Monday, January 13, 2014

Apricot chicken with quinoa salad

They say you can learn so much about a person based on what she buys on impulse.

Who exactly?  Frankly, I don’t know, but I’m sure somebody important, somewhere said it.  If you know, I’d love to know, too.

I’m reminded of the Friends episode in which Rachel Green returns home after a shopping trip, and Joey and Chandler wager that they can correctly guess every item in her bag.

“If you check Rachel's bag, you’ll find a half-eaten box of cookies,” declares Chandler.
“Everybody snacks when they shop,” Rachel says in defense.

I’m couldn't agree more, Ms. Green.  Everybody does snack when they shop, including yours truly.  At the mall, it’s a mini Blizzard from DQ.  Around town, it’s a bag of kettle corn from Pittsburgh Popcorn Company.  And I always have a bag of almonds with me when I’m running errands for the day.  Oh, and I definitely snack when I’m at the grocery store.

Don’t you snack when shopping for food?   Doesn’t everybody?

I have a habit of shopping for groceries either very early in the morning (before breakfast) or late in the afternoon; coincidentally, I find myself hungriest at both of those times.

“Never shop when you’re hungry,” said everyone, everywhere, all the time.

So, in an attempt to avoid buying Sun Chips, Oreos, and $50 worth of it’s-not-on-my-list-but-of-course-I-need-it-items, I allow myself one treat.  A treat that’s selected at the beginning of the trip and available for munching whilst I fill my cart with real food*.

*Sun Chips and Oreos, while addictive and delicious, unfortunately cannot be combined to create a palatable dinner.  Matt disagrees.

The treats are sometimes sweet, occasionally salty, never messy, and always random.  My most recent impulse buy was a container of dried apricots.  Chewy, sweet, and relatively healthy.  Somehow, a jar of apricot jam snuck its way into my cart, too.

A few days later, I was dumbfounded how both ingredients ended up in our pantry, considering I've never owned either.  Determined to use them for a more noble purpose than snacking -- well, use at least some of them for a planned recipe -- I came up with this epic apricot chicken and quinoa salad.

Juicy chicken breasts are baked with a sweet and tangy dijon and apricot glaze and served atop a savory quinoa salad.  Fluffy little grains are tossed with mild yet bright green onions and sweet and chewy apricots for an irresistible can-I-just-get-one-more-bite side dish.

How is something so delicious also so good for you?  Packed with protein for some serious staying power, this dinner will silence even the loudest snacking monster within you.

Unless that snacking monster has another plate of apricot chicken and quinoa salad within arm's reach.  Then, all bets are off, folks.

One year ago: Open-faced bacon, egg, lettuce, tomato sandwich
Three years ago: Single-serving egg-less chocolate chip cookie dough
Four years ago: Green monster smoothie

Apricot Chicken with Quinoa Salad
-makes 2 servings

A few notes: This can be made up to 3 days ahead of eating and is great for lunch, too.  If storing before eating, try dicing chicken and mixing into quinoa salad to give flavors a chance to marry and meld.

1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed well
1 cup chicken broth
6 dried apricots, diced
2 scallions, diced
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
Olive oil
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 heaping Tablespoon apricot preserves
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a small saucepan, combine broth and quinoa and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 15 minutes.  Remove saucepan from heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes.  Remove lid, fluff with fork, and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together mustard, preserves, and vinegar.  Brush chicken breasts lightly with olive oil and season both sides with salt and pepper.  Place on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Divide apricot mixture between two pieces of chicken and spread on top.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Allow to rest for 5 minutes before slicing, if desired.

Meanwhile, fold diced apricots and scallions into quinoa, and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Divide among two plates and top each with chicken breasts.  Enjoy immediately.


  1. This looks fabulous, girl!! You can come cook for me anytime!!

    1. Thanks, Jocelyn! We bakers can manage healthy recipes now and again, right? :)