Have you all jumped on the ziplist bandwagon yet? Well I have, and I must say it’s been a great ride. For all you foodies out there, it’s chock FULL of great recipes that are categorized for easy navigation. Need a quick appetizer to bring to your next tailgate party? Check! Want a fun fall cocktail to sip on by the fire? Double check! It also allows you to keep track of the recipes you’ve tried, add notes and BONUS, it creates a shopping list for you that you can pull up on your phone app while you’re at the grocery store. This is one of the recipes that I tried on a whim (they email you the top site recipes each week), and this was one that I have reached for over and over again since then. It’s SUPER easy, quick and so satisfying.
Velveeta…oh the horror!!! We’ve all heard the reasons why you should limit or cut out processed foods out of your diet (and let’s face it, Velveeta is about as “processed” as you can get). HOWEVER, I’m more of an “everything in moderation” kind of girl, and food snobs beware, tons of the top chefs in the world use Velveeta in many of their recipes! They just don’t tell us about it ;o) So I hope you won’t shy away from trying this recipe because of the Velveeta – BUT, if you’re really trying to cut out those processed foods, there is a recipe for a homemade version of it in the link above…but I gotta tell ya, this Velveeta queso is just an old school classic that hits the spot for me :o)
This is also the perfect weeknight meal for two more reasons: 1) It’s easy breezy and kind of fool-proof and 2) you’ll most likely have leftovers of the queso and chicken, so that you can whip up nachos or enchiladas the next day! Cook once, eat twice…yes please!!
Let’s get those ingredients ready! Chicken breasts, your favorite chipotle or mesquite marinade, extra virgin olive oil, orzo, low-sodium chicken broth, tomato paste, southwestern seasoning or chili powder, Velveeta, and Ro-Tel (diced tomatoes and green chilies).
One of the many complaints that I hear about cooking boneless, skinless chicken breasts is that a lot of times, it comes out dry. One of the ways to keep that from happening is to cook at a high temp for a shorter amount of time, and to start with pieces of chicken that are the same thickness/size (and room temp). The best way that I’ve found to do that so that is to cut each breast in half (notice the thicker size on the left)…just take a plastic or latex glove (I like the ones from Costco – make sure it’s NON-powdered), and with your fist, give it a couple of “punches” until they are roughly the same thickness. If you went a little nuts on the first one, just wack the thinner one a couple of times so they match. Then throw them all in a marinade baggie with the marinade (follow the instructions on the back of the packet) and “massage” the chicken well so that the marinade goes throughout all the chicken and let it sit on the counter while your oven preheats to 400. You could also marinade the chicken the night before and put it in the fridge. Just make sure to take it out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before putting in the oven to take the chill off (the chicken will cook quicker and more evenly if you start cooking it when it’s not ice cold).
Once the oven is preheated to 400, place the chicken in the oven and get started on your orzo. *Note: make sure you use a large enough pan to space out your chicken (see pic). If the chicken is too crowded, or touching, you won’t get that nice roasted color because of all of the steam and juices it will produce. Give it some space to really let the hot air circulate around each piece. I also like to spritz the tops of each with olive oil cooking spray to help with browning.
Heat the oil in a saucepan over med heat and add the orzo. Cook the orzo (stirring to coat each nugget in a bit of oil) and toast for about a minute or two. Once you smell the toasted orzo or you can really smell the olive oil (and it’s nice a “shiny”), it’s time to stir in the seasoning (coat well), then add the tomato paste and stir it all for another minute or so to help break down the tomato paste and toast the seasoning a little. Then add the chicken broth (I like to switch to a whisk at this point to break down any of the tomato paste bits). Partially cover to help bring to a boil, then immediately reduce heat to LOW, give it one more good stir with your wooden spoon to get any orzo that is stuck to the bottom, then cover tightly and simmer for 15-20 minutes. *Note – I stirred it twice during the cooking time to keep the orzo from sticking to the bottom. Just make sure to put the lid back on after each time you stir it. When it’s done, uncover it, and ‘fluff/stir’ using a FORK. * TIP – Always stir/mix rice or orzo with a fork to help keep the nuggets separated versus having it clumping in your spoon.
For the sauce, just cube 8 oz of the velveeta and add to a microwave safe bowl, pour the can of rotel over top, and heat on HIGH in 30-35 SECOND intervals until cheese is melted and everything is nice and creamy (like queso). It took me a good 5 intervals – warning, the first couple of intervals it looks all kinds of not yummis! Just make sure to mix it well each time with a fork until it’s all melty and yummy!
To plate – I like to spoon some orzo on the plate, then top with a piece or two of chicken and spoon over some of the cheesy goodness over top! Enjoy! Xoxo
Queso Smothered Chicken
1 packet of McCormick Grill Mates Mesquite marinade (prepare using instructions on back) OR your favorite southwestern marinade
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (cut in half and pounded to even thickness)
1 TBS extra virgin olive oil
1 C dry orzo
2 C reduced sodium, reduced fat chicken broth *I used one can, and added water to get to 2C
* 2 TBS tomato paste
1 ½ to 2 tsp southwestern seasoning OR chili powder OR smoked paprika OR taco seasoning etc…
8 oz reduced fat velveeta
1 can Ro-Tel diced tomatoes and green chilies (use the mild kind if your kids are sensitive to spicy foods)
*** What to do with your left over tomato paste?! Use a TBS to spoon out the remaining 3 TBS left in the can. Drop them into a small zip-lock baggie (make sure to keep a little separation in between each) and throw it in the freezer. The next time you need some tomato paste, you’ll already have 3 separate TBS waiting for you :o)