Balsamic Grilled Chicken

Balsamic Grilled Chicken -- A Pinch of Joy

Balsamic Grilled Chicken -- A Pinch of Joy

Grilled Balsamic Chicken can be prepared and frozen for serving at a later date – a great make ahead meal.  Or it can be made a few hours ahead of time and left to marinate in the refrigerator for an evening meal.  It has a little bit of balsamic tang to liven up the flavor of a nicely balanced mixture of herbs.  Leftovers (if there are any!) can be sliced, warm or cold,  atop a bed of salad greens for another meal.

In a time crunch?  Or missing one of the herbs?  You can substitute 2-3 teaspoons of Italian seasoning for the herbs.   Parsley, basil and oregano are basic in Italian seasoning.   Depending on the brand you will find a combination of other herbs so the flavor will be somewhat different.  But . . .   in a pinch that works!   Measure dried herbs    into your hand and crush them with the back of a spoon to release more flavor .

Do not substitute the vinegar, however.  Balsamic vinegar is made from grapes, not fermented, and put through a cooking process that darkens the juice through carmelization.  The liquid is called “must” and is aged before bottling.  The more complex and longer the aging process the  more expensive the vinegar.  It can only be produced in one area in Italy, using a specific type of grape.   Balsamic vinegars have a very distinct flavor.   The vinegars on the grocery shelf are generally what are called salad vinegars and fall into a different category than the aged Italian vinegars.  They may have another vinegar added and are also much less expensive.  While they may not be as flavorful as the “real deal” produced in a specific area of Italy and aged to perfection, they still have bring a very distinct flavor to your dish.

Grilled Balsamic Chicken can be prepared and then frozen for up to three months.  Great to have a make ahead meal in the freezer, ready to thaw and cook.  Or it can be made, marinated and grilled the same day.  If you can only find chicken breasts that are the big chunk of meat variety, slice them into  “fillets” about ½ inch thick.  This ensures that all the meat will take about the same time to cook evenly.   Do not overcook or the chicken will be tough and dry.  A thermometer will help prevent this.

Balsamic Grilled Chicken
 
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Tender grilled chicken with a little bit of balsamic tang to liven up the flavor of a nicely balanced mixture of herbs. Make ahead and freeze. Marinate and cook the same day. Place slices, warm or cold, on a bed of lettuce for a great salad.
Author:
Recipe type: Main
Serves: 4 servings
Ingredients
  • 4 chicken breasts cut about ½ thick (about 1 ½ pounds)
Marinade
  • ¾ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 ½ teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
Instructions
  1. Combine marinade ingredients in large zip lock bag. Close and shake to combine.
  2. Add chicken and close bag again.
  3. To cook without freezing: Let chicken marinate for 2-3 hours turning occasionally.
  4. To freeze for cooking later: Insert bag with marinade and chicken into a second bag and close tightly. Label and place in freezer for up to three months. Thaw chicken and marinade in refrigerator for about 24 hours before cooking.
  5. Grill chicken over medium heat about 6-8 minutes per side until done OR 8 minutes in countertop grill (Foreman, etc) until cooked. Internal temperature will be 165 when done.
  6. Serve hot.

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Bacon Ranch Chicken Pasta Bake

Bacon Ranch Chicken Pasta casserole -- A Pinch of Joy

Bacon Ranch Chicken Pasta casserole -- A Pinch of Joy

Soooo good you’ll want seconds – and thirds!  Bacon Ranch Chicken Pasta Bake goes together fairly quickly.  While you are preparing the pasta, you can also cook the bacon and then the chicken. I prefer to use thinner chicken breast cuts because they cook quickly and can be more easily cut into uniform pieces. Cut the bacon before browning, either with a knife on a cutting board or with a pair of kitchen shears. I always burn my fingers trying to cut bacon after it is browned! Roux is melted butter (or other fat) and flour mixed together. When the flour has been incorporated into the fat, cook just long enough for the mixture to turn slightly golden before adding the liquid. Cooking too long or over too high a heat will make the sauce lumpy. Better to prevent lumps than try to whisk them out!   I had a bottle of Bacon Ranch dressing in the refrigerator when I made this for dinner. Using it added a nice depth to the bacon flavor.

Bacon Ranch Chicken Pasta Bake
 
Soooo good you'll want seconds -- and thirds!
Author:
Recipe type: Casserole Main Dish
Serves: 6 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 cups chicken, cooked and diced
  • 2 ½ cups (8 ounces) rigatoni
  • 8 slices bacon, chopped and browned
  • 3 teaspoons garlic, chopped
  • 3 tbsp of butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 cup of Milk
  • ¾ cup of Ranch Dressing
  • 2 cups cheese
Instructions
  1. Bring pot of water to boil and cook rigatoni according to package directions.
  2. Cut bacon into one inch pieces and place in skillet to brown.
  3. Dice chicken.
  4. When bacon is done, remove from skillet with slotted spoon or spatula and drain on paper towel.
  5. Add diced chicken to bacon fat. Cover and cook until done.
  6. When rigatoni is done cooking, drain. Melt butter in bottom of pan, adding minced garlic.
  7. Add flour to melted butter and stir to make roux. Add milk and ranch dressing to roux and whisk over medium heat until slightly thickened and smooth, about 3 minutes.
  8. Add 1 cup of cheese to white sauce and mix thoroughly. Fold in rigatoni, bacon and diced chicken.
  9. Pour into greased 8x8 pan or equivalent sized casserole. Distribute remaining cup of cheese over top of casserole.
  10. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, or until cheese is melted and casserole is hot through.

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Chicken Spaghetti

Chicken Spaghetti -- A Pinch of Joy

Chicken Spaghetti -- A Pinch of Joy

Chicken spaghetti is a versatile dish. 1) It can easily handle add-ins, like a 10 ounce package of frozen mixed vegetables or 8 ounces of sauted mushrooms 2) Can be wrapped and frozen for up to six months for make ahead meals, before or after baking. 3) Can be made ahead and kept covered and refrigerated for two days before baking – great for making in advance when you’ll have guests. 4) It’s perfect for a potluck – creamy, cheesy chicken and spaghetti will please everyone 5) Bake in disposable pans for a take in meal when someone is sick or in need. 6) Package in individual serving sized microwavable containers for a weeks worth of lunches or to warm when the family schedule is crazy.   A hardworking dish that everyone loves!

Chicken Spaghetti
 
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Creamy, cheesy comfort food that everyone loves!
Author:
Recipe type: Main Dish Casserole
Serves: 8 xervings
Ingredients
  • 2 cups cooked chicken
  • 16 ounces spaghetti
  • 2 cans Cream of Mushroom OR Cream of Chicken soup
  • 2 cups sharp Cheddar Cheese, shredded
  • ¼ cup finely diced green pepper
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 14 ounce can chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded, for topping
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Break spaghetti into 2-3 inch pieces. Cook according to package directions, until al dente.
  3. Combine all remaining ingredients except topping cheese.
  4. Drain spaghetti when done and mix with other ingredients.
  5. Spray 9x13 casserole pan with cooking spray. Place mixture in pan and top with remaining 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese.
  6. Bake for 45 minutes until bubbly.
Notes
Fettucini or regular spaghetti work best -- be sure to leave slightly underdone. Otherwise, the spaghetti will turn mushy as it bakes.

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