September 16, 2013

Every Sunday as I roam the aisles of the grocery store, thoughts of a week's worth of dinners fills my head. As I look, I take notice of seasonal items and food that is on sale. Then I begin to make a plan.

However, once in awhile, inspiration does not come to me and I grab something to buy, knowing I will come up with a plan later.

Boneless skinless chicken breasts seem to be one of those items. Chicken is extremely versatile and easy to cook. It can be grilled, sautéed, baked or even thrown in the slow cooker.

So the next time you're having one of those uninspired moments in the grocery store aisle, grab a package of chicken and find a recipe that suits your style.

Spicy Chicken Over Angel Hair Pasta

Spice up pasta night with spicy chicken and peppers. Cherry peppers are round, bright red peppers with a sweet and mildly hot flavor.

3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil

3 cherry peppers, seeded and chopped

1 onion, chopped

1 bell pepper, chopped

1 ½ lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into bite-size pieces

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 (14 ½ oz) can chopped tomatoes

1 lb angel hair pasta

Parmesan cheese

Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add cherry peppers, onion and bell peppers. Sauté 2 minutes. Add chicken; sauté 3 to 4 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 1 minute longer. Add tomatoes, reduce heat to medium and simmer. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. Divide pasta among serving plates. Spoon chicken mixture onto plates. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Serves 6

Chicken, Rice, Broccoli and Cheese Casserole

One night I was looking for a quick and easy chicken and rice recipe. I found this one on It was nothing fancy, but it was a winner with my family.

½ cup Cheese Whiz (jar)

1 cup quick rice

½ stick butter

10 oz frozen broccoli florets

½ cup milk

1-2 boneless skinless chicken breast halves, cooked, cut into small bite-size pieces

1 can cream of chicken soup

¼ cup chicken broth

½ onion, finely diced

Combine all ingredients. Place in greased casserole dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes.

Basil Grilled Chicken

Even though the weather is cooling down, there's still plenty of time to grill. This juicy chicken is basted with butter while it's on the grill and served alongside flavorful butter compote.

1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper

4 chicken breast halves, skinned

1/3 cup butter or margarine, melted

¼ cup chopped fresh basil

½ cup butter or margarine, softened

2 tablespoons minced fresh basil

1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

fresh basil sprigs (optional)

Press ¾ teaspoon pepper into meaty side of chicken breast halves.

To make marinade: Combine 1/3 cup melted butter and ¼ cup chopped basil; stir well. Brush chicken lightly with melted butter mixture.

To make butter compote: Combine ½ cup softened butter, 2 tablespoons basil, Parmesan cheese, garlic powder, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Beat at low speed of an electric mixer until mixture is well blended and smooth. Transfer to a small serving bowl; set aside. Do not use for basting.

Grill chicken over medium coals 8 to 10 minutes on each side, basting frequently with remaining melted butter mixture. Discard melted butter mixture.

Top grilled chicken with basil-butter mixture. Garnish with fresh basil sprigs, if desired.

Yield: 4 servings

Pasta Fiesta

Recently I noticed I had a few jars of opened salsa in my fridge to use up. I also had a package of chicken without specific plans. I started thinking of a dish my family would like. I came up with a simple dish that was perfect for weeknight cooking and had all the flavors my husband Danny enjoys.

2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into bite-size pieces

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ onion, diced

½ green pepper, diced (optional)

3 cups dry penne pasta

1 cup salsa

1 cup Velveeta shreds

2/3 cup frozen corn

Cook pasta according to package directions. Do not overcook. Set aside. Sauté chicken in olive oil until no longer pink. Add onions and peppers and sauté 4 minutes longer. Drain off any excess oil. Add salsa and stir for one minute. Add Velveeta shreds and corn. Stir until cheese is melted. Finally add pasta and stir to combine. Serve immediately.

Garden Chicken Supreme

Herbes de Provence is a mixture of French herbs including basil, marjoram, lavender, and sage. It's a fragrant way to add flavor to otherwise boring chicken and vegetables.

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 6 oz each)

1 tablespoon herbes de Provence

2 cloves garlic

2 onions

2 small zucchini

1 red, 2 green, and 1 yellow bell pepper

6 tablespoons olive oil

1 can (14-16 oz) diced tomatoes

salt and black pepper

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or parsley

basil leaves for garnish

Rub the chicken breasts with the herbs. Peel and finely chop garlic and onions. Chop the zucchini. Seed the bell peppers, remove the white pith and cut into wide strips.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and fry for 8 minutes. Turn and fry for 5 minutes longer. Transfer to a plate and keep warm.

Heat the remaining oil in skillet. Add the garlic onions, zucchini and bell peppers. Cook, stirring until the vegetable soften, about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes with juice and season with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

Stir in the basil or parsley. Place chicken on top of vegetables in skillet. Simmer, covered, until the chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes. Garnish with basil leaves and serve atop cooked couscous or side dish of your choice.