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.
~recipe updated 2017 for a little weeknight supper inspiration~
~more recently updated recipes~
My cookbook cup runneth over. Truth is, I’ve been collecting cookbooks like some women collect shoes or iPhone apps. 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 – not "recipes," but techniques that just make sense: white sauce instead of cream sauce, fresh salsa, four different pan sauces, spice rubs and oven frying
“4 Reasons to Spend More Time in the Kitchen Than in the Gym” – ha! my sister caught the typo but entirely by accident, my first live version of this column actually read, "Spend More Time in the Kitchen, THEN in the Gym." – pretty apt, eh?
Salad Matrix – it's a great salad formula, choose a lettuce, choose a protein, choose vegetables and fruits, choose add-ons like beans and finally choose a homemade dressing
The World’s Best Asian Condiments – these can really bump the flavor profile of a dish, think kimchi, hoisin (though the commercial bottles of hoisin contain a lot of sugar), 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!.
"... it was excellent!" ~ Anonymous
QUICK SUPPER RECIPE: EASY MARGARITA CHICKEN
Time to table: 20 minutes
Serves 4, easily adjusted for 1 or many
PEPPERS & BEANS
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 bell pepper, sliced
- Splash of water (or oil, if you prefer)
- 1 15-ounce can of black beans or pinto beans, rinsed and 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
Heat oven to 450F/230C.
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 Peppers & Beans around the chicken pieces, then cover the chicken with salsa and cheese. Bake for 5 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly.
TO SERVE, sprinkle lime zest over top and serve.
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, I usually allow a quarter pound (about 110g) uncooked chicken per serving. Big eaters will eat two of these. To get supper on the table even faster, use two skillets, one for the Peppers & Beans, another for the Chicken and cook them simultaneously.
SUPPER SAVER 2017 It'd already been a loooong day one day last week when I started to cook supper, worn down but feeling pretty smug that the supper plan would use up chicken breasts from the freezer and leftover bell pepper and salsa from the fridge.
EXCEPT.EXCEPT.EXCEPT. Oops, no red pepper; no problem, green pepper was an easy substitute. Oops, no black beans; chickpeas should've been an easy substitute too but Trader Joe's chickpeas just aren't great, they're barely cooked. And that chicken from the freezer? Oops, it wasn't chicken at all, but wild duck breast. And the leftover salsa? Oops, a genuine "science experiment".
Luckily, I found some frozen cod in the freezer and my husband (!) had made a great salsa verde on the weekend. I added frozen fire-roasted corn and some roasted mushrooms to the skillet, topped it with the still-frozen cod, the salsa verde and a little cheese, then threw the whole thing in the oven.
Wow. DELISH! Add "adaptability" to this recipe, truly.
Cook This, Not That! compares its copycat Margarita Chicken recipe to TGI Friday’s Sizzling Chicken & Cheese which racks up 1200 calories a serving and costs $11.49. YIKES.
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!.
FYI 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", you might want to 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.
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