Monday, April 16, 2012

Balsamic Chicken Tortellini Salad

This little salad has easily become one of my new favorite quick and easy dinners. It's kind of funny because it's also the salad that got my two older girls to eat sweet peppers. I had brought home a big bag of mini sweet peppers one day, primarily for this salad, and they thought they were the cutest thing and just ate them whole! Now they love them.

You can tackle this salad in the time it takes the tortellini and chicken to cook, making it ideal for a soccer night or any weeknight for that matter. I use fresh baby spinach as well as a little fresh basil, which makes the flavor just pop! Fresh basil can be pricey if you don't know what to look for. Sometimes grocery stores will carry small, unpackaged bunches that are near the fresh herbs like parsley and cilantro. That seems to be the least expensive that I have found, but I have also found a living basil plant that comes with roots, which you can keep for a while at home. Of course, the easiest and most definitely least expensive would be to grow your own in your garden or even on your window sill.

Balsamic Chicken Tortellini Salad
For the salad:
1 7-10 oz. package cheese tortellini (or multiple smaller packages)
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (pounded thin if they are thick)
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
2 sweet bell peppers, seeded and diced
fresh baby spinach, chopped (about half a 10-oz bag)
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into ribbons
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

For the balsamic vinaigrette:
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
salt and pepper to taste

To prepare the vinaigrette, put all ingredients in a small jar with a tight fitting lid and shake to combine. Add about 1/3 of the vinaigrette to a zip-top bag. Add the chicken and marinate for 1-2 hours. When it's time to cook the chicken, remove it from the zip-top bag and discard the marinade. Cook either on indoor grill pan or outdoor grill. Once cooled, chop into bite-sized pieces.

Bring a large pot of water to boiling and cook tortellini according to package directions. Drain and cool.

While the chicken and tortellini are cooking, chop the veggies and greens and add them to a large salad bowl. Add cooled chicken and tortellini. Toss with remaining dressing and parmesan cheese.

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