Roast chicken breast over warm pea, cauliflower, zucchini and spinach salad.

20 minutes or less. No fuss, One pan. Yes, seriously!

Sometimes you need a simple, yet deeply satisfying, ‘small’ meal. By small, I mean, for you. Perhaps for you and your children. My husband is traveling, which frees me up to play with small, ‘snack like’ foods for myself and ultra simple meals (read quesadillas) for the kids. After enjoying a few nights of crackers and cheese, then scrambled eggs for dinner, I decided to treat myself better tonight. Tonight, I made a proper meal.

This dish is easy to dial up, down or modify for more people. My little ones still consider chicken the Queen-of-protein, so I tend to keep it on hand, in all of it’s configurations. Breasts, thighs, on the bone, off the bone, whole … there’s a chicken for every occasion in my freezer. Tonight, I pulled out a single chicken breast half. It’s enough for the three of us, and was surprisingly rich and tasty, over a simple warm salad.

Ingredients for the Salad:

  • Baby spinach leaves (1 cup per spinach-eating adult or 1/2 cup for spinach eating children)
  • 1 cup (increase to 1 1/2 cups for 2 adults) of large cauliflower florets
  • 1 cup (increase to 2 cups for 2 adults) of frozen peas
  • 1 large zucchini (cut into 1/2 inch pieces)
  • Balsamic vinaigrette

The Chicken:

  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast half serves me and my 2 children, but they’re little, and don’t eat much yet. I’d recommend typical servings of one full chicken breast for 2 adults and 1/2 a breast to serve two small children. Add more chicken breasts to accommodate bigger families or appetites.
  • Salt to taste (I use about 1/2 tsp. per chicken breast half  usually of kosher salt, tonight I decided to mix it up with pink Himalayan sea salt.)
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste (I use about 1/4 tsp. per chicken breast half since my kids are still fairly spice-averse.)

Kid Modifications:

  • My kids are not salad appreciators (yet) and I separated onto their plates all of the vegetables as ‘independent sides’ without using the dressing, (i.e. cauliflower not touching peas, not touching zucchini.) Also for variety, I added sliced carrots and grape tomatoes to both of their plates.
  • Serve the chicken and vegetables along with whatever grain your kids like to eat. I actually gave my kids oatmeal tonight (long story) but a roll, slice of wheat toast with hummus, pasta or couscous would do nicely here.

How to Put This on Your Table:

  • Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Season your chicken breast(s) on a plate with salt and pepper, set aside.
  • Heat 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil, in a wide, oven-safe saucepan until the oil is ‘hot’ and slightly shimmering.
  • Using tongs, sear your chicken on one side, for about 1 minute until golden brown. Turn the chicken and sear quickly on the other side (about 30 seconds.)
  • Add the cauliflower to the pan, then place the pan (with the chicken and cauliflower on it) into the oven for 10 – 12 minutes (chicken will feel firm and spring back when touched with a fork when it’s done and will register 165 degrees F.)
    Safety note — even when I KNOW I’m pulling my skin-searing-hot pan out of the oven, because it’s a saucepan my brain tells me to hold the handle. I now put an oven mitt next to the side of the oven to visually cue myself to use it when this is done. You’re welcome.
  • While the chicken is in the oven, prep your salad veggies (cut your zucchini, have your frozen peas ready, make your balsamic vinaigrette and line each salad eater’s plate with spinach.)
  • When the chicken is ready, remove it from the pan  along with the cauliflower, and put it aside, on a clean plate or cutting board, to rest for 5 – 10 minutes.
  • While it’s resting, use the same pan to cook (over medium heat) the zucchini (sautéed for 2 or 3 minutes) then add the frozen peas, and cook until the peas are warmed through another 3 – 5 minutes.

Assembly:

  • Assemble the salad: place the cauliflower on top of the spinach, then peas and the zucchini. Top with balsamic vinaigrette.
  • When the chicken has had it’s rest, slice on the bias, into 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces and assemble onto plates (on top of the salads for the adults, onto plates in cubes or slices next to the veggies for the kids.)

Voila! This meal is easy, one pan, delicious and satisfying when you don’t want the fuss of a more complicated entree.

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