Paprika-Lemon Chicken with Sautéed Kale and Quinoa Tabouli is Hit Dinner #10 in my recipe journal. I started keeping a journal in my kitchen three years ago. Whenever I “wing” a meal that everyone likes I write it down in my journal. I wish I had started doing this many years ago because my journal would be filled by now. Before starting the journal I’d throw something together for dinner, all of my guys would like it, but I didn’t write it down. I thought at the time that I would remember what I had created, but unfortunately I never did. Even with my journal I’ve missed recording some great meals because I got busy and thought, “I’ll write it down later.” Needless to say, “later” never comes. I am learning that I have to do it in the moment or else it doesn’t happen.
Why Dinner Menus?
There is a reason why I want to record the entire meal. I experiment with recipes all the time, but then I also have to come up with an idea for the side dish. We get bored with steamed broccoli, or I fall into a salad rut. When I make a dinner where every part comes together, I want to remember what I made so I can do it again. My dream is to write a cookbook based entirely on seasonal dinner menus that are simple, fresh and easy to prepare. Of course they have to taste good as well.
Paprika-Lemon Chicken with Sautéed Kale and Quinoa Tabouli
This Paprika-Lemon Chicken was our dinner Sunday night. I already had the buckwheat soaking in a Mason jar because I had planned to use it in a salad. However, I had forgotten to thaw the salmon and as a result didn’t have a complete dinner plan. When Rob called me from the market to see if there was anything I needed, I thought for a moment, and then asked him to get a couple boneless chicken breasts. While waiting for him, I cooked the grains and pulled a bunch of veggies out of the refrigerator. I do my grocery shopping on Mondays, so by Sunday it’s time to use up whatever is left. We had a red pepper, red onion, cucumber, parsley and garlic to make a tabouli style salad with quinoa and buckwheat. I also found a bunch of kale that needed to be eaten. Bingo! I had my dinner plan.
I should probably call it Quinoa-Buckwheat Tabouli, but that was too long. You could do this with any grain. I wanted to try buckwheat, which is naturally gluten-free, and I like using quinoa. Quinoa is actually not a grain even though we prepare it like a grain. It’s a pseudo-cereal loaded with beneficial vitamins and minerals, and it’s high in protein.
Cook the buckwheat and quinoa each for about 15 minutes. It’s best to soak the buckwheat prior to cooking to make it easier to digest and allow you to absorb more of its vital vitamins and minerals. Put the buckwheat in a glass bowl or jar in the morning, add warm water and then cover the container with a clean kitchen towel. It can sit on the counter until you are ready to use it. Rinse the quinoa and soaked buckwheat before cooking. I cooked mine separately, but you could try cooking them together. Use enough water in the pot to cover buckwheat and/or quinoa by about two inches, bring to a boil, then simmer for about 15 minutes. The buckwheat should be tender but not mushy, and the quinoa should have little white halos around them. Quinoa comes in different colors. The kind I used was a mix. When done, rinse under cold water and combine in a bowl. I used about a cup of each of the cooked quinoa and buckwheat and the rest I stored to use in a soup later in the week.
Traditional tabouli is more parsley than anything else. I’m not a huge fan of the flavor of parsley but it is a great herb for digestion and detox. Use the amount that suits you. Sweet peppers and cucumbers are among the “dirty dozen” fruits and vegetables that you should absolutely buy and eat organic. This is because they have some of the highest pesticide loads even after peeling and washing. Just to be clear, I don’t peel red peppers, but I will peel and remove the seeds from cucumbers in salads. They aren’t as bitter that way however, you lose some of their nutritional value.
Chop the vegetables and combine them with the quinoa and buckwheat. Stir in 2 TBS of extra virgin olive oil, a TBS of raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar and a TBS of fresh lemon juice. Taste and adjust the oil and acids to your taste. Finish it off with a pinch or two of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper.
This is going to sit while you cook the chicken and kale. The flavors will have time to settle in and get all happy together. Taste again before serving and adjust the seasonings to your taste.
I used two boneless, skinless chicken breasts for the two of us and we had some left over. Put the chicken breasts between some plastic wrap on top of a non-wood cutting board.
Before you start pounding the chicken with a meat mallet smash three cloves of garlic on the cutting board you used for the veggies. You could do it with the flat side of a chopping knife but, since the mallet is out I like to give the garlic a good bang with it. The garlic will be used with the kale so peel off the thin papery skin and set it aside.
Pound the chicken until it is about a 1/4-1/2 inch thick. Peel off the top layer of plastic wrap. Season the tops of the chicken breasts with a pinch of sea salt, a tsp of smoked paprika, a couple turns on the pepper mill and a 2 tsp of fresh lemon juice. Turn them over and do the same on the back side.
Heat the avocado oil over medium heat until it will move easily around in your grill pan. Add the chicken breasts and let them cook for 4 minutes.
Start the Kale
While the chicken cooks wash and de-stem one bunch of leafy green kale. Heat another TBS of avocado oil in a separate pan over medium heat. When you can swirl the oil around to coat the pan add the smashed garlic cloves.
It should be time to turn the chicken.
Doesn’t that look good? It will be a nice golden-red color. Set the timer for another 4 minutes for the chicken and start cooking the kale. After cooking the second side, remove the chicken and let it sit for 5 minutes before slicing into strips.
When the garlic starts to brown swirl it around in the oil and then add the kale. Be careful, if your kale is still wet from washing it the oil will spit at you. I try to add the kale all at once to cover the pan surface. Turn the kale over as it cooks so that it wilts evenly and doesn’t burn on the bottom.
The kale will be nicely wilted. Before serving sprinkle it with a pinch of sea salt and a drizzle of lemon juice. I’m amazed at how little there is once it’s wilted. Rob and I will eat the entire bunch in one meal. I could eat kale like this every day. I love it! Adjust the salt and lemon to your taste buds.
Paprika-Lemon Chicken with Sautéed Kale and Quinoa Tabouli
There’s your Paprika-Lemon Chicken with Sautéed Kale and Quinoa Tabouli dinner. Plate it all up and enjoy!. I happened to have some pomegranate seeds that needed to be used, so I topped the tabouli with those and chopped raw almonds for added crunch. These are optional additions.
Yields 2 servings
Paprika-Lemon Chicken with Sautéed Kale and Quinoa Tabouli
1/2 a chopped Cucumber, peeled and de-seeded if desired
1 cup chopped parsley
2-3 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 TBS Raw Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar
1 TBS fresh Lemon Juice; or more to taste
Sea Salt and Pepper to taste; a pinch or two
8 raw almonds, chopped
Pomegranate Seeds; optional
FOR THE CHICKEN
2 skinless, boneless Chicken Breasts; pound to 1/4 - 1/2 inch thick
1 tsp Sea Salt
2 tsp Smoked Paprika
1/2 - 1 tsp Ground Pepper
4 tsp lemon juice
1 TBS Avocado Oil
FOR THE KALE
1 bunch of Leafy Green Kale; washed and de-stemmed
3 Garlic Cloves; smashed and peeled
1 TBS Avocado Oil
1-2 tsp fresh Lemon Juice
a pinch or two of Sea Salt
For the Tabouli, put the buckwheat in a pot and cover it with 2 inches of water. Bring the water to a boil, turn heat down to low and simmer for 15 minutes. The buckwheat should be tender but not soggy. Rinse it under cold water in a fine mesh sieve and add to a medium sized salad bowl. Rinse the Quinoa well and then cook in the same way as the buckwheat. Rinse it under cold water and add to the bowl with the buckwheat. Mix in all of the chopped vegetables. Add the oil, vinegar and lemon juice and stir. Taste to see if you want more lemon juice or vinegar or if you need to add more olive oil. Sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt and a few grinds from a pepper mill. Stir and set aside so the flavors can blend while you prepare the rest of the meal.
For the Chicken, mix the salt, paprika, and pepper together. Season both sides of the chicken breasts with the mixture. Then drizzle the lemon juice over the chicken using about 1/2 a tsp per side on each breast. Heat the oil in a grill pan over medium-high heat. When you can swirl the oil around to coat the pan add the chicken. Cook the chicken for 4 minutes on each side. Let it sit for 5 minutes before slicing into strips.
For the Kale, heat the avocado oil in a pan over medium-high heat. When the oil swirls easily in the pan add the garlic. Stir the garlic, flipping it over until it is lightly browned. Add all of the kale to the pan. Be careful because the hot oil will spit at you as the water from the kale hits it. I like to use tongs to turn the kale as it cooks so that it wilts evenly and doesn't burn. It should take only about 5 minutes to wilt down. Drizzle with the lemon juice and sprinkle with a pinch or two of sea salt.
I can think of 6 reasons why I create a weekly dinner menu, but first let me give you a little background on how cooking dinner became important to me. I’ll also share my planning tool that you can get when you subscribe to my blog.
I’m the baby in my family, but I was raised as an only child. My two sisters were a sophomore in college and a senior in high school when I was born in September of 1963. They were 20 and 17, and my mother was 40. It wasn’t common for women to have babies in their 40’s back then. I wasn’t an “oops” baby, or at least that’s what I’ve been told. I guess my parents weren’t ready to embrace the empty nest and for that I have always been thankful.
Family photo from Christmas 1965
By the time I was born Mom had 21 years of cooking experience under her belt. She made cookies, cakes and pies from scratch. I loved the frosted Halloween cookies that she cut out into ghosts, witches and pumpkins and decorated with colorful sprinkles. We were even featured in the Medford Mail Tribune in a story about baking cookies with children.
From August 1970 newspaper story. My nephew and I are helping make cookies while my niece takes a taste and my mom looks on.
LIKE MOTHER LIKE DAUGHTER? YES AND NO
Family and friends thought of her as an expert; a gourmet cook. My parents hosted elaborate dinner parties for their friends, serving fancy dishes like Coquille St Jacques in scallop shells. Mom would plan the entire menu and cook everything from the appetizers to dessert. When I was old enough she employed me to help her serve. I walked among the elegantly dressed guests offering a delicious selection of appetizers, brought plates filled with perfect portions of food to the table and then cleared them away at the end of that course. She used the china she inherited from her mother and had special soup bowls and spoons. The compliments flowed from the 4-5 couples lucky enough to be included that evening. Sometimes she sent out invitations in the mail, but most of the time I remember her calling friends on the phone. There weren’t any kids at her dinner parties because none of my parents’ friends had children still living at home. Her example of a dinner party is something I’ve never followed, but I do love to entertain and have friends to our home for dinner. Over the years our gatherings have been organized through email or texts. We usually include the entire family and they bring something to contribute to the meal. We use our regular every day dishes, and the meal is served buffet style. Even though our dinner parties are more casual, socializing with friends over a good meal has continued. I learned that dinner was important whether it was a special occasion or a regular family meal.
Me and my mom delivering a homemade blackberry pie to a friend. Food was something we shared with others.
CONTINUING WITH A FAMILY TRADITION
As I grew up I saw my mom spend a lot of time in the kitchen on a daily basis. She made breakfast, packed my lunches when I went to school, and always had a home cooked meal for me and Dad at the end of the day. My dad came home for lunch and she’d have it waiting for him when he got there. She didn’t use Hamburger Helper, Rice A Roni, or pull a TV dinner out of the freezer. She collected recipes and tried new things. Dad and I were Mom’s guinea pigs. When she was planning a dinner party she tried new recipes on us first. I learned from the best so, it’s easy to believe that I would follow in her footsteps when it came to preparing a meal for my family at the end of the day.
WHICH CAME FIRST THE GROCERY LIST OR THE DINNER MENU?
I remember that she made grocery lists and cut recipes out of newspapers and magazines. She had cookbooks that she used and marked up with her notes. There were also meals she just knew how to make like fried chicken with mashed potatoes and a salad, or pork chops with apple sauce and steamed broccoli. Surprisingly, I even liked her liver and onions with lots of ketchup! However, I don’t recall seeing her write out a weekly menu. I recently asked her how she planned our dinners before going grocery shopping. She reminded me of the newspaper ads she would look through each week. She looked to see what was on sale, clipped the coupons, and planned around those items, but she didn’t write a weekly menu down on paper. This is where our system is different. It was probably my experience as a teacher, where I made and followed plans all day, that made me feel like I needed to be organized and have a plan at home as well. So, I make a weekly menu first and then make a grocery list. Like Mom, I do all the shopping, and most nights of the week I cook for my family.
Keep reading and you will find the 6 reasons why I create a weekly dinner menu. However, let me focus on my number one reason first.
THE FAMILY DINNER
Sharing dinner together is what I learned from my mom. Our process may be different, but preparing a meal and coming together at the dinner table has remained the same. For my family, eating dinner together has always been important. It hasn’t always been possible, especially when sports interfered with the dinner hour, but it was something we have done most nights of the week.
Our last dinner together before the boys head back to college after winter break.
THE WEEKLY MENU
I started creating a weekly menu soon after I was married. I was scribbling notes and lists on bits of paper until my wonderful husband created a menu and shopping list template using our old Apple Macintosh computer. It was a tool I could print and fill in each week before going to the grocery store. We lost the file for this planning sheet years ago when we made the switch from the Macintosh to a PC. However, I’ve been able to keep making copies and I’ve been faithfully using this wonderful tool nearly every week for 25 years.
the weekly meal and grocery planning sheet I used for 25 years
Above is the tool I use to plan menus and make a grocery list. It lost its complete heading long ago, and the food categories don’t match what I purchase most frequently. Just this week I finally gave it a new look and updated it with more current shopping preferences.
GET MY MENU PLANNING TOOL
Subscribe to my email list and I will send you a pdf of this revised menu planner and shopping list. You will also receive a blank version so you can fill in your own categories and customize it to fit your needs.
6 REASONS WHY I CREATE A WEEKLY DINNER MENU
The family dinner is important and planning the week out keeps me organized. There’s no trying to figure out what to fix for dinner at 5pm. It keeps us from falling back on take-away meals.
With dinners planned out we eat more healthfully. I find it is easier to stay true to my nutritional values while shopping.
I make better use of ingredients and have less waste. How often do you buy something, use part of it and then find the remaining portion has spoiled before you found a use for it?
I can shop once for the whole week. Ever since I quit teaching 18 years ago, Monday has been my shopping and errand day. My menu starts on Monday, but in the blank version you can write the days of the week in any order that fits your schedule.
Over the years of trying recipes from magazines, cookbooks, and websites we’ve had our share of variety. Planning a menu has made it easier for me to follow recipes from different sources. I’ve found dishes we love, and those become favorites that make it to our table again and again.
I’ve learned a lot about cooking through the experience of following recipes. As a result I have developed a passion for experimenting with ingredients and flavors. Now, more often that not, I find myself “winging” it in the kitchen. I’ll leave some days blank and, when I get to the store I can make choices based on what’s on sale and what’s in season. If there’s a new local product I’ll buy it and then figure out a way to use it. When I get home I fill in the blanks on my menu so I don’t forget my ideas for that meal.
SOME CONFESSIONS FROM ME
That all sounds great, doesn’t it? I have to admit that there are times throughout the year when trying to decide on a menu for the week is difficult. I get tired of making food decisions, or nothing sounds good. During those times my menu doesn’t look like much when I head to the store on Monday. That’s when I really rely on my experience to buy what grabs my attention and then come up with a way to fix it. We also have a great grocery store here in Portland, called New Season’s. I love their meat market. They have a good selection of quality meats and they have a variety of them that are already prepared in a sauce and just need to be cooked. It’s pretty easy to come home with some marinated chicken skewers, throw them on the barbecue, and make a salad to go with them.
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
I’m curious to know how many others plan a weekly menu? How do you plan your dinners?
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