Fresh strawberry gelato.

Soy-free | Gluten-free | Nut-free | Egg-free

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More fun strawberry stuff!

I have another tasty strawberry ice cream recipe on here that takes less time, so if you’re just hankering for homemade strawberry ice cream NOW, go check it out. BUT–here’s the trouble with strawberry ice cream: it gets icy. The water content in those delicious berries is so high that it’s hard to get homemade ice cream to stay creamy after freezing without a little work. Enter this recipe. If you want silky, strawberry-y cold deliciousness, this is it.

Once upon a time (two years ago), there was a family living in Switzerland. The family loved ice cream–especially gelato. And one of the children in the family especially loved strawberry gelato. In the six months that family lived there–and the summer they spent there the year before–this little girl only ever ordered strawberry gelato. And this was a lot of times, because we (I mean they) lived down the street from a Swiss ice cream shop called Movenpick, and we spent weeks in the grips of a record heat wave with no air conditioning, so we often had literally no other recourse but to eat gelato multiple times a day during that period. (It helped that the ice cream shop was across the street from the fountains we played in to keep cool.)

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(That’s her on the left with her signature pink strawberry gelato scoop. The oldest daughter always got something chocolaty–girl after her mother’s heart–and the youngest was still allergic to dairy, so her kind and selfless mother usually got sorbet, which was also amazing, to share with her.)

Ever since getting back to the States, this little girl, who’s always been on the choosy side anyway, has been asking for gelato, and where we live, there just isn’t any to be found. So when I found a recipe for fresh strawberry gelato on one of my favorite resources for delicious recipes, I got pretty excited.

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Though the amount of actual work is pretty minimal, it takes a bit of prep and planning, so I was working on it last night, and happened to read in the blogger’s “backstory text” (whatever you call this stuff I’m writing right now that you always scroll past to get to the actual recipe) that she had never actually been to Italy to try the real thing. Being that we’re total gelato snobs now after our own travels through Italy and living in a country that borders Italy and houses lots of Italian transplants, this got my husband and me worried. But the work was pretty much done, so we were committed.

As he poured it into the ice cream maker, though, Husband kept IMG_2442licking his fingers. And as it came out of the ice cream maker and he put it in the container to freeze, he couldn’t wait to lick the spatula. And when we finally got to scoop it into our bowls and eat it for ourselves, it was a hit. My middle child, understandably the strawberry gelato expert–who also happened to be wearing a matching pink Swiss cow shirt at the time, so she must know what she’s talking about–proclaims it mid-bite-thumbs-up perfect. My husband, who also often ordered fruity gelato flavors, says it’s not Italian gelato, but it’s really good ice cream. My oldest and I always preferred chocolate–or else I was eating sorbet–so we’ll defer to them.

The verdict? We’ll call it gelato* with an asterisk. It’s really really really good ice cream, without the iciness you so often get with the homemade stuff, and in any case, it’s certainly cheaper than a trip back to Giolitti in Rome. But if you get the chance, definitely try to get to Giolitti. Maybe this’ll hold you over until then.

Fresh strawberry gelato* (or at least just really good ice cream)

Original recipe here

  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups sliced ripe fresh (or frozen from fresh and then thawed) strawberries
  1. In a medium saucepan, whisk together sugar and cornstarch. Slowly whisk in milk and cream.
  2. Place the pan on medium heat and cook, whisking constantly, 5-10 minutes or until bubbling and thickening.
  3. Pour into a medium container (a 4-cup measuring cup worked great for us), press plastic wrap to the surface of the mixture, and refrigerate to cool completely.
  4. Puree the strawberries until smooth.
  5. Pour the puree through a fine mesh strainer into the cream mixture, using a rubber spatula to press the liquid through while the strainer catches the pulp and seeds. (Or at least most of them.) Stir well.
  6. Press plastic wrap to the surface again and refrigerate several hours or overnight.
  7. Process in your ice cream maker as directed. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze at least 2 hours until fairly firm before enjoying. (Trust me, it’s worth the wait.)

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Fresh strawberry muffins. (And how I keep my strawberries fresher longer.)

Dairy-free | Soy-free | Nut-free

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It’s strawberry season again! At least in Florida. Right here in our own county we have some of the nation’s biggest and best strawberries–the epitome of delicious local produce. So last year we started a family tradition of going strawberry picking at one of the many u-pick farms nearby. Last year we thought we did pretty well with 11 quarts; this year, after only an hour and a half, we ended up with 25 quarts! (Including the quart that my youngest filled with her strawberry tops once she realized that she could eat the strawberries she was picking…)

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It took over an hour and a half to wash and cut all of those strawberries! So of course after all that effort I wanted to keep them fresh as long as possible! Here’s how I did it: I filled the big bowl of my divided sink with a few inches of water and added a couple drops of Thieves essential oil (a blend of spice oils with proven antimicrobial properties–the story goes that during the Black Plague, spice traders realized that the spices with which they were in constant contact protected them from the disease, so they used their immunity to loot the homes of Plague victims, hence the name Thieves) to disinfect the berries; I also added several drops of Lemon essential oil, an antioxidant, to keep the berries from going bad as quickly. Then I dumped in a box, which was probably 8 quarts’ worth. After each box I drained the sink and started again with the water, oils, and berries.

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These oils are therapeutic-grade, so they’re very potent; a little bit goes a very long way! Because I didn’t need to use much, there was no weird lingering taste on my delicious berries, and the ones I didn’t freeze stayed as fresh as the Friday I cut them for the entire weekend–because that’s all it took to eat them.

Now I’ve got over a dozen quarts of fresh-frozen berries to find delicious things to make with! I’ll definitely be making fruit leather, popsicles, ice cream, and smoothies, but I wanted to try something new this year. These muffins are perfect for a spring morning. They complement and retain the sweetness-with-a-touch-of-tart of the strawberries. They use refined sugar, so they’re not clean, but I did use whole-wheat pastry flour to make them a little bit healthier and more filling while keeping them light. And they’re dairy-, soy- and nut-free!

By starting the oven at a high temperature and then reducing it, you get a great puffy crown on the muffins that leaves them very light and delicious. This recipe makes about 18 regular-sized muffins, or I did a dozen regular and another dozen mini muffins.

***Note: Canola oil is easier in this recipe, but as I had run out, I used coconut, and it lent a delightful depth of flavor to the muffins and left my whole house smelling incredible. However, unless your strawberries AND eggs are completely room-temperature, you’ll have a solid lumpy mass on your hands; I had to warm the oil/strawberry/egg mixture in my microwave at half power for several 30-second interval to get everything the correct consistency again.

Fresh Strawberry Muffins:

Original recipe here

  • 3 cups whole-wheat pastry flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/4 cups canola oil or melted and cooled coconut oil (see Note above)
  • 2 1/2 cups fresh (or frozen from fresh–not storebought in a bag frozen–and thawed) strawberries, sliced and slightly mashed
  1. Preheat oven to 425 and lightly grease the wells of your muffin tins with soy-free cooking spray.
  2. Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine eggs, oil, and strawberries, mashing with a fork if desired to get smaller strawberry pieces.
  4. Add liquid ingredients to flour mixture and stir until combined. Do not overmix.
  5. Spoon 1/4-cupfuls (for standard muffins) or 1/8-cupfuls (for mini muffins)–a triggered ice cream scoop works great–into the wells of your muffin tin.
  6. Bake at 425 for 5 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 and bake another 15-19 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

 

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Clean Crock Pot Chicken Cacciatore.

Dairy-free | Soy-free | Nut-free | Gluten-free option | Clean eating

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Fresh, light, kid-approved, and ready straight from the Crock Pot at dinner time–my kind of recipe for a busy ballet evening! This recipe uses components of a couple different ones: a friend’s and one that I found online that used fire-roasted tomatoes, which I’ve fallen in love with since discovering the Beef Curry recipe that inspired mine on here.

One of my favorite things about this is that I can just throw frozen chicken breasts in here if I’m short on time! They don’t turn out quite as fall-apart tender as fresh ones, but no one else has been able to tell the difference, and the time saver is worth it to me!

Clean Crock Pot Chicken Cacciatore

Adapted from here and a friend’s recipe

  • 28 oz. canned diced fire roasted tomatoes
  • 4 chicken breasts (frozen if needed)
  • 1 yellow onion, large dice
  • 1 red bell pepper, large dice
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced or finely chopped
  • up to 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1-2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 3 oz (6 Tbsp or half of a 6-oz. can) tomato paste, in approx. Tbsp-sized dollops
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • up to 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  1. Spread 1/2 cup of the canned tomatoes in the bottom of your slow cooker.
  2. Layer remaining ingredients on top, in order listed.
  3. Cover and cook on low 6-7 hours.
  4. Before serving, prepare pasta of choice (we use whole-wheat short pasta) according to package directions.
  5. Just before serving, gently stir cacciatore, then spoon on top of pasta. Top with parmesan cheese, if desired.

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Last-minute dinner solutions.

You guys, this pregnancy has been kicking my butt: something to do with it being my first time being pregnant in my 30s, combined with having to keep 3 kids alive–including a 2-year-old part-tornado, part-monkey, part-evil genius. At 23 weeks–the usually FUN! trimester–I’m already acutely feeling every single third-trimester ache and pain, and I’m spending most afternoons on the couch. Definitely not the speed I’m used to.

So dinner time has been interesting!

Most of the time, eating out actually makes me feel worse, so what’s a mom who’s solo for dinner time going to do? Simplify. Which, honestly, means a lot of pasta. My girls are kind of sick of pasta. But it’s easy, it’s versatile, and aside from the overuse it generally doesn’t elicit complaints from the under-5′ set. (I still can’t believe that my 7-year-old is already over 4 feet tall.) And I’m really not operating on enough cylinders to think far enough ahead to do the Crock Pot thing.

Rather than blog each recipe individually (I’m tired, remember? And my back is already hurting just sitting typing this… How many weeks do I have left?), I’m just going to make a roundup of the last-minute dinner saviors I’ve been using lately. Some are from my blog, and some are from others; all photos are property of their original publishers.

Peas and Pasta, from Weelicious

Meatless | Clean eating | Soy-free | Gluten-free option | Nut-free

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This has been a last-minute staple in our family for years. It is SO easy, SO fast, and uses ingredients I always have on hand, so when it’s 4:40 and I haven’t even thought of dinner, this is it. I use whole-wheat pasta to keep it clean and up the protein and fiber to make it more filling; you can use gluten-free pasta if needed. Also, because this is a very mild dish, easy on the seasonings and spices, it’s usually one of the first recipes I attempt when I’m coming out of morningsickness, and it’s a good one when a bout of nausea blindsides me again.

Creamy Garlic Alfredo, from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe:

Meatless | Mostly Clean eating | Soy-free | Gluten-free option | Nut-free

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Again, super easy, super fast, and uses things I already have in my fridge. The only forethought required is softening the cream cheese a bit, though in a pinch I’ve just thrown it in cold. Again, I use whole-wheat pasta, but gluten-free would work.

Southwest Chicken Wraps:

Nut-free| Gluten-free option | Soy-free option | Clean-eating option

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For a break from pasta, here’s what we had tonight. These are great because I can cobble together leftover bits from other nights when I’m feeling well enough to make more of an effort for dinner (read: weekends, when my husband’s able to be home to wrangle girls) to make a hearty meal with very little effort. I always cook up extra rice and extra chicken to keep in the fridge, and the rest comes together quick. The best part is that I can stretch the filling recipe over two meals, and freeze half, so that on nights like tonight, all I had to do was pull it out in the afternoon to thaw on the counter, then grab the cheese, sour cream, and tortillas, and in less than 15 minutes dinner’s on.

Vegan Creamy Tomato Basil Pasta:

Dairy-free | Soy-free | Clean eating | Vegan | Gluten-free option

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(I really need to update that photo now that I have a Vitamix that actually makes the cashew sauce legitimately creamy.)

Anyway, here’s another really easy pasta option. As long as you’ve got the ingredients on hand, it comes together quick. The sauce literally cooks for maybe 5 minutes. So your dinner is done in the time that it takes to boil some water and cook some pasta. And my girls consistently down this one. I used to dial down the garlic and basil, but I don’t need to anymore.

Skinny Chicken Broccoli Alfredo:

Clean eating | Soy-free | Nut-free | Gluten-free option | Meatless option

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This one is really versatile. Lately I rarely add the step of turning the sauce green; I just leave it white. Sometimes I make it without chicken if I don’t have any cooked chicken on hand. Again, I make a habit of keeping all of the essential ingredients in my kitchen, so that I can make some variation of this protein-filled dish any time. The roux sounds intimidating, but even though there are a few steps to it, the sauce comes together really fast–again, just in the time it takes me to boil a pot of water and cook my pasta.

Creamy Chicken Taquitos:

Soy-free option | Clean eating option | Gluten-free option | Nut-free

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Another non-pasta option! This week I dusted this one off from a long time ago–when I was still firmly in my semi-homemade days. I think this is from when I was pregnant with my second kid. It’s been awhile. I bought a rotisserie chicken from the Costco that just opened a couple miles away (yay!!!!!), chopped it up, and whipped these up. They’re easy to freeze for later, so now I have another dinner waiting for me to just throw in the oven!

If dinner time has become a chore or a panic-inducing time at your house, I hope that some of these ideas help you a little. Even as tired, gross, unmotivated, or sore as I might feel, I’m so grateful that I have so many options in my back pocket to pull out to keep my family–and myself and my growing baby–fed and healthy. Now, I’m not going to lie: the other night we had oatmeal. And we do hit the Chick-fil-A drive-through or order pizza or Thai takeout not infrequently. But I’ve noticed, more acutely this pregnancy than ever, that even though it takes effort I just feel better after a home-cooked meal. Even if it is just pasta with some kind of sauce on it.

I do have a few new recipes to post, hopefully soon. In the meantime, I’m going to spend some more quality gestating time on my couch.

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Clean(er) flourless brownies with fudge frosting.

Gluten-free | Mostly clean eating | Soy-free | Nut-free | Egg-free | Dairy-free option | Vegan option

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If you’re looking for a healthier treat (maybe for Valentine’s Day?) that still tastes just as rich as sinful, these might just be it. They’re moist and fudgy (especially with the fudge frosting!), without all the butter, flour and (most of the) refined sugar (depending on which brand of yogurt you use; more on that later).

Now, I will say that these are not something I would make when I’m having a spur-of-the-moment chocolate craving because they require a lot more planning and time than my one-bowl delicious brownies, but when you’ve got a chocolate craving AND you’re trying to work around dietary restrictions, the little bit of extra work makes it worth it. Plus I don’t feel like a total blob after eating a couple of these–and it’s much easier to stop at one or two with these than with my usual go-to recipe because they’re so much richer. So wins all around!

As for the brand of yogurt, this is important: You need to find a vanilla Greek yogurt that’s pretty thick. I like Oikos Triple Zero, but wound up using an organic variety that happened to have refined sugar in it instead of the stevia because I wanted a truer flavor; either way, you usually need two of the small cups to make this recipe. If you’re going dairy-free, you can try a coconut yogurt, but your ordinarily-very-thick batter will be thinner, which may affect baking time, so keep an eye on it. Borderline underdone is better than the alternative. If you do try the coconut yogurt, please let me know how it goes! I just couldn’t do coconut yogurt when I was dairy-free: not enough protein to warrant the expense and all the sugars. But when that’s what you’ve got to work with, I totally get it, and I would love nothing more than for these to work for you!

Cleaner Flourless Brownies

Adapted from here

  • 1 1/2 cups Enjoy Life semisweet mini chocolate chips, or similar, divided
  • 3 fl oz (1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp) melted virgin coconut oil (measure after melting)
  • 1 cup vanilla Greek yogurt or coconut yogurt (see note above about brand)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 cups oat flour (blend or process regular oats in a blender or food processor until fine)
  • Fudge Frosting (below)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 and line a square baking dish–8×8 or 9×9–with parchment, then lightly spray with soy-free cooking spray.
  2. Place melted coconut oil and 1 cup of the chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring in between, until chips are melted. (Should take only 2 or 3 rounds in the microwave.)
  3. Pour melted chocolate into a medium mixing bowl and add yogurt; mix well. Stir in vanilla, salt, and baking soda.
  4. Stir in oat flour until incorporated, then fold in remaining 1/2 cup chocolate chips.
  5. Spread mixture (it will be quite thick) evenly in prepared pan, then bake 28 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean.
  6. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely in pan, then frost with Fudge Frosting (below).
  7. Frosted brownies will keep on the counter in a sealed container up to a week.

Fudge Frosting

Adapted from the more time-intensive version I made here

  • 1/2 bag Enjoy Life semisweet mini chocolate chips
  • 2-4 Tbsp coconut cream,* or similar amount of yogurt used above, or combination

*Coconut cream: refrigerate a can of coconut milk several hours, until it separates. Remove the can very carefully, without shaking it, and open it without disturbing the cream. Carefully spoon the cream from the top of the can, reserving the coconut water at the bottom for later use in a smoothie or something.

  1. Place chips and coconut cream or yogurt in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Heat while stirring constantly, until melted and incorporated.
  2. Add more cream or yogurt until the mixture reaches a smooth, medium consistency. You want it to be not too thin but still spreadable. I started with a couple tablespoons of coconut cream because that’s all I had, then added yogurt a tablespoon at a time.
  3. Pour into a bowl and chill in the refrigerator a few minutes until just set, then remove, stir, and spread evenly over the cooled brownies.
  4. Allow to set–may take up to an hour–and then cut brownies into 16 squares and enjoy!

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Crock Pot Beef Curry.*

Dairy-free | Soy-free | Nut-free | Gluten-free | Clean eating

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I put an asterisk by the word “Curry” because it’s not as traditional a curry as I usually make. And if you’ve stuck around here awhile, you know how I am about my curries. BUT – that doesn’t make this dish any less delicious. Kind of like a stew or a ghoulash with a different array of spices. My husband called this, “like my mom’s beef tips, but with curry powder.” So there you go. That’s the best we can describe it. The low, slow cooking tenderizes the stew beef to fork-tender, making this my girls’ new favorite stew.

Slow Cooker Curried Beef Stew

Adapted from here

  • 2 lbs cubed stew beef
  • 1 1/2 lbs petite red or yellow potatoes, quartered
  • 1 cup baby carrots
  • 2 Tbsp yellow curry powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 Tbsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp salt
  • black pepper, to taste
  • 28-oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • optional: 2 Tbsp cornstarch, to thicken
  1. Place the beef, potatoes, and carrots in the slow cooker. Add the spices and garlic and toss to coat.
  2. Pour tomatoes and coconut milk over the top, then cover and cook on low 7 hours.
  3. If desired, 20 minutes before serving, stir in cornstarch, then re-cover until ready to serve.
  4. Serve over jasmine rice (or brown rice, for clean eating).

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Awesome salad! (Or rice bowl)

Dairy-free | Soy-free | Gluten-free | Nut-free | Paleo option | Clean eating 

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I hear it’s winter somewhere. We’ve had highs in the 70s almost every day, so it’s often weird to remember that there’s snow on the ground in literally every other state but ours. For those poor cold souls, here’s a nice shot of summer freshness for you!

With the option to make it a warm, comforting, but still fresh and bright, meal too!

This is another winner from my good friend Jessica. She texted the recipe to me as soon as it was pronounced delicious by her family, and I couldn’t wait to get it on our meal plan! But I knew I’d have to make some kind of modification for my non-salad-eating girls. So here’s what I did: I cooked up a batch of jasmine rice. Yep, that’s all. (I’ll share how I make it extra delicious in a second.)

For myself and my husband, I made the salads. The tangy dressing with the delicious marinade, creamy avocado, and peppery bite of the grilled veggies – so good.

But THEN, put the chicken and veggies on top of the savory rice, and the whole flavor profile changes! The marinated chicken takes on a completely different personality! I’m still floored by how versatile this fresh marinade is. (The marinade, which doubles as the dressing, does have chili flakes in it, but it really doesn’t translate to spicy heat, just great zesty flavor.) I can’t wait for leftovers!

Grilled Chili Lime Fajita Salad (or Rice Bowl)

Original recipe here

Marinade/Dressing:

  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 100ml (just over 1/3 cup, or about 4 limes) fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 2 Tbsp fresh chopped cilantro (1 Tbsp dried works just fine)
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed and rough chopped
  • 1 tsp honey (or brown sugar)
  • 3/4 tsp red chili flakes
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp salt

Salad:

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken thighs or 3 breasts, or a combo (I haven’t decided which I like better!), no more than 3/4 inch thick
  • 1/2 yellow bell pepper, sliced, and 1/2 red bell pepper, sliced (or if you’re in a pinch like me, just use a whole orange pepper!)
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • lettuce leaves
  • avocado, sliced
  • optional: additional cilantro for garnish
  • optional: sour cream, to serve

Rice:

For every cup of dry jasmine rice, add:

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 Tbsp butter or olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  1. Combine marinade ingredients in a liquid measuring cup and whisk well to emulsify.
  2. Place chicken in a shallow dish; pour half of marinade over chicken. Cover remaining marinade with plastic wrap and save in the fridge to use as salad dressing. Marinate chicken 2 hours or all day.
  3. If making rice, start the rice. Cover and simmer on low 15 minutes, then leave covered until ready to serve.
  4. Heat your grill pan to medium-high and spray with soy-free cooking spray. Grill chicken until done on both sides, with nice grill marks. (I like to cover the pan while the second side cooks so that it heats evenly.) When done, set it aside on a warm plate and cover to rest.
  5. Remove any burned bits from the grill pan, spray again with cooking spray, and add the pepper and onion slices. Grill to desired doneness.
  6. Slice chicken into strips, then build your salad or rice bowl:
    Salad: lettuce, avocado, sliced chicken, and pepper and onion slices. Whisk the dressing again and pour over the salad.
    Rice bowl: rice, sliced chicken, pepper and onion slices, and anything else that sounds good!

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