Quinoa Salad with Roasted Tomatoes, Chickpeas, and Tahini Vinaigrette

IMG_4035Surprising as it may seem, I do actually make food other than dessert. Behind all the butter and sugar, I happen to follow a fairly healthy diet. Of course I taste everything I make (my motto is everything in moderation), but most of it ends up in the stomachs of my friends and family members. Unless of course it’s something like these healthy Oatmeal-Raisin Energy Balls which I may or may not hoard in secret tupperware containers in the way way back of the fridge. Strange as it is, I actually get more excited about stuff like this quinoa dish than I do about chocolate chip cookies. Who am I?!IMG_4037

Now, before you lose all trust in me as a baker/blogger and toss me to the curb as a pitiful soul who chooses quinoa over cookies, you’ve gotta try this recipe! Then you’ll see what I’m talking about. With quinoa as its base, this salad is loaded with sweet balsamic-roasted cherry tomatoes, crispy roasted chickpeas, creamy avocado chunks, and nutritious baby spinach. Then it’s all tossed in a fabulous lemon-tahini vinaigrette–the recipe makes extra, so you can use it to dress other salads as well! My favorite way to serve it is slightly warm, but it’s also delicious at room temperature or straight out of the fridge. My family loves to eat this salad as a main dish for lunch or dinner, but you can also serve it as a side. Or you can do what I did and eat it straight out of the tupperware as a late-night snack!

If you’re looking for a fast, easy, meatlessgluten-free, and delicious dinner recipe, you have to try this! It’s got so many good things going on that I can’t pick a favorite…the juicy, almost caramelized tomatoes? The hidden pieces of smooth avocado? The slightly-nutty, slightly-sweet lemony dressing? Call me crazy to choose leftover quinoa salad as dessert instead of a cookie, but I just couldn’t get enough! The cookies can wait.IMG_4047

Quinoa Salad with Roasted Tomatoes, Chickpeas, and Tahini Vinaigrette.

Makes 6-8 servings

For the salad:

1 & 1/2 cups quinoa (uncooked)

1 pint (16 oz) cherry tomatoes

1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Salt & pepper

1 avocado, diced

2 cups baby spinach

For the dressing:

1/4 cup tahini

3 tablespoons warm water

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/4 cup lemon juice (from about 1 large lemon)

1 teaspoon honey

2 large garlic cloves, minced

Salt & pepper, to taste

Directions:

Cook quinoa according to package directions. While the quinoa is cooking, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. When the quinoa is finished, fluff with a fork and allow to cool as you assemble the rest of the ingredients.

Wash and halve the cherry tomatoes and spread onto a lined baking sheet in a single layer. Add the chickpeas to the baking sheet and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast for 25-30 minutes, stirring halfway through, until the tomatoes are blistered and the chickpeas are golden and slightly crisp. Cool slightly.

To make the dressing, whisk together all the ingredients in a medium-small bowl. Place the cooked quinoa into a large serving bowl and add in the roasted tomatoes, chickpeas, and baby spinach. Pour on as much dressing as you like (the recipe makes about 1 cup and I like to use about 2/3 cup). Stir gently to coat, then carefully fold in the diced avocado. Serve warm, chilled, or at room temperature.

(Recipe adapted from Tasty Kitchen)

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Thai-Style Chicken Quinoa Salad

IMG_6194I figure it’s about time for some “real food” to appear on this here blog of mine. I mean, there are only so many delicious cookies, cakes, muffins, and bars that one can consume before a desperate longing for wholesome, nutritious meals sets in. Hah! I kid. But seriously, I really do cook actual non-dessert-type food. It’s just that I rarely have the motivation to haul out all my picture-taking paraphernalia and set up a photo shoot right when dinner is ready to be served. And after dinner, whatever I’ve cooked has almost always been devoured. And if there are leftovers, they often aren’t the most photogenic. Or I’m too tired. Or I have somewhere to be. Or I’m just not feeling it. I could throw out excuses all day, but it doesn’t really matter because this time I finally pulled myself together and managed to actually snap photos of this ridiculously delicious Thai Chicken Quinoa Salad, the star of tonight’s dinner. It was just too good not to document.

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My family members are all big-time lovers of quinoa, and it often appears in the form of side dishes, salads, and even entrees in our house. Whether it’s Mango & Black Bean Quinoa Salad, Black Bean & Corn Quinoa Salad, or a simple side to this Spanish Chicken and Kidney Beans, we love our quinoa. It’s healthy, cheap, quick-cooking, gluten-free, a complete protein, and is the perfect “base” for multiple dishes.

Though I’ve tried so many great quinoa recipes that I could never pick a favorite, this Thai Chicken Quinoa Salad definitely comes out near the tip-top. Cubed chicken, crunchy veggies, edamame, dry-roasted peanuts, and fresh cilantro are all loaded into the quinoa and tossed with an amazing Thai-inspired dressing. The dressing has a hint of spice that’s rounded out with a bit of sweetness and is packed with a multitude of flavors from lime juice, coconut milk, peanut butter, garlic, and ginger. The myriad of tastes and textures all come together into a one-dish meal that will leave everyone fighting for leftovers. I had to restrain myself from taking a third helping when I made this for dinner, and everyone in my family loved it. It’s hard not to!

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Thai-Style Chicken Quinoa Salad

Makes 6 servings

For the salad:

1 & 1/2 cups uncooked quinoa

2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 cup water

2 cups cooked, cubed chicken (about 1 pound, or 2 medium chicken breasts)

4 scallions, thinly sliced

1/2 cup diced bell pepper

1/2 cup shelled edamame

1/2 cup diced carrots

1/2 cup chopped dry-roasted peanuts

1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Salt and pepper, to taste

For the dressing:

1/4 cup sweet chili sauce

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from about 1 small lime)

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 tablespoons canned coconut milk (light is fine)

1 tablespoon brown sugar, packed

2 teaspoons creamy peanut butter

2 garlic cloves, minced

Pinch of ground ginger

Directions:

Combine the quinoa, chicken broth, and water in a medium-sized pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 15-20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and quinoa is tender.

While the quinoa is cooking, whisk together all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl until smooth. Prepare the rest of the salad ingredients if you haven’t already.

Transfer the cooked quinoa to a large bowl and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Then pour the dressing over the quinoa and stir to combine. Add in the chicken, scallions, bell pepper, edamame, carrots, peanuts, and cilantro. Mix well. Serve the salad warm, chilled, or at room temperature.

(Recipe from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe, originally adapted from How Sweet Eats)

Lentil and Sweet Potato Soup with Spinach

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Despite it being mid-May, recent weather around here has been more of a throwback to winter than a peek to the summer months ahead. This weekend has been one of those gray, drizzly, what-can-you-expect-it’s-the-Pacific-Northwest type of weekends, which means digging my windbreaker back out from the depths of my closet where I’d hoped it would stay until fall, having no opportunity to work on my (slightly pathetic) tan, and spending two long days either inside trying to find something to do or outside wishing the sun would make even a brief appearance. The only thing such a bleak weekend seems to be good for is soup-making, of course!

During the chilly fall and winter months, my family eats soup, stew, or chili at least once a week, often more. There’s something so comforting about a large pot simmering on the stove, ready to warm everyone up. Even though it’s spring, I figured I’d take advantage of the ugly weather to justify one last soup day before it gets too hot. Not that I’d mind sacrificing my favorite winter meal for a couple months of nice weather!

This Lentil and Sweet Potato Soup with Spinach is always a good choice. Delicious, filling, healthy, and packed with protein and veggies, it makes for a perfect dinner, especially when paired with a crusty loaf of bread. This meatless dish is full of tender vegetables and garlic; hearty lentils; fragrant thyme, rosemary, and bay leaf; and sweet tomatoes. Note that the recipe makes a LARGE pot of soup, about 10 servings, so plan on lots of tasty leftovers. The soup freezes well, too, and makes for an easy thaw-and-serve dinner.

I guess there is a silver lining to dreary, overcast days. With a bowl of this soup, it’s hard not to be a happy camper!

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Lentil and Sweet Potato Soup with Spinach

Serves 8-10

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium white or yellow onion, diced

3 large garlic cloves, minced

1 large carrot, peeled and diced

1 celery stalk, diced

2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 & 1/2 cups brown lentils

60 ounces (4 15-oz cans) vegetable broth

2 cups water

2 15-oz cans diced tomatoes

1 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp dried rosemary

2 dried bay leaves

1/4 tsp black pepper (more to taste)

1 tsp sea salt (more to taste)

2 cups fresh baby spinach leaves, torn

Directions:

Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add in the onion and garlic and sauté for 3-5 minutes or until onion is tender. Add in the chopped carrot, celery, and sweet potatoes and cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently, or until vegetables are beginning to soften. Add in the lentils, broth, water, and diced tomatoes; stir well. Stir in the thyme, rosemary, bay leaves, salt, and pepper.

Bring the soup to a boil over high heat, then reduce to low and let the soup simmer for 35-40 minutes, or until lentils and sweet potatoes are tender. Turn off the heat and immediately stir in the fresh spinach until wilted. Taste for salt and pepper, remove bay leaves, and serve.

(Recipe adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod)

Roasted Vegetable & Asiago Frittata and Lemon-Roasted Potatoes

IMG_0284I’m not a big magazine or newspaper reader, but my family subscribes to the weekly magazine The Week, which I read religiously every week…if that wasn’t clear enough, I read the weekly magazine The Week every week. Hah. What makes it one of the few magazines I actually like is the fact that it has a nice variety of articles, not just boring news or endless celebrity gossip. I love reading through sections such as People, Film Reviews, Best Properties on the Market, Health and Science, and It Must Be True…I Read it in the Tabloids. One of my favorite sections is a tiny, quarter-page column entitled Only in America. It often features the most ludicrous lawsuits that make one’s faith in humanity fade just a leeetle bit.

Last week’s edition of The Week brought quite a stunner in the Only in America section. Apparently an Ohio prosecutor has filed an indictment against Punxsutawney Phil, who allegedly misled the entire nation by predicting an early spring that has yet to appear. Yes, that’s correct. Phil the Groundhog is facing the death penalty. While seeking punishment for our weather-predicting groundhog seems a bit over the top, to say the least, I have to admit that spring is certainly taking its sweet time to appear. Temperatures are still dropping into the 30s at night where I live, and the past few days have been gray and drizzly. If one more person utters the incredibly annoying phrase “April showers bring May flowers,” I just might lose it. I want spring, and I want it now! (But I’m not mad at you, little Phil.)

To make matters worse, last weekend we had a short-lived bout of beautiful spring weather. I’m talking sunshine, cloudless skies, 60+ degree days, and dandelions bursting up everywhere. I spent as much time outside as possible, running on the beach and sitting on my deck trying to make up for a long, sun-less winter. I should have known it was too good to last, because according to my favorite weather station the next predicted day of sunshine is a week from Tuesday. The weather gods are just plain cruel, tantalizing us this way.

I guess Dr. Seuss would say, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” Easter really was wonderful, from the beautiful weather to spending time with family. I cooked brunch for my family in the morning, which consisted of a Roasted Vegetable & Asiago Frittata, Lemon-Roasted Potatoes, and fruit salad. Everything was delicious, if I do say so myself. By the time everything was out of the oven and on the table we were all too ravenous to wait for me to take pictures, but luckily my brother whipped out his iPhone and took a couple screenshots. Good enough!

This really was the perfect meal for Easter Brunch. The baked frittata was amazingly quick, easy, healthy, and delicious, filled with fresh roasted veggies that can be made ahead to save time. The possible variations for this frittata are endless: you can use different types of veggies, more cheese, less cheese, crumbled bacon, cubed ham or chicken, etc. That said, I have to say that this combination of roasted red pepper, zucchini, red onion, garlic, and asiago cheese hit the spot…by the end of the day my family of four had eaten up every last morsel.

I’d never thought to roast lemon slices along with potatoes, but they ended up caramelizing a bit and bringing a big boost of flavor to the roasted potatoes. To make these extra-special, use Meyer lemons if you can find them!

Well, aside from last weekend’s sunshine it looks like you were wrong, Phil….spring has not sprung. At least not yet. Still, I hardly think the solution is to punish our groundhog. After all, he has to live with this nation-wide ugly weather, too!

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Roasted Vegetable & Asiago Frittata

Serves 8

1 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil

3 red bell peppers, seeded and cut into fourths

4 unpeeled garlic cloves

1 large zucchini, cut into 3″ x 1/2″ slices

1 small red onion, cut into strips

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

8 large eggs

1/4 cup shredded asiago cheese

Directions:

Arrange oven racks on lower and middle sections of the oven, and preheat to 425 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil.

Place the bell peppers and garlic onto one of the sheets and the zucchini and onion onto the other. Drizzle about half a tablespoon of olive oil onto each of the sheets and toss to coat. Roast the zucchini and onion on the lower oven rack and the peppers and garlic on the middle rack for 15 minutes, or until zucchini and onions are tender. Remove the zucchini and onions from the oven and switch the peppers and garlic to the bottom rack. Roast the peppers and garlic for another 10-15 minutes or until peppers are charred.

Let the vegetables cool slightly, then peel the garlic and chop all the vegetables into coarse pieces. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Spray a 9-inch cake pan with baking spray. Whisk together the eggs, salt, and pepper, and pour into the pan. Add in the roasted vegetables. Bake the frittata for 40 minutes, then sprinkle the asiago cheese onto the top and bake for another 10-15 minutes, or until the center is set. Let the frittata cool in its pan for 5 minutes, then slice into 8 wedges and serve.

(Recipe adapted from Ladies’ Home Journal)

Lemon-Roasted Potatoes

1.5 pounds small yellow potatoes

1 small lemon

1 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Wash the potatoes and slice into quarters lengthwise. Place the potatoes into a 9″x13″ glass pan and drizzle with olive oil. Toss the potatoes to coat them with the oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cut the lemon into 8 thin slices, removing any seeds. Place the lemon slices among the potatoes. Roast for 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender and browned, stirring halfway through to ensure even roasting. Serve warm.

(Recipe adapted from Simple Bites)

Chicken Fajita Salad

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Last spring, while on a shopping trip for much-needed summer clothes, I ate lunch at one of my favorite cafes. After much debating, I ordered the Chicken Fajita Salad and it. was. phenomenal. Being a hard-core lover of Mexican Food, especially chicken fajitas, I suspected that I’d love the salad, and boy was I right. Sautéed chicken, roasted pepper strips, garlic, and onions were served atop crisp greens and piled with avocado slices, fresh salsa, shredded cheese, and tortilla strips. The combination of fresh flavors was to die for, and I knew that I just HAD to re-create the salad at home. So I did.

My version is slightly different than the original, but I enjoyed it just as much, if not more. I decided to marinate the chicken in a mixture of lime juice and Mexican-style seasoning before sautéing it with sweet white onions. Then I stirred in roasted red peppers and piled the mixture onto fresh salad greens. For toppings, I went with avocado slices, shredded sharp cheddar cheese, broiled corn tortilla strips, chopped olives, and salsa, but you can adapt to fit your personal tastes. And there you have it! A fast, super-easy, low-carb, pretty darn healthy, utterly DELICIOUS lunch or dinner! I first made this re-creation back in August, and my dad promptly requested that it be his birthday dinner. His birthday is in March, so I took that to mean that this meal was a winner all around :).

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Chicken Fajita Salad

2 Tbs olive oil, divided

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp ground oregano

1/2 tsp ground coriander (or 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves)

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced into thin strips

1 medium white or yellow onion, thinly sliced

1 12-oz jar roasted red peppers (or 1 fresh roasted red pepper), sliced into strips

To serve:

Fresh salad greens

1 avocado, sliced

Crispy tortilla strips

Chopped olives

Shredded cheese

Salsa

Directions:

Combine 1 Tbs olive oil, lime juice, garlic, cumin, oregano, and coriander in a large ziplock bag. (If using fresh cilantro, wait until the end to add it in.) Put the chicken slices in the bag and marinate in the refrigerator for 30-60 minutes.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add in the onion slices and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add in the chicken, including the marinade, and cook for about 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Stir in the red pepper and cilantro (if using) and cook over low heat until heated through.

To serve salad-style, spoon the chicken mixture over mixed greens. Top with shredded cheese, tortilla strips, avocado slices, chopped olives, salsa, and any other desired toppings. Serves 4-6.

(Recipe heavily adapted from this Chicken Fajita Salad)

Smoky Roasted Potatoes with Rosemary and Garlic

In the last year or so, my taste buds have gone through a transformation.  I used to have a long, long list of foods that I couldn’t stand, and all of a sudden I became quite fond of quite a few of my former food-foes.  Say that five times fast.  Anyway, that list had included mushrooms, asparagus, spinach, artichokes, yogurt, fish, avocado, almonds, blue cheese, cilantro, and yams (I wasn’t picky or anything) and suddenly they all went from tasting…bad…to tasting….good (for lack of better words).  Maybe it was because I hated them off a basis of appearance and decided to overcome that; maybe it was because I had only eaten them once or twice before closing my mind to them; but I like to think it was because my taste buds underwent a miraculous transformation to help me widely expand my culinary horizons.  That’s obviously the most likely.

Regardless of the reason, I am now able to experience the joy of eating all those once-hated foods, although I guess I wouldn’t really be missing out on anything if I still hated them…that makes sense, right?  Maybe.  But with the exception of beets, for which I will always and forever harbor a deep, dark, incomprehensible, unfathomable sense of loathing for in the pit of my soul, I like almost everything.  There are a few foods that I can’t believe I hated for so long, such as yams.

I’ve wondered for years and years what exactly the difference is between a yam and a sweet potato.  According to the produce section of my grocery store, yams are the orange-fleshed ones and sweet potatoes are the pale-yellow ones.  According to wikipedia, “sweet potatoes” applies to both the orange- and yellow-fleshed ones and yams are long baseball-bat-shaped vegetables that are usually only found in Asian markets.  I hate to say that I’ve kind of stopped caring.  I just call every culprit in question a sweet potato and am, in effect, living a happy, carefree life.  At least as far as the yam issue goes.

If you’re still with me by now, kudos.  Reading about all the things that go on inside my head can be an overwhelming, confusing experience, and I wouldn’t judge if you just skipped on down to the recipe at the bottom.  Maybe I should have put this warning at the top of the post….too late now!  But I always have a point.  Today, it’s a recipe for roasted potatoes.  A combination of sweet potatoes and russet potatoes roasted in a coating of olive oil, rosemary, garlic, and smoky paprika to be exact.  These are so, so delicious.  I’ve made them twice in the last week, and I’m thinking about scrapping the mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving and making these instead.  Enough said. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Smoky Roasted Potatoes with Rosemary and Garlic

2 large sweet potatoes, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks

2 large russet potatoes, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 tsp sweet smoked paprika, divided (regular paprika is fine, too)

2 tsp fresh chopped rosemary (or 1 tsp dried rosemary)

1 1/2 tsp minced garlic (or 3/4 tsp garlic powder)

1-2 tsp coarse salt

1 tsp ground black pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Place potato chunks into a large mixing bowl.  Add olive oil and toss well.  Add 1 1/2 tsp paprika, rosemary, garlic, salt, and pepper and stir until the potatoes are evenly coated with the spices.

Spread potatoes into a single layer on the prepared baking sheet.  Bake until potatoes are golden-brown and crisp, about 1 hour.  Flip potato pieces about halfway through.

Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes.  Sprinkle with reserved 1/2 tsp smoked paprika and serve.

(Recipe adapted from La Tienda)

Summertime Spaghetti a la Emma

The summer before I entered first grade, my parents surprised me with some exciting news.  “Sam and Emma,” they said to my brother and me in the car one day, “We know who your teachers are going to be next year!”  “Who?!” we asked.  “Us!” they answered.  No, they weren’t kidding.  I guess I probably could have mentioned before that both of my parents are teachers, so this wasn’t as big of a surprise for me as it may have been for someone who didn’t have that helpful little piece of knowledge…

Anyway, my parents had been hired as the first-grade teachers for a new Charter school about 20 minutes from our town.  When you added up the facts that I was going to get to spend all day with my mom and dad (remember, this is when I was 7 and not 17!), my best friend from kindergarten was also switching to this school, and I would get to help my parents set up my own classroom, I was one happy kid!

However, teaching full-time in a first-year school while parenting two 7-year-olds is no job for the faint of heart.  Since our school was in a different town, my brother and I rode to and from school with my parents, who got there at 7 in the morning and rarely left before 5 at night.  I know my parents feel guilty for all the time my brother and I had to spend entertaining ourselves, but it wasn’t so bad.  After all, we were surrounded by books, art supplies, lofts, and a playground!

Because we often didn’t pull into our own driveway until 5:30 or 6:00, dinners often consisted of whatever could be thrown together quickly and easily.  This resulted in many, many nights of pasta.  Spaghetti, ravioli, penne, rotini, tortellini, etc. etc. etc.  I got so sick of pasta that year that it earned a place on the same list as spinach, broccoli, canned peas and tofu–things that, like most first-graders, I loathed with a burning passion.  Part of the problem was that, for money and time’s sake, we always ate our pasta with canned tomato sauce and powdered parmesan cheese.  Nothing wrong with that, but after the umpteenth time it can get a little boring.  Actually a lot boring.  Which is why it wasn’t until recently that pasta made a reappearance on my food radar.

I didn’t really get into cooking until my sophomore year, but once I did there was no stopping me.  Once I started to appreciate the multitude of flavors and ingredients that can be combined to make a great meal, I started seeing pasta in a different way.  While before, “pasta” always went along with tomato sauce from a jar and powdered parmesan, now it presented itself with an infinite amount of possibilities.  I started seeing pasta not as something to top with red sauce and call dinner but as a vehicle for all kinds of cuisine.  Penne with pesto and cherry tomatoes, Thai peanut noodles, and Italian Spaghetti Aglio e Olio, among others, graced our table.

Since it’s summer, I’ve been in the mood for light, fresh, produce-heavy dishes, and the other night I decided to incorporate that into a spaghetti dish.  I just kind of went with what sounded good and threw it all together, and the result was a light, summery spaghetti.  The combination of hearty whole grain spaghetti, sweetness from the sautéed tomatoes and basil, the bite from fresh garlic, lemon-marinated chicken for protein, and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese, all coated with a light drizzle of olive oil, made for a quick, simple, and overall delicious dinner.  Who said pasta had to be boring?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summertime Spaghetti with Tomatoes, Basil, and Garlic

8 oz uncooked spaghetti (I used whole grain)

4 tsp olive oil, divided

8 oz grape tomatoes (about 1 1/2 cups)

5-6 cloves garlic, finely minced

1 Tbs water-packed basil*

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese (there’s a time and a place for the powdered kind, but this is not it!)

Chicken & Marinade:

1 medium chicken breast

1 Tbs fresh lemon juice

1 Tbs olive oil

1/4 tsp black pepper

1/4 tsp ground oregano

1/8 tsp salt

Directions:

Butterfly the chicken breast, and slice down the middle to make two thin halves.  Whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, oregano, pepper, and salt in a small bowl or gallon-sized ziplock bag.  Add in the chicken breast and allow to marinate for at least 3 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Place the chicken breast halves in a shallow baking dish, cover in remaining marinade, and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until cooked through.  When cool enough to handle, slice the chicken into bite-sized pieces.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and add in spaghetti.  Cook for 7-8 minutes, depending how firm you like your pasta.  While the spaghetti is cooking, heat 1 tsp of olive oil in a large, deep skillet under medium heat and add in grape tomatoes.  Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently, or until tomatoes are starting to blister.  Remove from the pan and place in a bowl.  Heat another teaspoon of olive oil in the same skillet and add in the minced garlic.  Cook, stirring constantly, for about 30 seconds or until fragrant.  Add garlic to the bowl the tomatoes are in.

When the spaghetti is finished cooking, drain it and dump it into the skillet.  Add the tomatoes, garlic, basil, remaining 2 tsp of olive oil, sliced chicken, and parmesan cheese and toss to combine.  Serve warm.  Makes about 4 servings.

*I used jarred, water-packed basil because my grocery store was out of fresh, but if you happen to have fresh basil, then by all means use it!  I would substitute the jarred basil for about 1/4 cup loosely packed, chiffonaded fresh basil.  (For those of you who don’t know, a chiffonade is where you tightly roll up the basil leaves and chop them to create thin strips).