Chicken and Spinach Marinara Style

So let’s talk about realities here – the realities of balancing a demanding full time job, an ambitious training schedule, and a healthy diet – AND a budget. I’m in my third week following the Invictus competition program (scaled to my mortal proportions) and I love it and I’m convinced it HAS to make me better – but part of the reason for that is how demanding it is. Tonight I pulled into a parking spot at my apartment complex around 8:40pm after finishing my final workout session of the day (on top of a morning jog and lunchtime lifting) and slithered my sweaty slimy way in to the shower. Then it was time to tackle dinner. “I am so hungry, I wish my dinner could cook itself while I shower,” I had messaged my boyfriend on the way in.

If only.

The next best thing requires reference to the old saw “work s smarter, not harder.” I know, I know – but things become cliches for a reason. Tonight I’m chowing down on one of the first healthy eating shortcuts I have to share with you – frozen spinach and frozen organic (no funny stuff added!) grilled chicken strips: 32 grams protein for 180 calories! When I have time I’ll grill and pre slice my own chicken but – see above. These are a great option for when I haven’t had that time. My usual grocery store is a Kroger, which carries “simple truth” organic – I think it’s their own brand. I’ve also found a Perdue “simple” version that has no funky additives.

Add some sliced onion (do one on Sunday and it will enhance your meals all week!) some marinara (plain old tomatoes would be good too but marinara is what I’ve got), some black and red pepper and garlic salt and we are talkin’. I need some carbs in my life to keep up with my schedule, so I’ll be tossing mine in the skillet with a modest serving of pasta, and just for fun topping it off with a little shredded Parmesan cheese. Yum. Freeze dried basil (I buy Lighthouse brand, from the produce section) is also great in this but I forgot it tonight. Fresh is best of course but it is hard to keep on hand, and my poor basil plant couldn’t handle the beast lifestyle.).

Ingredients in pan
Get it all friendly in there!

Bonus? Once it’s in the pan it pretty much DOES cook itself. When do you think I found time to write this post? Ok, dinner time! Off to beast that meal.

Chicken and Spinach Marinara Style

Heat a skillet and spray with Pam; start a pot of water boiling at the same time.

Have ready:
Pasta (or rice, quinoa, spaghetti squash…)
Marinara (or diced tomatoes!)
Parmesan – I was feeling generous tonight, so 2-3 tbsp probably went in

Put into the skillet:
6 oz frozen organic grilled chicken strips (I use simple truth, from Kroger)
About a cup frozen spinach (or a big ol’ heap of fresh!)
Sliced, diced or chopped onion – however floats your boat (freeze dried works I a pinch if you left it off your grocery list this week!)
Black pepper
Red pepper flakes (don’t get carried away like I did…)
Garlic Salt – a sprinkle.  If you’re fancy, salt and real garlic works too but like I said… it was almost 9 when I got home!
Basil – dried, fresh, however if you have it! Or, Oregano is also great.
*I often add ~tbsp of olive oil both for flavor and healthy fat

Cover that baby up and let it go over medium heat; stir it up occasionally so nothing burns to the bottom. Your water should be boiling, so toss some pasta in – or brown rice or quinoa could work if you avoid pasta. If grains are out, spaghetti squash would be perfect here – use the microwave method for speed and ease.

Dinner in bowl

Hang around to stir once in a while and make sure nothing in your kitchen catches fire but for the next ten minutes you are pretty much on cruise control. Towards the end of your pasta cooking time, add about 1/2 cup marinara to your skillet and let it get bubbly. Dump your pasta (or whatever you are using in it’s place) on in there to make friends, slide that goodness into your bowl, sprinkle with Parmesan, and enjoy!

Rough Nutrition Estimate:
~600 calories
Protein: 53
Fat: 11
Carbs: 62

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