Category Archives: Chicken

#Whole30 Slow Cooker Mexican Chicken Soup

#Whole30 Slow Cooker Mexican Soup

Three posts in one week! It’s a miracle! After being away from this blog during our whirlwind spring of weddings and travel it is soooo good to be back. I hope I’m not boring you too much with the Whole 30 thing. I promise not to talk about it allllll the time. Really, I’m just making good, clean food here. You can label it whatever you want or don’t label it at all. Just make it, enjoy it, and feel good. That’s all anyone can ask for, right?

This week I had a mega hankering for my favorite slow cooker chicken tortilla soup. It was a little chillier here in Chicago (though still nice) so I knew it would be great for lunches. I’m happy to say it did not disappoint.

I updated my favorite slow cooker chicken tortilla soup recipe by ditching the beans and corn and packing in even more veggies than before. The result was stellar. It has all of the same kick and flavors as my beloved recipe with an even greater nutritional bonus. That’s what I call a win-win.

Soup’s on!

#Whole30 Slow Cooker Mexican Chicken Soup

#Whole30 Slow Cooker Mexican Chicken Soup


  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1-1.5 lbs)
  • 15 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 to 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, mined
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup salsa (read the label to make sure it doesn’t contain any funky ingredients like sugar)
  • 2 to 3 handfuls baby spinach
  • Juice of 1 lime


Place the chicken breasts, tomatoes, and chicken broth in the slow cooker. In a microwave-safe glass bowl add the carrots, celery, red bell pepper, onion, jalapeño, garlic, olive oil, cumin, chili powder, and oregano. Mix to coat everything evenly in oil and spices. Microwave on high for 2 minutes. Stir. Microwave for 2 more minutes. Stir. If veggies aren’t softened, microwave 1-2 more minutes. Dump the veggies into the slow cooker. Cover the slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours. When it’s done cooking, remove chicken breasts to a cutting board and shred with two forks. Return chicken to slow cooker. Mix in salsa and spinach. Continue cooking on low for 15 to 30 minutes more. Right before serving, squeeze juice of one lime.

Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla SoupWell, shucks. I’m a day late posting a Cinco de Mayo recipe. But once you make this soup you won’t care what day it is, what time it is, or what year it is. You’ll just be focused on shoveling it into your mouth quickly enough. This recipe completely took me by surprise in the best possible way. I dumped the ingredients into the slow cooker Sunday morning and hoped for the best. I was absolutely thrilled when I lifted the lid, took a taste, and discovered it was bursting with flavor. A happy dance in the kitchen ensued. It’s among the best tortilla soups I’ve ever had!

My love for tortilla soup is well established. I order it everywhere. I even have a vegetarian tortilla soup recipe here. And oh man do I still love that recipe. But THIS. This one is a keeper, too. Sometimes you just want some chicken in your tortilla soup and you want to use the convenience of a slow cooker. Feel free to top your soup with whatever you like–cilantro, chunks of avocado, fresh lime juice, or some cheese all work great. I kept it suuuuper simple and just crumbled some tortilla chips on top. It’s so easy and tasty. I’m already planning to continue the fiesta and put it on our menu for next week. I think you should, too!

Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup


  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1-1.5 lbs)
  • 15 oz diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup salsa (I recommend one that says “fire-roasted” or “chipotle” for a smoky taste)
  • 1 15 oz can (or box) of kidney beans or black beans, undrained
  •  1 cup frozen corn
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp salt
  • Black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • Any toppers of your choice: cilantro, avocado, cheese, sour cream, lime juice
  • Tortilla chips for topping/dipping/snacking


Place the chicken breasts through the bay leaf in the slow cooker. Combine onion, garlic, jalapeño, and olive oil in a microwave-safe glass bowl. Microwave in 1 to 2 minute increments, stirring after each one until onion is softened, about 4 to 5 minutes total. Add to slow cooker. Cover the slow cooker and cook on low 6 to 8 hours. When it’s done cooking, remove chicken breasts to a cutting board and shred with two forks. Return chicken to slow cooker. Stir, taste, and adjust seasonings as needed. Serve in bowls with toppings of your choice such as cilantro, diced avocado, cheese, sour cream, or lime juice. Serve with tortilla chips.



BBQ Chicken Quesadillas

DSCN3695Happy Monday! I hope you all had a fabulous weekend!

Oh man, do I have something to make your Monday much brighter. HOW did I not think of this before? Ever since I discovered the joy that is quesadillas {check out my favorite grilled chicken quesadilla recipe here} I also realized that pizza and quesadillas aren’t so different. Pop your favorite pizza toppings inside a tortilla, heat it up in a skillet or grill pan, and it’s a delicious, quick, and slightly healthier way to enjoy everyone’s favorite food.


When it comes to favorite toppings, BBQ chicken pizza is at the top of my list. So I had the grand idea to fit bbq chicken, red onions, cheese, and spinach {because I can’t help myself from putting greens in everything} inside a whole wheat tortilla. It was everything I dreamed it would be and so much more. I then dipped each bite in some bbq sauce and it took the experience to a whole new level.

Quesadillas are especially difficult to photograph, so I hope you’ll take my word for it. The recipe below doesn’t have exact measurements since it depends on how full you like your ‘dillas. Have fun and I hope you enjoy them as much as we did!


BBQ Chicken Quesadillas


  • Roast chicken, chopped (about 2-3 cups makes 6-8 quesadillas)
  • Your favorite BBQ sauce
  • Whole wheat tortillas
  • Shredded mozzarella cheese or shredded Mexican blend
  • Spinach (optional)
  • Red onion, sliced
  • Fresh cilantro (optional)


In a  bowl, mix chicken with as much BBQ sauce as you like.

Heat a cast iron skillet or grill pan over medium heat. Add tortilla to pan. Smear some bbq sauce on half of the tortilla. Pile on your toppings: Cheese, spinach, red onion, cilantro, and chicken. Fold the half of the tortilla without toppings over the half with toppings. Once the bottom is slightly brown, flip the quesadilla over. Cook until the tortilla is golden brown and the cheese is melted. Serve with BBQ sauce for dipping.

White Chicken Chili

White Chicken Chili. ABalancedLifecooks.comThis chili makes me so stinkin’ happy I can hardly stand it. It is soooooooo good. If I made it once a week every week for the rest of the winter I’d be one seriously happy camper. All of the credit goes to my sister, Leah, who’s tweaked this recipe over time to get it just right. The recipe, however, only lived in her brain…until now!

All day Tuesday while I’m sure she was doing more important lawyering things, I sent her a flood of emails to get the deets: ingredients, quantities, instructions. The good stuff.

Be sure to give yourself some time while cooking it. Maybe save it for a Sunday afternoon when there’s a holiday movie on TV. It takes a little while to brown the chicken and cook down the liquid so it slightly thickens, but it’s worth every single second–and then some. The longer your chili cooks the better it tastes.

In addition to your usual suspects like tender chunks of chicken, white beans, corn, and heaps of spices I love that she sneaks swiss chard in here, too. I mean…what? Yeah, not the first chili ingredient you’d imagine. But trust me, you’ll love it. Or at least you’ll barely notice it.

Serve your chili with some chopped avocado and cilantro and a delicious pile of buttery cornbread. Not only is it hearty and healthy, we loved eating leftovers for as long as they lasted.

White Chicken Chili.

White Chicken Chili

Serves 6-8


  • 4 chicken breasts, bone-in and skin on
  • Salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 leek, white and light green parts, chopped (optional)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 jalapeño, seeds removed, chopped
  • 3 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 Tbsp dried oregano
  • 3 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp fennel seeds (optional)
  • 1 cup white wine or beer (enough to deglaze the pan – you may need more or less)
  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 (15 oz) cans white beans, drain and rinse all but one*
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, stems removed, chiffonade leaves
  • 2 cups frozen corn
  • 1/2 tsp crushed chili pepper


Season chicken breast with salt and pepper. Heat about 1 Tbsp olive oil in a big stock pot. In two separate batches, brown chicken breast two at a time, about 5-8 minutes per side. Chicken doesn’t have to fully cook through. Remove to a plate and set aside.

To the pot, add onion and leek. Saute until onion softens, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and jalapeño, sauté about 30 seconds until fragrant. Add cumin, oregano, chili powder, and fennel seeds if using. Coat vegetables in spices and toast in pan, about 1-2 minutes, until slightly browned and fragrant.

Pour wine or beer into pot and use a wooden spoon to deglaze bottom of the pan. Add chicken broth, white beans, and all four whole chicken breasts to the pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer about 60 minutes.

Transfer chicken from the pot to a cutting board. Remove skin, pull chicken off the bone, and chop into bite-sized pieces. Discard the skin and bones, place chopped chicken meat back into the pot. Add the swiss chard, corn, and crushed chili pepper. Cook about 10 minutes more until corn is heated through.

To serve, ladle chili into bowls. Top with any toppings of your choice such as avocado, cilantro, or cheese.

*In order to avoid BPA, I limit cooking with canned foods as much as possible. I almost always use organic beans from Whole Foods that come in a cardboard box/TetraPak. Since I know they’re not as widely available I use the word “cans” in the ingredients to avoid confusion.

Asian Chopped Chicken Salad

Asian Chopped Chicken Salad

If I had to list them, the very best parts of this meal–in no particular order– include:

  • It cost $15.16 total or $3.79 per serving.
  • It’s deliciously crunchy, peanuty, and the slightest bit spicy
  • It’s healthy (veggies, mango, and chicken breast…hello!)
  • It requires zero cooking, almost no chopping (veggies are pre-cut) and takes about 3 minutes to prepare.

When I dreamed up this meal I knew it could do no wrong and boy was I right.  Just like Tuesday’s post all ingredients are from Trader Joe’s. This makes me exceedingly happy because some grocery shopping days I can hit up to FOUR DIFFERENT PLACES for ingredients. Yes, you read that right: The farmers market, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and Stanley’s Produce. Four…count them….four. There goes my Sunday! Yes, I realize that’s insane. So the idea of going to just one place is kind of life-changing to me.

Let’s break down what you see on this plate of chopped healthiness: Trader Joe’s chopped veggies, which includes of mix of eight different items including broccoli, carrots, green and red cabbage, jicama, green bell pepper, radish, and celery. The 16 oz container was on sale for…drumroll please…$2.99. Boom! A package of boneless skinless roast chicken breast (picture rotisserie chicken, but no skin, no bones, and white meat only). Sliced mango. Chopped cilantro. And a generous drizzle of TJ’s Spicy Peanut Vinaigrette. Get your hands on it ASAP. You’re going to want to dip every single item of your fridge into this dressing. Trust me. And when your fiance is traveling for work so there’s no one to witness, absolutely no one will know. Unless you confess it on your blog….d’oh!

Asian Chopped Chicken Salad

We’re off to New York tomorrow for a dear friend’s wedding and we’ll get to see my family, too! I hope you all have a lovely Labor Day Weekend!

Asian Chopped Chicken Salad

Serves 4 as a side salad or 2 as a main course


1 (16 oz) package) Healthy 8 chopped veggie mix

1 (16 oz) package sliced roast chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces

1 mango, cut into chunks

1 handful cilantro, stems removed and leaves chopped (optional)

Spicy peanut vinaigrette

1/2 cup lightly salted peanuts, chopped


Combine veggie mix, chicken breast, mango, and cilantro in a bowl. Pour on desired amount of peanut vinaigrette and mix to combine. Top with chopped peanuts.

Grilled Chicken Quesadillas

Grilled Chicken Quesadillas

Grilled Chicken Quesadillas

Happy Friday, friends! Before we dive into the goodness that are these life-changing quesadillas I’d like to take a moment to let out a high-pitched squeal because this weekend is my bachelorette party! Just thinking those words–not even saying or writing them–blows my mind. Me? Bachelorette party? Whaaaaa? My sister will be landing in Chicago shortly and a weekend of girly fun will ensue. I absolutely can’t wait for Saturday night. I’ll be sure to give you all a recap just as soon as I can.

But first…these quesadillas.

grilled chicken quesadillas

Where’s the salsa? Gimme.

Fact: Before last week I had never had a quesadilla in my life. Because I don’t like cheese. And there’s always cheese. But earlier this year, I started making an effort to learn to like cheese for about a million different reasons. Among them: When you don’t eat cheese you realize how many foods contain cheese and I don’t want to miss out on so many foods in life. So basically my queso-phobia was giving me a serious case of FOMO. I’ve been making very small strides (I ate fried brie in Austin! And this meaty baked ziti!)  Quesadillas were my next accomplishment.

The ‘dilla you see in the first photo? That was Robert’s – ooey and gooey and packed with cheese. That’s probably what you want. The ones above? All mine. Just enough cheese to get a little melty action, but without too much, you know, cheesiness.

I’m obsessed. And it’s true–I have been missing out BIG time. I don’t need to explain the million reasons why quesadillas are amazing because you’ve probably had 10,000 more in life than I have. Although my basis for comparison is very small–as in, I’ve only ever had these (twice)–I like to think they’re especially delicious because the chicken and veggies are grilled.  That automatically gives you like a million bonus points in the taste department, right?

You may have plenty of quesadilla tricks already up your sleeve, but be sure to put these on your menu this summer while you’re still regularly firing up the grill.

Clockwise from left: Whole wheat tortillas, chopped cilantro, grilled bell peppers, red and yellow onion, marinated grilled chicken, cheese (we used a fiesta mix from WF)

Whole wheat tortillas, chopped cilantro, grilled bell peppers, red and yellow onion, marinated grilled chicken, cheese (we used a fiesta mix from WF)

Grilled Chicken Quesadillas

Serves 4-6


2-3 Tbsp olive oil

2 tsp paprika

2 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp chili powder

1 to 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast (1 1/2 lbs will leave you with delicious chicken leftovers)

Salt & pepper

3 bell peppers (red, yellow, and orange), each cut into 1/2 inch thick slices

1 small yellow onion, cut into 1/2 inch thick slices

1 small red onion, cut into 1/2 inch thick slices

Olive oil

Cheese of your choice, shredded (quantity is up to you!)

Chopped cilantro (optional)

6-8 whole wheat tortillas


In a small bowl combine marinade ingredients (olive oil through cumin). Place chicken in a bag or container for marinating. Season with salt and pepper. Add marinade to chicken and let it marinate anywhere from 10 minutes to two hours.

Preheat the grill to medium-high.

Coat rack will cooking spray. Grill peppers and onions until tender and slightly charred, about 5 minutes. Remove from grill and set aside. Once slightly cooled, chop peppers and onions into small pieces.

Remove chicken from marinade and grill about 6 minutes on each side until cooked through. Let sit for 5-10 minutes. Thinly slice.

Heat some olive oil to just coat the bottom of a medium-sized pan on the stove (an iron skillet works great.)

Prepare quesadilla: Sprinkle some cheese over half of each tortilla; add some vegetables and chicken; top with some cilantro. Fold tortilla in half over filling. Place 2 quesadillas in pan and cook about 3-5 minutes on each side until cheese melts and tortilla browns. Remove from heat. Repeat with remaining tortillas/ingredients. Once quesadillas slightly cool cut into four pieces each.

Serve with salsa.

Thai-Style Chicken Stir-Fry

Chicken & veggies in a coconut-peanut sauce

Chicken & veggies in a coconut-peanut sauce

In a dream world my weekly shopping trips would look like this: Hit up the farmers market on Sundays where I intuitively pick up all of the produce we’ll need for the week; head to Whole Foods where I fill in the gaps with some organic protein, dairy, and whole grains. Each night I effortlessly scan the contents of the refrigerator and pantry and seamlessly know how they fit together. Then, miraculously, I have everything I need in the kitchen to whip up delicious meals full of layered flavors throughout the week.

This meal right here is the closest I’ve ever come to that dream scenario and it was every bit as fulfilling as I imagined it would be. Wax beans, squash, jalapeno,and bell pepper: Farmers market finds. Organic boneless skinless chicken breast, limes, and cilantro: Whole Foods. Coconut milk, peanut butter, soy sauce, and other  ingredients: Pantry staples. The icing on the cake? Fresh organic basil from our patio garden! Dream. Come. True. The best part, of course, is that it was absolutely delicious.

It has all of the healthiness you get from a stir-fry–lean protein and veggies–with the sweet, creamy flavors of a Thai curry (except, uh, there isn’t actually any curry in here.) There’s also the juice of two limes in the sauce, which delivers the right amount of zesty brightness–perfect for summertime.

While I used vegetables I happened to have from the farmers market (at the time I had no idea they would become Thai stir-fry),  you could definitely switch them up with whatever you have on hand. In fact, all of the items I had–wax beans, squash, and bell pepper–happened to be yellow (certainly didn’t score in the color-variety department), but you could easily add more hues with green beans, squash or zucchini, and any color bell pepper.

Who knows when the next time a kitchen miracle like this will happen, but I couldn’t keep this cooking unicorn to myself a moment longer. Enjoy!

Thai-style stir-fry

Serve over brown rice or quinoa! 

Thai-Style Chicken Stir-Fry

Serves 4


1 can light coconut milk

2 Tbsp creamy peanut butter

Juice of 2 limes

3 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce

1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth

1 Tbsp light brown sugar

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp sesame oil

2 big handfuls (about 1 lb) yellow wax beans or green beans, ends removed

1 Tbsp canola oil

1 shallot, minced

1 jalapeño, chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped

1 bell pepper, sliced into strips

1 small yellow squash or zucchini

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into bite-sized chunks

6-8 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced

1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped


In a small bowl, combine sauce ingredients (coconut milk through sesame oil), whisk to combine and set aside.

In a pot of boiling water, add wax beans. Boil for two minutes. Drain and run under cold water to stop the cooking.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallot, jalapeno, and garlic. Saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the chicken. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is just cooked through, about 5 minutes. Remove the chicken from the skillet to a plate and set aside.

To the skillet, add the bell pepper and squash. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they start to soften, about 3 minutes. Add wax beans to the skillet. Add chicken. Give the sauce another whisk to make sure it’s combined and pour into skillet, stir. Increase heat to high and cook until sauce just starts to simmer.

Garnish with fresh chopped basil and cilantro. Serve over brown rice or quinoa.