It’s time to enjoy the lighter flavors of chicken

Spring is an ideal time to experiment with new tastes that feature this versatile protein

The idea of spring chickens may not bring visions of delicious poultry to mind. However, this is an ideal time to prepare lighter dishes that feature chicken and chicken parts.

Instead of the gravies that give chicken dishes comfort-food appeal in fall and winter, it’s time to think lighter in appearance and taste.

Use citrus or other fruits to brighten the flavor. Herbs add a special flair of their own. Place chunks of chicken in salads to create a light dinner salad or grill the meat to add a smoky flavor that evokes summertime. 

Many people select white chicken meat, removing the skin to minimize the fat and calories. But the tender dark meat is equally delicious, albeit a little higher in calories and fat.

Just remember, when preparing dishes with chicken, refrigerate the raw meat promptly. Never leave it on a countertop at room temperature.

Freeze uncooked chicken if it won’t be used within two days. Thaw it in the refrigerator, not on the countertop, or in cold water.

When grilling chicken outdoors, keep it refrigerated until ready to cook. Do not place cooked chicken on same plate used to transport the raw meat to the grill.

Always cook chicken until well done, not medium or rare. If using a meat thermometer, the internal temperature should reach 180 degrees for a whole chicken, 170 degrees for parts with the bones and 160 degrees for boneless chicken.

To check visually for doneness, pierce chicken with a fork. The juices should run clear, not pink, and the fork should enter the chicken easily.

Never leave cooked chicken at room temperature for more than two hours. If it’s not eaten immediately, cooked chicken should be kept either hot or refrigerated.

Marinade in which raw chicken has been soaking should never be used on cooked chicken.

Always wash hands, countertops, cutting boards, knives and other utensils used in preparing raw chicken with soapy water before they come in contact with other raw or cooked foods.

Following are recipes from


Balsamic Chicken, Strawberry and Apple Salad

3 to 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded to an even thickness



1 cup balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing

6 to 8 cups baby spinach

1 apple, thinly sliced

1-1/2 cups sliced strawberries

1/3 cup feta cheese crumbles

1/4 cup chopped pecans


Season chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Brush chicken on both sides with some of the dressing.

Cook chicken on the stove in a greased skillet or on the grill over medium heat for five to seven minutes on each side, until cooked through. 

Brush with balsamic dressing on both sides and cook another one to two minutes. Transfer to a plate or cutting board and slice into strips.

Assemble salads with spinach leaves on the bottom. Top with strawberries, apples, chicken, feta cheese and pecans.

Serve immediately with remaining balsamic dressing.

Makes three to four servings.


Thai Blackberry Basil Chicken

3 to 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sizes pieces

2 tablespoons fish sauce

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon hoisin sauce

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 teaspoons sugar

1 cup blackberries

Handful fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons roughly chopped cashews 


In a small bowl, whisk together fish sauce, garlic, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, rice vinegar, red pepper flakes and sugar.

Drizzle a large pan or skillet with oil and bring to medium heat. Add chicken and cook, stirring, for four to five minutes, until browned.

Add sauce to pan and cook another three to four minutes, until chicken is cooked through. Add blackberries and basil and cook another one to two minutes. 

Sprinkle with cashews and serve immediately.

Makes four servings.


Healthy Baked Chicken Parmesan

4 small-medium boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded to an even thickness

1 tablespoon vegetable oil



2/3 cup Italian-style breadcrumbs or plain breadcrumbs mixed with 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 cups marinara sauce

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil, plus more for topping

4 slices mozzarella cheese

8 ounces spaghetti noodles, cooked according to package instructions

Fresh basil, optional


Brush chicken on both sides with oil, then season with salt and pepper on both sides. 

Combine breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese in a shallow dish. Toss chicken in the breadcrumb mixture to coat on both sides. Arrange chicken in a lightly greased, large baking dish.

Bake in a 350-degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until cooked through and no longer pink in the middle. 

Combine marinara sauce, garlic, Italian seasoning and basil in a medium saucepan and stir over medium heat until hot.

Top each chicken breast with about 1/2 cup marinara sauce and one slice mozzarella cheese. Broil for three to four minutes, until cheese is bubbly and starts to brown. 

Serve over cooked spaghetti noodles and top with cracked black pepper and torn fresh basil.

Makes four servings.


Slow Cooker Parmesan Herb Chicken and Orzo

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts or 4 to 6 boneless skinless chicken thighs

3 teaspoons Italian seasoning

3 cups low sodium chicken broth

1-1/2 cups orzo pasta

4 tablespoons butter, melted

1 cup sliced mushrooms

1 medium white or yellow onion, finely chopped

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 cup shaved or finely shredded Parmesan cheese

Freshly cracked black pepper and herbs  for garnish


Season chicken on both sides with a bit of the Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Cook in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat for one to two minutes on each side, until browned on the outsides.

Transfer chicken to a greased slow cooker. Add chicken broth, butter, mushrooms, onions, garlic and salt and pepper. Cover and cook on high for one to two hours or on low for three to four hours. 

Stir in orzo, cover and cook another 30 to 45 minutes on high.

Uncover and use a fork to pull chicken out of the slow cooker. Stir contents of slow cooker, then return chicken to slow cooker on top of the orzo mixture.

Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over chicken. Cover and cook five to 10 minutes, until cheese is melted. Serve with fresh herbs and cracked black pepper if desired.

Makes four servings.

To prevent orzo from getting mushy, cook it separately and stir it in at the end. You will only need 2 cups chicken broth in the crockpot with the chicken if you do this.


Grilled Pineapple Teriyaki Chicken Wraps

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded to 1/2-inch thickness

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon chili powder



1/4 red onion, thinly sliced

8 sliced pineapple rings or 1 cup chopped pineapple

1/2 cup teriyaki sauce

4 pita wraps

Optional toppings: sesame seeds, lettuce, mayo, tomatoes

For homemade teriyaki sauce:

1/2 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon honey

3/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon minced garlic


Season chicken with garlic powder, chili powder, salt and pepper to taste. Grill over medium heat for five to eight minutes on each side, until chicken is cooked through.

Place a grilled chicken breast, onions, pineapple and any other toppings on each pita. Top with teriyaki sauce and sprinkle with sesame seeds and cilantro if desired. Serve immediately.

For the homemade teriyaki sauce, whisk ingredients together in a small saucepan. Stir constantly while bringing to a boil, then boil one to two minutes. Reduce heat and transfer to a heat-safe bowl to serve.

Makes four servings.


Bacon Chicken Ranch Pizza

1 pizza crust

1 cup ranch dressing

1 large boneless skinless chicken breast, pounded to 1/2-inch thickness

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder



1 to 2 cups shredded mozzarella, Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese

4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

Fresh parsley, optional


Sprinkle chicken with garlic powder, salt and pepper. Cook in a greased pan or skillet over medium-high heat for three to four minutes each side, until cooked through. Cut into small strips or pieces and set aside.

Roll pizza crust out on a large pan lined with foil and coated with cooking spray. Spread ranch dressing over the crust. Sprinkle generously with cheese. Top with chicken and crumbled bacon. 

Bake in a 420-degree oven for 15 to 25 minutes, until cheese is bubbly and crust is golden brown. Sprinkle with parsley and serve warm.

Makes three to four servings.


One Pan Tuscan Garlic Chicken Tortellini

4 to 6 boneless skinless chicken thighs or 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts pounded to even thickness

3 teaspoons minced garlic

3 cups fresh baby spinach leaves

1/2 cup sundried tomatoes, drained and rinsed if canned

1/2 cup chicken broth

1/2 cup heavy cream or other milk

8 ounces tortellini




Cook tortellini according to package instructions, then drain and set aside.

Grease a skillet and cook chicken for five to seven minutes per side over medium heat, until browned and cooked through. Transfer to a plate and cover to keep warm.

Add spinach, garlic and sundried tomatoes to pan and saute over medium heat for one to two minutes, until garlic is fragrant. Add chicken broth and stir two to three minutes, until spinach is wilted. Add heavy cream and stir another two to four minutes, until liquid is reduced slightly and creamy.

Add tortellini and chicken to pan, stir to coat and cook for a minute or two over medium heat, until tortellini is hot throughout. Top with cracked black pepper if desired and serve.

Makes four servings.

If using dehydrated sun-dried tomatoes, soak them in warm water for 15 to 20 minutes before using. 


Creamy White Chicken Lasagna Soup

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces

2 tablespoons oil

4 tablespoons butter

3 teaspoons minced garlic

4 tablespoons flour

1-1/2 teaspoons onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

2 cups chicken broth

6 cups fat free or regular half and half

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

2 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning blend

4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Chopped fresh thyme or parsley, for garnish

8 lasagna noodles, broken into 2-inch pieces and cooked until tender


Add oil to a large pot over medium high heat. Cook chicken for five to six minutes, stirring, until cooked through. Transfer to a dish, cover and set aside. 

Add butter to pot and stir until melted. Stir in minced garlic and saute about one minute, until fragrant. Sprinkle flour over butter and garlic and stir until thickened. Gradually whisk in half and half and chicken broth. 

Stir in salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder. Bring to a boil and cook about 10 minutes. Stir in Parmesan and cream cheese until melted and incorporated. 

Stir in lasagna noodles and chicken. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. Garnish with chopped thyme or parsley and Parmesan cheese if desired and serve. 

Makes four servings.


Pesto Mozzarella Chicken Sliders

18 slider buns, cut in half crosswise

2 cups cooked and shredded chicken

11 ounces pesto with basil

2 tablespoons butter, melted

15 slices mozzarella cheese

1/3 cup mayonnaise, optional


Arrange the bottom halves of the slider buns side by side in a lightly greased 9-by-13-inch pan. 

In a small bowl, stir together melted butter and 2 tablespoons pesto. Set aside.

Spread mayonnaise on the bottom of the buns, if using, then layer buns with shredded chicken, pesto and mozzarella slices. Place top halves on buns. Brush pesto-butter mixture over the tops of the sliders.

Bake in a 400-degree oven for 10 minutes uncovered, then cover with foil and bake another 10 to 15 minutes, until cheese is melted. Serve warm. 

Makes 18 sliders.


French Onion Chicken

2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced into rings

3 tablespoons butter

1 cup plus 3 tablespoons beef broth

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to even thickness

1 tablespoon oil



1 teaspoon Italian blend herbs

2 tablespoons flour

4 slices Provolone cheese

4 slices Swiss cheese

3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese 

Fresh thyme or parsley and cracked black pepper, for topping 


In a large, oven-safe skillet over medium high heat, melt butter. Add onions and 3 tablespoons beef broth and saute for three to four minutes, until onions are translucent. Continue to cook, stirring, about 15 minutes longer, until onions are browned and very tender. Use a tongs to transfer to a bowl and cover to keep warm.

Drizzle chicken with oil, then season to taste with salt, pepper and Italian herbs. Place chicken in the skillet and cook four to five minutes per side, until browned.  

Transfer chicken to a plate and cover to keep warm. Return onions to the skillet, then sprinkle with flour and stir over medium high heat for one minute. Add beef broth and continue to cook, stirring, until mixture comes to a boil. Season with salt and pepper, then return chicken to the skillet and spoon sauce over each piece of chicken.

Top chicken with one slice of Provolone and one slice of Swiss cheese, then with one-quarter of the Parmesan cheese. Transfer skillet to a 400-degree oven and bake 10 minutes, until chicken is cooked through and cheeses are melted.

Spoon some of the onions and gravy over the chicken, garnish with thyme or parsley and cracked black pepper and serve.





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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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