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Cilantro Lime Chicken & Pasta for Under Ten Bucks

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ml's Susannah Locketti: Whenever you create dinner recipes that take no more than ten minutes and $10, you need to have a taste tester to measure the results. My test-kitchen lab rat this week was New York Times bestselling author Michael Palmer. Palmer's new novel, "The Last Surgeon," is super hot on the book lists right now, and this week he presented me with a signed copy over lunch. (Check out page 78 -- he named a character after me!)

Michael is trying to eat healthy, and he loved the fresh taste of this quick and easy cilantro and lime pesto made with my surprise ingredient: chili-and-lime flavored almonds! When I revealed to Michael what the meal had actually cost, he couldn't believe that the plate before him came to less than three bucks! He also loved the idea of garnishing the dish with more chopped almonds (to give added crunch).

Cilantro Lime Chicken & Pasta

Recipe courtesy Susannah Locketti
Serves 4-6

1 lb. thin spaghetti
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cubed
1 bunch cilantro, stems removed (have the kids do this)
1/2 cup Blue Diamond Lime 'n Chili Almonds, plus more for ganish
1/2 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic
Juice from 1/4 lime
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 diced tomato


While the pasta is boiling, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and brown with a little olive oil. Meanwhile, purée the cilantro through pepper in a food processor. Add a tablespoon of the pesto to the pan of chicken and toss evenly to coat. Drain the pasta and add the pesto to the pot used to boil it in. Add the pasta back to the pot and toss with tongs until evenly coated with pesto. Serve the pasta on a white plate, top with the chicken, a dollop of any leftover pesto and diced tomatoes. Then crush up some leftover almonds and scatter about the plate with a lime wedge for presentation.

Susannah's Money- & Time-Saving Sense:

Chicken was on sale for only $1.99 this week. To save time and money for future dishes, feel free to cube the chicken and cook it up, then store it in freezer bags for later use. Or simply freeze the chicken raw in bulk to make the most of the great sale price. I've chosen to cube the chicken in this dish because the smaller pieces cook up in just minutes.

Cilantro was on sale this week, along with those yummy seasoned almonds. Both ingredients are packed with flavor and save you from buying additional items at the store. Delegating the de-stemming of the cilantro to the kids is a great way to get kitchen prep done fast -- and add in some fun family time.

By choosing a thin spaghetti, you cut your boiling time down. Remember to start with super hot water to save additional boiling time.

I worked with two ingredients I already had on hand: olive oil and garlic. The key to saving money and time is to have a well-stocked pantry. These are two staples you should never be without. Other helpful pantry essentials to maximize meal planning are butter, milk, eggs, flour, bread crumbs and canned broth.

Cost Breakdown:

Pasta -- on sale, $ .89
Chicken -- on sale, $1.99
Cilantro -- on sale, $1.49
Almonds -- on sale, $2.50
Olive oil -- free (on hand)
Garlic -- free (on hand)
Lime -- $ .50
Tomato -- $1.44

Total: $8.81

next: No More Soup Labels and Box Tops: Can I Give Cash Instead?
3 comments so far | Post a comment now
Sue April 19, 2010, 6:26 AM

This sounds so good I am going to try it!!!

Elle Heitkamp April 19, 2010, 3:27 PM

Another winning suggestion…sounds delish!

smilinggreenmom April 26, 2010, 8:07 AM

This is a must make! I am so excited to try this and since our family loves pasta made from Kamut - I would love to find a spaghetti made from the whole grain. Thanks for sharing this recipe - it sounds so delish!

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