Chicken and Orzo Skillet Dinner

What?! Three days in a row?! It’s crazy, I know. What’s even crazier is that this recipe has nary even a pumpkin seed! The pumpkin theme is not gone, just set aside for the time being. I met with a nutritionist a few weeks ago so I could make sure I’m doing the right things for my body in light of all the working out I’m doing. The 50k training schedule I’m following has me running upwards of 55 miles some weeks and, when you add in the additional weight and interval training classes I do in the gym, I’m burning some serious calories! When I say I’m always hungry, I really mean it. I am literally ALWAYS hungry. I’m like Rolly in 101 Dalmations. “I’m hungry, mother, I’m hungry.”

I track my food using the My Fitness Pal app on my phone. I do this because it keeps me on track and provides an excellent snapshot of my protein/carb breakdown. I’ve discovered that in order to have a successful workout at 6 pm, I need to have consumed at least 75 grams of protein or more by the time I get into the gym. Any less and I feel sluggish and tired. But, I’m a runner and runners need carbs too. The nutritionist told me that she wants me to consume at least 300 grams of carbs a day. Do you know how hard it is to eat 300 grams of carbs without eating junk?! Gah! It’s a good thing I like fruits and veggies because eating more of those are excellent ways to increase carb intake without added fat. Anyway, we’ve determined that I need to increase my carb intake, especially in the hard weeks with high mileage. Well, this week, my total mileage is supposed to hit 50 miles. I have a 24 mile run scheduled for Saturday and I need to be sure my body is fueled and energy is stored BEFORE I head out the door at o’dark thirty on Saturday morning. So, when I saw this Cooking Light recipe for a quick and easy Chicken and Orzo skillet dinner, I knew it would be perfect. Quick and easy are very important after a long day of work – at least to me, anyway! Lean chicken breast, quick cooking pasta, tomatoes, spinach, and feta? Oh yes, it’s a party in the skillet!

Chicken and Orzo Skillet Dinner

1 lb skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cut into bite-sized pieces
8 cups water
12 oz uncooked orzo
2 cups chopped tomato (about 2 medium)
2 teaspoons no-salt added tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 cups baby spinach leaves
3 oz feta cheese, crumbled (about 3/4 cup)

1. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken. Saute 6 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Remove chicken from pan; keep warm.

2. Bring 8 cups water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add orzo; cook 8 minutes or until orzo is al dente. Drain in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1/4 cup cooking liquid.

3. Add reserved cooking liquid, chopped tomato, tomato paste, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and peppers to skillet; cook over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Add chicken, pasta, and 3 cups spinach leaves, stirring until spinach wilts. Remove from heat; sprinkle with cheese.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 2 cups)

Calories 486; Fat 7.5g (sat 3.6g, mono 1.4g, poly 0.5g); Protein 39.8g; Carb 62.6g; Fiber 4.5g; Cholesterol 85mg; Iron 1.8mg; Sodium 641mg; Calcium 138mg

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