Baked Tuscan Chicken and Vegetables is a simple, but tasty and nutritious meal in one pan. Quick to prepare, and easy on the clean-up duties. Most Tuscan chicken recipes call for heavy cream or half and half, which is fine, but I wanted to cut some of the calories and retain the individual flavors of each ingredient. By baking the chicken instead of browning it, I also reduced the amount of oil needed, and hence cut even more calories. But believe me, this does not taste like a diet dish. It’s worthy of a high-class restaurant meal that you would pay handsomely for, but don’t have to because you’re cooking it at home. And you control the ingredients.
2020 has been quite a year. Due to the coronavirus and social distancing, more and more people are spending time in the kitchen. I know not everyone loves to be in the kitchen as much as I do. Have you tried any of the meal delivery services? I doubt I’ll ever subscribe, but they’re gaining traction for their convenience. And some even cater to specific dietary needs.
Consumer’s Advocate has written an article that you can reference here: https://www.consumersadvocate.org/meal-delivery which compares the best and most popular meal delivery services. They look at convenience, shipping, cost, quality of ingredients, variety, and options for dietary restrictions.
I have a friend who uses one of these meal-prep companies for several meals a week but says some of them are bland or that she doesn’t like all of the spices that come with the meals. How does she make these pre-packaged meals stand out? She uses OSA Gourmet hot sauces and seasoning blends to add an extra layer of flavor or to replace those flavors she doesn’t care for. Convenience and added flavor. A good combination.
However, meal-prep kits aren’t my cup of tea. I shop less frequently than I did six months ago, but I don my mask and social distance. I prefer to choose the vegetables and meats myself, to ensure I have the freshest most high-quality ingredients available. For example, I was originally going to use spinach in this recipe, but the zucchini was so beautiful, they just jumped right into my cart.
Organic local zucchini
Zucchini, a summer squash, is plentiful this time of year, and my local vegetable market had some organic beauties from a farm just down the road. Choose firm zucchini without blemishes or punctured areas to get the freshest tasting squash. Smaller is better with this vegetable, as larger zucchini may be watery and tasteless. Store zucchini in paper bags in the vegetable bin of the refrigerator. Storing them in plastic will increase the rate they become mushy and go bad.
Prefer yellow squash to zucchini? You can substitute one for the other. You could even use half zucchini and half yellow squash. That’s one of the things I love about cooking. I can take a recipe and change it up based on what looks good in the market and what appeals to my taste buds on any given day.
Zucchini is low in calories, carbohydrates, and sugars, and loaded with fiber and water, which are beneficial in weight control. They also contain significant amounts of vitamins B6, riboflavin, folate, vitamins C, A, and K, and minerals, like potassium, manganese, and omega-3. Zucchini is packed with antioxidants that help prevent cancer and inflammation. Besides which, they just taste good. Good taste and good for you. You can’t go wrong here.
Fun Fact: Did you know that zucchini is considered a fruit in the botanical world?
I typically use onion or shallots in a dish like this, but fennel was available, and it gives the dish a unique flavor profile. Feel free to substitute the same amount of onion if fennel is unavailable.
Organic locally grown Fennel
I typically use onion or shallots in a dish like this, but fennel was available, and it gives the dish a unique flavor profile. Feel free to substitute the same amount of onion if fennel is unavailable. If you’ve never had fennel, you’re in for a treat. It’s been grown in the Mediterranean for thousands of years and is used in many rustic Italian dishes. It’s a primary ingredient in Italian sausages. Fennel is essential to other cultural cuisines as well, including India and the Middle East, and is a key ingredient in Chinese five-spice powder. All parts of the fennel plant are edible, including the flowers, although they’re extremely difficult to find. The crunchy bulb and stems are similar in texture to celery and can be sauteed, grilled, braised, and even eaten raw.
The frilly leaves are wonderful in salads and I used them along with rosemary leaves, to season the chicken and vegetables and intensify the flavors of this dish. Fennel has a very mild anise flavor, which people either seem to love or hate. If it’s not to your liking, just substitute shallots or an onion, or even several stalks of celery. When you bake it, fennel becomes more aromatic that strong flavored. If you caramelize it, however, fennel does take on a more potent licorice flavor.
Fun Fact: Fennel is a member of the carrot family.
Loaded with vitamin C, fennel also contains iron, fiber, and potassium. Just one cup of fennel contains almost 18 percent of your recommended daily value of vitamin C. The minerals and phytonutrients found in fennel combine to help prevent high blood pressure, and colon cancer.
Of course, I had to use Old St Augustine Gourmet products in creating this recipe. Datil Zest Seasoning Blend and Fountain of Youth Datil Marinade contributed the sunny flavors of Tuscany with a kick of datil pepper heat.
Datil Zest is a combination of Fresh from Florida Orange, Lemon, and Lime along with the sweet heat of the unique St Augustine Datil Pepper.
Fountain of Youth Datil Marinade contains 6 fruits: Raisins, Orange Juice, White Grapefruit Juice, Mango, Key Lime, and Pineapple. It gives the chicken and vegetables a kick from the datil pepper and a brightness from the fruit. You won’t miss the cream usually found in most Tuscan chicken recipes, as Fountain of Youth Datil Marinade brings out the unique individual flavors of each ingredient.
Just like the Fountain of Youth, it will bring “new life” to your food. It has won 3 prestigious awards: a 2-time winner at the World Hot Sauce Awards in New Iberia, Louisiana, and a winner at the International Flavor Awards in Madison, Wisconsin. Fountain of Youth Datil Marinade adds a lot of flavor without overpowering the chicken and vegetables. It enhances the bright vibrant taste of the dish.
Are you ready for a delicious and nutritious meal? Try my Baked Tuscan Chicken and Vegetables. Serve with rice or cauliflower rice to soak up all the glorious juices from the chicken. Add a tossed green salad – you can even buy the salad kits in a bag for convenience – and you have a healthy meal that will be sure to please everyone in the family.
Slice zucchini in half across the middle, then slice each half into wedges or sticks.
Cut long stems from fennel bulb and save for another dish or broth. Cut the bulb into wedges. Chop some of the frilly leaves finely to use as an herb in the last part of the dish.
Place all the vegetables in a baking dish and drizzle with 2 Tablespoons of the olive oil, half of the minced garlic, and 1 teaspoon of the Datil Zest. Toss lightly to coat the vegetables in the oil and seasonings.
In a large bowl or ziploc bag, place the chicken breasts, the remaining 1 Tablespoon of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of Datil Zest, 2 Tablespoons of Fountain of Youth Datil Marinade, the rest of the garlic, lemon juice, lemon zest, and 1/2 teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper. Massage marinade mixture gently into chicken breasts.
Place chicken on top of vegetables and pour the remaining marinade mixture over the chicken and vegetables.
Bake covered for 20 minutes in a 375 degree F oven.
Remove dish from oven and uncover.
Stir the vegetables and spoon liquid over chicken. Sprinkle with the rosemary and fennel leaves.
Bake for another 20 to 30 minutes or until the chicken breasts are cooked all the way through and the vegetables are tender.
Serve over brown rice, cauliflower rice or noodles if desired.
Serving Size 1 chicken breast and 1 cup vegetables
AMOUNT PER SERVING
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 9.7g
Saturated Fat 1.6g
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1.4g
Total Carbohydrate 16.2g
Dietary Fiber 4.1g
These values are approximate, as the size of your chicken breasts and vegetables may vary.