Quick Summer Dinners

I’ve had a couple of requests for easy weeknight meals, and I feel like I finally have enough go-to recipes in my repertoire to share. It’s summer, so none of these require the oven (one does use the broiler, but I’ve noticed the broiler doesn’t heat up my entire kitchen the way the oven does). Also, you should know that I love cooking, but I’m slow at it: a 30-minute meal takes me about an hour to prepare. These all take around half an hour for me to make, which I think is pretty good!

Pioneer Woman Chicken Quesadillas

Photo from thepioneerwoman.com

I love PW. This is one of her 16-minute meals, and it’s quick, easy, and tasty. On her Web site she uses a blend of spices to give the chicken a Tex-Mex flavor, but I use about one-third of a packet of taco seasoning to make the recipe even easier. I love topping these with plain Greek yogurt and Trader Joe’s Corn and Chile salsa.

Laaloosh Caprese Chicken

Photo from laaloosh.com

I love Laaloosh for her tasty Weight Watchers recipes. This one is no exception. With the fresh flavor of basil and the treat of melted mozzarella over perfectly cooked chicken breast, this is a dish I make all the time. I serve it with a side of cous cous splashed with a little balsamic vinegar.

Greek Pasta Salad with Grilled Chicken

This is a recipe of my own creation that’s easy to adapt to your tastes. It’s fresh and light, perfect for a weeknight dinner. (It has a lot of steps, so this one usually takes me about 45 minutes to make. It helps if your sous chef can grill the chicken for you.)

12 oz orzo pasta
1 yellow bell pepper
2 medium zucchini, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
½ cup Greek olives, pitted and halved
8 oz feta cheese
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
Salt and pepper
¼ cup Greek dressing, or to taste

Start heating a pot of water for the pasta. Meanwhile, season the chicken with salt and pepper. Grill until cooked through, about 4 minutes per side; longer if using thick breasts.

When water is boiling, salt the water and add the orzo to the pot. Cook according to package directions. While the pasta is cooking, heat the broiler. Cut the pepper in half; remove stem, seeds, and pith, and flatten onto a cookie sheet lined with foil. Broil, skin-side up, until skin is blackened, about 11 minutes.

While the pepper is broiling, heat a grill pan to medium-high. Spray with cooking spray and add the zucchini. Cook until brown on both sides. Remove the pepper from the oven, and wrap in the foil tightly for five minutes.

Add the cooked orzo, grilled zucchini, cherry tomatoes, and olives to a large bowl. Crumble the feta cheese and add to bowl. Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces and add that as well. Unwrap the pepper, remove the skin, and cut into bite-sized pieces. Add to bowl. Add dressing to pasta mixture and toss to combine. Serve warm.

This is also excellent chilled, and would be a great dish to bring to a summer cookout (with or without the chicken). To make it your own, you can add or subtract any ingredient you wish. One addition I’ve tried in the past is carrots, but I would recommend roasting or grilling first to soften them a little. Also, you can use jarred roasted peppers if you don’t want to roast your own; just dab them on a paper towel to get the oil off first.

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