Getting dinner on the table in my house is a bit of a toss up. Some days it’s totally seamless, easy, and I have endless patience for my little one’s interest in helping. And other days, well, on other days it’s just not easy at all.
I do my best to involve her in meal prep when I can because food is such an integral part of our lives and I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Her Ikea-hack learning tower really helps since it brings her to counter height (but I can easily move her if I need to get into a drawer) and she loves to help me prep vegetables and wash anything and everything. But there are days when she’s just not in the mood to help and instead, it seems like she takes every towel, utensil, pot, and pan out of their respective drawers and cabinets. Or she purposely dumps cornmeal all over the floor. Or she insists on taking a bite of every single green bean we’re supposed to eat for dinner.
Since both the broom and the vacuum are very nearby, I try not to get too upset at the mess (provided I don’t trip on something!). Because if it allows me to get good food on the table for us to enjoy together, then mission accomplished.
But I just want to go on record and say that cooking with kids, while a noble and important goal, is not always as easy or serene as it looks on Instagram.
Which brings me to this recipe. My family gets so excited whenever we have chicken because it’s rarely included in our meat CSA and I don’t buy it regularly. They both love it though, and I do appreciate how easy it is to prepare. This chicken recipe, which comes together in just about 30 minutes, is one of those dishes that makes me love cooking for my family: It’s wholesome, satisfying, and it’s a complete meal made in just one pan so clean up is a breeze. Plus, there are enough components that my toddler can pick and choose what she wants easily—and once everything is in the pan, we can go read books or color while it cooks.
The rice is tender and moist and the chicken is super flavorful. We had this dish with corn muffins, but it also works as a complete dinner on it’s own.
One-Pan Pesto Chicken and Brown Rice
I used chicken thighs here because they tend to be more budget-friendly (and also moist), but you can use breast meat or tenders if you prefer. I also pulsed short grain brown rice a few times in the food processor to break up the grains and make it cook faster, but you can simply use long brown grain rice instead. And change up the vegetables according to what your family likes and what you have on hand—though the cauliflower is really nice since it blends in with the rice—and use as little or as much pesto as you prefer.
Total Time: about 35 minutes
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cups total of onion, bell pepper, and cauliflower, finely diced
- Salt and pepper
- 1 pound chicken thighs (about 5-6)
- 1 cup long grain brown rice (or short grain brown rice, pulsed in the food processor)
- 2 cups chicken stock, warmed slightly
- 2-3 tablespoons pesto
- Parmesan cheese, optional
1. Warm the butter and oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add vegetables, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and stir to coat. After about 2 minutes, add chicken.
2. Cook chicken for about 2 minutes on both sides, then add the rice and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a low very simmer (my burner was on the lowest it goes, so adjust as needed). Cover and cook for 20-25 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender. (Cooking time will be shorter for long grain rice, longer for short grain rice.)
3. Remove from heat, top each piece of chicken with a dollop of pesto, cover, and let sit for 5-10 minutes. Serve with Parmesan cheese, if desired.
Use quinoa or finely ground bulgur instead of rice.
Try one cup onion as directed in Step 1, then stir in one cup peas in the beginning of Step 3.
Substitute chicken tenders or cubed breast meat for the thighs.