Menu Planning

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Spinach and Chicken Pasta Salad December 21, 2010

Filed under: Chicken,Main Dish,Salad,Vegan — bhrastich @ 12:43 am

Oh my, this is a favorite in our household. We don’t repeat recipes that often, but this one makes a somewhat regular appearance. This is more of a summer meal, but we love it so much we eat it year round. A couple years ago Pioneer Woman had a give away and to enter it you were supposed to leave your favorite recipe. So I went through a lot of the comments and cut and pasted them to try out. This is one of them. So I have no idea who this comes from. To the creator- many thanks!


1 lb bow tie pasta

10 oz fresh spinach

6 oz bag Craisins

2 15 oz cans mandarin oranges, drained

1/2 c. chopped cilantro

1/2 bunch green onions, chopped

6 oz honey roasted peanuts

2 c. cooked chicken, chopped

Dressing: (you can halve it)

1 cup vegetable oil

2/3 c bottled teriyaki sauce (I have found that I prefer a thicker version like LaChoy opposed to a thinner one Kikoman)

2/3 c. white wine vinegar

3 T sugar

1/2 t salt

1/2 t pepper

Cook pasta till al dente. Whisk dressing together in a large bowl while pasta is cooking and set aside. Once pasta is done, drain and add to dressing. Let marinate 2 hours or overnight. (I prefer overnight)

Add remaining ingredients to pasta and toss. Another option we do is mix everything except the spinach together and then place the spinach on the plate and top with the pasta. To veganize it, crumble some tempeh after broiling and marinate it in the dressing in a separate container and keep the chicken on the side.


Homemade Chipotle/Qdoba Burritos July 27, 2010

Filed under: Chicken,Main Dish,Sides — bhrastich @ 8:17 pm

This is a 3 part recipe and all 3 are essential. I saved this recipe for Saturday since I do my long runs then and I typically have little energy to think about what I plan on making for dinner, let alone make it! These recipes took very little effort and by the taste of the burrito, one would think much more effort was put into it.

First up: Sweet and Spicy Chicken

Use how ever many chicken breasts you think you will need and adjust ingredients accordingly, I used 3 and it was enough for our dinner and leftovers

Place the chicken in the bottom of the crock pot. In a small bowl, combine 1 can diced tomatoes, drained, 1/3 cup brown sugar and red pepper flakes. Pour over the chicken. Cover the slow cooker and cook on high for 4-6 hours or on low for 8-9 hours. Remove the chicken to a cutting board and shred with two forks. Return to the slow cooker and mix the chicken with the juices from the tomato/brown sugar sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Next time I think I will omit the red pepper flakes and subsitute a diced chipotle pepper for the spice.

Next up: Cilantro Lime Rice

1 cup long grain rice (I used Basmati and it worked beautifully)
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons water, divided
½ cup fresh cilantro
2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped

Combine the rice and 2 cups water  in a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat.  Bring to a boil, stir briefly, cover and reduce the heat to low.  Let cook, covered, until the water is absorbed and rice is fluffy and tender, according to package directions

While the rice is cooking, combine the cilantro, lime juice, olive oil, garlic and 2 tablespoons water in a blender or food processor.  Blend until smooth.  Stir the mixture into the cooked rice and fluff with a fork.  

 And finally: Spicy Citrus Black Beans

2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
pepper, chopped or minced (bell, Anaheim or jalapeno depending on your taste) (I think I used red bell pepper)
½-1 cup reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth (I used a full cup and think I would use closer to the 1/2c next time)
1½ tsp. dried oregano
2 bay leaves
½ tsp. salt
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 tsp. pureed chipotles in adobo
1½ tsp. ground cumin
¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
Juice of 2 limes (added lime zest – optional)
1 tbsp. white wine vinegar

 Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Sauté the onion and pepper until tender, about 5-7 minutes.   Add the garlic and sauté just until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Stir in the beans.  Mix in broth (more or less depending on how much liquid you would like) and bring to a simmer.  Mix in the oregano, bay leaves, salt, chipotle puree, cumin, orange juice, lime juice and vinegar.  Once simmering, reduce to medium-low or low and let simmer, covered, 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  

So to wrap it up…haha

Take a warm tortilla and layer the rice, then beans, then shredded chicken, a little sour cream if you desire or some shredded cheese. Wrap it up and enjoy. We had a good amount of left overs and they were gobbled up right away. I wonder if I could assemble these, wrap in seran wrap and freeze? Hmmmm. I can’t wait to make them again. Seriously so good. I really think it’s the rice that made them extra special. I love recreating restaurant favorites, maybe it’s because I can control the fat and calories that go into them, and keep my portion size in check, which makes it feel that much healthier, and probably cheaper!

I totally forgot to mention where I got these recipes. The Rice and Beans are from Annie’s of course and the chicken is from Sisters Cafe at


Herb Rubbed Chicken in Creamy Orzo July 12, 2010

Filed under: Chicken,Main Dish,Uncategorized — bhrastich @ 8:03 pm

Here’s another fab recipe from Annie’s Eats. I really need to post some recipes other than ones from Annie’s. Maybe one day I’ll get there. This meal is probably on my top 10. It’s rather easy and other than the Herbes de Provence, uses very basic pantry staples (well, I don’t usually have heavy cream, but it is an easy to find!) This is a great meal for any time of year and pairs well with a nice red wine. I’m making this one tonight, maybe I’ll even remember to take a picture and post later! …..don’t hold your breath!


Herb-Rubbed Grilled Chicken with Creamy OrzoIngredients:
8 oz. orzo pasta, uncooked
2 chicken breasts, butterflied into halves (4 pieces total)
Salt and pepper
2 tsp. Herbes de Provence
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes, with juices
2 cups broccoli florets
½ cup heavy cream
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese 

Bring a saucepan of salted water to boil.  Add the orzo and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, about 10 minutes.  Drain the pasta, reserving ½ cup of the pasta water. 

Season both sides of the chicken breast halves with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle evenly with the Herbes de Provence.  Heat the olive oil in a 12- or 14-inch skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken breast halves to the pan and cook about 3 minutes per side, until golden brown.  Reduce the heat to medium, add the shallot to the pan and sauté 2-3 minutes.  Add the garlic and sauté an additional minute, until fragrant.  Add the diced tomatoes with juices and the broccoli florets to the pan, scraping the bottom of the pan to remove any browned bits.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer over medium-low.  Cover and let cook until the broccoli florets are crisp-tender, about 10 minutes.  Stir in the cooked orzo, heavy cream and Parmesan cheese.  Mix until well blended and the cheese has melted.   If necessary, add some of the reserved pasta water to smooth out the sauce.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve immediately.


Great meal for a beautiful day April 12, 2010

Filed under: Chicken,Main Dish,Sides — bhrastich @ 11:43 pm

This is another meal idea from Annies Eats. Tequila Lime Grilled Chicken  with Beans. It was easy and yummy.

Tequila Lime Grilled Chicken over Black Beans
For the chicken:
1/4 cup tequila
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (2 limes)
1/4 cup freshly squeeze orange juice (half an orange)
1 tsp. chili powder
1 jalapeno pepper, ribbed, seeded and minced
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I did 4 chicken breasts and there was still plenty of marinade to cover)

For the beans:
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth
Cumin, fajita seasoning and cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper 
Dash of hot sauce 
1/2-3/4 cup frozen corn (I used from a can since I was out of frozen)

Combine the tequila, lime juice, orange juice, chili powder, jalapeno, garlic, salt and pepper in a bowl or zippered plastic bag.  Mix well; add the chicken breasts to the container.  Cover and refrigerate overnight, or at least 8 hours.   

When you are ready to cook the chicken, heat a grill to medium-high heat.  Oil the grates to prevent the meat from sticking.  Once the grill is heated, cook the chicken until nicely browned and cooked through, about 15-20 minutes.  (Alternatively, you can sear the chicken in a grill pan and then bake in a 350 degree F oven for about 10 minutes or until cooked through.  This is my preferred method for cooking chicken when I don’t feel like firing up the grill, or the weather is bad.)  Allow the chicken to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

While the chicken is cooking, prepare the beans.  Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and saute until translucent, about 5-7 minutes.  Add the garlic and jalapeno to the pan and saute for 1 minute more.  Add the black beans to the pan and cook for a few minutes until warmed through.  Pour in the chicken broth and bring to a simmer.  Season with cumin, fajita seasoning, and cayenne pepper to taste.  Adjust salt and pepper as needed.  Allow the mixture to simmer until most of the liquid has reduced.  Stir in the hot sauce and frozen corn, and cook 2-3 minutes more.  Divide the bean mixture between two serving plates and top with grilled chicken.  Garnish with lime wedges, if desired.

Source: chicken adapted from Ina Garten via Food Network

I don’t do the grilling in my family, but this one turned out a little dry due to the internal temp not registering to 180 degrees. The chicken never got up to 180, but it was clear that it was done. Wonder if we need a new meat thermometer? Anybody have a recommendation? Maybe that would be a good Father’s Day gift…. I still really liked the taste of the chicken and will try it again.

While at the grocery store today I found a package of mini yellow, orange and red sweet pepppers. I figured I would try them along with this meal as my sister had prepared them for us when we visited her in February. Seriously so easy and so good. 

No exact measurements:

After washing the peppers drizzle them with some Olive Oil, Coarse Kosher Salt, Pepper (I like Jane’s krazy mixed up seasonings- Original Mixed Up Pepper) and Balsamic Vinegar.  Place in a grill basket and grill till the skin is wrinkley and even a little (or a lot) blackened if you like .   So yummy! Zane cleared his plate which included 4 of these babies since he asked for seconds!


Chicken Gyros on Pita Bread March 29, 2010

Filed under: Chicken,Main Dish — bhrastich @ 8:39 pm
Tags: ,

The Pita part:

Pita Bread
Yield: 8 pitas

3 cups flour, plus 1/2-3/4 cup more as needed
1 ½ tsp. salt
1 tbsp. sugar or honey
1 packet instant yeast
1 ¼ to 1 ½ cups water, roughly at room temperature
2 tbsp. olive oil, vegetable oil, butter or shortening

Mix the yeast in with the flour, salt, and sugar.  Add the olive oil and 1 ¼ cup water and stir together with a wooden spoon.  All of the ingredients should form a ball.  If some of the flour will not stick to the ball, add more water. (I didn’t find that I needed any more)

Once all of the ingredients form a ball, place the ball on a work surface, and knead the dough for approximately 10 minutes. If you are using an electric mixer, mix it at low speed for 10 minutes.  As the dough is mixing, continue to add flour, a tablespoon or two at a time, until the dough clears the sides of the bowl and is tacky but not sticky.  (I add a significant amount of flour, so don’t be afraid to keep adding more until you reach the right consistency.)

When you are done kneading the dough, place it in a bowl that has been lightly coated with oil. Form a ball out of the dough and place it into the bowl, rolling the dough around so that it has a light coat of oil on all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp towel and set aside to rise until it has doubled in size, approximately 90 minutes.

When it has doubled in size, punch the dough down to release some of the trapped gases and divide it into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, cover the balls with a damp kitchen towel, and let them rest for 20 minutes. This step allows the dough to relax so that it will be easier to shape.

While the dough is resting, preheat the oven to 450°. If you have a baking stone, put it in the oven to preheat as well. If you do not have a baking stone, turn a cookie sheet upside down and place it on the middle rack of the oven while it is preheating. This will be the surface on which you bake your pitas.

After the dough has relaxed for 20 minutes, spread a light coating of flour on a work surface and place one of the balls of dough there. Sprinkle a little bit of flour on top of the dough and use a rolling pin or your hands to stretch and flatten the dough. You should be able to roll it out to between ¼ – 1/8” thick – 6 inches in diameter. If the dough does not stretch sufficiently, you can cover it with the damp towel and let it rest 5-10 minutes before trying again.

Place discs on a lightly greased baking sheet or parchment paper and let rise, uncovered, until barely doubled in thickness, about 30-45 minutes.

Open the oven and place as many pitas as you can fit on the hot baking surface. They should be baked through and puffy after 3 minutes. If you want your pitas to be crispy and brown you can bake them for an additional 3 to 5 minutes, but it isn’t necessary. (Mine took about 6 minutes, but weren’t crispy)

Source: Brown Eyed Baker

My notes on the Pita Bread:

I suck at making anything with yeast. These actually turned out and were quite yummy. Definitely better than the dry crap you buy at the store, although very time consuming. The jury is out as to if I will make them again. I’m guessing I will since I love gyros so much and I can’t imagine eatting one with the store bought crap unless I find something other than what I’ve had before.

On to the fun part!

The Tzaztiki sauce and Chicken part:

Chicken Gyros
For the tzatziki sauce:
16 oz. plain yogurt (not nonfat, if possible)
1/2 hothouse cucumber or 1 regular cucumber, peeled and seeded
2-3 cloves garlic, pressed through a garlic press (or finely minced)
1 tsp. white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Extra virgin olive oil

For the chicken:
4 cloves garlic, smashed
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 heaping tbsp. plain yogurt
1 tbsp. dried oregano
Salt and pepper
1 1/4 lbs. chicken pieces (I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts)

To assemble:
Pita bread
Fresh tomatoes, seeded and diced
Red onion, sliced thin

To make the tzatziki sauce, strain the yogurt using cheesecloth over a bowl.  Let strain for several hours or overnight, if possible, to remove as much moisture as possible. (I set the cheesecloth in a strainer and put that over a bowl and it worked really well.)

Shred the cucumber.  Wrap in a towel a squeeze to remove as much water as possible.  Mix together the strained yogurt, shredded cucumber, garlic, white wine vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, and lemon juice.  Drizzle lightly with olive oil.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to meld. (I added a bit more lemon juice to get the sauce to my liking)

To prepare the chicken, combine the garlic, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, olive oil, yogurt, oregano, and salt and pepper to taste in a medium bowl. (I skipped the s&p since the oregano will be all the seasoning you will taste, so why add more sodium?) Whisk together until mixed well.  Add the chicken pieces to the bowl and mix well to coat.  Cover and refrigerate for about 1 hour.

Cook the chicken as desired, either in the skillet or with the broiler.  (I butterflied the chicken breasts and then cooked them under the broiler.)  Once the chicken is completely cooked through, transfer to a plate and let rest for 5 minutes.   Cut into strips.

Source: adapted from Elly Says Opa

My notes on the sauce and chicken:

They were great! As noted I just added a bit more lemon juice to the sauce out of preference. Ok, I need to confess. I’ve only had gyros from my small little hometown before, so I don’t know how authentic they are, but I love them. This sauce is just like theirs, so it was a homerun in my book. But for the food snobs out there, I don’t know how these will compare. The gyros that I have had are also served with shredded lettuce and feta cheese. I think they would really be lacking without the cheese.

My notes within the recipe will be in this blue.

Both recipes are from