Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Post-St. Patty's Day

Still recovering from St. Patty's Day? You are not alone, my friend. I take this mostly as an indication that I am getting old.

I don't know about you, but my St. Patrick's Day consisted of lots of Guinness and Bailey's, mostly in coffee and brownie form. Our friends Kellie and Lauren had a lovely St. Patty's day brunch with all kinds of delicious noms. Throw some Korean BBQ in there for good measure (I know, not Irish, but a delicious addition to the weekend), and my body is offended by the lack of vegetables over the past week.


Chicago does St. Patrick's Day to the extreme. I would compare it to a Penn State football weekend but spread over an entire city.

People wear kilts (isn't that Scottish?) and break out their paddleboards.

For the love of God, do NOT fall into that river.

Some people even take their fanciest cars for a spin.

 The elusive car-boat

There's a parade and bar specials out the wazoo starting at 9 AM and all that, but my favorite part of the weekend is the dyeing of the Chicago river.

Yes, the river is really THAT green.

You see it in pictures, sure, but you always think to yourself that it must be Photoshopped. I say to you, readers, that is the real, non-retouched version. Definitely my favorite!

After a weekend of too many noms, I was looking for a recipe that was healthy but still delicious and sort of decadent. I came upon this recipe from the nifty blog Iowa Girl Eats. I tweaked it a bit based on what I had and what I could get at the store. My favorite modification was the use of roasted grapes rather than fresh cherries. The juices from the grapes act as a sort of dressing when combined with the balsamic reduction, so you don't even have to add anything extra!

This recipe has a few parts to it, but don't be intimidated; they're all simple to do. I broke the recipe down by section so that it is hopefully a little easier to follow. When I made the salad, I reduced the balsamic vinegar while doing the other stuff in the oven, as this part took the longest. I would recommend putting the chicken in the oven first followed by the grapes and then the goat cheese. That way, you have nice warm goat cheese for your salad, and the chicken has had a chance to rest. Alternatively, you can bake the chicken and roast the grapes at the same time if you're in a rush then bake the goat cheese.

Almond-Crusted Goat Cheese Spinach Salad with Roasted Grapes & Chicken

Inspired by Iowa Girl Eats
Serves 2

Balsamic reduction:
1 cup balsamic vinegar

1 boneless skinless chicken breast (about half a pound raw)

2 cups red seedless grapes, removed from stems (about 1/2 to 3/4 lb)
Olive oil flavored cooking spray or olive oil
Salt to taste (1/4 to 1/2 tsp)
Pepper to taste (1/8 to 1/4 tsp)

Goat cheese:
3 oz goat cheese
2 tbsp toasted unsalted sliced almonds (I bought the pre-toasted kind from Trader Joe's)
Olive oil for brushing

4 oz baby spinach (about 4 cups)

For the balsamic reduction:
1) Pour balsamic vinegar into a small saucepan.
2) Heat on medium heat until the vinegar thickens and is roughly the consistency of maple syrup. The sauce will continue to thicken as it cools.
Pro tip: If you have a fan above your stove, turn it on. The reducing vinegar is quite pungent and will burn your nose if you breathe it in!

For the chicken:
1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2) Place chicken in a baking pan or dish (with sides! Or you'll wind up with chicken juice all over the bottom of the oven and the fire alarm going off. Not that I know this from experience or anything...).
3) Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Flip chicken over and repeat.
4) Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the inside is no longer pink and juices run clear.

For the grapes:
1) Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (or 400 F if you're doing this at the same time as the chicken).
2) Place grapes in a baking dish or on a baking sheet in a single layer.
3) Spray with cooking spray or drizzle lightly with olive oil. Roll grapes around by shaking the pan so that they are coated evenly with oil.
4) Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Roll grapes around again to coat evenly with salt and pepper.
5) Roast in oven until grapes begin to split but before grapes begin to brown, about 15 minutes (slightly longer at 400 F), shaking the pan occasionally to prevent the grapes from sticking.

For the goat cheese:
1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet or baking pan with parchment paper.
2) Cut the goat cheese into four rounds ~1/4 in thick. Place on cookie sheet.
3) Lightly brush the tops with olive oil. Sprinkle sliced almonds over the surface of the goat cheese, pressing lightly so the nuts stick to the cheese.
4) Bake 5-7 minutes or until soft and warm.

1) Divide baby spinach between two plates.
2) Top with grapes, chicken, and goat cheese.
3) Drizzle with balsamic reduction and sprinkle with additional almonds if desired.
4) Enjoy!

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