I thought I would debut with a recipe my friend Heather and I got together and made. It is Italian Herb Chicken served with Pasta in Homemade Tomato and Pepper Sauce with Broccoli. Again, if you wish to omit something from your recipe, that is understandable, especially for this one. I KNOW a lot of people are against pasta when you're trying to "eat healthy" but in MODERATION pasta is a way to get your necessary daily intake of the carbohydrates you need! Just stick to WHOLE WHEAT PASTA like in this recipe and you'll be fine!
Just a side note, some whole wheat pastas look like white pasta after they are cooked, just like this one. It depends on the type of pasta and the brand you're using.
Here is your shopping list:
- ExtraVirgin Olive Oil
- Balsamic Vinegar
- Garlic (spices AND fresh)
- Basil Leaves (spices or fresh)
- Rosemary (spices or fresh)
- Black Pepper
- 2 White Meat Chicken Breasts (about 5-6 oz each)
- Vidalia Onions (1 or 2)
- Assorted peppers (red, orange and yellow-variety for color)
- Cherry Tomatoes
- Organic Whole Wheat Penne Pasta
- Smart Balance Low Sodium Butter Spread
- Broccoli (I always use Steamfresh Steam in a Bag frozen veggies when I am making a meal with more than one side, but you could also steam your own broccoli if you wish)
- A non-stick pan
- A 9x13 glass casserole pan
- A blender or food processor
- Large pot for boiling pasta
Start with the chicken. Turn the stove on HIGH, then, as the pan is warming up, put your chicken breasts in the pan and swirl them around on each side to coat them with the olive oil. This is so the spices stick on both sides. You can always just season one side, but I am a flavor gal and I like seasoning on both sides.
After your chicken is coated in olive oil, season both sides with your dried or fresh herbs. The herbs I listed above are all listed in Italian Seasoning Herb Mixes. Usually these also have no salt in them, so if you don't want all the separate herbs, you can buy Italian Seasoning instead, but I like to add more of some spices than others, so I put each of them on separately.
Coat both sides with seasonings. At the point, you should begin to hear the oil sizzling a bit, which is exactly what you want. We are going to sear the seasonings onto the chicken. Leave each seasoned side of the chicken cooking in the pan for about 3 minutes on each side, or until you see the chicken beginning to turn white on its sides. Then flip the chicken to the other side.
While the chicken is searing, fill a large pot with HOT water and begin to bring it to a boil. To keep the recipe low sodium, do NOT put salt in the water, even though it makes the water boil faster. Check the kind of pasta you're using to see the ratio of water to pasta needed to cook it correctly. Let it boil while you watch the chicken.
When you add in the pasta, make sure you continue to watch it and stir it so it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot. Watch the timer and make sure you cook it for the recommended amount of time. Either cook the pasta until al dente which is firm, but cooked or until soft, however you prefer your pasta.
When each side of the chicken breasts are seared, place them next to each other (but not touching, of course!) into the glass casserole and then into the oven. You can do one of two things at this point. Usually, I cook the chicken on one side for 15 minutes, then, after 15 minutes I take it out and flip each breast to the other side and cook it for another 15-20 minutes, or until you see the oil at the bottom of the pan mix with the juice from the chicken. Chicken should be white inside when cooked and should have an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
If you don't want to take your chicken out and flip it, put it in for 30-40 minutes. When you take the chicken out, check the temperature with a probe thermometer.
While the chicken is baking, put another half tablespoon of olive oil into the bottom of the non-stick pan and bring the heat down to LOW. Cut up one red pepper, one onion, and one yellow or orange pepper. I have found that red peppers taste differently than yellow and orange peppers, but the latter two tend to taste the same, so I usually only use one in a recipe. If you really like peppers or onions, though, feel free to add more of each.
Put the peppers and onions in the pan, but reserve a little of each for the tomato sauce. Move the peppers and onions around to coat them in the oil to saute them and soften them up. You want them brown and soft but not burned. Add a little pepper and fresh garlic. You can either add a clove or two (the BULB is the entire piece of garlic. A CLOVE is one SECTION of that bulb), or you can by the pre-minced garlic in a jar and add two teaspoons to the pan. If you do not like garlic very much, it can be omitted, but I love garlic, so I put in a good amount.
Initially when you put the veggies in, they may start sizzling and cooking fast because the pan was on such a high heat, even though you switched the heat to LOW. Once the peppers and onions stop sizzling, put the heat back up to 3-5 (or low-medium if you don't have numbers on your stove) to keep the veggies cooking.
Keep an eye on your pasta! Make sure you continue mixing it! (:
Take your cherry tomatoes and quarter 5-10 of them, depending on how much you like tomatoes. This sauce is going to be a little runnier than you are used to, so if you don't like that as a consistency, just add your quartered cherry tomatoes to your peppers and onions mixture in the pan. Take your leftover peppers and onions and put them into the blender, food processor with two tablespoons of olive oil, a tablespoon of Balsamic vinegar, pepper, and garlic (fresh or powder). I also add a little fresh basil, but that is completely optional.
Pulse it until it is the consistency you like. If you want it to be a chunkier tomato sauce, don't let the onions and peppers get too small. If you pulse it enough, you can juice the tomatoes and peppers and it will be a rather runny sauce.
When the sauce is how you like it, pour it into the pan with the peppers and onions and let it simmer. Basically, after you pour the sauce in, make sure it comes to a low boil and let it bubble there for a little bit with the peppers and onions. Continue to mix the peppers, onions and sauce together to keep it from burning.
When the pasta is done, strain it in the colander and then rinse it. Dump it into the pan with the sauce, peppers, and onions and make sure it is coated in the sauce and mixed in well.
|Pasta before fully mixed|
When there is about 5 minutes left on the chicken, put your Steamfresh Broccoli into the microwave. When it is done cooking, put it in a serving bowl and mix in a tablespoon of Smart Balance Spread to give it a little bit of a salty taste.
When the chicken is done cooking, take it out, let it cool for a few minutes, then plate and serve! I use 6 oz breasts because I find them to bake better and be more flavorful, but please note that a serving of chicken is actually about 3 oz, so you are getting TWO servings of chicken for this meal. For the pasta, a serving is about 1/4 of a cup or 2 oz. Broccoli is about 1 cup.
|Yum! Italian Chicken, Pasta, and Broccoli|
Here are your ESTIMATED sodium/calorie counts based on MY serving sizes. You can always increase/decrease them for your own purposes:
- 6 oz chicken w/herbs: 290 cals, 185 mg sodium
- 1 cup pasta w/tomato sauce and veggies: (if you get a mix of sauce/pasta/peppers in about equal parts depending on how much pasta you used and how small you chopped your veggies): about 250 cals, about 30 mg sodium
- 1/2 cup broccoli w/ "butter": 45 cals, 15 mg sodium
- TOTALS: Approx. 585 cals, 450 mg sodium
- Don't use as much olive oil. Be very precise about how much you use and only use it when necessary. Use Pam cooking spray instead if you do not wish to use oil at the bottom of the casserole or pan when sauteing the veggies. A little should still be used to coat the chicken to make the herbs stick and to the chicken and it should NOT be omitted from the tomato sauce.
- Use smaller chicken breasts or eat only half of a 6 oz breast. I was instructed to eat more protein at each meal, so I take in more lean proteins when I can. My only concern with smaller chicken breasts is a higher potential to burn or dry out, so times and methods of cooking would need to be altered.
- Have a smaller serving size of pasta or omit it altogether. Boil the broccoli instead and mix that in with the peppers and onions and have that as your side dish.
- Omit the tomato sauce, since a large portion of it is oil (even if it is supposedly "good" oil).