What’s a more ubiquitous healthy weeknight dinner than chicken? It’s simple to prepare, lean, and family friendly. Too bad it’s usually bland and totally boring.
When I ask new patients about prior attempts at changing their eating habits, they often reply that they tried to eat healthy, but found it boring. When I dig deeper, it’s because they went on what I unaffectionately call the “Baked Chicken Diet.” Basically they can’t think of anything healthy to make, so they default to baked chicken and vegetables, night after night.
Hopefully through reading this blog you’ve already seen that eating healthy is more than baked chicken and steamed vegetables. But that doesn’t mean you have to ditch the chicken. It’s super versatile as a protein, taking on many different flavors and cooking methods. There’s a reason you get 190,000,000 results when you google “chicken recipes.”
Break out of the baked chicken rut and try my tips for making a chicken recipe you’ll actually get excited about:
- Keep the skin on. We all know it’s the best part, but did you know it only contributes a measly gram of saturated fat to each serving? If you’ve been passing over the much more juicy and flavorful dark meat in favor of lean and virtuous white meat, you’ll be pleased to know this chicken thigh only contains an additional 1.5 grams saturated fat compared to an equal sized serving of chicken breast.
- Try big, spicy flavors with your chicken, like harissa marinated chicken or jerk chicken.
- I prefer chicken thighs, but if I’m going to use chicken breast, I often stew it, which keeps it from drying out. For a weeknight braise, make sure the sauce has plenty of flavorful ingredients, since it won’t be cooking quite as long.
- On Sunday, roast a whole chicken and use the leftovers for dishes like tacos, chicken salad or to stuff baked potatoes. And don’t forget to save the bones to make chicken soup!
- Ground chicken breast can be terribly dry, but there is a simple (and healthy!) remedy. Mix in diced or shredded vegetables, such as onion, zucchini and carrot, which release moisture as they cook.
- If preparing a simple chicken dish, spend a few minutes whipping up a standout sauce. Chimichurri, Asian dipping sauce, and tzatziki all come together in minutes.
- Invest in a few interesting, high quality spice mixes or try making your own blends.
The chicken recipe I’m sharing today looks incredibly fancy, but it takes no time at all, and only four ingredients. It’s actually one of the first chicken recipes I remember preparing in college, so you know it’s simple! I’ve switched up this recipe in so many ways, swapping out the filling for whatever combination of ingredients I have on hand. I’ve done a version stuffed with dried figs and blue cheese and another with proscuitto and goat cheese – yum! This recipe hasn’t failed me yet!
- 1 lb chicken thighs, boneless and skinless.
- Sun-dried tomatoes
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Salt & freshly cracked black pepper
- Your choice of seasoning (I used lemon pepper)
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- If the chicken thighs are thick, place them in a large ziptop back and pound lightly with a meat mallet to about ¼ inch thickness. Lay flat on a cutting board, Add a thin layer of pesto over the meat, about ½ tablespoon each and top with a few sun-dried tomatoes. Wrap each piece of chicken up, as if you were wrapping sushi. Place, seam-side down in a baking dish, holding together with a toothpick if needed. Brush each chicken thigh lightly with olive oil. Season the outside with salt, pepper and seasoning.
- Bake in the upper third of the oven for 20-25 minutes until browned and cooked through. Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes. Slice each chicken thigh into 1-inch rounds and serve.