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Pesto Chicken Quinoa

Sometimes when I come up with new recipe ideas I get really, really excited about them before I make them. I build them up so much in my head, expecting them to be fabulous. We all do that about things we are excited about.
Maybe not everyone does that about food. I realize I’m slightly odd in that respect. But, every now and then, the recipe doesn’t quite meet my expectations.  Something falls short, either the taste is off, texture is weird, or it just isn’t something that photographs well. 
And that’s the worst. When you’ve made something that tastes completely awesome, but you can’t portray that in your pictures. This probably has something to do with the fact that I’m still learning, a lot, about how to use my camera.
But guess what… this recipe did not fall into that category.  It completely met my expectations, maybe even surpassed them, and surprisingly photographed pretty decently.  I was a tad worried since quinoa isn’t always the prettiest thing to look at. 

And it would have been a complete shame to not share this recipe with you just because quinoa isn’t always pretty.

Who are we kidding… I would have shared it regardless.

This is my healthy Superbowl party recipe.  Pesto Chicken Quinoa.  The pesto is totally guilt free in my mind. Instead of using oil in the pesto, I subbed in yogurt.  I used regular old non-fat plain grocery store brand yogurt. But, you can use greek yogurt, 2% yogurt, whatever your little heart desires…

I’m totally down with dairy though, which is why this recipe is guilt free. If you are anti-dairy, then ditch the yogurt and use olive oil.

You are probably going to want to at least quadruple this recipe if you plan on making it for a Superbowl party.  This was my trial run, so the measurements here serve about 3 comfortably, four if you are really into rationing and portion control.

Portion control… Ugh. Add that to the naughty list.

Pesto Chicken Quinoa

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For the Pesto
1 container non-fat plain yogurt
1 cup spinach leaves
1 cup basil leaves
2 cloves garlic
Juice from one lemon
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup almonds

For the quinoa
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
1 zucchini, chopped
8 pieces asparagus
Juice of 1 1/2 lemons
1 chicken breast (pounded to medium thickness)
Salt
Pepper
1/2 cup goat cheese

Make your pesto.  In a food processor, add basil, spinach, garlic, rosemary, thyme, almonds, and parmesan cheese. Pulse until everything is fairly chopped up. Add in yogurt, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Pulse until combined and a pesto like consistency has formed.  Refrigerate while you prepare quinoa.

In a medium sauce pan, add quinoa and water. Throw in a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then let simmer until all the water has been absorbed.

While quinoa is simmering, pound the chicken breast until it is a medium thickness. The one I was using yesterday was unnaturally large, so thinning it out some was completely necessary.  Squeeze the lemon juice from one lemon over chicken breast, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Prepare a grill pan by spraying with Pam and heating over medium high heat (about a 7 or 8 on a scale of 1 to 10).

One the grill pan is hot, place chicken breast on top and cook for about 5 minutes per side.  The chicken should cook quite quickly since it has been thinned and the grill pan should be very, very hot.

Wes has a nice cast iron grill pan that I love to use. It is a pain in the butt to clean and creates more smoke than a chimney, but it’s worth it in the end.  Just don’t plan on smelling very good after using it. I digress.

While chicken is cooking, chop asparagus and zucchini into small chunks. Place in a large bowl. When quinoa is done, pour on top of the veggies in the large bowl. Add chicken. Stir in pesto mix, lemon juice from 1/2 a lemon, and add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle in goat cheese.

Eat it right away, or let it sit in the fridge for an hour or two.  Best of luck waiting.  We certainly couldn’t. Either way though, it is fantastic.

Such a healthy treat for your Superbowl guests.  And I bet they won’t even know it is healthy.  You could serve it up in cute appetizer bowls. I have a million of the tempo ones from Crate and Barrel and use them all the time.

I know this is a slightly different take on superbowl food, but your guests will probably appreciate a healthy option. Especially if some of them are still hanging on to their New Years resolutions.  And, if you don’t end up making this for the weekend, get it on your dinner menu stat. It is that good. Pinky promise.
Alright, so up next we have desserts. My little brain is still a whirling trying to figure out what to make.  Sweets are my passion, so it will have to be something truly tempting. I’m sure I will come up with something… but I’m still taking suggestions if you have any. 
February 14, 2012 - 6:07 pm

umair aziz - Wow, I’d never thought about giving my dog spinach! He loves veggies like carrots and celery though so he should love this recipe. I want to find out how to make dog biscuits Thanks for posting! Voted Up.

May 30, 2012 - 4:30 pm

Vicky - Sounds delicious! I recently started cooking with quinoa and am always on the look out for new recipes!

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