Easy Weeknight or Meal Prep Meal: Healthy Tuscan Chicken!

Tuscan Chicken

Tuscan chicken is actually not a dish from Tuscany in Italy. It actually came from an American restaurant chain. Tuscan chicken has pan fried chicken breasts in a creamy Parmesan sauce with tomatoes and spinach. Whilst it isn't Italian it is actually really delicious and you can easily make this much healthier by omitting most of the cream and replacing the parmesan. It is perfect for a weeknight dinner or if you are meal planning for the week ahead-this is a pushy recipe Dear Reader!

Tuscan chicken actually comes from the American restaurant chain Olive Garden but I promise that this is worth making! I made this Tuscan chicken because I was headed overseas and wanted to make something for Mr NQN to eat while I was away. It portions up well and all Mr NQN has to do is make the pasta to go with it. It also uses up a lot of tomatoes and spinach so I feel like he is getting some vegetables. The only thing about Tuscan chicken or Tuscan garlic chicken as they call it at Olive Garden is that it can be high in fat as there's almost a cup of cream in it. But we can easily lighten this up considerably without sacrificing taste. For some reason I feel like I shouldn't use a lot of cream in savoury dishes as it feels too heavy but I am totally fine with loads of cream and butter in desserts. Is that strange?

Tuscan Chicken

Tuscan Chicken Adaptions

1- I used skinless chicken breast fillets but chicken thigh fillets also work (and you don't have to brine chicken thighs as they are so juicy). You can also use bone-in chicken but this can take longer to cook. Skin on or off is up to you!

2 - Some recipes use sun dried tomatoes and some use halved cherry tomatoes. I loved them both but the sun dried tomatoes do release some oil so if you prefer it less oily, use fresh cherry tomatoes. You just have to cook them down longer until soft.

3 - I like to brine chicken breasts just to make them a bit more tender and juicy. It is super easy and takes just 1 hour. I brine it in a mixture of salt and garlic powder that really seasons the chicken right through.

4 - To lighten it up, we replace the cup of cream with evaporated milk and 3 tablespoons of cream. We also replace the parmesan cheese with nutritional yeast and give it an extra boost of flavour with a teaspoon of chicken stock powder. This is so thick and creamy that you would swear a whole cup of cream was involved! Of course you can go with cream and parmesan cheese if that's what you prefer.

Tuscan Chicken

As I mentioned, I was making this for Mr NQN as I had two trips back to back, one to Broke Fordwich for our anniversary and then straight off to Antarctica (squeeaaal)! I bought a lot of chicken breasts and made this Tuscan chicken to give to Mr NQN to eat for the first couple of nights. I figured he could eat one per day for dinner. Mr NQN ate one on the Friday night and that left 4 chicken breasts and since Yuki was coming over to stay over for one night to look after Teddy and Milo and we usually leave food for her I figured she might have a chicken breast for dinner since she was going out to lunch on Saturday and maybe she might eat one for lunch on Sunday.

When we came back from our anniversary weekend on Sunday night I was delighted to see that Yuki had eaten all four of the chicken breasts and a big scoop of matcha tiramisu! She loved it so much and said that it came from a restaurant which was such a nice compliment. I mean the restaurant was Olive Garden (which I've never been to, only heard about on tv shows and movies) but Dear Reader, this is really a sign that it is utterly delicious!

So tell me Dear Reader, have you ever been to an Olive Garden? What is it like? Do you prefer chicken breast or thigh?

Tuscan Chicken

Tuscan Chicken

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An Original Recipe by Lorraine Elliott

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 25 minutes

Serves: 4

  • 4 chicken breasts, skin on or off
  • 4 cups/1 litre/1 quart water
  • 5 tablespoons fine salt
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • Oil for frying
  • 1 white or brown onion, peeled and diced
  • 200g/7ozs cherry tomatoes, halved (or 175g/6ozs sun dried tomatoes, drained)
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and diced
  • 150g/5ozs baby spinach
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 200ml/7flozs evaporated milk
  • 3 tablespoons cream or cream cheese
  • 1 teaspoon chicken powder
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast or grated parmesan
  • Chopped parsley to serve

Tuscan Chicken

Step 1 - If you have time, brine the chicken breasts to keep them juicy and tender. All you need is 30-60 minutes. Dissolve the salt in the water - I dissolve the salt in 1/4 cup of hot water and them top it up with cold water and mix in the garlic powder. Place in a container in the fridge for 60 minutes.

Tuscan Chicken

Step 2 -Place the beaten egg in one shallow bowl and mix the flour, salt and pepper together in another shallow bowl. Heat frypan on medium high heat and add oil. Dredge each chicken breast in the egg and then the flour mixture and cook bottom side down. Cook for 8 minutes then turn over and cook on the top side for 8 minutes. Remove from the pan.

Tuscan Chicken

Tuscan Chicken

Step 3 - Add more oil if needed and fry onion for 3-4 minutes until caramelised and then add the cherry tomatoes. Cook until these are soft, around 8 minutes or so. Add the garlic, baby spinach, tomato paste, evaporated milk, cream and chicken powder. Then add in the nutritional yeast and return the chicken breasts to the pan for 5 minutes to cook through. Sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serve with pasta or potatoes.

Tuscan Chicken

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