Blackberry Basil Chicken Salad


Oh, hi! Anyone here? It’s definitely been a minute!

This salad is one of those things that I have been meaning to share for a LONG time. We make this on repeat in our house from about the time that blackberries first start re-appearing in the stores in the spring through fall grilling season. Why? It’s easy. Healthy. Delicious. Simple. And it makes just enough for a lunch salad serving for each of us the next day. It’s even better once I can start using my basil from my little vegetable garden.

The recipe originally came from emeals, and I’ve made a few changes but have mostly stayed true to the original simple ingredient list. I don’t love arugula in large amounts, so I usually buy a small pack and mix it with spinach or other salad mixes to spread it out a bit. My only other change, as above, is increasing the ingredients to make 4 salads. Enjoy!


(Printable Recipe)

Blackberry Basil Chicken Salad
Adapted from emeals

1 pack of boneless, skinless chicken breasts (1 to 1-1/2 pounds)
1 (5oz) pack of arugula
1 (5oz) pack of spring mix
2 pints of blackberries, washed
1/2 cup chopped basil
6 oz can honey roasted almonds (I don’t use the whole can)
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
Panera refrigerated Balsamic vinaigrette dressing

Preheat your grill (or heat a pan over medium-high heat). Salt and pepper both sides of your chicken breasts and grill until cooked through. Allow them to cool, then slice.

Divide the salad greens between plates (or containers if you are saving some for lunches). Chop the basil. Divide the ingredients between each salad. Top with dressing and serve.

Balsamic Smothered Chicken and Spinach Salad

bruchetta smothered chicken salad

Do any of you have specific ingredients that often predict what you will be making/eating? Those items that you cannot get enough of and automatically make an item included in your dinner or menu plans?

I have several – kalamata olives, caramel, roasted red peppers, butterscotch chips. I could give a few more, but as you may have guessed balsamic vinegar is pretty high on my list. Enter this smothered chicken recipe by Iowa Girl Eats. Truthfully, this has another ingredient both the hubbs and I cannot get enough of – tomato, basil, and garlic bruschetta from Trader Joes. They sell both a fresh and canned version, and both are awesome. We end up eating this bruschetta topping on toasted baguette slices at least once a week. Not kidding. Layer those with some avocado, chicken, and mozzarella cheese and you have this recipe.

bruchetta smothered chicken salad chicken cookingbruchetta smothered chicken salad close

The recipe itself is pretty simple. If you have never reduced balsamic vinegar, it is possible to burn it. The recipe states it takes about 20 minutes, but you probably should keep and eye on it and stir it a few times during that down time (not that I would know anything about burning the vinegar). This can be done ahead of time, making the recipe a great choice for a busy night. I cooked my chicken breasts on a grill pan, although they could be prepared in anyway you would like. Now that it’s officially spring, I am thinking the outdoor grill would be nice. Layer the cooked chicken with your toppings, slide it under the broiler, and you’re ready to eat. Enjoy!

(Printable Recipe)

Balsamic Smothered Chicken and Spinach Salad
Adapted from Iowa Girl Eats

1 cup balsamic vingear
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded until even thickness
olive oil
salt and pepper
1/2 cup tomato, basil, garlic bruschetta topping
1 avocado, sliced
4 oz. mozzarella cheese, fresh or grated will work fine
baby spinach

Pour balsamic vinegar into a small saucepan then bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to medium and continue to simmer until the vinegar is thick enough to coat a spoon, about 20 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Place the oven rack in the top position. Preheat the oven to broil. Warm a grill pan and warm over medium-high heat. Brush the chicken breasts with olive oil and season with salt and pepper on both sides. Add the chicken breasts and cook until cooked through and no longer pink in the middle. Can also bake or grill the chicken breasts if desired.

Spray a small baking pan with nonstick spray. Add the chicken breasts to the dish. Spread the bruschetta topping over each chicken breast. Top with a few avocado slices and mozzarella cheese. Place the dish in the oven and broil for 1-2 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Plate the chicken over a bread of spinach. Split any remaining avocado slices between the plates. Drizzle the chicken and spinach with the reduced balsamic vinegar and serve.

Asparagus with Balsamic Tomatoes


I always seem to miss the foodie holidays… Pi day, national pancake day, etc. I really need to get up with it a little more because it always looks like a lot of fun to participate in these days. One thing that I do know is that today is the first day of spring, so here is a “springy recipe to celebrate ๐Ÿ™‚

Side dishes are something I don’t plan for very well… I usually will do okay with having a side of bread with soup but for most meat and casserole-type dishes, I really don’t do sides. There are a couple of reasons behind this: 1) I’m already making the main dish and don’t want to have to work too hard on another aspect of the meal and 2) I don’t want sides that are loaded with calories. It has been a little while since I have made this, but this asparagus recipe meets both of those qualifications. Quick, pretty simple, and it clocks in at 69 calories a serving (4 servings).ย 

asparagus with basalmic tomatoes cooking tomatoes
asparagus with basalmic tomatoes close

I’ve talked before about how much we like asparagus, and this recipe is no different. My only swap was feta for goat cheese, as I am not the biggest goat cheese fan. Be sure to use a vinegar you really like here as the balsamic flavor is quite prominent (a bonus in my book). Enjoy!

(Printable Recipe)

Asparagus with Balsamic Tomatoes
Adapted from Cooking Light April 2011

1 lb. asparagus, trimmed
2 tsp. olive oil
1-1/2 cups halved grape or cherry tomatoes
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. crumbled feta cheese
1/2 tsp. black pepper

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add trimmed asparagus and cook for 2 minutes. Drain immediately and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process.ย 

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add tomatoes and garlic; cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the balsamic vinegar, and cook 3 minutes. Mix in salt. Arrange asparagus on a serving platter on on individual plates. Sprinkle with feta and black pepper.

Ziti with Ricotta and Vegetables

ziti with ricotta and vegetables

I have been slacking on the meatless, seafoodless recipes for you all this last week. To make up for it, I’ll have one every day up through Thursday to give you several options for this week. Promise ๐Ÿ™‚

We’ll start off the week with a short and sweet pasta meal. More pasta, I know, but hear me out. This one is much simpler than the previous lasagna recipe I posted! This recipe comes from my mother-in-law back from my bridal shower. Not sure what took me so long to make it knowing that pasta + balsamic vinegar + ricotta cheese + veggies = a winner in this house?!?

ziti with ricotta and vegetables cooking pasta and veggies
ziti with ricotta and vegetables in serving bowl

On a side note, can I just say that I am so glad that asparagus is coming back in season! I never had asparagus until I was an adult, and it ranks up there with my favorite vegetables (since it actually qualifies as a vegetable — no seeds!)ย 

(Printable Recipe)

Ziti with Ricotta and Vegetables
From Londaย 

8 oz. dried whole wheat penne (or any shape) pasta
2-1/2 cups broccoli florets
1-1/2 cups asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 large ripe tomatoes, juiced and chopped
1 cup low-fat ricotta cheese
1 Tbsp. dried, crushed basil
1 tsp. dried crushed thyme
4 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions. Add the broccoli and asparagus in the last 3 minutes of cooking. Drain.

Place a fine-meshed strainer over a large bowl. Cut the tomatoes in half and squeeze over the strainer to release the juice and seeds. Press down on the seeds in the strainer to get all the liquid you can. Chop and reserve the tomato flesh. Discard the seeds.

Add ricotta cheese, spices, vinegar, and oil to the tomato juice in the bowl and mix until well combined. Stir in the tomatoes. Add pasta and toss to combine. Sprinkle each serving with Parmesan cheese.

Asparagus Primavera with Couscous

If I had to pick my season, I would certainly be more of a summer person. The sun, the weather, getting to spend time outdoors, shorts, flip flops, lake trips. If you can’t tell by where my husband and I decided to move (Arizona), we dig this stuff. Despite my love of the season, I haven’t yet experienced the full wrath of an Arizona summer, so I’ve been trying to work-up my repertoire of “oven-free” meals to give my air conditioner a bit of a break as the thermometer climbs this summer. ๐Ÿ™‚

The other bonus of “don’t heat up the house” recipes is that they are typically pretty quick. Quick. Cool. Delicious. Triple score! This is a no-bake recipe that I found at Multiply Delicious, and I was sold after noticing both asparagus and balsamic vinegar on the ingredient list. The recipe is easily adaptable and could fit different grains (quinoa anyone?), different vegetables, or even the addition of chicken if you need to please a meat-eater in the house. We made it exactly as written with the only exception of brown balsamic vinegar for the white (it’s really only a difference of appearance). 

Our verdict: It was a great meal! The flavors of the dish really shined despite a relatively simple ingredient list. Light. Fresh. Healthy. It is certainly a meal I am going to keep in my north of 100 degrees folder. Enjoy!

(Printable Recipe)

Asparagus Primavera with Couscous
From Multiply Delicious

1-1/2 cups dry couscous
1 lb. asparagus, rinsed and woody bottoms snapped off
1 cup shredded carrots
1 can (15 oz) White Northern beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups loosely packed baby spinach, cut into strips
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar (white if possible)
2 Tbsp. orange juice
1 tsp. garlic minced (I used 2 cloves)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Fill a shallow pot with about 1-inch of water and bring to a boil. In a separate medium pot, bring 1-1/2 cups water to a boil (can use chicken broth if desired), then add couscous. Remove from heat, stir and cover. Couscous will be ready in 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and set aside.

Cut asparagus into pieces. Place asparagus and carrots into shallow pot of boiling water, reduce heat to low, cover and let simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and drain immediately. 

In a large salad bowl, toss remaining ingredients, except Parmesan. Add asparagus and carrots and toss again. To serve, spoon about 1 cup of couscous onto each plate. Spoon salad over the top, dividing evenly and garnish with grated Parmesan cheese.

Spinach and Strawberry Salad with Strawberry Dressing

I am getting towards the end of my strawberry posts. One more in line for tomorrow, and then we can return to the typical variety of recipes that find their way to my site. When I was searching for recipes to use my strawberries, I noticed that there are relatively few recipes that use fresh strawberries in a savory nature. I am not sure why this is, but I knew that I needed to find some non-baked ways to use a few berries so that we didn’t end up with WAY too many baked goods.  

This recipe from Maria of Two Peas and Their Pod was my starting point. While I have heard lots of good things about spinach and strawberry salads, I had never tried one before. Many of them have a sweet poppy seed-like dressing and use the strawberries primarily as a topping, but I liked how Maria used a strawberry puree on hers. Knowing that strawberries pair quite well with balsamic vinegar, I adapted the dressing to include balsamic vinegar and added a little bit extra sugar to offset the tartness of the vinegar.  

The result. We loved it! We usually have a small salad prior to eating our main dish for supper, and this was a great way to switch things up a little bit. Since this was a spur of the moment recipe, I didn’t have any almonds in the house like Maria used, but I think toasted almonds would make a great addition to this salad. It would also be great with different fruits including other berries or mandarin oranges. If you are still looking for a last minute Easter side dish, this would make a great light addition to a dinner spread. Enjoy!

(Printable Recipe)

Spinach and Strawberry Salad with Strawberry Dressing
Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod

1 lb. fresh spinach
1 cup strawberries, thinly sliced
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted if desired
2 ounces feta cheese

Strawberry Dressing:
7 large strawberries, cut in half
juice from 1 lemon (about 3 Tbsp)
1-2 tsp. honey (to taste)
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar (more or less to taste)
salt and pepper to taste

Place the spinach in a bowl. Top with sliced strawberries, almonds, and feta cheese. 

For the dressing, place strawberries in a blender or food processor. Squeeze lemon juice into the blender. Add balsamic vinegar. Drizzle with honey to taste. Blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Pour dressing over spinach and strawberry salad just before serving. 

Yield: 4 servings

I am linking this to Saturday Swap

Balsamic Raspberry Chicken

I’ve had this recipe archived to post for a couple months, but I can’t really not really sure why it took me this long to post it because we’ve already made it a couple of times. The recipe comes from Tiffanee at One Crazy Cookie. It sounds like Tiffanee shares my love for balsamic vinegar because she too has quite the array of balsamic-flavored recipes. Her pictures are much better, so check out her post as well!

In reality, this recipe couldn’t be any easier. The basis of it is cooking chicken in a skillet and then combining jam with the balsamic vinegar to make a sauce. My husband sliced our chicken into pieces before he realized we didn’t need to, but Tiffanee left her chicken breasts whole. It turned out fine when it was cut, so you really could make it either way. 



(Printable Recipe)

Balsamic Raspberry Chicken
From One Crazy Cookie

4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/3 c. seedless raspberry jam
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. salt

Spray a skillet with cooking spray. Lightly season chicken with extra salt and pepper, and saute chicken over medium-high heat turning several times so it will not over-brown. Saute until the chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken from the pan and keep warm.

Reduce heat to medium and add jam, vinegar, 1/4 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Stir until the jam melts. Return the chicken to the pan and coat it evenly in the sauce. Simmer on medium-low heat for about 5 minutes or until heated through.

Strawberries with Balsamic and Black Pepper Syrup

I love the flavor of balsamic vinegar, and I’ve been making quite the string of balsamic recipes lately. However, when I saw this recipe on Eats Well with Others, I wasn’t quite so sure. Balsamic vinegar, with strawberries? I had some strawberries hanging in my fridge since they have been on sale, so I figured I’d give it a whirl.  

Note: I didn’t make the shortcakes in Joanne’s blog and the ice cream in the picture is from the store as well. In fact, it didn’t matter. I could have eaten the strawberry-balsamic syrup plain. That said, this syrup would probably be that much better served over homemade ice cream! If you used white balsamic vinegar, you could even claim it as a patriotic dessert for this weekend. Simple. Delicious. Four ingredients. What’s not to love?

Hope everyone has a wonderful holiday weekend! I was actually get away between rotations to visit my husband for the weekend, so I’m excited!

(Printable Recipe)

Strawberries with Balsamic and Black Pepper Syrup
Adapted from Eats Well with Others and Bon Appetit

1 lb. fresh strawberries
2-1/2 Tbsp. sugar, divided
1-1/2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 small pinch freshly ground black pepper

Mix the strawberries, 2-1/2 tablespoons sugar, balsamic vinegar, and black pepper. Let macerate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Serve over ice cream, shortcakes, or just eat alone ๐Ÿ™‚

Balsamic Chicken Noodle Bowl

I will be forever thankful for the people in Nebraska that are helping me while I am still here and my husband is in Arizona. Without them, I really don’t know what we’d be doing right now! 

This is a recipe I have had bookmarked since January. I’m not quite sure what took me so long to try it since I love balsamic vinegar. Add feta cheese into that equation and I’m sold! The other great thing about this recipe is that it adapted well to help me clean out the cupboards and the fridge since I will be moving soon.  

Balsamic Chicken Noodle Bowl
Adapted from My Kitchen Cafe

6 oz. whole wheat angel hair pasta
1 bell pepper, any color cut into strips
1/2 zucchini, chopped
1/2 can (14.5 oz) Italian-style diced tomatoes, drained
2-1/2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
3 garlic cloves, divided and minced
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
1/8 c. plus 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil, divided
2-1/2 tsp. dried basil
1 cooked, cubed chicken breast
1/2 c. feta cheese 

Whisk together the vinegar, basil, salt, ground pepper, and 2 minced garlic cloves. When combined, slowly whisk in 1/8 cup of olive oil until the dressing is completely combined. Set aside.

Cook the pasta according to package directions and drain. Do not rinse. While the pasta is cooking, heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the bell pepper, 1 clove minced garlic, and zucchini and cook briefly until the bell pepper is crisp-tender. Add the cooked chicken and diced tomatoes and cook for 1-2 minutes more until the chicken is heated through.

When the noodles have been drained, add the hot noodles to the skillet with the vegetable-chicken mixture and toss. Add the feta cheese and toss quickly to combine. Pour the dressing over the top and toss with tongs to coat all the ingredients. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Spinach Salad with Whole-Wheat Tortellini, Dried Cranberries, Apples, and Feta

My husband has been out of town on rotation for the past 3 weeks, so I’ve been a little  bit more low key on cooking meals. Conveniently, I saw this recipe here on Two Peas and Their Pod and knew I had to try it. Maria has TONS of great recipes on her blog, and it was just what I was looking for in an easy supper (read: I won’t be eating leftovers for 2 of the 4 weeks)!
All that I can tell you is that this salad is good enough that I’ve had it 3 times in the past week! This past time I even had to swap in a raspberry vinaigrette for the balsamic because I was out, and it was still great! I did adapt the recipe a little bit by leaving the almonds out. I am generally not too crazy about nuts in my food. They are okay plain, but I’d rather not have them in my salads, brownies, etc. 
Spinach Salad with Whole-Wheat Tortellini, Dried Cranberries, Apples, & Feta
Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod
Fresh spinach leaves

Whole-wheat cheese tortellini, cooked, drained, and chilled (Buitoni refrigerated)
Dried cranberries
tart apple, cut into thin slices
Feta cheese
Balsamic dressing (raspberry vinaigrette)

Cook the tortellini according to package instructions. Drain and rinse with cold water. Place a bed of spinach on a plate. Add tortellini, dried cranberries, apple slices, feta cheese, and dressing. Eat and enjoy!