Honey Balsamic Chicken

It’s the new year and I have resolved to eat healthy – again – for about the 100th year in a row. Anyone else with me on this? Granted, I don’t eat terribly but I’m not as consistent as I’d like to be. But some meals make eating a healthy diet much easier. For example, I saw a video for Honey Balsamic Chicken on Facebook and a couple of days later this pin for the recipe by TipHero (inspired by Chungah of Damn Delicious) popped up on my Pinterest feed, too. They do seem to copy her recipes quite a bit, so if you’re not following Damn Delicious yet you just might want to.

Pintesting Honey Balsamic Chicken

I really like the idea of a whole meal made on one sheet pan in the oven. (Hooray for fewer dishes!) I also like that the recipes used a variety of vegetables.

It’s worth noting that there were a few slight differences in the two recipes.

  1. The TipHero recipe uses green beans while the Damn Delicious recipe uses asparagus. We love asparagus in our home, so that’s what we went with.
  2. The honey balsamic marinade recipes had a few differences. TipHero’s used thyme, rosemary, and chili flakes while the Damn Delicious recipe used Dijon mustard, oregano, and basil.
  3. Chungah’s recipe also took less time to make – a big plus in my book.
  4. The TipHero recipe pours the marinade over the chicken and veggies prior to roasting; Damn Delicious didn’t. I went with TipHero on this step. More flavor is more better. (I beg forgiveness from the grammar police for that.)

The Pintesting:

I didn’t get a photo of all of the ingredients this time. What can I say? I was hungry. Fortunately, there aren’t a lot of ingredients.

The first thing that I did was to make the marinade. I used a short-cut here and just dumped all of the marinade ingredients into the bag that the chicken came in and squished it until it was mixed, tossing the chicken in the marinade at the same time. Since my chicken breasts were still somewhat frozen I thought I’d let it defrost and soak up the flavor all at once. Also, since it’s just my HH and me I only used one whole chicken breast (two halves). This worked for us since the chicken breasts are very large and we like lots of veggies.

Pintesting Honey Balsamic Chicken

While the chicken defrosted, I lined the pan with parchment and prepped the vegetables.

Quarter the potatoes then add the tomatoes. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) and season with salt and pepper.

Pintesting Honey Balsamic Chicken

Put the chicken on the pan and drizzle the remaining marinade on the veggies.

Pintesting Honey Balsamic Chicken

Roast for about 20 minutes then add the asparagus (I drizzled the asparagus with a little more extra virgin olive oil), then roast it for another 10 minutes. This was my timing compromise between the two recipes.

You don’t want to eat undercooked chicken! When in doubt check the internal temperature with an instant-read thermometer. For chicken, this should be 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Pintesting Honey Balsamic Chicken

Done! Your dinner is done and the only dirty dishes are one pan, one cutting board, and one knife. Join me in the happy dance?

Pintesting Honey Balsamic Chicken

The chicken was juicy and flavorful. The tangy-sweet acidity of the tomatoes, starchy creaminess of the potatoes, and the bright crispy asparagus complimented each other, and the marinade brought it all home. YUM!

Pintesting Honey Balsamic Chicken

And now I have to say this. WINNER! WINNER! CHICKEN DINNER!

The Pintesting Results:

Overall Results:  4.85 Pins

Pintesting - 5 Pins Overall Rating

Accuracy:  This recipe was as simple as the TipHero video showed it to be even though I followed Chungah’s recipe. 5 Pins

Pintesting Rating - 5 Pins

Difficulty:  This recipe was very simple – perfect for novice cooks. The prep work was minimal and the marinade made everything taste wonderful. 5 Pins

Pintesting Rating - 5 Pins

Time:  The active time to prep and cook the recipe was 40 minutes. The chicken requires time to marinade (30 minutes to overnight). I did this ahead of time and let it marinade all afternoon. While it isn’t active cooking time, it’s still necessary to make the recipe turn out so I’m giving this 4 Pins.

Pintesting Rating - 4 Pins

Cost:  The cute little potatoes and grape tomatoes were both buy-one-get-one-free at the store when I got them. (I love shopping sales!) The total cost of all the main ingredients (not deducting for the sales) was $12.00. Even though we used only 2 chicken breast halves, we had 4 meals making this $3.00/serving. 5 Pins

Pintesting Rating - 5 Pins

Practicality:  This is the kind of home cooking I could eat every week. It was simple, delicious, and planning ahead with the marinade made quick work of the cooking. Perfect for busy weeknights! You could experiment with using different kinds of vegetables such as green beans, carrots, Brussels sprouts, or whatever your family likes. You can also switch up the marinades – try the TipHero version for a more traditional herbed chicken flavor. This will be a regular in our menu rotation. 5 Pins

Pintesting Rating - 5 Pins

Chicken Gnocchi Soup (Olive Garden Copycat)

Some of the best things in life can come from the most random and unexpected places. For example, a couple of weeks ago some colleagues and I were talking about Pinterest while sitting around the lunch table. I had mentioned the Olive Garden Copycat Minestrone Soup recipe that you make in a crock pot. Two of them piped up and mentioned the Olive Garden Chicken Gnocchi Soup – how it was the best thing EVER. Did I like it?

*Cricket. Cricket. Cricket.*

How had I missed this? I’ve eaten at the Olive Garden more times than I can count, but can’t remember seeing this on the menu, much less having had this soup. “Well, can’t you find a recipe on Pinterest?” And of course I did in about 2 seconds. This Pin by Reeni of Cinnamon Spice & Everything Nice came to the top of the search list.

Chicken Gnocchi Soup - Original Pin

Fast forward to Mother’s Day. My girls are on the other side of the country and the handsome hubby had to work. This year I was on my own, so I did what I wanted to do without any guilt. I thought about this soup and decided that it’s what I wanted for my Mother’s Day supper (along with a pitcher of Sunset Sangria – post to follow).

Wait, did someone ask, “what’s gnocchi”??? Gnocchi is this wonderful pasta made from potatoes that cooks into fluffy light clouds of pillowy pasta perfection. I went shopping and found this gnocchi at my Super Target. It was in the pasta aisle along with the rest of the Archer Farms brand pastas. I was lucky enough to hit the jackpot of savings that day; it was on sale, there was a Cartwheel discount, and I used my Red card. I love getting a good deal!

Chicken Gnocchi Soup - Gnocchi

Here are the rest of the ingredients. Reeni suggested using a rotisserie chicken, so that’s what I did. I used the breast meat for the soup, and the rest went to other uses.

Chicken Gnocchi Soup - Ingredients

 

I regret to say that I made the soup and forgot to take the pictures. The good news is that it was such a basic soup recipe that I know you can do this. Heat the butter and olive oil, saute and season the aromatics, make a roux, add liquids and chicken, then the cooked gnocchi and spinach.

This is what it looked like in the pot when I remembered to grab a picture.

Chicken Gnocchi Soup - Soup

This is what it looked like in the bowl topped with fresh grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

Chicken Gnocchi Soup - Done

And THIS is what it looked like with the garlic bread, salad, and Sangria. Happy Mother’s Day to me!

Chicken Gnocchi Soup - Supper Served

The taste was AMAZING! I completely agree with my work friends. The soup was creamy and rich, but not heavy. The gnocchi was light and almost creamy. It was so good that the handsome hubby had two and a half bowls.

So now for the Pintesting Results…

Overall Results: 4.55 Pins

5 Pins Overall

 

Accuracy: Having never had the original soup, I’m basing this solely on Reenie’s recipe and her blog description. “It doesn’t matter if you’ve eaten this soup before or not. You’re bound to like it. It’s the kind of soup that hugs you from the inside out and the outside in.” The soup was restaurant quality, flavorful, and surprisingly easy to make. 5 Pins

Rated 5 Pins

Difficulty: This is a simple soup recipe, as stated above. The “worst” part, if you can call it that, was cooking the gnocchi in a separate pot. Many soup recipes have you to cook the pasta/noodles/rice/etc. in the soup. I have a feeling that due to the cream, it would have made the gnocchi heavy instead of fluffy. This would be a good recipe for a culinary novice. 4 PinsRated 4 Pins

Time: Reeni gave a prep time of 20 minutes and cook time of 45 minutes. My prep time was about 10 minutes, perhaps because I cooked the gnocchi while the rest was cooking, and I used a rotisserie chicken? Start to finish I made the soup in about 30-35 minutes. 4 Pins

Rated 4 Pins

Cost: The most expensive ingredient for this recipe was the rotisserie chicken, which I got in the cold deli section, at a cost of less than $6. I only used the breast meat, so figure about half of that. I already mentioned that I hit the savings jackpot on the gnocchi. The recipe made enough soup for supper plus a couple days of lunch leftovers. 4 Pins

Rated 4 Pins

Practicality: This is a delicious soup that’s hearty enough to serve for supper with a salad and bread (as I did), but light enough that it can be served as a soup course if you’re entertaining with a multi-course meal. It came together easily and didn’t require any special equipment or cooking skills, and you don’t have to run to the Olive Garden every time you get a craving. 5 Pins

Rated 5 Pins

***Just a note: I received no compensation from the Olive Garden or Target. All opinions are my own.***

 

 

 

Salad Swag: 3 Cures for the Common Salad

Bringing your lunch to work is a great way to save money and eat healthy. If the thought of taking your own lunch brings images of bologna sandwiches, bruised fruit, and pre-packaged “pastry” – think again! Bento lunches are all the rage. Sandwiches, wraps, and flatbreads have had healthy and delicious overhauls. Even packaging has improved, allowing for more and better options.

When I saw this pin for Salad Swag: 3 Cures for the Common Salad from the folks at The Kitchn, I knew this would be a great lunch test.

Salad Swag - Original Pin

The Pin linked via Kelly’s blog and site, It’s not Just Lunch. If you need some ideas for lunches and packaging, Kelly is a FANTASTIC resource. Her blog has lots of recipes and ideas, as does her cookbook, and she has links for not only her own lunch packaging system (can you say successful “momtrepreneur”?) but also other bento and lunch ideas.

BONUS TEST: Two of the salads call for chopped fresh fruit (pear and apple). Since I like my job, and they frown upon bringing a knife to work, I went with the tip given for keeping the fruit from turning brown; store it in a bit of water.

I chopped the fruit (pear pictured).

Salad Swag - Cut Pear - Pintesting

…Put it in a small container, and covered with water.

Salad Swag - Cover with Water - Pintesting

This was a good way to keep the fruit from turning brown, and it did not turn mushy.

Salad Swag - Keep from browning - Pintesting

The only down side is that it’s a bit awkward to drain if using a single-unit container like in The Frenchie Lentil. It was a lot easier draining the apples in the lunch system I used for The Bleu Apple. Read on to see the details.

Back to salads – three of them! Rather than post a pile of ingredients for all three salads, I’ll show each one individually.

NOTE: none of these recipes have measurements, so I eyeballed the pictures and went for a rough estimate.

* THE FRENCHIE LENTIL

This salad calls for cooked lentils, rough chopped hazelnuts, chopped fresh pear, crumbled feta, arugula, and balsamic vinaigrette.

Salad Swag - The Frenchie Lentil - Original

I took my pictures at the lunch table at work.

Salad Swag - The Frenchie Lentil - Pintesting

Although the photo isn’t as fancy, the plated product looked nice and tasted nicer. You can also see how draining the pears would be more difficult with a single-unit container. I also put the dressing in a separate container to make it easier to pour on the salad and make clean-up a bit easier.

Salad Swag - The Frenchie Lentil Served - Pintesting

I would not have thought of putting lentils in a salad, but I’m glad that The Kitchn did. They added a heartiness and meatless protein. The nuts gave a nice texture contrast and added to the protein, keeping me full all afternoon. The pears added a hint of sweet which played nicely against the saltiness of the feta. A filling and delicious salad that was perfect for lunch.

* THE BLEU APPLE

This salad calls for chopped apple, bleu cheese crumbles, cooked and cooled pearl barley, chicken breast, baby spinach, and lemon vinaigrette.

Salad Swag - The Bleu Apple - Original

I made a couple of changes – some accidental – with my lunch. I used leftover shake and bake chicken breast on my salad (rather than get another pan dirty at 0-dark-thirty in the morning). When I picked up the bleu cheese at the store, I accidently grabbed crumbled goat cheese and didn’t notice until I was packing the lunch. Goat cheese it is. Finally, when I went to make the vinaigrette, my lemons were bad. *sigh* Creamy balsamic vinaigrette.

Salad Swag - The Bleu Apple - Pintesting

On this day I used the Rubbermaid Lunch Blox Sandwich Kit. This lunch system comes with four containers and an ice-pack cooler that all snap together whichs keep things from falling all over my lunch bag and organized. Because the containers are all separate, it made draining the apples much easier and the dressing had it’s own container, too. The one “side” container that you don’t see held a small piece of leftover cake. Since it’s not part of the recipe I left it out of the picture.

Salad Swag - The Bleu Apple Served - Pintesting

The combination was still fantastic. The apple was crisp and sweet (but not too much so). The goat cheese was creamy and added a nice tanginess. The pearl barley was chewy and hearty – a nice addition to a salad. The chicken was, well, chickeny. The creamy balsamic dressing tied everything together very nicely. It was another great lunch.

* THE HAWAIIAN

This salad calls for pineapple, almonds, bacon, chickpeas, baby kale, and ranch dressing.

Salad Swag - The Hawaiian - Original

 

I used canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed, and substituted the rest of the bag of baby spinach. Waste not, want not.

Salad Swag - The Hawaiian - Pintesting

This was the hardest to get to lunch, because the bacon kept disappearing. I have no idea how it happened. Let’s just say I’m thankful my salad got some.

Salad Swag - The Hawaiian Served - Pintesting

 

Once again, this salad played a symphony of tastes. The sweet, juicy pineapple was a lovely contrast to the crispy, salty bacon. The chickpeas were creamy in contrast to the crunchy almonds. And the coolness of the ranch dressing brought it all home.

Each one of these salads was delicious, filling, and anything but boring. I had enough leftovers of ingredients to make The Frenchie Lentil again for lunch, and even made The Bleu Apple for a light late supper for two.

Now for the Pintesting Results:

Overall Rating: 5 Pins

5 Pins Overall

Accuracy: All three of the salads were extremely flavorful and filling. There were no measurements given, which nearly brought it down to 4 pins, but I like that you can modify the salad to your own tastes. Even though I had a few substitutions of my own, everything was delicious. 5 Pins

Rated 5 Pins

Difficulty: Some of the salads required a bit of prep work such as cooking and cooling lentils, pearl barley, or chicken, chopping fruit or nuts, etc. Not as easy as opening a salad kit, but definitely not hard. 4 Pins

Rated 4 Pins

Time: Each salad requires something with a cooking time of 20-30 minutes; lentils, pearl barley, or bacon. The chicken breast can be cooked on a George Foreman Grill in about 10 minutes. The rest is quick work. 4 Pins

Rated 4 Pins

Cost: These are restaurant quality salads that you would cost about $10 in most moderately priced chain restaurants. Each salad had a variety of ingredients, but most would make more than one salad. The Bleu Apple was the most expensive salad due to the chicken; roughly $4.50. The Frencie Lentil and Hawaiian both came in at $4.00 each. That’s what you’d pay for a Mc Fast Food lunch, only you’re getting a healthy, nutritious and delicious lunch that won’t make you feel guilty. 4 Pins

Rated 4 Pins

Practicality: These salads are easy to make ahead and have ready for the week. They’re a cost effective way to bring your lunch that’s anything but boring. 5 Pins

Rated 5 Pins

 

 

 

 

 

Crock Pot Spicy Buffalo Ranch Chicken

Does anyone else have a busy life? Dumbest. Question. Ever. Trying to balance all of life’s aspects requires about 32 hours a day, but we only get 24. That’s why I LOVE crock pot cooking. It’s a HUGE time saver! Simply dump (or carefully layer) the ingredients into the magical appliance, turn it on, and walk away. Hours later I come home to a house that smells amazing and dinner (or supper, depending on where you are in the world) is DONE! I have some family favorite recipes but am always on the lookout for something new. I found such a recipe while perusing through Pinterest and spotted this pin for Crock Pot Spicy Buffalo Ranch Chicken from Tammilee’s Tips. Three ingredients that look like a cross between BBQ Chicken in texture and Buffalo Chicken in taste.

THREE INGREDIENTS – I’m in! Let’s try this.

The Pintesting:

http://www.tammileetips.com/2013/01/crock-pot-spicy-buffalo-ranch-chicken/

So here are the ingredients; chicken, buffalo sauce, and ranch mix.

Pintesting Crock Pot Spicy Buffalo Ranch Chicken

Dump everything into the crock pot.

Pintesting Crock Pot Spicy Buffalo Ranch Chicken

Turn it on low, then walk away. For those who have an aversion to leaving a kitchen appliance on all day – especially if you’re not home to watch it (yes, I know you’re out there and it’s okay), just put the crock pot on your stove top. I have a friend who just couldn’t leave a crock pot on her counter to cook while she was gone to work. When I suggested this, it made everything okay and she started making crock pot meals 3-4 times a week. Don’t ask or question, just do it.

After you get home (6-8 hours later), it will look like this.

Pintesting Crock Pot Spicy Buffalo Ranch Chicken

Shred the chicken. I used the two carving forks that came with my knife set because of their long handles which allowed me to shred it in the crock pot without getting my hands too close to the food or the hot sides.

Pintesting Crock Pot Spicy Buffalo Ranch Chicken

There, the chicken is DONE! Since this is buffalo chicken, I wanted a side that would balance the spiciness. What could be better than the traditional carrots and celery with ranch? How about a coleslaw salad with lots of carrots and celery and a ranch-slaw dressing? YES! So here’s my non-recipe recipe.

Pintesting Crock Pot Spicy Buffalo Ranch Chicken

One bag of coleslaw, about half of a bag of shredded carrots, and 3-4 stalks of celery chopped small.

Pintesting Crock Pot Spicy Buffalo Ranch Chicken

For the dressing, I used equal parts of coleslaw dressing and ranch dressing.

Pintesting Crock Pot Spicy Buffalo Ranch Chicken

Toss it all together and serve. That’s 5 minutes for a super yummy salad!

Pintesting Crock Pot Spicy Buffalo Ranch Chicken

We’re trying to lose some weight in my family, so when I asked if the chicken should be served with or without the buns, the unanimous response was without. Here’s our supper, and I have to say it was amazing! Tons of flavor with a nice balance between the coolness of the slaw and the heat from the chicken. It makes a lot, so it’s perfect for sharing. The next time I make this, I will try making buffalo tacos with the combo. Now, for the Pintesting results.

 

The Pintesting Results:

Overall Results: 4.85 Pins

Pintesting Seal 5 Pins

Accuracy:  This captured the fun of Buffalo Wings, but in a form that’s easy to cook and serve without the messy fingers and moist towelettes. My husband and I don’t like lots of heat, so we used the regular buffalo sauce rather than the extra hot. I’d try mild if I could find it. If it’s still too much for your heat index, then try substituting a little barbecue sauce or add a bit of brown sugar. Even though it was spicier than just about anything we usually cook, we couldn’t stop eating – it was that good. 5 Pins

Rated 5 Pins

Difficulty:  Three ingredients, dump, walk away, shred, eat, good. Folks, it doesn’t get much easier than that. 5 Pins

Rated 5 Pins

Time:  I struggled with this because on the one hand, the prep was almost nonexistent. I literally dumped the bag of frozen chicken breasts into the crock pot, poured the bottle of buffalo sauce on top, then sprinkled the ranch mix. Two minutes tops. Once I got home, it took about 3 minutes to open the lid and shred the chicken. That’s 5 minutes, which would normally get 5 Pins. On the other hand, I feel like I have to account for the 8 hours of cook time while I was at work, which would normally get about 2-3 Pins if you were actively cooking for that length of time. I decided to go between the two, and look at it similarly to required chilling time. It’s necessary, but you’re not doing anything so I’m giving this 4 Pins.

Rated 4 Pins

Cost:  The chicken breasts were about $6.50 for the bag and by far the most expensive ingredient. Total cost was about $10.00. But since this makes a lot of food, and will serve a family of 4 with plenty of leftovers, I’m giving it 5 Pins.

Rated 5 Pins

Practicality:  Any crock pot meal is very practical for busy weekdays. The lack of chopping or other prep work makes this recipe even easier to throw together. It would also be PERFECT for a Super Bowl party. This would be great for any kind of party! 5 Pins

Rated 5 Pins