Smokin’ Basil-Tomato Chicken Skillet

Smoky skies

Hazy days in Reno

Well, it is darn smoky here in Reno, compliments of the massive Rim Fire burning outside Yosemite National Park, nearly two hundred miles away. More than 100,000 acres are ablaze and only five percent of the fire is contained. Each morning we are greeted with smoky, hazy skies and a blood-red sun (which, where I come from, is an ominous apparition). The mountains and foothills are eerie shadows in the distance and sometimes not visible at all.

I lived in Billings, Mont., back in 1988 when the historic Yellowstone fires blanketed the region in smoke and ash. These past few days remind me of that very long summer spent wondering when I’d see blue skies again. The local news predicts we’ll start to see things clear out around Tuesday, but I won’t hold my breath (well, maybe I should!).

So what does all of this have to do with cooking? It means I can’t or shouldn’t be cooking outside, which is part of what summer is all about. Last week I was grilling tri-tip, but this week is all about what to put in my poor neglected skillet.

So here’s a quick (dare I say smokin’), tasty and healthy dish for you to try. I wish you all clear, blue skies to end your summer!

IMG_8338Ingredients
2 boneless, skinless Chicken Breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
1 14.5 oz. can Diced Tomatoes, no salt, drained
1/4 cup fresh Basil or Basil Paste
3 to 4 oz. prewashed Spinach
1/8 tsp. each, Salt and Pepper
2 to 3 Tbsps. grated Parmesan Cheese

Add chicken to hot cast iron skillet.

Add chicken to hot cast iron skillet.

Cook through for about 5 to 7 minutes.

Cook through for about 5 to 7 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and basil. I used basil paste, my new favorite ingredient.

Add the tomatoes and basil. I used basil paste, my new favorite ingredient.

Combine and heat through.

Combine and heat through.

Turn off the heat and add the spinach. Stir constantly as it wilts.

Turn off the heat and add the spinach. Stir constantly as it wilts.

Serve alone or over your favorite pasta. Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top. A smokin' fast dish!

Serve alone or over your favorite pasta. Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top. A smokin’ fast dish!

Dutch Oven Lovin’ and Some Bitchin’ Chicken

Did you know you can make lumpia in a Dutch oven? You can and, man, is it good!

Filipino lumpia made in a Dutch oven.

So, I may have been away from my blog too long, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been cooking! It’s summer time and Dutch oven season is in full swing. My Dutch oven group, the Northern Sierra Dutch Oven Group (NSDOG), was busy this month with two events – a delectable global Dutch oven cook-off (meaning, make an international dish in your little black pot) and a first-time class at the Lahontan State Recreation Area, where members of the group taught about 25 participants. Both events had great turn-outs and tasty dishes.

Lahontan class participants put a lasagna together.

Lahontan class participants put a lasagna together.

I started NSDOG in 2009 as a way to hone my cast iron cooking skills and find like-minded individuals. Now the group has over 150 members and we are often invited to cook and/or teach for the community. We are a diverse group of individuals from various backgrounds and locations, but we all share a common passion for cast iron cuisine. It amazes me still how fabulously we get along and work well together. Our Dutch Oven Lovefest knows no bounds!

My buddy Doug enjoying cast iron cuisine

My buddy Doug enjoying cast iron cuisine

My friend Doug, also a founding member of the group, makes a zesty chicken dish called Butch’s Bitchin’ Chicken, which is a hit at the classes we teach. It is simple to make (especially for beginners), packed with flavor, and not too hard on the waistline. My husband never ate this totally rad dish before (did that sound a little ’80s to you?) so I converted it to my kitchen Dutch oven and served it up for dinner last night.

IMG_8004Ingredients
4 boneless, skinless Chicken Breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
1 1/4 cups Chicken Broth
1/2 cup diced Sun-Dried Tomatoes (packed in oil)
8 oz. Fettuccine Noodles (try whole grain for a healthier version)
1/2 cup Pesto
Salt, Pepper and Italian Seasoning

Season the chicken pieces with salt, pepper and Italian seasoning. Mix with your hands until the chicken is thoroughly coated.

Season the chicken pieces with salt, pepper and Italian seasoning. Mix with your hands until the chicken is thoroughly coated.

Heat a little oil in a Dutch oven and place chicken pieces inside.

Heat a little oil in a Dutch oven and place chicken pieces inside.

Pour in the chicken broth and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Pour in the chicken broth and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Boil the noodles in a separate pot. Drain and mix in the pesto.

Boil the noodles in a separate pot. Drain and mix in the pesto.

Add the noodles to the chicken.

Add the noodles to the chicken.

Combine.

Combine.

Sprinkle the sun-dried tomatoes on top and simmer for another 10 minutes.

Sprinkle the sun-dried tomatoes on top and simmer for another 10 minutes.

Serve with a garnish of fresh basil. Ummm...dare I say it? Yep, totally bitchin'!

Serve with a garnish of fresh basil. Ummm…dare I say it? Yep, totally bitchin’!