Hello! ICYMI, the blog is featuring a series of women who shared their biggest barriers to cooking. See Kelly’s Mediterranean meal-prep here, Wendy’s almond-crusted fish with caramelized lemons and browned butter here, Jocelyn’s gluten-free mini turkey meatloaves here, and Holly’s spicy black bean soup with quick-pickled veggies here.
This Friday, the blog is featuring Courtney, who supervises a call center in New England. Courtney loves classic flavors, and is currently on a weight-loss plan. She shared that when it comes to cooking, she needs dinners that are fast, easy, healthy, and affordable.
For Courtney, I wanted to really tackle the bogeyman of the weight-loss world: plain chicken breasts. A bad plain chicken breast that’s dry or bland is enough to turn anyone off of an otherwise-perfect plan. Plus, I wanted Courtney to have a chicken recipe that works with a variety of preparations for maximum meal-prep versatility.
The secret to chicken breasts that are flavorful and juicy is twofold: 1) take the extra time to pound them to an even thickness with a meat pounder, and 2) season them really well. Normally, I’d add a bit of maple syrup to the balsamic marinade, but I didn’t want to unnecessarily add carbs, calories, or sugar. Still, these chicken breasts stand up on their own, or in any of the four preparations pictured.
Yield: 3 servings (note: we find we only need 1/2 a large chicken breast for the salad preparations pictured)
Time: About 40-45 minutes
3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, rinsed and trimmed (scale up the recipe for an entire week of prep)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
6 tablespoons olive oil (you can use 3-4 tablespoons for fewer calories, but about half of the marinade runs off of the chicken in the oven anyway :) )
1 teaspoon mustard
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
2 teaspoons minced garlic (about 2-3 cloves)
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees (Fahrenheit) with the rack in the center position.
Pound the chicken breasts in a freezer bag or between pieces of plastic wrap with a meat pounder or flat-bottomed heavy jar until they are an even thickness. You want the thickest part of the chicken breast to be as thin as the thinnest part originally was when you are finished. This step is critical for tender, juicy chicken.
Whisk all remaining ingredients together in a large bowl. The mustard will emulsify the marinade, making it a uniform texture.
Place the chicken breasts on a large glass baking dish or rimmed baking sheet and coat generously with marinade on all sides (feel free to marinate overnight for maximum flavor; this is a quick weeknight version). Reserve only about three tablespoons of marinade to brush the chicken when finished.
Bake the chicken for 30 minutes, or until 165 degrees Fahrenheit in the center. I find the chicken comes out perfectly juicy in our oven this way, but a troubleshooting solution if you’re struggling with dry chicken is to cover the baking dish with foil while baking.
Remove the chicken from the oven and allow to rest for five minutes before brushing with remaining marinade and serving. Resting is really important—it allows the chicken to reabsorb its own juices. Enjoy.