An Improvisational Success

My mom prides herself on being able to wander a grocery store, choose ingredients that look good and come home and make a fantastic meal without a recipe. It’s a pretty neat trick and it usually turns out well. I decided to make my own attempt last night. I stopped at Trader Joe’s on my home and meandered through the aisles over and over again until I found some inspiration. I had a craving for polenta (inspired by my mother), but I needed some supplements to the meal.

By my third lap of the store, I had a vision. I picked up a log of goat cheese, a can of fire-roasted tomatoes, a bag of spinach and a package of prepared polenta. Then I went home to cook.

I definitely consider myself a recipe cook (as opposed to a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants cook), so I was a little nervous – especially considering I was feeding R too. I decided to do a chicken dish with the tomatoes and spinach and have the polenta on the side. Recipes are below and I really must say I’m quite proud of myself. They were absolutely delicious!

The chicken was very easy and I loved the smoky fire-roasted flavor that the tomatoes brought to the dish. It maybe could have used more seasoning, but with the recent move my spices are limited.

The polenta was a no-brainer: how much easier can a pre-cooked log of cornmeal get? Sliced and sizzled in a pan of oil and garlic, it browned up beautifully. With goat cheese and toasted pine nuts sprinkled on top it was just right!

Do you cook by the book or make it up as you go? I’m beginning to think I can happily sit somewhere in the middle.

Chicken with Fire Roasted Tomatoes



4 skinless boneless chicken breasts
1 bag baby spinach
1 can fire roasted tomatoes
3-4 leaves fresh basil, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil



Salt and pepper raw chicken on both sides. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large fry pan. Add chicken and let cook about 20 minutes, turning once. Chicken should be almost cooked through, but not completely. Remove chicken and keep warm.

Pour tomatoes and sauce into the same pan and stir occasionally over medium heat. Add spinach to sauce and stir. Let spinach cook for about 10 minutes.

Add chicken back into dish and add basil. Cook for another 5 minutes or until ready to serve.

Polenta with Goat Cheese and Pine Nuts



1 log pre-cooked polenta
1/2 log goat cheese
1 handful pine nuts, toasted
Oil for frying



Slice polenta into circles about 1/2-inch thick. Place in fry pan with oil and cook for about 30 minutes, turning once. Make sure both sides are brown and crispy. Plate slices and crumble goat cheese on top. Add pine nuts and serve.

  • Hillary Marshak

    That looks amazing!

    I think I need a recipe to cook, but I wish I could be improvisational like that! Say…want to cook dinner for me sometime? :)

  • Karen Thompson

    This dish sounds very good! I just might give it a try,but like you said,it could use seasonings.
    I would add some Basil,little Oregano,I like mexican chile powder also,all this to the tomatoes and let her rip!
    I also love to cook improvisational.I do it almost all the time and I must say,I’ve been very lucky!
    My Honey loves everything I make.One time he even said”this is resturant quality,maybe even better than I’ve had going out to eat,why go out to eat when I can get this at home!” I love him,but even I like to go out to eat now and then!!!

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