3 Ingredient, Healthy Chicken Cordon Bleu

Chicken is one of the most versatile proteins out there. It’s healthy, you can cook with almost anything savory and it’ll taste good, and it’s pretty easy to make. But if you cook it the same way night after night, it gets very boring, very quickly. That’s how I came up with this Healthy Chicken Cordon Bleu recipe.

Can I stress how easy this is?! It has three ingredients. That’s right, three. And if you know how to cook a simple chicken breast, then you already know how to make this dish. It takes only about 20 minutes to make, too.

Melty, gooey, with a little saltiness from the ham. It tastes naughty!

Melty, gooey, with a little saltiness from the ham. It tastes naughty!

What you’ll need:
2 chicken breasts
4 slices deli ham
2 slices swiss cheese

What you’ll need to do:

Heat a large pan over medium-high heat and spray with cooking spray. Place your chicken breasts in the pan, cover the pan with aluminum foil, and cook for about 7-8 minutes on each side.

After the chicken is cooked through, remove from the pan and slice in half horizontally through the chicken (i.e. butterfly the chicken breasts).

I like to butterfly the chicken so that I have a better chicken to ham and cheese ratio in each bite!

I like to butterfly the chicken so that I have a better chicken to ham and cheese ratio in each bite!

Return the butterflied chicken breasts to the pan and top with two slices of ham on each breast, followed by the cheese. Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes or until the cheese is melted.

Serve with some yummy roasted veggies for a delicious, healthy meal!

If you like this recipe, you’ll love my Healthy, Yummy Chicken Piccata!

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Chinese Chicken Salad

Every once in awhile, I crave a good Chinese Chicken Salad. The salad is tangy, sweet, sour, and just a little spicy. And I don’t know what it is, but there’s something special about those little Mandarin oranges that makes me feel like I’m eating a treat. It’s a perfect full meal with your protein, veggies, and carbs. But the most beautiful part of making a meal like this is that you can easily double or triple the recipe to make awesome leftovers. Just pack leftover salad in containers and you’ve got easy grab-and-go work lunches. It’s an easy, quick, healthy, and delicious meal that’s always a big hit in my house!

Not only do I love the taste, but I love all those beautiful colors!

What you’ll need:

  • For the salad:
    • 4 chicken breasts or 8 chicken tenders
    • 1/2 head napa cabbage, thinly shredded (about 6 cups)
    • 1/2 head red cabbage, shredded (about 2 cups)
    • 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
    • 5 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
    • 1 (11-ounce) can Mandarin oranges in water, drained
    • 1 package plain Ramen noodles, dry (seasoning excluded)
  • For the dressing:
    • 4 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
    • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
    • 6 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
    • 1 tablespoon minced fresh or dry garlic
    • 1 tablespoon minced fresh or dry ginger
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
    • 1/2 tablespoon hot sauce, like Sriracha

**A few tips on the ingredients: Buying heads of cabbage is very inexpensive, but if you want to save some time you can buy bags of already shredded cabbage instead. If you can’t find Mandarin oranges in water, buying  them in syrup is fine. Just drain and rinse them. Also, notice all my dressing ingredients are measured by the tablespoon… to save a dish! Just make sure you measure the dry ingredients first (ginger, garlic, brown sugar) before you measure the wet ingredients, and just eyeball the hot sauce.

What you’ll need to do:

Start by cooking your chicken in a large pan (see “Let’s Talk Chicken” for instructions).

While the chicken cooks, chop your veggies. Have a large salad bowl handy so you can toss your veggies in as they’re chopped. You’ll want to slice the cabbage thinly. I like to cut the head of cabbage in half, cut out the hard core, place it on the cutting board on it’s flat side for stability, and then just slice right to left. Then, peel and chop your carrot. Chop your scallions (green onions) thinly and toss them in the bowl. Drain and rinse your Mandarin oranges, then add them to the salad.

Your chicken is still probably cooking at this point, so move on to the salad dressing. In a small bowl, whisk together all salad dressing ingredients. Or, if you have a container with a lid (like a salad cruet or even a small Tupperware), add all ingredients, cover, and shake to combine. Make sure you read my tip about adding dry ingredients first and then the wet ingredients! Set the dressing aside.

Once your chicken is done, chop into bite-sized cubes and add to the salad. Toss the salad with the dressing. Lastly, crumble the dry Ramen noodles with your fingers and top the salad for an extra crunch.

Enjoy!

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad Bowl

To date, Chicken, Pesto, and Spinach Quinoa is by far my most popular recipe. So I wanted to do another little spin on that bowl, this time with a Mediterranean twist. And instead of making a pasta bowl or a rice bowl like in the aforementioned recipe, I swap in still-incredibly-tasty-but-much-healthier quinoa. This dish is high on protein and fiber with all the flavors of the Mediterranean, so skip the line and cost at your local lunch place and make it yourself. Plus, it makes great leftovers!

This one is a big hit!

What you’ll need:

1 cup dry quinoa
2 cups water
4 chicken breasts or 8 chicken tenders
2 cups spinach, chopped
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/2  red pepper, chopped
1 large shallot, chopped
10 kalamata olives, pitted and halved
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 tbsp basil
1 tbsp parsley
1 tbsp oregano
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
5 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp Dijon mustard

**Don’t be afraid of the ingredients list. You should already have the quinoa, chicken, olive oil, and herbs in your kitchen staples, and the herbs can be either dry or chopped fresh. The red wine vinegar and Dijon mustard are almost always in my kitchen anyway because they last forever and you can use them in other recipes. So all you really need to pick up is the spinach, tomatoes, pepper, shallot, olives, and cheese – that’s less than half the ingredient list!

What you’ll need to do:

Start cooking the chicken so that it’ll be done by the time the rest of your ingredients are assembled. For instructions on how to cook the chicken, check out my post “Let’s Talk Chicken.”

Right after you start the chicken, get the quinoa on the stove. Combine the water and the quinoa in a small pot over high heat. When the water comes to a boil, cover and turn the heat down to low. Let it simmer for about 15 minutes. For more detailed instructions and pictures, check out “Quick and Easy Quinoa.”

While the chicken and quinoa cook, chop all your veggies into similarly sized, smallish pieces. As you chop, throw them into a large salad bowl to get them out of the way.

I don’t know what it is, but there’s something relaxing about chopping veggies. It helps me unwind at the end of the day.

In a separate container or bowl, mix together your red wine vinegar, olive oil, and Dijon mustard. Set aside.

When the chicken is done, cut it into small, bite-sized pieces and add to the large bowl. After the quinoa is done, add it to the large bowl with the veggies, chicken, feta cheese, and herbs (by this time, all your ingredients are in the bowl except the dressing). Lastly, toss all the ingredients with the vinegar, oil, and mustard dressing.

Enjoy!

Yum!

Mango Chutney

Costco gets me every time with their tempting, inexpensive produce in gigantic quantities. Do I need 4 pounds of blueberries? Absolutely! And a crate of 20 oranges? Sure! So when I walked by this beautiful crate of mangoes that was way cheaper than the regular grocery store, I couldn’t resist. I love mangoes. They remind me of sitting outside on a patio in Hawaii, eating a Belgian waffle slathered with mangoes, papayas, and whipped cream.

But with my Costco-sized crate of mangoes, I knew I needed to do more than eat waffles every day. So I began thinking of every other way I love to eat mangoes, and mango chutney came to the top of my list. Mango chutney is sweet, gooey, and slightly tangy – it’s a perfect topping to my basic chicken. Serve that with a side of steamable veggies and you have yourself a delicious meal.

This mango chutney was inspired from a recipe by Emeril Lagasse.

What you’ll need (makes 4 servings):
1 mango
1/2 tablespoon margarine
1/4 medium onion
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar (I used Truvia)
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon water

What you’ll need to do:

Start by peeling your mango. Then use a paring knife to cut off the flesh of the mango around the pit – don’t worry if it’s a little sloppy, you’ll be putting it in a pot and cooking it anyway. Once your mango is free of the pit, chop it into chunks and save for later. Then, chop your onion into small pieces.

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter then add the onions. Saute for two minutes. Add the mango, then saute for another two minutes.

Add the vinegar and the sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil. In a separate bowl, whisk the cornstarch with the water. It’s very important to whisk the cornstarch and water separately before they’re added to the mango mixture, otherwise you’ll end up with little pebbles of cornstarch in your chutney. Once the cornstarch/water is mixed, stir the slurry into the mango mixture. Bring the mixture back to a boil, and continue to cook for 4 minutes, stirring constantly.

You can see the big chunks of mango in there, delicious!

Top your chicken with the chutney and enjoy!

Super Simple Pasta Salad

For the same reason I love making a big pot of soup on Sunday, I love making a giant bowl of super simple pasta salad. You can load it with whatever veggies you need to use up, add a little chicken, and throw it in pre-packaged lunch containers in the fridge for grab-and-goes all week. It’s delicious! And if you do it right, it can be pretty healthy, too.

I’m notoriously not a morning person and will sleep until the last possible second, so having lunch already made for the week let’s me get my precious Z’s and saves me from buying lunch.

The idea behind my pasta salad, if I haven’t emphasized it enough, is its simplicity. You just take a box of short pasta (like penne, rigatoni, or rotini), take whatever veggies you like (or need to be used), add a little chicken for protein (tofu would work, too), and toss in a light balsamic vinaigrette (or any olive oil based dressing). I like tomatoes and olives in every pasta salad, and both are really easy to grab at the market. Cucumbers, zucchini, carrots, celery, spinach, bell peppers, jicama, beans, or cheese would be good, too. You have a lot of wiggle room on this, so go nuts! Here’s what I did this week…

What you’ll need:
1 16 ounce box rotini pasta
1 pint grape tomatoes (about 2 cups, or whatever you have on hand)
1 can olives
2 cups arugula
1 1/2 cups light balsamic vinaigrette
2 chicken breasts

What you’ll need to do:

Get that pasta cooking according to the instructions on the box – after you add your short pasta to boiling water, it’ll take about 10 minutes to cook. Use the taste test to check if it’s done (my preferred method, of course).

Slice your chicken in small bite-sized chunks so they’ll be ready to pop right in the salad. Throw your bite-sized chicken chunks in a large pan over medium-high heat (don’t forget to spray with cooking spray!). Turn with a spatula to make sure all sides are cooked. After it’s done, just turn off the heat and let it sit until everything else is ready.

My chicken takes about as long as the pasta, so I figure I can pack in a little protein while I’m already in the kitchen.

While your pasta and chicken cook, slice your grape tomatoes in half and add them to a giant salad bowl as you go. Then drain your olives, and dump them in the bowl with the tomatoes. Add your arugula. Super simple, no?

I try to make my tomatoes about the same size as my olives so that I can get as much goodness on my fork as possible.

Once your pasta is done, drain and add back to the pot. Toss your pasta with about half of your salad dressing so it has a chance to seep into the hot pasta and so the pasta doesn’t stick (I really don’t measure this, I just add most of the bottle of salad dressing by the time all is said and done, tasting to make sure it’s good as I go). Let it briefly cool.

Lastly, add your pasta and chicken to the large salad bowl with the tomatoes, olives, and arugula. Toss with the remainder of the salad dressing and portion out into lunch-sized containers for the rest of the week. Or, save it as a special side for another dinner that week.

Enjoy!

Chicken, Pesto, and Spinach Quinoa

There’s this lunch place by my office that boasts really healthy, high protein lunches and it has this amazing chicken, pesto, and spinach quinoa. Whenever I go there for lunch, I always end up getting it even though there are other yummy looking items on the menu. I mean, chicken, pesto, and spinach? I’m in. And I love quinoa because of how versatile and healthy it is (see my latest post on quick and easy quinoa). So I really wanted to see if I could replicate this dish at home to satisfy the constant cravings I have for it.

This dish is so rich because of the pesto, creamy and nutty with melted Parmesan, with a little crunch from the quinoa. This dish tastes so naughty, but it’s so incredibly healthy! It’s really high in protein (about 35 grams) and really low in calories (about 371 per serving). And because it’s so high in protein, it’s really filling. I promise, my chicken, pesto, and spinach quinoa will fix any comfort food craving.

There's nothing better than curling up with a bowl of this chicken, pesto, and spinach quinoa and enjoying a movie on a colder Spring night.

What you’ll need (makes 4 servings):
1 cup quinoa
2 chicken breasts
3 big handfuls of fresh spinach (about 3 cups)
6 tablespoons pesto
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

What you’ll need to do:

First, get your quinoa cooking on the stove – all you do for this is make basic “Quick and Easy Quinoa.” So, put your quinoa in a pot with 2 cups of water (remember, the ratio is 1 to 2, quinoa to water). Put uncovered over high heat on your stove and watch it until it boils. As soon as it boils, turn the heat down to low and cover. Since you have about a cup of quinoa this time, it takes about 15 minutes to cook.

You'll know your quinoa is done when you see those little tendrils emerge.

While your quinoa is cooking, make sure your chicken breasts are defrosted and chopped into small bite-sized pieces. I chop it before I cook them because it more evenly cooks the chicken and it takes way less time. As soon as your chicken is chopped, throw it into a large pan sprayed with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Use a spatula to turn your chicken and make sure all sides are cooked – the chicken only takes a few minutes to cook. If your chicken is done before your quinoa, just set it over low heat to keep it warm.

When it's cut into those little bite-sized pieces, the chicken takes only a few minutes to cook.

After your quinoa is done, add your pesto and stir (any kind of store-bought pesto will do). Then, add your Parmesan cheese and stir – by adding the Parmesan to the warm quinoa it gets nice and ooey, gooey, and melted, and also acts as a binding agent in your dish. Lastly, tear your spinach into more bite-sized pieces as you throw it into the mixture (you could also probably use cooked, frozen spinach if you have it in your freezer). After these three ingredients are combined, add your chicken and stir.

Yum, yum, yum. I can barely avoid taste-testing this one as I cook!

That’s it! It’s a pretty easy, healthy dish that cures your craving for comfort food.

Chinese BBQ Chicken

Calling this dish Chinese BBQ chicken is slightly deceiving. It sounds way more fancy than this dish actually is. But it tastes so yummy that nobody will ever guess how simple it is. Basically, you use three ingredients: frozen chicken tenders, lemon juice, and hoisin sauce (I also throw in green onions if I have them in the fridge). That’s it!

What’s hoisin sauce, you ask? Well that’s where the Chinese BBQ component comes in, because hoisin sauce is basically Chinese BBQ sauce. As soon as you smell it, you’ll instantly recognize what it is because it’s a key ingredient in a lot of Chinese food dishes. It’s a sweet, a little vinegary, with a hint of garlic and chili peppers. The simple addition of this one ingredient to a couple kitchen staples you already have will really shake up your weeknight repertoire. It’s my epitome of an easy, healthy weeknight meal.

Hoisin sauce will keep in your cupboard for a long time, so it's definitely a good investment ingredient to have on hand.

What you’ll need:
4-5 frozen chicken tenders
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 green onions, chopped (optional, if you have them)

What you’ll need to do:

Start by heating your large pan on the stove over medium heat and spray with cooking spray. You’re going to cook the chicken exactly the same way you do in “let’s talk chicken,” so get that chicken in your pan and cover with aluminum foil.

After about 8 minutes, check your chicken – the chicken should start to look white around the edges and still pink in the middle. That’s how you know it’s ready to turn. Recover and cook for another 8 minutes.

Here's the chicken, white on the outside and pink on the inside. It's ready to flip.

Once the chicken is done, add your 2 tablespoons of hoisin sauce right on top. Throw on your green onions, and then pour in your lemon juice.

The beauty of this meal is that it's a simple twist on your basic chicken. You still mostly use kitchen staples.

Turn your chicken in the pan to cover with the sauce. Let it cook for another minute just to heat up the hoisin and cook down some of that lemon juice. And your super easy Chinese BBQ chicken is done!

It’s healthy, tasty, and I seriously can’t stress how simple this is. If you put rice in your rice cooker and a steamable bag of veggies in the microwave before you start, you have a delicious and healthy meal after a long day at work when all you want to do is crash on the couch. Not to mention, it’ll cure any craving for the much-less-healthy Chinese take out, too 🙂

Enjoy!

Bacon, Blue Cheese, and Spinach Stuffed Chicken Breast

Easy has never tasted so indulgent. This yummy, gooey, smokey dish is the ultimate weeknight treat. It’s loaded with rich, creamy blue cheese which pairs perfectly with the smokey bacon, and it’s packed with a huge serving of spinach (so you don’t have to feel too guilty, right?).

And it’s so simple! While the ingredients aren’t necessarily on my kitchen staples list, you’ll almost always find them in my fridge. Instead of cooking bacon, I take the easy way out and use bacon bits or bacon pieces. These last in the fridge for a long time and are great on salads, BLTs, or in mac ‘n cheese. Blue cheese can last for months, and again is great in salads or crusted on steak. And the spinach is just a pack of steamable frozen spinach that can be used in meals like this or as a simple side dish to another meal. The options with these ingredients is endless! So don’t feel guilty about beefing up your kitchen staples list with these yummy goodies.

I paired my yummy chicken with a simple quinoa side (or you can do rice or potatoes). Since you're loading the chicken with so much spinach, you don't really need a separate veggie side.

What you’ll need (serves 2):
2 chicken breasts (chicken tenders won’t work this time)
1 10 ounce package frozen spinach
3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese (or 2 big handfuls)
1/2 cup bacon pieces (with maybe a little extra for good measure ;))

What you’ll need to do:

Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees. Then, get your chicken defrosting in a bowl of water (see “Let’s Talk Chicken” for defrosting instructions) – if your chicken is fresh, not frozen, put the chicken aside until your stuffing is ready.

While your chicken defrosts, cook your spinach in the microwave by following the instructions on the package. Once the spinach is cooked, squeeze out any water. Mix the blue cheese and bacon with the cooked spinach in a medium bowl.

Since the spinach will be hot, your blue cheese will start to get all melted and creamy before you even put it in the oven.

After your chicken is completely defrosted, slice it open across the middle to create a pocket for the stuffing. Then, put your chicken in a baking pan so it can be stuffed.

Don't cut the chicken all the way through, think of it like a pocket.

Stuff your chicken as full as it can get with your bacon, blue cheese, and spinach stuffing. I go a little heavy on the stuffing in this recipe, so I smother the top of the chicken with whatever I have leftover.

Bake for 30 minutes. And before you know it, you’ll enjoying forkfuls after forkfuls of this delectable dish.

I can barely wait for this dish to cool long enough to eat without burning myself.

Mango Chicken with Steamable Veggies and Rice

While I walked home from work with Clinton today, I posed the question, “What do you want for dinner tonight?” A classic Thursday night question. I’ve been dominating the meals for the last couple weeks making some of my classic faves for the blog, so I wanted to give him the opportunity to put in his two cents. He answered, “chicken, veggies, and rice.” I’m not surprised, it’s one of Clinton’s favorite go-to meals. And of course, I know can easily whip up a fantastic meal with my classic kitchen staples.

To change up my basic chicken recipe, I decided to go with a mango chicken. It sounds fancy, but it’s incredibly easy. It requires only two extra ingredients: frozen mango (which I’ve had in my freezer for a long time) and some sort of mango/peach/stone fruit marinade (again, something I’ve had in my fridge forever), which tonight is a spicy mango marinade. Both of those extra ingredients can last a long time, so you can whip out this meal any time you need another chicken change-up.

Aside from those two extra ingredients, everything else comes from your kitchen staples, right down to your steamable veggies and rice in your rice cooker.

Yummy mango chicken with white rice and steamable broccoli and cauliflower

What you’ll need:
3-5 frozen chicken tenders
1 cup frozen mango
2 tbsp fruit marinade (any kind will do)
1 cup rice
Bag of steamable veggies

What you’ll need to do:

Get that rice in the rice cooker. The ratio of rice to water is 1 cup of rice to 1.5 cups of water. Once it’s in the cook position, let’s start in on the chicken.

Put your large pan over medium heat and spray with cooking spray. Put your frozen chicken and frozen mango in the pan. Don’t cover it with foil this time! There’s a lot more liquid in the frozen mango, so we’ll want that water to boil out. Cook for about 8 minutes over medium heat, then turn the chicken and cook for another 8 minutes (you’ll have a lot of downtime during this, so sit back and relax a bit!).

The mango makes the chicken sweet and juicy.

Not long after you’ve flipped the chicken, it’s time to get those steamable veggies in the microwave – I generally find that they only take about 5 minutes, but they can sit in the microwave for a bit if necessary.

After the 8 minutes of cooking the chicken and mango on the other side, the water should be pretty much boiled out and it’s time to add the marinade. Add 2 tbsp to the pan and toss with the chicken and mango. Cook for another 2 minutes.

Right about now, you should be hearing the pop of the rice cooker signaling the rice is done, the microwave beeping that your veggies are cooked. And voila! Dinner is served. A fancy, healthy meal good enough for any night of the week.

Healthy, Yummy Chicken Piccata

Since we recently talked chicken, I thought it would be appropriate to share one of my favorite chicken dishes of all time: Chicken Piccata.

Chicken Piccata is one of my favorite dishes, but I only allow myself to eat the indulgent, less calorie-friendly version every so often (keep an eye out for that version, coming soon!). So I developed a way to incorporate a super healthy version (but still extremely tasty) into my weeknight repertoire. It incorporates mostly kitchen staples, with capers thrown in as the twist. Note, capers can last in the fridge for a really long time, and trust me, you’ll want to make this dish often!

What you’ll need:

6-8 frozen chicken tenders (for a twist, this dish can also be made with frozen tilapia)
1 tsp margarine
1 tsp minced garlic (from your jar ‘o garlic in the fridge)
Cooking spray
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp capers

All the necessary ingredients for Chicken Piccata - that's it! The chicken is in the pan, ready to go.

What you’ll need to do:

Spray your very large pan with cooking spray (not your grill pan this time, because we’ll really want to soak up the juices), and turn the heat up to medium. After it’s heated up, add your chicken tenders to the pan and cover with aluminum foil. Cook for about 8 minutes, then turn and recover for another 6 minutes.

Mmm... chicken is looking pretty good under there! It looks like it's almost ready to flip.

While the chicken is cooking, put your margarine and garlic in a small, microwave safe bowl (a cereal bowl works just fine if you don’t have anything else). Heat the margarine-garlic mixture on high for 30 seconds in the microwave, then add the lemon juice and capers and let it sit.

When the chicken is looking a delicious golden-brown color after the 6 minutes of cook time, pour the margarine-lemon-garlic-caper mixture over the top for the last 2 minutes of cook time, and cook uncovered.

The chicken is done, and the piccata sauce is added.

Turn off the heat, transfer to your plate, and immediately enjoy a healthy version of chicken piccata any night of the week!

The finished product - Healthy, Yummy Chicken Piccata. Tonight, I served it with steamable green beans drizzled with lemon and a lemon quinoa.

**Keep in mind, the best time to make your grain is right before you put the chicken in the pan. Get that rice in the rice cooker or the quinoa cooking on the stove. Tip: if you’re making quinoa, add lemon juice to it after it’s done cooking to bring all the flavors of the dish together. My favorite veggies with this are green beans (topped with a little lemon juice) or a bed of arugula (topped with a little lemon juice, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese – 1tsp each).