Grilled Spinach Pesto Chicken

I’ve recently discovered that my entire family loves pesto. My husband has always liked it. I’m a bit late to the pesto game, only discovering how good it was a few years ago. My super picky 7-year-old just started liking it, and my almost 4-year-old has always liked it. Well, she used to love it, then she stopped loving most things. Now we are trying to get her back into her “eat anything” mode. 
 

One time, I made her pasta with pesto and I told her to just try it. She took a bite and I said, “See, that’s not bad at all!” She agreed with me and now she often requests that I make her “the pasta that’s not bad at all” :0)

What I love so much about this pesto is that it is mostly spinach. I also use walnuts (you can use any nut), which adds another layer of nutrition. I’ve made it before, but I’ll post the recipe again.

Spinach Pesto

In a blender, add the following (all eyeballed):

½ bag of prewashed baby spinach (about 3 oz or so)

1 big bunch of fresh basil

½ cup of walnuts

3-4 cloves garlic

½ cup parmesan cheese

Hefty pinch of salt & a sprinkling of pepper

Olive oil

Put everything in the blender. Start with about ½ cup olive oil and then you can add more as needed based on the consistency you want. 

 

Let the blender do its thing and ta-da! Pesto! Isn’t that green color gorgeous?!


You can use this in so many ways. For this meal, I cut two chicken breasts in half lengthwise to get four thinner pieces. Then I coated each piece in some of the pesto and let it marinade for about 20 minutes. You can do this longer, even overnight. You could also do this in a freezer bag and freeze the whole kit-n-caboodle. Then you’ll have premade pesto chicken ready whenever you want it.

 

When I was ready, I just grilled the chicken for about 7 minutes per side over medium-high heat.   

 

Serve with more pesto on top.

If I had mozzarella on hand, I think this would be delish with a couple tomato slices on top of the chicken, then place some sliced mozzarella and put the chicken under the broiler for a couple minutes until the cheese melts. Maybe even add a drizzle of balsamic glaze! Oh my mouth is watering already…

Chicken, Corn, and Black Bean Enchiladas

I’m always looking for ways to eat Mexican food in a healthier way. The flavors of Mexican cuisine are so yummy but eating out at Mexican restaurants usually isn’t the best for you. I find making it at home is a lot easier to control what ingredients you are using so you can still get the delicious flavors but without any unnecessary fat and extra calories. Plus, you can be sure that the ingredients you are using are less processed and much cleaner.

When I set out to make these enchiladas, I wanted to make chicken, but I was out. I, mean, who runs out of chicken?! Me, I guess. I always try to have frozen chicken breasts on hand in the freezer so I can always make something for dinner, even if it is just a pantry meal (chicken with whatever veggies we have on hand). Unfortunately, I wasn’t paying attention and I ran out without realizing it.

I almost just threw in the towel, but then I saw that we had some frozen veggie patties on hand. I’ve really been enjoying the Morning Star Farms Chipotle Black Bean Veggie Burgers. I wondered if I could chop those up and throw them in? I warmed them up so they were thawed enough to break apart and added the “burger” crumbles to the corn and black bean mix. 


Most of the ingredients in the patties were pretty much the same as what I had going on anyway, so it totally worked! They made for some really delicious enchiladas. You would never realize they were vegetarian. I will say, though, that because the patties had some of the flavors I was going for already in them, I did NOT include the can of diced green chiles mentioned in the recipe below. If I had just used regular chicken, I would have included that ingredient.

Chicken, Corn, and Black Bean Enchiladas

1 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed

½ bag of frozen corn

½ onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 cooked chicken breasts, shredded

½ tablespoon cumin

1 small can diced green chiles

Salt to taste

1 bottle enchilada sauce (or homemade)

6 corn tortillas (I used a corn/wheat blend tortilla I found at Trader Joe’s. low fat, low cal, and high in whole grains per serving. 

Low-fat shredded Mexican blend cheese

In a skillet with a little olive oil, sauté onions and garlic until soft. Add the corn and black beans and cook until the corn is softened.


Add the chicken, cumin, green chiles, and some salt. Continue cooking until warmed through. Sprinkle in about ½ cup of the shredded cheese and stir to combine.

 

Pour a little bit of the sauce in the bottom of a baking dish. Fill each tortilla and roll up carefully (corn tends to break easily. You can heat them up in a microwave with a wet paper towel to help with this.). Place each enchilada seam side down in the baking dish. Top with more enchilada sauce and cheese (however much or little you want).



Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.


Chicken Tortilla Soup

I’ve probably made chicken tortilla soup too many ways to count, but this one is by far the easiest. Also, my husband said this was the best chicken tortilla soup I’ve ever made, so, you know, it comes with raving reviews! 

When it comes to soups, I much prefer a thicker, creamier soup over a broth-based one. I’ll make an exception for French Onion. I’ve never really been a fan of chicken noodle, even. I find it pretty bland most of the time, and even “good ones” are boring to me. I do, however, love chicken tortilla. When done right, it boasts so much flavor. It’s total comfort food.

I’ve posted a version I made before on this blog, but like I said, this one is so incredibly easy, I had to share it. It’s also really healthy, so that’s more points in the plus column!

It wasn’t my intention to make this soup really spicy, but it was. You can adjust as necessary, for example using regular diced tomatoes in place of the fire roasted one since they usually come with green chiles in them. 

Also, I used baked blue corn tortilla chips: they contain 20% more protein than yellow or white, they are less starchy, they are a more complete protein source, and they have much lower glycemic index. Plus, their blue color comes from anthocyanins which are the same antioxidants found in berries. Need more? They have a sweeter, nuttier flavor than white or yellow corn as well. And they make your food look pretty. You should be able to find them anywhere.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

1 15oz can fire roasted tomatoes

1 poblano pepper, roasted, peeled, and seeds removed (if you don’t want to do all this, just use a small can of diced green chiles)

½ onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

olive oil

1 tablespoon chili powder

½ tablespoon cumin

Salt and pepper to taste

Vegetable broth, to texture preference

1 15oz can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 ½ cups roasted corn

2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded

In a skillet with some olive oil over medium heat, add your onions, garlic, chili powder, cumin, and a little salt and pepper and saute until soft and fragrant. Pour mixture into a blender and add the can of tomatoes (juice and all), the poblano, and the vegetable broth. I didn’t put an amount for the broth because it depends on how thick or thin you want your soup. Adjust as needed for your preferences. Blend until smooth.

In the same skillet you used for the onions and garlic, add a little olive oil over medium heat. Add your beans, corn, and chicken. Stir around until heated through and the corn isn’t frozen anymore. For the corn, I use the roasted corn from the freezer section at Trader Joe’s. You can always use fresh and char it up yourself, or you can just use regular frozen corn. It really doesn’t matter as long as it’s in there.

 

Add the chicken mixture to the tomato mixture and serve for a nice hearty soup! Top with some cheese and avocado and tortilla chips.

Healthy, Multipurpose Turkey Meat Sauce

OK, so this is my adaptation of a recipe I found a while ago (I can’t remember where). I do remember, though, that the original recipe called this little concoction sloppy joes. I could easily see how this would work perfectly for sloppy joes. The first time I made it, I actually served it over a baked potato and that was pretty delicious. The leftovers have been eaten over pasta and even on their own as-is. That’s why I consider this a “Multipurpose” sauce.

No matter how you decide to eat this, you can know that it will be really yummy and healthy, which is the most you can ask for in a meal.

2 tablespoons olive oil 

1 small onion, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 carrot, chopped small

3 cloves garlic, minced

1-1/2 pounds ground turkey

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon onion powder

½ cup ketchup (preferably organic. Easily found at trader joe’s)

1 8oz can tomato sauce (no added sugar or sodium, preferably)

Water

salt and pepper to taste

In a skillet over medium heat, saute the onions, bell pepper, and carrot in olive oil until softened. Add the garlic and continue cooking until all the veggies are soft and fragrant.

Add the ground turkey to the skillet with a heavy pinch of salt and some pepper. Cook until no longer pink.  

I forgot to take a picture so pretend there isn’t tomato sauce in the skillet already. 🙂


 

Mix in the garlic and onion powders, ketchup, and tomato sauce. Fill up the tomato sauce can with some water and add that.

Bring the mixture to a boil for a minute or so, then cover and let simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Serve in whatever way makes your taste buds dance with joy!

Healthy Creamy Chicken Enchiladas 

So if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of kitchen gadgets. While I definitely have a special place in my heart for seemingly needless gadgets that only serve one purpose and are a bit ridiculous (I’m talking to you, avocado pitter/slicer that I never use but can’t bring myself to get rid of), my heart goes all aflutter for multipurpose gadgets. I mean serious multipurpose. Like LOTS of things.
Enter: The Instant Pot.

Apparently this is a thing that has been around for a while now. I thought it was new, but the more I research recipes, I find bloggers have been raving about this little R2D2 looking gadget for years now. Like usual, I’m late to the party. But no matter, I’m here now. I’m one of them. The Instant Pot People. And if you’re not careful, you could be one too.

Not that I would ever caution against getting one. They are the best. I got mine for Christmas and I am mind boggled at how well it works. Each thing I’ve made so far, I always look at my husband and say “There’s no way it’s done, right?” And each time it is done. Perfectly.

The first thing I made was hardboiled eggs. I just filled up the little trivet they give you, added a cup of water and set the timer for 3 minutes. No, that’s not a typo, people. THREE MINUTES. The eggs were perfectly hard boiled and best of all, they peeled like a dream! No more mangled eggs!

The Instant Pot is a 7-in-1 Pressure Cooker with approximately 1,254,765 uses. I still have a lot to learn, but it’s going to be fun!

For this dish, I made the chicken portion in the Instant Pot. If you don’t have one, you can use a slow cooker or even do it on the stove top or in the oven. Or beat us all with the ultimate time saver and buy one of those rotisserie chickens from the grocery store.

Creamy Chicken Enchiladas

4-5 chicken breasts (depending on size)

2 16 oz jars of salsa verde

¼ cup plain, nonfat greek yogurt

1-2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese

8 whole grain tortillas (I like the La Tortilla Factory Low Carb Whole Wheat Tortillas)

In a Pressure Cooker, add your chicken breasts and a jar of salsa. Set it manually, on high, for 7 minutes. (Yep. Seven whole minutes, you guys). When it’s done, do a quick release and remove the chicken.


Shred your chicken and add to a bowl. Mix in a few big ladle-fuls of the cooking liquid, the greek yogurt, and ½ the cheese.

Warm up your tortillas in some wet paper towels so they are more pliable. Fill each tortilla with the chicken mixture and roll up. Don’t be shy here. Place seem side down in a 9×13 baking dish. Make sure to pour a thin layer of the salsa verde on the bottom of the dish first.

 

After all the enchiladas are in the dish, pour the rest of the salsa over the top and sprinkle the rest of the cheese. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes, then turn on the broiler for about 5 minutes until the cheese is all ooey gooey and starting to get a little golden brown on top.


That’s it! So easy, right? And pretty healthy too. I mean, there’s a little cheese in there, but everything in moderation, right? I’m not made of stone, people.

Veggie-Full Turkey Meatloaf Cups

I always know when my husband gets a certain look on his face after taking a bit of something new I made for him. I know in that first bite that I found a winner of a recipe. That’s what happened with these meatloaf cups.

I know what you’re thinking. Meatloaf? What’s so great about meatloaf? And with turkey? Oh, just wait until you try these. My husband immediately requested they get entered into the regular dinner rotation.

Meatloaf can easily become dried out, especially when it’s made of turkey, but these little cups were so tender and so moist. Totally the opposite of dried out meatloaf. They were full of flavor and healthy veggies, and they were super easy. It’s perfect for a weeknight because when you make them in the little cups, you cut down on the cooking time.

Do you need even more reasons to try these? You can make them ahead of time and they are freezer friendly. Boom. Done. Make them.

Now, for the recipe. This is an adaptation of a Bobby Flay recipe I came across randomly on Food Network.

Veggie-Full Turkey Meatloaf Cups

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 zucchini, diced small

4 or 5 mini sweet peppers, diced small

½ onion, diced small

3 cloves of garlic, minced

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper

1 ½ pounds lean ground turkey

1 egg

2 teaspoons ground thyme

1 cup panko bread crumbs

½ cup grated parmesan cheese

4 oz can of mild green chiles

¾ cup ketchup

¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

In a skillet, heat the olive oil. Then saute the zucchini, peppers, garlic, and onion until soft. Add a pinch or so of salt and the red pepper flakes while sauteeing. Remove from the heat and set aside to start to cool slightly.

 

In a bowl, add your turkey, egg, thyme, panko, cheese, chiles, ½ cup of the ketchup, 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, and the sautéed veggies. Add another heavy pinch of salt and some pepper. Mix until all the ingredients are combined evenly.

 

Divide the meat mixture evenly into the cups of a muffin pan. I didn’t spray the cups first and each one came out perfectly fine. You can also make this as a big loaf, but you will need to increase your cooking time to about an hour and fifteen minutes or so.

Once the meat is divided up, brush on a coat of the balsamic glaze, which is just the remaining ¼ cup of ketchup and ¼ cup of balsamic vinegar whisked together.

Bake at 450 for 20-25 minutes. I checked one at 20 minutes to make sure it was done and it was perfect.

 

Let them sit for a few minutes; it will make it easier to take them out of the cups.

 

These reheat really well, so I could easily see making a big batch of these for premade lunches and dinners. You could even make a bunch and freeze them and just pull out however many you need at a time. They are proportioned, which is really nice.

Butternut Squash Chili 

At the risk of jinxing it all, it finally feels like Fall here in Southern California! I’m so happy that it’s finally cool enough for scarves and boots and sweaters. I mean, we still don’t get the leaves changing or anything like you see other places, but I’ll take it! Hopefully the 85/90 degree days are over for now.


Fall weather also means yummy, comforting Fall foods, like chili. You are all probably going to get sick of me posting chili recipes (like this one… and this one… and this one…), but let’s be honest. Chili is such a perfect cold-weather dinner. It’s also perfect for feeding a crowd and you can make it in your slow cooker. And you can pretty much just dump everything into the pot and leave it alone until it’s done. It’s such a lazy meal, but the results are always so scrumptious and satisfying. And, if you make it right, it can be a really healthy meal too.

This particular version actually started off as a vegetarian chili, but we had about ½ pound of ground beef that I needed to use, so I just threw it in here. You can easily leave it out and keep it vegetarian friendly, though. It’s so flavorful, no one would miss the beef, I promise. 

I was pretty bad at measuring for this one (sorry!) so I’ll give you approximates. What’s so nice about chili, is you can put in more or less of all the ingredients based on what you like. Chili recipes are more methods than hard and fast rules. 

Chipotle Butternut Squash Chili

serves 8-10* 

*not exaggerating

2 Tablespoons olive oil (since I added ground beef to mine, I didn’t use any oil)

2 bell peppers, diced small 

1 small onion, diced small

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 butternut squash, cubed (shortcut: buy the pre-cubed squash. It will make your life so much easier)

1 15 oz can black beans, drained

1 15 oz can kidney beans, drained

1 15 oz can diced tomatoes

1 tablespoon cumin

1 tablespoon chili powder

2 chipotle peppers

2 tablespoons adobo sauce

1 ½ cups vegetable broth (or chicken broth is fine too)*

¼ cup cornmeal*

Salt to taste

*optional. I’ll explain below.

I made this in my slow cooker, but you can just as easily do it on the stove top. You prep it the same way, you just keep it on a low simmer for a few hours, stirring regularly.

If your slow cooker doesn’t have an insert that can be used on a stove top, just use a pan for the saute part and transfer it to the slow cooker insert. Mine can be used on the stove top, so that’s how I’ll write my instructions. OK, finally we get to it!

 

Over medium heat, add your olive oil, bell peppers, onion, and garlic. Add a little salt and saute until soft. (I omitted the oil and browned my beef instead. Then added the veggies). Then add your squash, beans, tomatoes, cumin, chili powder, chipotle peppers, adobo sauce (that the peppers come in), broth and a little more salt (to taste).


Please keep in mind that the chipotles and adobo are very spicy. I found this dish to be VERY spicy, so add more or less depending on how spicy you like things. You can always add more later.

Set your slow cooker to low for 8-10 hours (or high for 4 to 6). The longer this sits, the better it tastes, so don’t worry too much about the time.

Let me explain the cornmeal really quick before we finish this up. I checked the chili when there was about 2 hours left. It seemed really watery to me, so I added some cornmeal to thicken it up. It worked and it was delish. I would think that you could also just lessen the amount of broth you add so you don’t need the cornmeal. I only put the broth in because it seemed like it needed it at the beginning.


When you are ready to serve, just fill up your bowls and top with your favorite chili toppings!