Tandoori Inspired Chicken and Red Potatoes

On Saturday night I started not feeling very well, so Morgan and I spent most of Sunday just relaxing and watching episodes of our latest tv addiction – Mad Men.


If you haven’t seen Mad Men, it’s an AMC drama that begins in 1960 at an ad agency in New York City. If you can let yourself get past the exorbitant sexism of the 1960s which the show captures a little too well, it really is enjoyable to watch; however, I think I’m experiencing some unintended side effects from watching it.

I gave myself a french manicure as we watched on Sunday. I also painted my toe nails, straightened my hair and wore a skirt to work on a Monday. These things might be the normal routine for a lot of women, but for me, and all at the same time, made me wonder! My style is better described as “no muss no fuss,” or more colloquially known as “lame.”

tandoori spices

I also made a matching Indian style rice pudding to go with the Tandoori Chicken I planned. And I thought ahead enough to make a side dish. Usually all my efforts go into the main course and I skimp a little on the sides. Don’t worry, I’m sure all this primping and organization will quickly pass, but I may have done a bit of a 1960s skip when my husband started raving about how this dinner turned out.

red potatoes

As you might imagine I’m always trying new things in the kitchen, so when Morgan really gets excited about something it’s very encouraging! This is probably the closest to an authentic Indian style meal that I’ve gotten. It’s also, somehow, fairly easy to make. No painstaking prep work or hours of simmering spices – a great marinade does most of the work.


I adapted this from a David Lebovitz recipe to make it a little more accessible for every day cooking. I removed some of the more exotic ingredients, like saffron powder or saffron threads, used non-fat yogurt instead of whole milk yogurt, added in some yellow curry powder and replaced the chicken thighs and legs with simpler boneless chicken breasts. I also quartered some small red potatoes, coated them in a yogurt and curry dressing to compliment the chicken and roasted them until done.

The yogurt gives the chicken a lot of tang. It’s spicy, but not particularly hot. We really enjoyed this and hope you do, too!

tandoori chicken and potatoes

Tandoori Inspired Chicken and Potatoes
adapted from David Lebovitz

1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder (use less for less heat)
8 turns fresh ground black pepper
1 cup plain non-fat yogurt
1 tablespoon sweetened lime juice
1 tablespoon finely-minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon finely-minced garlic

Cut chicken breast in half lengthwise. Add all the remaining ingredients to a gallon ziploc bag, squeeze out the excess air and seal. Massage the bag to mix the marinade and coat chicken. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 400F. Cover a large baking sheet with foil and place chicken with the thick marinade on sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, or until cooked through.

For potatoes:
6 small red potatoes, washed and quartered
1/2 cup plain non-fat yogurt
1 tablespoon yellow curry powder

Add all ingredients to a large ziploc bag and massage to coat. Pour contents of bag onto baking sheet, setting some of the liquid aside. Roast potatoes for approximately 40 minutes, pouring the remaining liquid over the potatoes and turning at the halfway mark, or until a fork inserted into potato goes in easily.
*Note – potatoes do take a long time to cook, so you will want to begin this before the chicken. When potatoes are done, set in a bowl and cover with foil – they will keep hot.

If you’d like to make rice pudding for dessert, you may like to use your leftover rice from dinner with this recipe from Elise. I used this minus the raisins.

Jeff's Chicken Adobo

Happy Monday, DinnerCakes readers. I hope you had a good weekend! If you read Saturday’s post, then you know that I kept pretty busy! The joint cook-out went very well and, as expected, we had entirely too much food. Just as a party should be!

raw chicken

After all that cooking, I can safely say that the last thing I felt like doing the next day was making dinner. My husband, Morgan, and I worked together to make this dish; one of our friend Jeff‘s favorites – Chicken “Adobo.”


Adobo style is Latin American and typically involves preparation with red chili peppers and/or tomato sauce. That’s why this recipe from Jeff perplexes me a little (and why I put it in quotation marks above), because it has no chili peppers or even red pepper. I apologize for the name confusion, but it’s a very flavorful and delicious dinner just the same!

I’m not a huge fan of ginger, but I actually enjoyed it in this dish. The bay leaves also add some great flavor. Next time we make it I’ll probably add cayenne and chili powder because I love a little heat (and it would be more aptly named). That’s just a personal preference, though. This dish doesn’t necessarily need heat – so enjoy!

chicken adobo

Jeff’s Chicken Adobo

olive oil (just enough to coat the bottom of the pan)
1 lb. boneless chicken breast, cut in 3/4″ chunks
soy sauce
1-2 inches of ginger root, grated
6-8 garlic cloves, grated or finely chopped
4-6 whole dried bay leaves
fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1 1/2 cups dry rice (basmati works great)
pinch of salt

Place chicken into a container to marinate. Cover with a mixture of equal parts soy sauce, vinegar and water. If you prefer a stronger flavor, you can cut back on the water. Marinate for at least five minutes (chicken may be marinated longer or even overnight for stronger flavor).

Add ginger, garlic, bay leaves and black pepper. In a large pan, heat the olive oil. Once the oil has heated, add chicken (saving the marinade).

Saute the chicken on medium-high heat until it is done or mostly done. Add the marinade and reduce the heat to medium. Continue cooking until sauce reduces to desired thickness. Serve over rice.

Rinse rice in a pot 4-5 times and drain. Cook in a rice cooker, or according to package instructions.

Crisp and Juicy Curry Chicken

We hope you all enjoyed Rainbow Week! It was a lot of fun for us to do. If you have suggestions about other themes you’d like to see, please let us know!


And now a confession – this is my new favorite dinner recipe. I can’t believe that there was actually was a time when I didn’t really like cumin or curry; now they’re some of my staple spices.

This dinner is so easy and delicious. I like having a bit of crispiness to my chicken, but of course without all the fat that comes with frying and using oil. I coat the chicken with a variety of Indian-style spices and a little bit of plain bread crumbs – it locks in the juiciness of the chicken and provides for some excellent flavors.

I like to serve it with couscous, but it would also go well with steamed rice. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!


Crisp and Juicy Curry Chicken

For couscous:
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 cup peas
1-2 cloves garlic
dash salt
whole wheat couscous

For chicken:
1 lb chicken breast, sliced in half lengthwise
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon yellow curry powder
1 teaspoon coriander, ground
1/4 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon red curry powder
1/4 cup plain bread crumbs
3 fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces

Preheat oven to 400F. Combine spices for chicken in a small bowl and stir with a fork. Add chicken halves to a gallon Ziploc bag with a tablespoon of water. Add spices to bag and toss gently to coat the chicken (you could dredge the chicken to coat it, but I’ve found I get a much better coating when I use the Ziploc).

Bake chicken for 20 minutes until cooked through. While chicken is baking, saute onions in a small pan for 5 minutes until transcluscent. Cook couscous according to package instructions, toss lightly and add onions, peas, garlic and salt. Cover and keep warm until chicken is ready.

Taco Salad with Drunken Black Beans

So remember back when I said I had seen a great recipe for a layered tortilla pie, but then I lost it? Well a few weeks ago I found the recipe and wow it was good. What really made it different and delicious was the way the black beans were cooked – soaked in beer!

black beans

It occurred to me on Friday that this style of cooking beans would be amazing in a taco salad. I’d never actually made a taco salad before, and without the assistance of a giant taco shell to throw everything in I’m not sure how authentic it is, but I thoroughly enjoyed the final product. The husband loved it, I loved it, it got me to eat lettuce (even if it was only iceberg lettuce) and all was right with the world.


This is also one of those meals that I think you could stretch to feed any amount of people. I’ll warn you that the two of us had a lot of leftover black beans, but I knew that going in to it and actually wanted leftovers to throw in tortilla shells and try other things. If you’re serving one or two people and you don’t want leftovers, just cut the black bean recipe in half. Of course, if you do this you’ll have to finish off half a can or bottle of beer on your own instead of using the whole can for the beans… hopefully this isn’t a problem for anyone.

taco salad with guac

The chicken plays a relatively minor role here, and if you’re a vegetarian or just not that into meat I think you could leave it out and still have a great dinner (or very large lunch!). The black beans really make up the main flavor. You can definitely taste the beer that they’re soaked in, and I think it’s excellent. I’m actually tempted never to make black beans again unless they’re cooked in beer. You don’t even need to use a fancy one – we just used a can of Bud Light. It works; trust me!

taco salad

Taco Salad with Drunken Black Beans
(black bean recipe adapted from Everyday Food: Great Food Fast)

1 head of ice berg lettuce, rinsed and shredded
1 can refried beans (15 oz.), heated in a small saucepan
bag of tortilla chips
1 lb. chicken, marinated in some lime juice, salt and pepper, then grilled and cut into 1-2 inch pieces

For Guacamole:
1 medium Haas avocado, peeled and sliced
1 chili, minced with seeds removed (or 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes)
1 tablespoon sweetened lime juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic, minced
dash black pepper
dash cayenne

For the Black Beans:
1 medium onion, diced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (use less for less heat)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
dash of kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 cans black beans (15 oz. each), drained and rinsed
12 oz. beer
1 can whole kernels of corn (15 oz.), drained

To make the black beans – Add onion, red pepper flakes, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper to a large skillet on medium for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add rinsed and drained black beans and beer to the skillet and bring to boil. When boiling, reduce to medium-low and simmer until most of the beer evaporates; approximately 15 minutes. Stir in corn and remove from heat.

To make the guacamole – Peel and slice avocado and place in a medium size bowl. Add minced chili or red pepper flakes, sweetened lime juice, salt, minced garlic, black pepper and cayenne. Mash avocado with the back of a fork while combining ingredients. Don’t mash too much, you want it to be a little chunky.

To put the taco salad together – Create a layer of tortilla chips on the the bottom of several dinner plates or one very large serving plate. Next smooth heated refried beans over the tortilla chips. Add a layer of shredded lettuce, followed by the black bean mixture and chicken, then topped off with another layer of lettuce. Add dollops of guacamole to the sides of the plate or in separate bowls for serving.

Chicken and Black Beans with Avocado Salsa

My husband and I have been feeling a little lazy lately about cooking. We’ve both been busy, and on days when you’re just drained it’s not only hard to cook, but it’s likely that your kitchen may not be stocked with fresh options.

On this particular day I knew we didn’t have anything in the fridge. We had some chicken in the freezer, but we try not to defrost chicken in the microwave if we can help it (and I haven’t yet tried Edwin’s ice bath method).


I went to the grocery store after work and picked up some chicken breast (that I didn’t have to defrost). On my way to the cash register I spotted some avocados. I don’t think avocados are in season, and I know that they’re high in fat, but at that moment I just wanted some avocados!

For my calorie conscious friends, listen, avocados are good in moderation!

As I was walking home, I still had no idea what I was going to do with my small avocado and chicken. I thought about making chicken sandwiches with slices of avocado on top, but I knew I didn’t have buns. I decided on a citrusy, guacamole-like salsa over baked chicken and black beans. What an awesome change to spice up our typical routine! This dish is light but filling. The lime juice gives it a lot of zip, and it’s not very spicy.

chicken avocado

Chicken and Black Beans with Avocado Salsa

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 can black beans

For the Chicken Marinade
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon sweetened lime juice
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
dash cayenne

For the Avocado Salsa
1 small Haas avocado, peeled and sliced
1 chili, minced with seeds removed (or 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes)
1 tablespoon sweetened lime juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cloves garlic, minced
dash black pepper
dash cayenne

Cut chicken breasts in half longways and marinate in olive oil, sweetened lime juice, chile powder and cayenne for at least 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375F and bake for approximately 15 minutes. Cut into the middle of the thickest piece to ensure the chicken is thoroughly cooked.

While chicken is baking, warm black beans in a small sauce pan on the stove.

Peel and slice avocado and place in a medium size bowl. Add minced chili or red pepper flakes, sweetened lime juice, salt, minced garlic, black pepper and cayenne. Mash avocado with the back of a fork while combining ingredients. Don’t mash too much, you want the salsa to be chunky.

Spoon black beans onto a plate and follow with cooked chicken breast. Spoon avocado salsa over the chicken and serve!

Oat & Herb Baked Chicken

If you’re planning a wedding, have recently gotten married or just love weddings in general, then you’ve probably heard of a website called The Knot. The Knot is a spectacular place to find local vendors, get ideas for flowers, dresses, cakes and color combinations and to help out with planning and etiquette questions.


I recently went to The Knot for the first time since my wedding in July 2008 to look up a friend’s wedding website. I was surprised to discover that when you log in after your wedding has passed, you’re redirected to a site called The Nest. The Nest features advice for married people – money tips, decorating your home and saving, love, beauty, babies and dinner recipes.

oat mixture

Of course I clicked first on the dinner recipe tab. It was pleasantly surprised by what I found. Many of the recipes on the site are designed to be relatively easy and healthy, and they’re geared towards serving two people.

One of the recipes that caught my eye was, well, one of the less healthy ones, something called “Herb Oven-Fried Chicken.” What sparked my interest was that instead of using plain breadcrumbs or “Shake ‘n Bake” to lightly coat the chicken, this recipe called for oats! Let me make sure it’s clear – I love oats!

cutting chicken

By pulsing the oats in a food processor, you get a fine powder that adds an interesting and wholesome taste to your chicken breasts. I added a lot more flavor to the coating by including more spices in the oat mixture. I also baked it in the oven (and removed a lot of the oil) instead of cooking it in a toaster oven. I don’t have a toaster oven, but even if I did trying to cook raw chicken in it sounds like an odd idea to me (even though apparently The Nest pulled this recipe from a book solely dedicated to cooking with a toaster oven, my question is “Why?” I understand not having a stand mixer or food processor, but why would you need a substitute for a conventional oven?).

My husband and I enjoyed this chicken with a side of mashed potatoes and mashed rutabaga and baked beans. It doesn’t taste like a typical breaded chicken; if you don’t like oats then you probably won’t like this. But I highly recommend this spicy and unique take on chicken breasts!

chicken breast

Oat & Herb Chicken

adapted from The Nest (who excerpted it from Lynn Alley’s The Gourmet Toaster Oven: Simple And Sophisticated Meals for the Busy Cook)

1/2 cup milk*
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup rolled oats (you can use Quaker Quick or Old-Fashioned, but not Instant)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, rosemary, Italian seasoning, black pepper, celery seed and paprika
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon paprika

My 1 lb of chicken breast contained 3 medium chicken breasts. Cut chicken breasts in half longways. In a small bowl, combine chicken, buttermilk, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and oil. I refrigerated this marinade for about 5 hours, but do it for however long you can.

When ready to cook, preheat oven to 425F. Combine oats, red pepper flakes, the remaining teaspoon of salt, parmesan, basil, rosemary, Italian seasoning, black pepper, celery seed and paprika in your food processor. Pulse until the oats are mostly powdered. Spread oat mixture out on a plate. Shake the excess buttermilk off the chicken gently and lay both sides of the chicken in the mixture to thoroughly coat.

Place chicken in a shallow baking dish (I actually used a ceramic pie dish). Bake for about 15 minutes, depending on thickness of your meat. The crust should be a little crispy. Be sure to test for doneness by cutting into the thickest piece and ensuring that it’s bone white in the center. Remove chicken and serve with vegetable of your choice.

*Note about Milk – The original recipe called for buttermilk, but I used skim milk because that’s what I had on hand and it worked out fine. Buttermilk will give you more of an authentic fried chicken type taste, and next time I make this I’ll probably try out buttermilk. For my calorie-counting friends, give buttermilk a chance! Wikipedia says, “Buttermilk is lower in fat and calories than regular milk because the fat from buttermilk has already been removed to make butter. It is high in potassium, vitamin B12 and calcium.” Yum.

Simple Pad Thai, a Quick Fix for Luxuriously Lazy Nights

So, I had been saving an empty boxed Pad Thai kit that I used to make dinner the other night, but it seems as though my husband does not value saving empty food boxes in the same way that I do, and he threw it away! Hopefully we’ll be able to make do here anyway.

Pad Thai spice

We picked up the pad thai box in the international section of the grocery store a few weeks ago. Back when the two of us were lazier, these little kits were an excellent choice for quick dinners and a welcome change from spaghetti.

Well, we were feeling lazy again last Friday, and we had half a rotisserie chicken left from when I made Sante Fe Soup earlier in the week. But as I was cooking the noodles and about to open the spice packet, I turned over the box to read the ingredients –

(Peanuts, Pure Cane Sugar, Salt, Corn Starch, Spices [Chili, Cinnamon, Pepper, Cumin, Clove], Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Yeast Extract, Green Onions, Citric Acid, Peanut Oil, Sesame Oil, Silicon Dioxide [To Prevent Caking])

I already had on hand chili powder, cinnamon, pepper, cumin and cloves, so I thought I could do without this processed version. I picked out a few of the peanuts from the spice packet (woops, that was one thing I didn’t have), threw the rest in the trash and embarked on a journey to recreate it.

pad thai noodles

I knew this wouldn’t be an authentic pad thai – though I have taken a Thai cooking course, this just wasn’t the night to break out the tamarind and fish sauce. I still have nightmares about working with fish sauce; in my Thai cooking course the instructor told us that it’s made by packing a barrel with fish and then collecting the water and liquid that runs off them… voila, fish sauce (shudder).

My attempt at recreating the boxed pad thai was pretty good, but I think I went a little wild with the level of spice. It’s possible that Edwin’s self-proclaimed “spicy wussiness” is making me overcompensate, and noodles are pretty good at retaining spice. I toned things down a little bit in the recipe below. If you have recreated a simple box pad thai with luck, please let me know!

Pad Thai

Thai Kitchen Pad Thai
(revisited especially for lazy Friday nights after a long week!)

1 box Thai Kitchen original pad thai
1/2 rotisserie chicken
handful of peanuts, roughly chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 bag frozen stir fry vegetables (or if you prefer fresh vegetables, shop for fresh snow peas, sliced carrots, sliced red and yellow peppers, onion, and broccoli or mushrooms)

Combine peanuts, salt, pepper, chili powder, cinnamon, cumin, cloves and cayenne in a small bowl. Set aside. Remove rotisserie chicken from bone and cut bite size pieces. Set aside. Soak banh pho noodles according to directions on box. In the meantime, heat your wok to medium heat, then add 2 tablespoons oil. Stir fry defrosted or fresh vegetables until desired tenderness is reached.

When noodles are finished soaking, drain and rinse well. Add noodles to the wok, along with the pieces of chicken and spice mixture. Stir-fry for approximately 5 minutes, until fully combined and noodles are tender. Serve hot, garnish with extra peanuts.

As you’re probably already aware, the Steelers won their 6th Super Bowl on Sunday! It was an amazing game; Morgan and I were jumping up and down all the way until the end. My heart is still slowly (very slowly) coming back down to its regular speed. Please excuse me in this post if I’m not able to form complete sentences yet!

chopped spinach

This recipe is originally from 101 Cookbooks, but when I first made it last year I didn’t like it very much. I had high hopes because the recipe and photos looked amazing, but I thought it could be a little more flavorful. After a few changes, this recipe is now one of mine and Morgan’s favorites.


I’ve read that a trick to make macaroni and cheese more filling (so that you don’t eat as much) is to use a sharper cheese. Keeping this in mind, I added some sharp Vermont cheddar to the casserole. I also added chicken, which really made a huge difference (I’m not good with vegetarian meals, sorry Edwin!).


The only thing that I don’t love about this recipe is that it is time-consuming. There are several different steps including cooking the chicken, cooking the pasta, softening the veggies, combining everything and then baking it all together. I’d suggest making it on a Sunday night so that you have leftovers to enjoy throughout the week!

Also, I beg you to grate the cheese yourself and use only freshly grated cheeses. The times I’ve made this recipe with pre-shredded cheese it is never, ever as good. Fresh cheese makes a huge difference!

pasta casserole bowl

Chicken and Pasta Baked Casserole

adapted from 101 Cookbooks

3/4 pound pasta shells (101 recommends whole wheat pasta shells, but my grocery store never has whole wheat)
salt, to taste
1 lb. chicken, sliced (I recommend my recipe to bake the chicken, using 2 tablespoons white wine, paprika, salt, pepper, Montreal chicken seasoning, cayenne, to taste)
1 large yellow onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 bag fresh leaf spinach, chopped
1 cup almonds, coarsely chopped
6 ounces fresh mozzerella, grated
4 ounces fresh Vermont cheddar, grated

Preheat oven to 375 F. Butter/spray a large, rectangular casserole dish (I’ve found this works a lot better than round CorningWare).

Boil the pasta in salted water per package instructions. Drain, toss with a two tablespoons of olive oil. Set aside.

In the meantime, cook chicken in a baking dish. I use my standard method to bake the chicken, which you can find here.

Heat a tablespoon or two of oil in a skillet or wok. Saute the onions and a bit of salt for 2-3 minutes. Add garlic, then spinach, cooking for approximately 20-30 seconds. Remove skillet or wok from heat and stir in almonds. Combine spinach mixture with pasta in a large bowl and carefully stir. When chicken is done cooking, slice and add. Set aside. (If you like to sneak in more veggies, I’d recommend sliced mushrooms which I have also added before)

Grate cheese and combine in a medium bowl. Begin by adding a layer of pasta to the casserole dish, followed by a layer of cheese. Continue alternating layers, finishing with a layer of cheese. Sprinkle just a dash of cayenne and paprika over the top. Cover dish with foil and bake for approximately 30 minutes.

Sante Fe Soup with Chicken, A Super Bowl Savior

If you’re like me when planning a party, then you’ll probably make too much food. You’ll also choose things that all need to go into the oven at once, are too time-consuming, and keep you in the kitchen while everyone else is waving their Terrible Towel at the tv.

Sante Fe Soup

I’ll be trying to avoid that problem on Sunday by including an enormous, hearty bowl of chili on the menu.

This “Santa Fe Soup” recipe was given to me by a co-worker at a previous job. I normally don’t go wild for chili, but the chili’s great look and smell won me over when he brought it in for lunch one day. Unfortunately he didn’t tell me where he got the original recipe, and when I googled it I came up with hundreds of variations. I did, however, make a few changes.

Chili and Beer

The recipe I was given called for 2 pounds of ground round, but I substituted beef for rotisserie chicken. I also substituted chunky stewed tomatoes and tomato paste for crushed tomatoes. The recipe called for two packages of Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing dry mix and one package of taco seasoning mix for seasoning, but I decided just to recreate these mixes using the spices in my kitchen and season it myself. I also halved the recipe, and it still almost filled my spaghetti pot.

This chili is excellent – spicy but not too spicy, thick, and full of variety. I hope you’ll consider it either for your Super Bowl party or a cold winter night!

Close up Sante Fe Soup

Sante Fe Soup with Chicken
(recipe below is a half batch, which still makes enough for several dinners for two!)

1/2 cooked rotisserie chicken, cut into bite size pieces (you could also use 1 pound of chicken breast cooked using a method of your choice)
1 chopped onion
4 cloves garlic
1 can black beans
1 can kidney beans
1 can pinto beans
1 can white niblet corn, canned
1 can Rotel tomatoes
1 can stewed tomatoes
1 can tomato paste, 6 oz.
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon marjoram
15 saltines, crushed
1 tablespoon Nature’s seasoning
1 tablespoon parsley flakes

Combine all ingredients, beginning with beans and cooked chicken, in a large pot on medium low heat. Simmer approximately 20 minutes, but the longer the better. Top with tortilla chips, sour cream, or grated cheese to serve, or enjoy it “plain!”

Chicken & Spinach Pita Sandwich, My DC Area Favorite

Northern Virginia can be a frustrating place to live. The DC Metro Area is home to constant traffic, a very high cost of living and wall-to-wall people (just turn on your news this weekend to watch the swarms of people here for the presidential inauguration!).


But Northern Virginia is also full of hidden gems, my favorite being interesting local restaurants and ethnic stores. Lost Dog Cafe is a neat local sandwich and pizza place with a large selection of beer. The owners also established a foundation dedicated to rescuing stray cats and dogs.


My favorite sandwich at Lost Dog is called “Muttly.” The Muttly is a warm pita full of spinach, chicken, provolone, tomatoes and pesto. Because I’m a picky eater and always trying to figure out new things to tolerate for lunch, I really wanted to recreate this sandwich so that I could enjoy it more frequently (and, of course, cheaper).

sliced chicken

The outcome was great. Make sure you buy large pitas; mine were a bit small so I wasn’t able to pack in as much spinach as I wanted to. I made the pesto from scratch, which always beats adding more ready-made, processed food to your diet, but the recipe I used was time-consuming. To cut down on time I didn’t chop it quite as much as I should have. I hope you will forgive my “lazy” pesto.

spinach and pesto

Please note that this is not a spicy chicken wrap, a Cajun chicken melt or a chicken sandwich smothered in tangy ranch dressing. I seasoned my chicken generously before baking it, but the flavor is mild (though not bland) and it’s not dripping with any condiments. I love this about the sandwich, but I just wanted to warn you not to expect something like Panera’s Chicken Bacon Dijon calorie festival. Happy lunching!

ghost muttly

“Muttly” (Chicken & Spinach Pita Sandwich)
inspired by Lost Dog Cafe

1 package large pitas
1 lb chicken breast, uncooked
1 small tomato
1 package frozen spinach
1 package sliced provolone cheese
2 tablespoons white wine
paprika, salt, pepper, Montreal chicken seasoning, cayenne, to taste

For the pesto
1 bunch of basil
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup pine nuts
3/4 cup parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 F. Cut your chicken breasts in half so that they resemble chicken cutlets. Sprinkle the bottom of a 13×9 baking pan with 2 tablespoons of white wine. Arrange the chicken pieces in the pan and season generously with paprika, salt, pepper, Montreal chicken seasoning and cayenne. Bake the chicken for 25 minutes.

In the meantime, chop tomato and set aside. Cook package of frozen spinach according to package instructions and set aside.

To make the pesto, you can find some great instructions at 101 Cookbooks. Mine didn’t turn out as authentic or attractive because I don’t have a mezzaluna, but the pesto was fine for me and used less oil. I basically followed this recipe except I chopped it until it was minced, not finely minced (because all that chopping took 101 Cookbooks thirty minutes, and that didn’t sound so great to me!). I would also recommend adding a bit of salt to the recipe.

When the chicken is done, allow it to cook enough that you can handle it comfortably (leave the oven on). Slice the chicken into bite size pieces and set aside.

Arrange the pitas on a baking sheet and add one slice of provolone followed by some spinach, pesto, chicken and tomatoes. If your pitas are malleable, fold it over like a sandwich (without breaking the pita).

When you’re finished putting together the sandwiches, set the baking sheet in the oven for approximately 5 minutes (just until the sandwiches are warm). Remove tray and serve! Wrap tightly and store any leftovers (we had leftover sliced chicken and pesto in addition to leftover sandwiches).