Anna Maria Locke

Pesto Chicken Quinoa Bowl (and how to make braised chicken)


I've been on a huge quinoa kick lately. It's so easy to make a huge batch at the beginning of the week and use it to throw together healthy dinner bowls or lunch salads. Plus it's a protein and fiber packed seed that is filling, healthy, gluten-free, and approved for dinner on the Tone It Up nutrition plan I follow. The secret to making successful quinoa is to rinse it thoroughly in a fine mesh strainer, then boil it in 2 parts liquid to 1 part quinoa--one cup of dried quinoa will make enough for at least four meals.

The other night I made this pesto chicken quinoa bowl inspired by a similar dish I've had from a healthy restaurant here in Chicago called Protein Bar. I made it with pasta for Ben and we were both obsessed!

In addition to a big batch of quinoa, I've also started cooking a large pot of braised chicken breasts on Sunday or Monday to use for lunch salads and fast weeknight dinners. I've always struggled with cooking chicken because I'm paranoid of getting food poisoning so it usually ends up overcooked and dry. If you have similar troubles allow me to introduce you to my new favorite way to make perfect chicken every single time: braising!

How to Braise: You just heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a cast iron pot or Dutch oven, brown the seasoned chicken on both sides for 3-4 minutes per side, add some sort of liquid (e.g. broth) until the chicken is almost covered, cover the pot, and bake it in the oven at 350* for 30 minutes. Bam.

Not the most attractive picture, but this is what the chicken looks like pre-baking. The center should still be pink before you stick it in the oven. I usually use salt, pepper, and Italian seasonings and fill the pot with enough chicken broth to come at least halfway up the meat. You could also use canned tomatoes as the liquid, or add veggies to the pot. Cooking the chicken slowly in liquid results in extremely juicy finished product, and is basically a fast version of a Crock Pot.

Here's the final "recipe." It's super easy to throw together but ends up being restaurant quality, and you can add any veggies or toppings you want! I'm thinking different cheeses, olives, avocado….

Pesto Chicken Quinoa (or Pasta) Bowls
Serves 2, can be easily doubled
-2 servings worth of cooked chicken, chopped
-4 cups mixed greens
-2 cups cooked pasta or quinoa
-2 T prepared pesto, or more to taste (I found some delicious jarred pesto at Aldi for $1.50!)
-1/4 cup shredded parmesan or romano cheese
-2 T sundried tomatoes, chopped

Cook the chicken and quinoa or pasta. Mix the chicken, greens, quinoa/pasta, and pesto in a large bowl, or assemble in individual bowls. Top with cheese and sundried tomatoes and enjoy with a glass of wine!

Told you it was easy! Let me know if you give it a try. I'm planning to start posting more healthy recipes on a regular basis, so stay tuned!