Tomato Basil Chicken

Last week, after 16 weeks of being home with Ben, I returned to work. There are so many thoughts swirling in my brain about maternity leave, child care, balancing work and spending time with my son while also leaving time for dusting, mopping, sorting, washing, folding, combing, carrying, drying, combusting, reading, painting nails, etc. You get the point. But, I want to start with the relatively practical items. First things first, we can't fall back into bad habits of ordering or dining out on weeknights because (1) it's not healthy (2) we're paying for daycare now (3) I'd rather spend that money on cute baby clothes. 

So, here we are. If I thought I didn't have time to cook before, HAHAHAHAHAHA. I was wrong. I had all the time, I was just... Who the hell knows what I was. By the way, let's bookmark this one? A post all about, "What did I do with all that free time?! I could've read all the books and learned how to knit or something." 

Anyway, back to the problem at hand: Cooking at home but not having it take hours, so there's no downtime, and having leftovers BUT not so many that by Wednesday we're ordering out again. because who wants to have the same thing three times in one week? Not us.

The solution? First installment in a new series! Quick dinners for busy parents. recipes that you can pull together in an hour or less and use leftovers the next day in a different meal that takes even less time. 

All you need for this meal are chicken thighs, tons of fresh basil, tomatoes of all sorts, shallots, red peppers, and garlic. Also, one big oven safe pan. Ready? Here we go.

 But first, here are some pictures because this is a blog. 


tomato basil chicken

(loosely based on this Jamie Oliver recipe)


  • 1 package skin on chicken thighs (breasts would work too)
  • 1/2 lb fresh basil, rough chopped. Stems and all! 
  • 3 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, cut length wise
  • 4-5 Roma tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 pack cherry tomatoes
  • 1 heirloom tomato, chopped up
  • 1 red pepper cut up into quarter inch pieces
  • 1/2 lemon, 3-4 slices and the rest reserved for squeezing
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • salt + pepper
  • 1 tsp sumac
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp paprika

I also used Trader Joe's "Everything but the Bagel" seasoning, because I use it on everything now. It's the best. You can substitute any poultry or spice rub that you have, or skip and make your own spice mix from what's listed above and whatever you have on hand. 

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. 
  2. Pour a glug of olive oil into your pan and heat it up. 
  3. Toss in tomatoes, garlic, shallots, red pepper, and basil. Cook down for just a few minutes. No more than five.
  4. Dry your chicken thighs and rub spice mix into the skin. 
  5. Turn off the heat on the vegetables and squeeze chicken into the tomato/basil/pepper situation. 
  6. Place slices of lemon on each piece of chicken and drizzle the remainder of your olive oil on top.
  7. Bake in the oven for 35-40 min. Finish off on the broil setting for an additional 5 minutes. The chicken should be browned and the spice mix will look blackened a bit. It's not. Don't worry.
  8. Serve on a bed of mixed greens and freshly grated Parmesan or cheese of choice. Squeeze the remainder of your lemon on top of everything. 
  9. You're going to have leftovers. Scoop them all, including the juices in the pan, into some Tupperware (not endorsed). 

Ok, so what to do with the leftovers tomorrow? Stay tuned! 


Weeknight Meal: Easy Chicken + Eggplant Parmesan

It's been an incredibly taxing week for everyone. I don't really think I need to say much more than that. Emotionally, physically, spiritually everyone is drained. I'm not sure I've ever seen New York City as quiet and still as over the last week. Even the rush-hour subway train cars are just... silent.

In my personal life the last few weeks have been full of incredible highs and lows. I intend to write a post about the week of our wedding as well as some other life shifts which have happened recently. I just need to make sure that I fully process them before sharing, which sometimes takes more time than I intend. For now, back to the usual- busy schedules, weeknight meals, and budget friendly ideas.

The biggest goal of this blog is to share with you bits of my everyday but also how I challenge myself to live in a sustainable way, on a budget of time and money. I want to write about real days and real meals, not imagined and pretty Instagram moments. Last Monday proved to be a perfect example of my intention for this site. Most of the day I spent taking care of errands put off for weeks since the wedding. I knew that I had to be home by 5PM in order to throw together dinner (Ian works late on Mondays so it's my night to cook).  At 7:30PM sharp I had an international Skype call for which I had to be on time. As is always the case when I am in a rush in this city, the transportation system was set against me. Of the three trains I could take home, not one was running. Totally out of service! I took the bus, which is always much more time consuming. Even with running from the stop back to the apartment I still got home at 6:15PM. I calculated a meager hour and change to cook and take out the dogs before jumping on my call.

I'm not going to lie, I strongly considered spending $20 and ordering Thai food or pizza. It would've been the easy thing to do. But, I recently made a promise to myself that I wouldn't let food in the fridge go to waste and I would actually start trimming the fat on unnecessary expenses. (A decision I made after ordering three pairs of boots on a major sale last week. Oops.) Monday night felt like the perfect opportunity to challenge myself to make something quick and delicious, without buying anything new, with only ingredients already in my home. Sustainable and budget friendly.

In my fridge I found an eggplant, fresh basil, leftover roasted chicken, and tons of grated cheese. I always have lasagna noodles and breadcrumbs on hand so I threw together a dish I've made before when in a serious time crunch. It's not quite a lasagna and not quite an eggplant Parmesan but honestly, does it really matter when you have an hour, two dogs that need walking, a starving husband on his way home, and a phone interview?! The answer is no, it doesn't. What matters is that now it's Wednesday and we've been eating this Easy Chicken + Eggplant Parm all week, it's seriously delicious, and I would put money on making it again when in a total pinch for time.

The best part about this recipe, as with many of my dishes, is that you can improvise beyond what's in the ingredients. If you want more of a lasagna, add carrots, onions, more tomato sauce. If you want to leave out the lasagna noodles and only layer the eggplant, do it. Or make the dish vegetarian and leave out the chicken, your choice. The idea is to cook quickly, effectively, and with items you already have in your fridge.

Golden, crunchy, cheesy crust. What more do you need for a weeknight meal on a cold and grey november day?

Golden, crunchy, cheesy crust. What more do you need for a weeknight meal on a cold and grey november day?

Easy Chicken + Eggplant Parmesan


Ricotta Mixture: 3 eggs, 2 cups ricotta, basil, Mustard seed, oregano, salt, pepper, garlic

Ricotta Mixture: 3 eggs, 2 cups ricotta, basil, Mustard seed, oregano, salt, pepper, garlic

  • 3 roasted, shredded chicken breasts (omit if you're making this vegetarian)
  • 1 large eggplant, diced
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 package lasagna noodles
  • 1.5 cups breadcrumbs
  • 1 jar tomato sauce
  • 2 cups ricotta or cottage cheese
  • grated Parmesan
  • sliced cheese like mozzarella or provolone, any Italian cheese you have on hand will work
  • 3 eggs
  • dried parsley
  • dried oregano
  • dried basil
  • mustard seed
  • handful fresh basil
  • olive oil
  • salt + pepper
  1.  Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Boil water in a large pot and completely submerge lasagna noodles for about 8 minutes. If you really want to save time use no-boil noodles. (Follow the instructions on the box.)
  3. While lasagna noodles are boiling, dice eggplant and onion.
  4. Brown diced eggplant and onion with s+p and a dash of all spices listed above. Use your judgement, the eggplant and onions should become fragrant and soft. When they're soft, mix the breadcrumbs right into your skillet and brown for a few minutes more.
  5. Remove noodles and place them on a lightly greased cookie sheet, making sure to coat each noodle in some oil. This will prevent them from sticking and becoming a total pain to handle when assembling the dish. No need to use olive oil! Save some money and use vegetable oil or cooking spray for this step.
  6. Prepare your cheese mixture. In a bowl mix 3 eggs, 2 cups of ricotta or cottage cheese, 1 tbsp of basil, oregano, parsley, mustard seed, and minced garlic.
  7. Layer your dish in the following order: lasagna noodles, ricotta mixture, chicken, sauce, grated cheese. Reserve some eggplant/onions for the end. Repeat until you have a final layer of noodles. Top noodles with any leftover vegetables and sliced cheese on top. I liked sliced cheese to finish because it makes for an even, golden crust.
  8. Bake on the top rack for 30 minutes at 350°F and broil for an additional 5 to get a golden crust on the cheese.
  9. Serve with a green salad and a handful of fresh basil on top.

Roast Chicken w. Thyme & Preserved Lemon

roasted veg.jpg

I hit an inspirational cooking block this summer. It’s not that I stopped cooking, I was just making food because we had to eat without much enthusiasm. I knew it would pass, as these things do, and that I just had to wait out the doldrums and stick with comforting meals that didn’t dirty too many dishes in the meantime. So we ate pounds of pesto, lots of grilled meat, and hundreds of spinach and kale salads—which were tasty and kept us fed, but not in the least bit memorable.

In the past week, the mornings have been crisp and the evenings are becoming downright chilly (yes, even in San Diego). This is my favorite season on the cooking calendar, so I wondered if fall soups, winter squash, citrus, and roasted meat could be my ticket back to home cooking happiness. 

On my next visit to the grocery store, I picked up some thyme and two chicken halves intending to throw them onto a baking sheet for an easy weeknight dinner. Then, Sunday morning as I was cleaning up breakfast, a yellow beacon called out from the back of the fridge –my jar of preserved lemons.  They spoke to me. I had a plan. 

With the addition of some rainbow carrots and onions I had on hand, I pulled together a chicken with roasted vegetables and the bright, briny preserved lemons.This dish came together beautifully. Using two halves instead of a whole chicken reduced the cooking time and allowed the skin to get perfectly golden and crispy.  It was easy enough to pull together on a Sunday morning, but felt luxurious as a lunch.

roasted chicken.jpg

With a pot of soup bubbling on the stove for dinner, I’m joyfully digging through my favorite cookbooks tabbing recipes for Christmas dinner. I’m back on track and ready to spend fall in the kitchen.

Roast Chicken w. Thyme & Preserved Lemon


  • 2 chicken halves (1.6-2 lbs each half; you could use a whole chicken but you will need to increase the cooking time, plus I think the two halves produce incredible golden, crunchy skin with evenly moist dark and light meat. The two halves were cheap too – just $2.88 each at my grocery store!)
  • 6 rainbow or regular carrots: washed, peeled, and sliced into 1.5 inch pieces
  • 2 large yellow onions: cut into 1/8th wedges
  • 12-20 springs of thyme
  • 1 preserved lemon (Preserved lemons are available at many grocery stores and can be used in lots of dishes including salad dressing, marinades, and roasts. They’re also easy and cost-effective to make at home. I like this recipe and suggest using Meyer lemons and adding a bay leaf, whole cloves, and whole black peppercorns.)
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • Salt
  • White pepper (black will do here too, but I like the subtle flavor of white pepper and suggest you use it if you have it on hand.)

1. Heat your oven to 425. Prepare the carrots and onion then place in the bottom of a roasting pan. Toss with 2 Tbsp of olive oil, salt, and pepper.

2. Place the two chicken halves on top of the bed of vegetables skin side up. Drizzle the remaining 1 Tbsp of olive oil over the chicken halves and rub the oil all over the chicken, making sure the skin in coated. Season the chicken with salt and pepper.

3. Wash the preserving liquid off of your lemon and tear it into segments. Tuck two lemon pieces under the chicken wings and place the remaining pieces in the roasting pan with the vegetables.

4. Tuck most of your thyme springs under the chicken halves and place a few directly in the vegetable mix. Place your assembled dish in your hot oven and cook for 30-40 minutes. 

5. Check for doneness once the skin is crispy and golden. When ready, remove the chicken from the roasting pan and place on a cutting board to rest.

6. Place the pan of vegetables back in the oven for 7-10 more minutes. Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes before carving to ensure you don’t lose all of the good juices you’ve sealed in the meat.

7. Carve the chicken, pull your vegetables out of the oven, remove the thyme twigs, and serve with half of a fresh lemon to squeeze over the roast vegetables. The preserved lemons are edible and pair well with bites of chicken.