At least twice a year I go through this phase of cleaning my diet. Like really cleaning out my system and habits. I asses all the junk, though it’s increasingly becoming less and less, and consider how I can better my health if I completely eliminate that stuff. I have a horrible habit of getting out of bed at midnight or so, if I’m not working, and going straight for the crunch factor. Sadly for me, that crunch factor is not in the healthy stuff, rather the chips or cookies or anything I shouldn’t be falling asleep eating. So then there’s the ‘I should be eating way more vegetables, less, meat, less simple carbs, drink more water, less bread, etc..‘ I write a laundry list of what I need more of and need to axe altogether. That list wipes out within months, hence the twice a year process.
But, as this year comes to a close and I’ve improved my health significantly by eliminating certain stress factors, I’ve reflected on what food changes I can make permanently. I’ve not pinpointed them all yet, but I did come to realize I’m going to eat more chicken and less rice. Two totally different foods, but see, individually, I can eat them stand alone all the time. I can crush a bowl of rice with a few slices of tomato and call it day. I can also eat a whole chicken on its own. With nothing. No carb. No vegetables. Just a great juicy bird. Since I convinced myself I can do it, that is eat chicken or other lovely proteins without rice or beans, I needed to just make sure the chicken was super dolled up… you know, super sexy in flavor.
Champagne is sexy, right? It’s that time of year to pop some bubbly and cheer to a great year and welcome a new one. It made sense to me to add the essence of bubbly to my chicken. Yes, champagne chicken. But not in the traditional sense. More like the essence of Champagne in a dressing. There was a time I used to use rich Italian dressing to season my chicken, and truthfully, it was the easiest way to yielding an amazing bird. Naturally, when Marzetti® sent me their Simply Dressed® Champagne Dressing to try, I went to my college days of that Italian dressing chicken. I’m grown now, so using their dressing to try a similar recipe was much more appropriate.
This was magic. Pure magic in my kitchen on a Monday afternoon. I seasoned a pound of hearty chicken tenders with nothing but salt and pepper. I then bathed it in half a jar of the Champagne dressing which is tangy, herbal, and sweet just enough to balance everything out. I let it sit overnight so that the flavors really set in. I didn’t need to, really, but since it wasn’t a homemade dressing, I wanted every bit of its flavor to seep in. Browning the chicken and then cooking it with the dressing now acting as it’s liquid marinade turned out to be just as an easy process for a healthy dinner as it was years ago … and much, much easier than my famed and favorite pollo en fricassee. I couldn’t enjoyed that alone with…… rice…. but I couldn’t. So I did more playing. The special element to this was making a creamy sundried tomato sauce with the remaining jar of the dressing.
For pasta! So, I fibbed a bit. Drats! This really started out as a chicken and vegetable concept but as I was cooking and modifying the cream sauce literally just happen. And who eats cream sauce alone? I had to!
But I redeemed myself. Or at least my diet. I paired the dish with a fresh butternut squash and egg salad, which has a very French-y appeal, the dinner was exquisite. The irony was that traditionally you’d want to default Marzetti® dressings for use in a green leaf dressing, but here, it served as a lovely marinade for the chicken and flavor base for the cream sauce, while the salad was a beautiful and bright ensalade of seasonal vegetables.
The year’s not out yet but I have a clear head start on cleaning out my fridge and pantry. It’s replete with easy dressings and marinades I can grab when I’m in a hurry and don’t have time to conjure up from scratch. I don’t really sacrifice flavor and definitely save some time! Oh, wait, and yes, the waistline is shrinking. Though next time, I’ll opt for wheat pasta. The grocery store was out. Imagine that.
Cheers to a healthy new beginning!
(Here’s a warmer picture.)
* This post is part of my work with Marzetti® as recipe developer and ambassador. All stories, opinions, and recipes are my own, authentic and real. Enjoy!
Creamed Sun Dried Tomato Champagne Chicken
- 1 -1 /5 pounds of chicken tenders, divided; Reserve four whole tenders, cube remaining into 1-1/2" cubes.
- 12 ounces of simply dressed champagne dressing, divided
- 12 ounces of evaporated milk
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 3/4 cup of sun-dried tomatoes
- 1.5 cup cherry tomatoes, divided; 1/2 amount sliced in half
- 1/4 cup above water
- 1/2 cup of vegetable broth
- 4 tablespoons of canola oil
- 2 tablespoons of chives, chopped; 4 stems of chives, julienne
- salt and pepper to taste
In large bowl, add rinsed chicken. Season with salt and pepper. Add half jar of Marzetti Champagne dressing. Chill for an hour. In large dutch oven, melt butter. Add onions, garlic and chives. Cook until onions are translucent. Whisk in evaporated milk. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low. Stir in remaining half of the dressing and sun-dried tomatoes and chives. Cook on low-medium for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. In separate large saucepan, heat canola oil and brown all chicken. Cook for 7-8 minutes. Remove 4 whole tenders and set aside. Add in dressing marinade and cook on low for an additional 20 minutes until chicken is fully cooked. Add whole cherry tomatoes.
Cook pasta while chicken is cooking.
To serve, add sauce to pasta. For individual servings, top with one tender, add sliced cherry tomatoes, and garnish with additional chives.