Weekly Winner:  A Clean Start to the New Year with some Nutty Chicken

It has taken me a while, but I finally think I have figured out the Food God’s evil, master plan.  It makes you crave – then gorge on – all of that excessive, sugar-laden, rich, gooey, nostalgic food over the holidays simply so that come New Year’s, you actually crave healthy, clean meals. And it works…..every time.

Last night was the first night we either weren’t traveling, entertaining house guests, eating out with friends, or simply trying to clear out the fridge of the holiday dregs that still lingered..tempting us.  We needed a clean break, literally and figuratively from all the crap we’d been eating (and loving, I might add).  The problem is, after such a gluttonous long week, bland boring “diet food” would not cut it.  I wanted something healthy-tasting but with loads of flavor. Something that felt hearty yet wouldn’t weigh me down.  My “dinner in shining armor” arrived in the form of Pistachio-Crusted Chicken with Warm Barley Salad.  Since hubby prefers farro to barley (and yes, I take full credit and much pride in that fact!), I made that swap.  The dish is amazing.  Perhaps the best testament is that even though its insanely healthy, I’ll gladly make and eat this dish anytime — not just when trying to cut back and clean up my act.  The recipe comes from Eating Well and is a wonderful mix of flavors, textures and all-around wholesome yumminess.

Pistachio-Crusted Chicken with Warm Barley Farro Salad

Serves 4


Olive oil or canola oil cooking spray

2 cups water plus 1 Tbsp, divided

1/2 cup quick barley (or pearled farro)

1 cup salted shelled pistachios, divided

1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs

1 tsp orange zest

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1 large egg white

2 8-oz boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed and cut in half crosswise

1/2 tsp salt, divided

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1 Tbsp white-wine vinegar

1 cup chopped fresh parsley


  1. Preheat oven to 450F.  Coat a wire rack with cooking spray and place on a foil-lined baking sheet.
  2. Bring 2 cups water and barley or farro to a boil in a small saucepan.  Reduce heat and simmer until tender, 10-12 minutes.  Set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, pulse 3/4 cup pistachios, breadcrumbs, orange zest and garlic powder in a food processor until the pistachios are coarsely chopped.  Transfer to a shallow dish.  Whisk egg white and the remaining 1 Tbsp water in another shallow dish.
  4. Place chicken between 2 pieces of plastic wrap.  Pound with the smooth side of a meat mallet to an even 1/2-inch thickness.  Sprinkle the chicken with 1/4 tsp salt, coat with the egg mixture and dredge in the pistachio mixture, patting to adhere.  Place on the prepared rack.  Coat both sides of the chicken with cooking spray.
  5. Bake the chicken until and instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part registers 165F, about 15 minutes.
  6. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add tomatoes and vinegar.  Cook until the tomatoes just start to collapse, about 1 minute.  Remove from heat.
  7. Drain barley or farro, if necessary, and stir into the tomatoes along with the remaining 1/4 cup pistachios, 1/4 teaspoon salt and parsley.  Serve with the chicken.

Weekly Winner:  Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner! Part 2

I was not terribly familiar with the term “kofta” before making this recipe.  I thought it was some sort of kebab or little meatloaf, but that was the extent of my knowledge.  Come to find out it can actually be either — or a meatball or patty.  And seriously, who doesn’t like a patty of meat?  Be it a slider, burger, ball or loaf, there is just something about it that makes people happy.  Generally, when I think of any of the aforementioned patties, chicken almost never comes to mind.  Beef?  Lamb?  You bet.  But chicken? Call me skeptical.

Chicken Kofta with Pomegranate Rice might just be the dish to change my mind.  Treated correctly, and combined with the right ingredients, chicken can actually make a tender, juicy, and very healthy patty.  Who knew?? The recipe comes from Real Simple and it is exactly that.

This is one of those dishes that smells fabulous while cooking and gets even better once you sit down and tuck into it.  Everything just goes together perfectly.  The super savory yellow rice, the amazingly tender Mediterranean-spiced chicken, the tangy yogurt, the surprising burst of the pomegranate and the crisp crunch of the cucumber.  If you’re lucky, you’ll get a bit of everything in each bite.  If not – just keep eating until you do!

Chicken Kofta with Pomegranate Rice

Serves 4


2/3 cup plain Greek yogurt

1/4 tsp kosher salt

1 lb ground chicken

1-2/3 tsp ground cumin

3/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1 garlic clove, minced

1 Tbsp olive oil

1Tbsp water

1 tsp fresh lemon juice

4 cups cooked yellow rice

1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

1/2 cup chopped English cucumber


  • Stir together the yogurt and salt.  Combine the chicken, cumin, cinnamon, garlic, and 2 tablespoons of the yogurt mixture in a medium bowl.  Shape into 8 (3-inch long) oval patties
  • Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium.  Cook the patties, turning occasionally until golden brown and cooked through, about 12 minutes
  • Stir the water and lemon juice into the remaining yogurt mixture.  Toss together the rice and pomegranate seeds. Serve patties with the rice; top with the yogurt sauce and cucumber.

Weekly Winner:  Hip, Hip, Harissa!

 Last night’s dinner was not just my Weekly Winner — this was easily the best thing I’ve made in the past six months!    The amazing thing about that statement is that this dish did not contain a bit of bacon, a portion of pork, or an ounce of cheese (sorry, I could not think of a word beginning with “ch” to describe a smidgen). Imagine that — chicken and vegetables won out over any pasta, pork or gooey casserole I’ve made in half a year!

This amazing dish was Harissa-Roasted Chicken with Chickpeas and it comes from Sunset Magazine. Besides being crazy good, and amazingly healthy…it’s a one-pot wonder!

Because you marinade the chicken in a mixture of yogurt and harissa, it stays incredibly moist and tender.  I can see why the chicken turns out so tasty.  What is truly incredible about this dish is how delectable the vegetables are!  There is absolutely nothing on them but some salt and pepper.  Roasting the chicken on top imparts a great flavor.  This is truly a remarkable dish.  Please make it!

Harissa-Roasted Chicken with Chickpeas


1/2 cup plain whole-milk greek-style yogurt

1/3 cup coarse harissa

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tsp. kosher or sea salt


6 large bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (2 lbs. total)

1 can (15 oz.) chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 large red onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced into half-moons

1 pound carrots, peeled and sliced on the diagonal about 1/4 in. thick


1. In a bowl, whisk yogurt, harissa, lemon juice, 1 tsp. salt, and several grinds of pepper. Add chicken; turn to coat. Chill, covered, 4 to 8 hours.

2. Preheat oven to 425° with a rack set in upper third. In a bowl, combine chickpeas, onion, and carrots. Season lightly with salt and toss to blend. Make a bed of the vegetables in a 9- by 13-in. baking dish. With a rubber spatula, redistribute marinade so it evenly covers both sides of chicken. Set chicken on vegetables, skin side up. Bake until chicken is deeply browned, about 45 minutes.

3. Transfer chicken to a plate. Stir vegetables and add a splash of water if they look dry. Bake until carrots are tender, 10 minutes longer.