Easy Margarita Chicken
from Cook This, Not That!

Another Quick Supper recipe, perfect for a weeknight dinner, chicken breasts quickly sautéed in a skillet and topped with salsa and a sprinkle of cheese, served with a can of black beans doctored with onions, peppers, cumin and lime juice. (The beans themselves are so good, you just might be tempted to make a meal out of them alone!)

Plus my reaction to Cook This, Not That!, the cookbook that food people love to hate.

Easy Margarita Chicken

My cookbook cup runneth over. Truth is, I’ve been collecting cookbooks like some women collect shoes. So call me surprised when a gimmicky-looking cookbook caught my eye before Christmas.

The cover of Cook This, Not That! was jarring in that late-night-TV too-loud way. “The No-Diet Weight Loss Solution” it claimed. “Easy and Awesome 350-Calorie Meals” it shouted. “This is a book for people who love to eat” it promised.

My inner foodie sniffed.

But upon inspection, the recipes looked good, really good, with appealing titles, affordable ingredients, generous portion sizes and easy techniques perfect for busy families.

Most of all, I was impressed by how many practical tips are crammed into 300+ pages, perfect for young cooks responsible for feeding themselves for the first time. Think provocative teaching tips, such as:

5 Calorie-Cutting Techniques (white sauce not cream sauce, fresh salsa, 4 different pan sauces, spice rubs and oven frying)
“4 Reasons to Spend More Time in the Kitchen Than in the Gym” (Update! Ha! My sister caught the typo but this first read, "Spend More Time in the Kitchen, THEN in the Gym." Apt, eh?)
Salad Matrix – choose a lettuce, choose a protein, choose vegetables and fruits, choose add-ons like beans, choose a homemade dressing
The World’s Best Asian Condiments – kimchi, hoisin, curry paste, sriracha, fish sauce, rice wine vinegar and chili-garlic sauce

So Cook This, Not That! is a real cookbook, and a teaching cookbook to boot.

I also appreciate the credible premise: how to lose weight eating healthy food, no dieting required. Each recipe aims for about 350 calories. That’s more calories than most Kitchen Parade recipes but then again, the portion sizes are larger. More importantly, Cook This, Not That! compares its recipes not to home cooking but to similar restaurant recipes, both in calories and in cost. The comparisons are alone are an eye-popping education.

So yes, I love this cookbook despite watching other ‘food people’ sniff in condescension. At Christmas, my sister wanted to nab my copy so I sent her one and now we’re both cooking from it. Neither one of us qualify as ‘busy families’ or ‘young cooks’ anymore but for both of us, this cookbook gets high marks for inspiring easy every-day home-cooked meals. In my crowded bookshelf, I’m making room for Cook This, Not That!.

ALANNA's TIPS Chicken breasts are Hooters huge these days, often more than a pound a piece. So if size matters, get out your scale and cut the meat down to serving size. To get supper on the table even faster, use two skillets, one for the Peppers & Beans, another for the Chicken and cook them simultaneously.


Hands-on time: 15 minutes
Time to table: 20 minutes
Serves 4, easily adjusted for 1 or many
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, sliced
  • Splash of water
  • 1 15-ounce can of black beans or pinto beans, drained
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • Juice of a lime (save the zest for garnish!)
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 4 pieces (see TIPS)
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup salsa
  • 1/2 cup pepper jack or a ‘Mexican’ blend cheese (about 2 ounces), grated
  • Lime zest for garnish

Preheat oven to 450F.

PEPPERS & BEANS In a large skillet, cook the onion and peppers in a splash of water, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are cooked through but still crisp. (A non-stick skillet works best here, otherwise use a little oil to prevent sticking.) Add the beans, cumin and lime juice and heat through. Season to taste. Transfer the mixture to another dish, keep warm.

CHICKEN If needed, cut the chicken breasts into individual servings. Between two pieces of waxed paper, pound the thickest part of the breast until each piece is roughly the same thickness throughout. (Why? The breasts will cook more evenly when they’re the same thickness.) Season with salt and pepper.

Spray the skillet with cooking spray, heat on medium high. Add the chicken pieces (they should sizzle) and let cook, without moving, for 3 to 4 minutes until a crisp crust forms. With tongs, turn the pieces over and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes.

Spoon the beans around the chicken pieces, then cover the chicken with salsa and cheese. Bake for 5 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly. Sprinkle lime zest over top and serve.

NUTRITION ESTIMATE Per Serving: 298 Calories; 6g Tot Fat; 3g Sat Fat; 95mg Cholesterol; 772mg Sodium; 22g Carb; 7g Fiber; 3g Sugar; 36g Protein; Weight Watchers Old Points 6, PointsPlus 7 This recipe has been 'Alanna-sized'.

Cook This, Not That! compares its Margarita Chicken recipe to TGI Friday’s Sizzling Chicken & Cheese which racks up 1200 calories a serving and costs $11.49.
Adapted from Cook This, Not That!. I especially like the adaptability of this cookbook’s recipes. For example, the original recipe called for a half can of beans for four people which seemed just silly to me, no vegetables, six-ounce chicken breasts, a cup of salsa and a cup of cheese. But the inspiration for my own recipe? Definitely Cook This, Not That!.

Cook This, Not That cover

There seems to be more than one Cook This, Not That! edition. Mine has burgers on the front cover and it came from Sam's Club for about $12 in early December. It can also be purchased at Amazon and there's more information about the books (with lots of 'yelling', put in your Internet ear plugs) at Men's Health where one of the authors is editor.

For the record: This is not a sponsored post. I purchased the book myself (and a second copy for my sister). The publishers at Rodale, the authors David Zinczenko and Matt Goulding, have no clue I exist.

My Disclosure Promise

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Do you have a favorite easy chicken recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via recipes@kitchen-parade.com. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. Join Kitchen Parade on Facebook!

TIS THE SEASON: This Week, Years Past

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Alanna, this sounds WONDERFUL! I especially love the bright flavors when it's cold and snowy outside.

YES the chicken breasts are HUGE! I usually buy split breasts and bone them. I get the tenders, plus bones and skin for stock. Then I take the still huge breast portions and make nice, even cutlets - and the leftover pieces, I cut up for either soups and stews or sometimes I slice them for "chicken fingers."
This sounds wonderful! The beans especially, thanks!
For an even quicker version of this delicious meal (am I allowed a product reference? I have no affiliation) try using a can or two of Glory Foods Sensibly Seasoned/Lower Sodium Black Beans which already incorporate the pepper and onion - just add the cumin and lime.
Thanks for not only the recipe, but the great book review as well. I was one of those that totally poo-pooed the book at first sight. I'm really glad to know I shouldn't judge a book by it's cover (though really...how have I not learned that by now?!) Thanks!!
Hi Alanna,
I just found your blog via allwomenstalk.com, as i was hunting for good Weight Watchers recipe blogs. I think I'll become one of your readers, as this looks great. My question is HOW/WHERE does one print a recipe out? I have looked all over and don't see that option. thanks in advance,
Hi Teresa ~ Thanks for visiting, I do hope you’ll become a regular reader! FYI Kitchen Parade’s two-column format doesn’t lend itself easily to usual print functions. Readers tell me they copy recipes (and any tips they want) into Word documents. I also have great luck saving recipes in Evernote, the free version, the plain non-recipe version, and printing from there. I actually love Evernote, it’s where I store all the recipes I have in my head to make, since it synchs with my phone, at the grocery store, I can check the ingredient list. And it sorts by tags, etc. PS At A Veggie Venture, you’ll find a “printer friendly recipe” button below all recipes for the last three or four years plus the most popular recipes from prior years. Thanks for asking!
Made this last night, it was excellent! I had it for breakfast.

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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna