When I write our family's menu every weekend, I always start with the weekly ad. This is for two reasons — one, so that I can get inspired by looking at pictures of foods and recipes and, two, so that I can incorporate sale items into our grocery list.
Last month, my inspiration lay in a photo of bruschetta chicken. I loved the bright colors in the photo, fresh ingredients in the recipe and the cooking method recommended. See, the struggle with cooking lean meats is that they often get dried out. This is especially challenging on the grill.
That's why my favorite way to cook boneless, skinless chicken breasts is by searing and baking them in my cast-iron pan. This locks in the moisture so that the chicken doesn't get so dry. Plus, it's hands-off, so that I can focus on those two little boys who are fighting for my attention.
When I was grocery shopping that week, I grabbed all the ingredients for the bruschetta chicken recipe, including a fresh basil plant. I figured this was actually the better deal — to buy a whole plant instead of a small package — because I could use it for other recipes and it would last longer.
Problem is, that basil plant only lasts longer if you don't kill it when you get home. I will admit it — I am not the world's best gardener and plants often die under my care.
When people ask me if I am planning to have any more kids, I always tell them — "No more living things." That includes kids, pets and plants. I can't be responsible for keeping anything else alive right now. Ask me again in a year.
That's why I am so excited to have recently discovered the convenience of frozen herbs. You can find frozen basil, cilantro, garlic and parsley. In fact, I have three out of the four in my freezer at home right now. I just used the cilantro in this week's chicken tacos.
With all the flavor and nutrition of fresh, these frozen herbs are such a quick and easy option for meals. The nutritional benefit of adding herbs to cooking is that you can maximize flavor while limiting the need for salt, which is important for heart health. Herbs also offer antioxidants, which may protect your cells from damage and may reduce your risk of certain diseases.
Back to the bruschetta chicken. It turned out great! I served it with whole-wheat rotini pasta, steamed broccoli and red grapes. It was a colorful, delicious meal that even the boys loved. I am definitely keeping that recipe on stand-by, but I'll be using the frozen basil, instead.
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 medium tomatoes, diced
3 tablespoons minced red onion
2 cloves garlic, minced (or 4 teaspoons of frozen garlic)
6 to 8 basil leaves, roughly chopped (or approximately 3 to 4 teaspoons of frozen basil)
4 (1/2-inch thick) slices fresh mozzarella
4 tablespoons finely shredded Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat a large oven-proof sauté pan over high heat. Season both sides of chicken with salt and pepper. Sear the chicken in the olive oil over high heat for 2 minutes. Flip chicken and place the entire pan in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine tomatoes, red onion, garlic and basil. Season with salt and pepper to taste and mix well. Remove chicken from oven, top with the tomato mixture and one piece of mozzarella cheese per breast. Bake an additional 3 to 4 minutes or until the cheese is lightly melted. Remove from oven and immediately top with Parmesan.