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Eat. Train. Race. Travel.

Welcome to Athlete Food - our continuous adventure to seek out healthy food around the globe and at our own dinner tables. Hope you are inspired to get on a plane or get out the plates and cook a healthy dinner tonight!

Cook Once, Eat All Week: Ancho Chile Grilled Chicken by Melissa


Mondays are all about recovering from the manic weekend here at Athlete Food. Bec and Laurel are usually unpacking gear and soothing muscles that are exhausted after aweekend of travel and racing. After a weekend with my three kids (ages 6, 4, and 1). I need to reset and organize myself for the week. 

The first task on my to-do list after dropping the kids at school or camp and daycare is a solo hike or swim, to clear out the kid chatter. Then, over a big second breakfast (usually an egg sandwich with kale and cheese), I plan the week of meals. The weeks I don’t meal plan include a lot more chaos. There are trips to the grocery store, with three kids, to get forgotten items, and unsuccessful attempts to oversee homework while slicing sweet potatoes. 

My go-to strategy for much of the year was to shop and prep on Mondays. This would give me a fridge full of clean, trimmed vegetables and ready-to-cook fish, meat, and tofu. 


But as my easy third kid turned into a gremlin of a toddler this spring, even a 20- or 30-minute dinner left too much time for her mischief. One day in early May, she dug up my tomato plants, dumped out and crushed a box of crackers, and used an entire tube of toothpaste as body lotion—while I made pasta. 

While I wait for her to become more kid, less badger, I’ve adopted a streamlined approach to meal planning: I pick one or two proteins, cook a lot of each during the day, then vary the carbs and vegetables to curb the complaints of, “Chicken/Tofu/Steak—again!”

I’ll grill two pounds of this Ancho Chile grilled chicken on Monday and we’ll eat it in chicken tacos, chicken sandwiches, over greens (no, not the kids), or grains (rice, farro, whatever you prefer). 

I borrowed the method—cook, don’t scorch the chicken—from David Tanis’s A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes. Note that the cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of the chicken. 

The spice mix is one I developed for bison chili, but now use on everything from burgers to fish to chicken legs. The ratio I like is 2 tablespoons of Athlete Food Ancho Chili Spice Mix and 1 tablespoon of olive oil to 1 pound boneless, skinless, chicken breasts. Being generous with the spices creates a crust that’s crunchy, like dry-rub barbecue.


Ancho Chili Grilled Chicken

2 pounds of boneless skinless chicken breasts

4 tablespoons Athlete Food Ancho Chile Spice Mix (see recipe below)

2 tablespoons olive oil

If you have time, take your chicken out of the fridge 30 minutes before you will grill it. If you do not have time, you might need to leave your chicken on the grill over indirect heat for a few minutes longer than this recipes instructs. 

If your chicken breasts have tenders, remove them; grill them alongside the breasts. If your chicken breasts are much thicker on one end than the other, set them on a cutting board, cover them with plastic wrap, and pound them until they are nearly uniform in thickness. 

Rub each pound of chicken with 2 tablespoons Ancho Chile Spice Mix and 1 tablespoon of olive oil.

Heat a well-oiled grill to medium-high heat. Grill for three minutes on one side. Flip. Grill for another 3 minutes. Lower the heat to medium and cook until no longer pink inside, another 2 to 4 minutes depending on the thickness of the chicken breasts. 

Let cool. Slice into 1/4 inch thick pieces. 

Athlete Food Ancho Chile Spice Mix

This smoky mix is a cinch to make and keeps for a few months. We make a big jar of it and use it to flavor grilled fish and roasted chicken, perk up turkey burgers, and in dishes like Ancho Chile Roast Turkey Breast, Crispy Bison Tacos with Avocado and Purple Cabbage, and Texas-Style Bison Chili with Butternut Squash. Add more cayenne to crank up the heat.   

Time: 5 minutes

Yield: 2 tablespoons

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon ancho chili powder

1 teaspoon fine sea salt or kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon dried oregano leaves, crushed (or ½ teaspoon dried oregano flakes)

Teeny pinch cayenne

Add all the ingredients to a bowl or small jar and combine well.

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