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5 Easy, Weeknight Chicken Dinners

One ingredient, five ways. Chicken is one of the healthiest proteins you will come across in the grocery store. But nobody wants to eat chicken breast everday, especially when you don’t have hours to come up with a recipe and roast off an entire bird. But chicken is perfect for healthy weeknight meals when you’ve had a long day and you want something easy, delicious, cheap and healthy. These are 5 of my favorite weeknight dinners.

Chicken Taco Salad with Lima Crema

This is one of my favorite weeknight meals and I’d probably eat it at least once a week if I could. It’s SO easy to make a healthy salad that feels like more food than a steak dinner – and this one is prrof. Go ahead and make a large batch of these ingredients – you’ll be happy to eat them through out the week.

Dice chicken into 1-inch pieces. Saute in olive oil with salt, pepper, cumin, garlic powder and a hit of cayenne. Meanwhile, tear up 1 cup of Romaine lettuce, dice tomatoes, white onion and avocado, thinly slice jalapenos, chop up cilantro, slice a wedge of lime and cut some fresh corn off the cob. I like to toast pepitas for a few minutes to sprinkle on top of the salad. They give that crunch that you’d normally look to tortilla chips for.

Make the crema: mix a 1/2 cup of plain Greek yogurt with 1 handful of chopped cilantro, a pinch of salt and the juice of 1 lime. You can add a teaspoon of Sriracha in there if you like things spicy!

To serve, simply plate your lettuce, top with a combo of your veggies and herbs, spoon your chicken on top (with all of the deliciousness in the pan) and finish with pepitas and lime crema.

Cheesy Chicken & Spaghetti Squash Bake

There are some weeknights, especially as the nights get cooler, that all I want is to come home to comfort food and a good book by the fire. And for some reason, roasted tomatoes and garlic are a vision, smell and taste of comfort. You know what works great with tomatoes and garlic? Spaghetti squash. Spaghetti squash is my idea of comfort food for the fit foodie. It’s rich, delicious, easy and hey! It’s good for you.

Heat your oven to 375 degrees. Carefully cut your spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. Use a spoon to scoop out and discard the seeds from each half. Drizzle each half with olive oil and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place squash, cut side down, on a baking sheet and bake 35-45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. Once cool enough to handle, use a fork to scrape along the sides to create noodles out of the flesh.

While the squash is cooking, season your chicken breast with saltand pepper. In a skillet with olive oil, cook chicken until brown and a meat thermometer placed in the center reads 160 degrees.  Remove the chicken from the pan to cool. In the still warm pan, add diced tomato and fresh, minced garlic. Saute 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Dice the chicken and mix it, with the tomatoes and garlic, in a medium-sized bowl with 1-2 tablespoons of pesto. Add spaghetti squash, a handful of chopped basil and 2 tablespoons of ricotta cheese. Mix well and then place bake into the squash halves.

To finish this recipe and take it from simply delicious to one of those over-the-top weeknight dinners, place 3 slices of tomato on the re-stuffed squash halves and sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese. Throw under the broiler for 3 minutes until the cheese has melted and turns golden brown.

Chipotle-Pineapple Chicken Burgers

Burgers are a summer-time staple but there’s no reason to not take advantage of their easy-to-make nature year round. If your grill stays out in the snow, throw these on the grill. If not, sear the burgers in a cast-iron skillet and finish the dish under the broiler. Make a few of these burgers – they freeze well, don’t take up much room and make weeknight dinners for next week even easier!

Mix lean ground chicken (go with a pound so that you have leftovers) with 1-2 teaspoons of chopped chipotle peppers in adobo. Add more if you like the heat. Season with salt, pepper and granulated garlic and mix in a handful of chopped cilantro. Mix well and divide the mixture into 4 even patties. *Trick: keep the burgers fairly flat and press your thumb gently into the center. The burgers will puff up while cooking*. Cook the patties on the grill or in your skillet on the stove top. Meanwhile, brush fresh pineapple slices with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and throw onto the grill (or under the broiler) for 2-3 minutes, just to get grill marks and start to bring out the natural sugars.

To build your burger, warm a whole wheat bun and top with lettuce and a bit of that lime crema that you made extra of when you had the Chicken Taco Salad. Top with your burger pattie and a slice of pineapple. Or, if you’re like me and are absolutely horrible at eating sandwiches and burgers with any sort of grace, wrap your burger in a lettuce wrap and bake off some sweet potato fries to have on the side.

Mediterranean Stuffed Zucchini Boats

I love a recipe that is so full of flavor that you actually forget that it’s a big pile of vegetables. Everyone talks about a Mediterannean-style diet being super healthy – and for good reason. Mediterannean diets revolve around heart-healthy fats, lean proteins and tons of veggies.  Another reason to love Mediterranean cuisine: flavor. Think about it. Olives, feta, lemon, herbs … all of these foods are packed with flavor and a little goes a long way.

To make these boats, set your oven to 350 degress. Quickly saute diced chicken in a bit of olive oil. Meanwhile, prepare your zucchini. Cut your zucchini in half lengthwise. Use a spoon to gently scopp out the flesh from the center. In a small bowl, mix cooked chicken with finely diced tomatoes, onion, garlic and kalamata olives. Add fresh oregano and parsley, a pinch of red pepper flakes and a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Mix well. Spoon mixture evenly between your zucchini halves (rest your zucchini in a small baking dish). Bake 15 minutes. Top with feta cheese and broil for 3 more minutes until the cheese is brown. Sprinkle with a handful of extra herbs and boom, there’s dinner.

Chicken Lettuce Wraps

This is one of those impress-your-friends-with-as-little-work-as-possible weeknight dinners.

Cook ground chicken in hot oil for 3-5 minutes until completely browned. Remove from the pan and drain the excess fat. To your hot pan, add diced onion and red peppers, and minced garlic. Saute 1-2 minutes. Add a shot of low-sodium soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, freshly grated ginger and pinch of red pepper flakes. Cook 1-2 minutes to heat the liquid and start to reduce it slightly (the flavors will intensify). Turn off the heat. Throw in a 1/4 cup of shredded carrots and 1 scallion, sliced thinly, as well as the chicken. Mix well.

To serve, scoop a small amount of the stir-fry mixture into a leaf of lettuce. *Green leaf and butter lettuce are my favorite choices*. Top with a squeeze of fresh lime, cilantro and Sriracha if you want the spice.

Weeknight dinners shouldn’t be stressful. All you need are a few simple ingredients and a few great ideas and I promise, weeknight dinners can be as easy and delicious as they are healthy and satisfying.

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