I’ve been in a rut ever since moving from the Midwest to the Southwest. A chicken-and-avocado rut.
It all goes back to that misconception that money magically appears in your bank account after being society’s typical “poor college student” for four years. I don’t know if it was a conscious revelation or something that just happened, but I buy a lot of chicken and a lot of avocados. Chicken is cheap, we all know that, but in the Southwest, avocados are readily available and usually 99 cents or less, not to mention incredibly delicious.
But more important than cost-efficiency when it comes to chicken and avocados is work-efficiency. When I was in college I worked around the clock. I averaged four hours of sleep each night because I was one of those people who wanted to do it all—the internship, classes, extracurriculars and of course, bar specials with my friends (because if I didn’t go and take advantage of that deal I was pretty much losing money, right?!). I made it by, though. I was actually quite high-functioning on that crazy schedule of mine. Well, except for the time I stayed up with four other student magazine staffers for 60 hours straight, but that’s another story.
Man, how things have changed. I’ve only been out of college for one year and you couldn’t get me to even open one eye after only four hours of sleep. I work significantly less now than I did in college. If you added up my time at work, editing student magazines, sitting in class and doing homework, it had to have been at least 70 hours a week. Now I work just 40 and have no commitments after hours. But for whatever reason, when I get home after sitting in a chair all day, I’m exhausted. I know it’s the most ridiculous thing and I hate myself for saying it, but it’s true. I don’t want to do anything except sit on the couch and binge watch Netflix and eat, of course. But cooking AND doing dishes? No. Way. How parents function on a day-to-day basis is so far outside my realm of understanding. Chicken and avocados became the fastest go-to meal that was still fairly healthful, yet filling and delicious.
That got old faster than BBMak (which is completely ridiculous because “Back Here” was an incredible song. These guys should have been in the ranks of the Backstreet Boys and ‘N Sync, but whatever, I’m definitely over it), and this Four-Ingredient Chicken Pesto and Penne saved my dinner rut. I kid you not, you only need four ingredients to whip this puppy up and it is my favorite chicken prep ever. The pesto has so much flavor and when you saute it with the chicken, it absorbs all of that flavor while crisping up on the outside. The chopped tomatoes add a juicy punch that helps depress any guilt from this light-on-the-veggies meal (if the lack of vegetables continues to guilt you, this dish would pair well with a side green salad topped with a little balsamic vinaigrette), and the pasta, is well, pasta, so I think we’re all good there.
- 1 large chicken breast (or 2 small)
- ½ cup basil pesto (I use Classico)
- 2–3 large roma tomatoes, chopped
- 2 cups cooked penne pasta
- Cut chicken breast into small, one- or two-bite slices. Toss in half of the basil pesto.
- Place a skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the chicken to the skillet and stir every couple of minutes until cooked through and slightly crispy on the outside, about 10–15 minutes.
- Add chopped tomatoes and stir until heated through.
- Add the cooked penne pasta and remaining basil pesto, toss until evenly mixed.
- Optional: When serving, top with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.
As with most of my recipes, this makes two servings. So if you cook just for yourself like I do, eat one serving for dinner and immediately pack the other half for lunch the next day. I always make enough dinner for two because leftovers for lunch is the best thing that ever happened to the world. It requires no thinking on your way out the door in the morning and saves you cash on eating out every day. Bon appetit!