By Abigail Hummel
Sophomore, Biology major
I completely, unironically love Valentine’s Day. Is it a Hallmark holiday? Probably. Do I care? Absolutely not. Maybe it’s the hopeless romantic in me, but I adore public declarations of love, teddy bears, balloons, and candy. Especially candy.
But what I love most about Valentine’s Day is the opportunity to get creative in the kitchen. It’s easy to play with the theme of love—just use lots of red and pink ingredients, and incorporate sweet flavors into whatever you cook. Plus, there’s nothing more romantic than cooking with a significant other.
So in honor of this year’s festival of affection, I’ve put together a simple, inexpensive, and healthy meal for two: My Heart “Beets” For You Strawberry-Balsamic Chicken and Roasted Beets!
The first step to creating this delectable dish is to overcome any fears you may have about beets. For a long time, I too was intimidated by this lumpy, earthy, deep-red vegetable. I shelved them away, along with prunes, on my list of foods-for-old-people-that-I-would-never-ever-try.
But guess what? Beets are not only harmless, but, prepared the right way, they can be downright delicious! I chose beets for this recipe because of their beautiful color, their robust flavor, their rich potential for puns, and because they’re a winter vegetable—bonus points for eating seasonally!
What you’ll need:
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup balsamic vinegar, divided in half
Salt and pepper
1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
NOTE: Although chicken is one of the cheapest proteins you can buy, chicken breasts tend to be relatively expensive because they are lean white meat. For a cheaper, albeit slightly less healthy option, you could always go with chicken thighs.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Combine chicken breasts and half of the balsamic vinegar in a Ziploc bag. Marinate for at least five minutes in the refrigerator.
- Remove the stems and roots from the beets, peel them, and cut into 1½-inch chunks. Lightly season with salt and pepper and place onto a greased baking sheet. Roast for 35-40 minutes.
- While the beets are roasting, combine the remainder of the balsamic vinegar and the chopped strawberries in a blender or food processor until smooth. Set this aside.
- At this point, it’s usually a good idea to make a terrible pun to your significant other—something along the lines of “You make my heart ‘beet’ faster!” You’ll either get an eye roll or a smooch out of this—bonus points for both!
- Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. You’ll know the oil is hot enough for cooking when its surface becomes shiny. It will swirl easily in the skillet, and the aroma will waft through the air.
- Lightly season both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper. Add the chicken to the skillet and reduce heat to medium. Cook the chicken until golden-brown, flipping occasionally so that it browns evenly on both sides.
NOTE: Salt and pepper is the simplest way to season your chicken (and your beets, for that matter), but you can season however you’d like! Some herbs that pair well with balsamic vinegar include basil, rosemary, and thyme.
- Once the chicken has browned, add the remainder of the balsamic marinade, as well as the strawberry-balsamic blended mixture, to the skillet. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring frequently, until reduced and slightly thickened, about ten minutes. Remove from heat.
NOTE: To add some more sweetness to your sauce, you could add a tablespoon of honey in this step. In addition to sweetening the deal a bit, adding honey will thicken your sauce, making it more of a glaze.
- When the beets have finished roasting, remove them from the oven and toss in the skillet, coating them with the strawberry-balsamic sauce mixture. Plate the beets and the chicken, and drizzle any remaining strawberry-balsamic sauce on top.
Voilà! You now have yourself a delicious, nutritious, and satisfying Valentine’s Day meal—and you made it all by yourself! Instead of splurging at a fancy restaurant this year, why not make a quick run to the store and cook at home with your loved one? Happy Valentine’s Day to all the couples out there, and may your two hearts “beet” as one forever!