the month after I found it. As the title indicates, you only use one pan, which makes clean up easy IF you don’t use heat that’s too high. The second time I made this I guess I left it simmering a bit too high and there was a whole layer of cooked rice stuck to the bottom of the pan. Ugh.

The other change I make to this recipe is that I swap out the can of diced tomatoes for a jar (or really three quarters of a jar) of salsa. It adds some extra flavors and with the huge variety of salsas on the market, you can really customize the recipe based on your taste.

Chicken Chili – This one comes from Dinner: A Love Story (a great place for solid recipes) and it’s another fast and easy one. When I read through the recipe for the first time, I saw four tablespoons of chili powder and thought, “whoa! That’s a lot of heat.” I like a little spice but not too much. To be safe I used two tablespoons and I thought that was plenty of heat.

I had serendipitously just bought Whole Foods Organic Fire Roasted Corn and it was PERFECT in this recipe. Obviously regular frozen corn is fine too, but the flavor from charred corn was delicious and added zero extra work. If you don’t have a Whole Foods nearby, I’m pretty sure Trader Joe’s carries a similar product.

5 Ingredient White Chicken Chili – yet another Pinterest find! It’s really more of a soup than a chili and it’s so fast and easy that I felt guilty just pouring everything in the pot and saying, “Ok, I made dinner!” The secret to this recipe is salsa verde. If you’ve never had it, it’s a very mild salsa and it’s delicious.

The base of the soup is only the salsa verde, chicken, chicken stock, cumin, and Great Northern Beans but then you can add so many delicious toppings at the end. I like cilantro, avocado, sour cream, cheddar, and broken up tortilla chips.

Do you have any go-to recipes for chicken breasts?

Get cooking!

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new recipes in the rotation

For many people 2013 was the year of quinoa and kale. I wish I could say that was true for me!  My year of cooking’s keywords would be ones like cream, braised meat, and pancetta on everything. This year I want to do more cooking but make fewer dirty dishes. Because you know what sucks at the end of a delicious meal? Doing the dishes.

Here are two meals that I made a lot last year. Try them and let me know how it goes. Or better yet, make them and invite me over. I’ll bring some wine and a crazy toddler.

chicken thighs

Crispy-skinned chicken thighs – Inspired by this recipe from Dinner: A Love Story, I have been making this (at least) once a week for the past month or two. I follow the recipe pretty closely but I omit the mushrooms and I add a veggie to cook in the pan after the chicken is done.

It doesn’t matter if the chicken thighs are boneless or not, but they definitely should NOT be skinless. I’ve been using grapeseed oil instead of olive oil for recipes like this because it has a high smoking point and is pretty flavorless (in a good way).

To add the veggies, after the chicken comes out of the oven, remove it from the pan and let it rest on another plate. In the mean time, add a veggie to the pan with the onions and thyme and saute for a few minutes. Spinach works perfectly because it wilts quickly. If you’re using something firmer like carrots, string beans, or French beans, you may want to blanch them ahead of time so they won’t be completely raw when you throw them in the pan. Brussels sprouts would be great too.

Pasta with arugula in a lemon cream sauce – Ina Garten really can do no wrong. This recipe is published in her cookbook Barefoot Contessa at Home and is a bit different from the web version because there is no broccoli mentioned in the book.

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I like to add cooked pancetta or prosciutto (bake it on a sheet pan at 375 for 8 minutes or so until crisp and then blot with paper towels to absorb any oil). I use gemelli pasta instead of fusilli because I illogically hate fusilli (almost as much as I hate rigatoni). The recipe calls for two cups of heavy cream and I’ve experimented with using half and half, or whole milk and heavy cream, and while it tastes pretty much the same, I find that using something other than cream gives a curdled quality to the sauce. It really tastes fine but the lemon juice reacts strangely and makes it a little lumpy. Also, don’t get freaked out if your garlic turns blue. It has to do with the acid in the lemon juice. It has only happened to me a few times but it was unsettling and made me think of Bridget Jones’s blue soup.

Chicken with Goat Cheese and Basil

One of the fastest, easiest meals to prepare is a split chicken breast stuffed with_______  (insert your favorite ingredients here). A split chicken breast is on the bone and roasting it that way helps keep the meat moist. Even if you’re being good and not eating the skin, it’s still important to buy the chicken breast with the skin on so that you have something to hold the stuffing in while it cooks.  When it’s done, you can decide to discard the skin (Oh, the horror!).

A delicious combination I saw featured in House Beautiful is goat cheese and basil. The original recipe comes from Ina Garten (big surprise) and can be found here.

When you cook goat cheese it loses some of the strong flavor so even if you’re not a huge fan, you may still like this. Matt doesn’t love GC like I do, so for his chicken breast I use half the amount and supplement it with part-skim ricotta cheese.

Ingredients:

1 skin-on, split chicken breast per person

2 slices of goat cheese, plain or herbed, per person (about 2 ounces per person)*

2 large basil leaves per person

black pepper and kosher salt

olive oil

*1-2 tablespoons part-skim ricotta cheese if you want to use less goat cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 and line a sheet pan with foil or parchment paper. This makes clean-up a lot easier!

Gently wiggle your fingers under the skin of the chicken breast  to make a pocket for the cheese. Place two pieces of goat cheese and two basil leaves under the skin of each chicken breast. Pour about a teaspoon of olive oil on each chicken breast and season generously with salt and pepper.

Cook for 35-40 minutes. Allow the meat to rest for about ten minutes before serving. Serve with your favorite veggies and enjoy!

Homemade Pesto

Pesto is delicious. Pesto is beautiful. Pesto purchased from the store is WAY overpriced. Make it yourself in under five minutes. For real, yo.

Oh! You need a food processor. If you don’t have one, you can come over and use mine. You just have to leave me half the pesto. It’s only fair.

I made Ina Garten’s pesto (big surprise there) and was really happy with it.

Ingredients:

1/4 cup walnuts

1/4 cup pine nuts (they’re very $$ but will last you a while)

3 tablespoons chopped garlic

5 cups fresh basil leaves

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon fresh black pepper

1 1/2 cups high quality olive oil

1 cup grated parmesan

Wash and dry all your basil.

Give the garlic a rough chop and place it in the food processor with the pine nuts and walnuts.

Process for 15 seconds and add the basil, salt and pepper.

Turn the processor on and slowly pour the olive oil in the feed tube. You may not need the whole 1.5 cups. It really depends on the consistency you like.

Add the parmesan and process for one more minute until everything is combined.

That’s it, boys and girls!

Your pesto is done.

You can warm it up with a few tablespoons of cream and toss with pasta and chicken. (Spaghetti was a bad choice!)

You can pour some over fish and add halved cherry tomatoes and lemons. Wrap the fish in little parchment packets and bake. Very delicious and pretty healthy. Cooking time will vary a lot depending on what type of fish you are using so do some Googling.

If you’re not using up all the pesto within a week, pour a little olive oil on top and stick the container in the freezer.

Go make pesto, pronto!