CEiMB: Balsamic Chicken with Baby Spinach and Orzo

Typically my Craving Ellie in My Belly posts will be up on Thursdays, but life has been a little hectic this week. I didn’t do too well about planning our menu accordingly. One night we had frozen pizza and one night we had what I like to refer to as “fend for yourself night” where Ryan had peanut butter and jelly and I had a frozen meal. These nights are rare for us because I feel incredibly guilty about not preparing an actual meal, but they do happen sometimes, just not usually twice in one week. With finals coming up, papers to be written, group projects to finish, and a sick pooch to worry about, I gave myself a pass.

For some reason the idea of making Balsamic Chicken with Baby Spinach and Orzo, this week’s recipe hosted by Marthe at Culinary Delights, sounded complicated, not like a quick weeknight meal. What I will tell you is that in the time it took for us to make the frozen pizzas, we could have had this meal on the table. It is so quick and easy to prepare. I think my real hesitation is that the original recipe calls for couscous, and Ryan is neither a fan of couscous nor spinach. While I don’t have an issue with either of those ingredients, I’m not a huge fan of balsamic vinegar. All in all, neither of us was overly enthusiastic about trying this recipe so I kept putting it off until I finally made it for myself today for lunch.

The nice advantage I had by making this dish later in the week is that I was able to use the suggestions of fellow CEiMBers. Many of them complained the dish was missing a little something so instead of regular diced tomatoes, I used Trader Joe’s Italian starter sauce, which is basically crushed tomatoes with onion and garlic and added a dash of crushed red pepper flakes. I also sprinkled mine with a little parmesan cheese :) I was not a big fan of the spinach. I have only eaten spinach one other time and am just not crazy about it, but I wanted to give it a fair chance. It’s just too bitter for me. I probably would have liked it more with a lot more sauce on it.

It’s funny because the component I was most afraid of, the balsamic vinegar, was really good in the sauce! I liked that a lot and would definitely make the sauce again. The chicken was a little bland; I should have simmered it in the tomato sauce for a while like Sara at imafoodblog suggested. This would have also helped with my other complaint about this dish: while the pasta and sauce were hot, the chicken and spinach got cold from sitting out for so long. I am not a fan of lukewarm or cold food. Blech.

I would make this again with some modifications. I would probably use two cups of sauce instead of one and follow You Eat Now’s suggestion of using broccoli in place of the spinach. As it was, I give it three stars, with some more sauce and different veggie, it could easily be four or five stars. If you’re a spinach fan, I highly recommend this!

Balsamic Chicken with Baby Spinach and Orzo

4 teaspoons olive oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut thin or pounded to 1/2 inch thickness
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 ounces baby spinach
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
½ cup reduced sodium chicken broth
1 cup diced tomatoes
4 ounces uncooked orzo, prepared following package instructions

Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Add the chicken and cook about 4 minutes per side, or until cooked through and juices run clear. Remove the chicken and set aside.

To the same pan, add remaining 2 teaspoons oil. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the spinach and cook just until wilted, about 1 to 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Lower the heat to medium and add the balsamic vinegar and chicken broth to the pan and stir, scraping the bottom of the pan to remove any browned bits. Add the tomatoes, bring to a simmer and cook 3 to 5 minutes.

Place the couscous in a serving bowl. Top with the spinach, chicken and balsamic-tomato sauce.

Source: “The Food You Crave: Luscious Recipes for a Healthy Life” by Ellie Krieger, p. 205; the recipe on Food Network’s site is slightly different
4 servings | 6 POINTS


April 24, 2009. recipes.


  1. Jenn replied:

    I think I’m going to make this for dinner tonight! I just went through about 5 different options for dinner but wasn’t excited about any of them (our lack of side dish options is a factor, too), but now I think I’m going to make this. We actually have all the ingredients- that never happens here!

  2. pamela replied:

    Looks beautiful! Great job.

  3. Liz replied:


    Jenn, if you end up making it, let me know what you think!

  4. Jessica replied:

    Your blog is so eye pleasing, I just love it! Thanks for your recent comment, I can’t recommend the breadsticks enough. They are very quick to whip together too.

    I don’t consider myself as having much of a green thumb either (I’m a cook!). I encourage you to give it another try!

  5. Liz replied:

    Thank you :)

    I do have some plants that my grandma gave me this past weekend out on my balcony now, so we’ll see how it goes! Maybe if I can keep them alive for a while I will try some more herbs.

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