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Money Matters: Spicy Basil Chicken


Even though the days are staying lighter longer, each day seems to fly by faster than the ones before.

To add insult to injury, my workouts lately…they’ve been a struggle, to say the least. Historically, my first mile running is always my slowest. Why? I haven’t a clue. I get “warming up”, but during a 3-mile run, 1 mile is hardly a warm-up. By the end of mile 1, I’m ready to walk. But I don’t…and I push through. Lately, miles 1.5 to 2.25 have been tolerable, and then the final 3/4ths of a mile either feel great…or absolutely terrible.

I have to give myself a serious pat on the back for sticking to my 5 weekly workouts. This slump has been going on for about the last 2 weeks, and I hope I can ride it out and return to enjoyable runs.


Sometimes, what gets me through a run after work is thinking, “The sooner I get home, the sooner I can make dinner…and eat, and shower, and settle in for the night.” How sad. This is like time management to the extreme…or my reaching very deep for every excuse not to walk during my runs.

As trivial as a few minutes sounds, it makes a difference. But even more so than running faster…quick dinners can make my evenings feel longer…and more enjoyable.


I fell in love with basil in meat and soup dishes in Thailand. Basil outside of Italian is something everyone should experience. There’s something about the blank slate of chicken that takes on flavors so well. For the basil lovers like myself, this is a winning decision. Maybe I should have planted 2 basil plants this year…

Outside of being quick as is, you can prep everything ahead of time for this meal. Even rice! Make a huge batch of rice and freeze using this technique. As much as I love brown rice and brown basmati, it takes the better part of an hour to cook. This somewhat defeats the point of a quick weeknight meal, unless you opt for a quick-cooking rice which is absolutely fine, too.


My plan is:

  1. Try to enjoy my workouts more – even if that involves walking from time to time. It’s important to listen to my body…and to not hate exercise.
  2. Find more meals that are quick, easy, or can be prepped ahead of time.
  3. Continue finding meals that are cost-effective. My grocery bill was $55 this week and that included a $7 watermelon (!) and $10 in tomatoes, as well as a $4 bouquet of flowers just because. Not..,too…shabby!



Spicy Basil Chicken from Cooking Light

2 tsp canola oil
2 shallots,minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 lbs, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 Tbsp fish sauce
4 tsp sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
1 Tbsp chile garlic sauce
2 tsp water
2 tsp cornstarch
1/3 cup basil leaves, sliced
1 1/2 cups dry brown basmati rice


Prepare rice according to package directions.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add shallots and garlic to pan; cook for 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add chicken to pan; cook 13 minutes or until chicken is done.

Whisk fish sauce and the next 5 ingredients (through cornstarch) together in a small bowl. Add fish sauce mixture to pan, and cook for 1 minute or until mixture thickens, stirring to coat chicken. Remove from heat. Stir in basil.

Yield: 6 servings (3/4 cup rice with 5 ounces chicken)

Nutrition Information (per serving): 361 calories; 4.3 g. fat; 73 mg. cholesterol; 725 mg. sodium; 41.5 g. carbohydrate; 1.3 g. fiber; 38.3 g. protein

Result: Quick & great flavor! I double up on the sauce and upped the chicken some. I think both choices were good. I love that this meal is under 400 calories, carb-controlled, low in fat, and high in protein. The basil adds so much flavor, it gives this dish a unique, Thai-inspired flavor. Enjoy!

Money Matters: Chicken is the most expensive ingredient ($3.99/lb). Basil is $1 a bunch, and brown basmati calculated to $1/cup ($1.50). The remaining ingredients estimated to $2.60. The total cost of the recipe comes to $13.08 and $2.18 per serving.


I’m teaching and then heading out of town for the night. More on that soon, I promise!

Be well,

Share With Your Friends!


  1. Erika - The Teenage Taste
    May 15, 2012 / 6:52 am

    This dish looks really yummy! I can’t wait until my basil plant starts growing – then I’ll definitely be making this!

  2. Gina (The Candid RD)
    May 15, 2012 / 6:56 am

    This sounds fantastic!! I just don’t understand the use of the fish sauce…..where do you buy that?! I’ve seen that in several of your recipes but I don’t know if I’ve ever seen it in the store (I’ve never looked either). I just wonder if Nick would notice the “fish taste”.
    I hear you when it come to running. I am the SAME WAY during the first mile (or more). It takes me some time to get in the groove and feel really great as a run. I think it’s normal. I hate to run though, and I’ve started power walking lately.
    Good luck today ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Nicole, RD
      May 15, 2012 / 7:04 am

      Thank you! ๐Ÿ™‚ *fingers crossed* Fish sauce is near the teriyaki and other Asian pastes and sauces. Very common – I know Thai Kitchen makes one. It adds depth of flavor more than fishiness ๐Ÿ™‚

    • cwaltz
      May 15, 2012 / 6:55 pm

      My Walmart did not have it but I was able to find fish sauce at Target. So if you have a Target nearby you might find it there near the asian specialty items.

  3. Gina (The Candid RD)
    May 15, 2012 / 6:57 am

    I meant tomorrow.

  4. Alida
    May 15, 2012 / 7:12 am

    YUM! I just got a basil plant, so looking for tasty new recipes to make. This looks wonderful!

  5. elly
    May 15, 2012 / 8:36 am

    Can’t wait to make this one! Basil (and spice) were my intro into liking Thai dishes, since I’m not crazy about cilantro or peanut sauces. This looks great.

  6. Erin
    May 15, 2012 / 9:27 am

    I just made this the other day from cooking light as well, so good!

  7. Anna @ On Anna's Plate
    May 15, 2012 / 10:28 am

    I tried to run a few days ago, and MAN did it not go well! I just couldn’t get into a groove! Here’s hoping we both return to glorious runs soon ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Kristen (swanky dietitian)
    May 15, 2012 / 10:57 am

    I feel like sometimes I get in a such a day to day routine that I don’t often take the time to enjoy it.

  9. Ashley @ Hudson on the Potomac
    May 15, 2012 / 12:29 pm

    I hear you on the running slump! I’ve been in one of those recently too, I also run after work, and don’t get home to start dinner until 7 or so. I think my slump however is linked a plateau in weight loss. I’ve been trying to work walking lunges and walking squats/frog jumps into my runs when I want to walk, and it’s helping me keep a positive attitude. I’ve also been sore in random places, which gives me hope I might see some weight loss progress again soon!

  10. Addie
    May 15, 2012 / 12:48 pm

    YUMMY!!!! I am making this tonight for sure! Thank you for sharing!

  11. Rachel
    May 15, 2012 / 2:24 pm

    Yum! That looks delicious! I love using basil in lots of dishes other than just Italian. It’s such a great herb to have around!

    Have a great day!

  12. Kate
    May 15, 2012 / 3:14 pm

    I love this recipe! One of my faves. But it’s been far too long since I made it.

  13. Biz
    May 15, 2012 / 3:31 pm

    My husband went shopping over the weekend for two meals – our tuna tartar and steak dinner night in on Friday night, then spicy mussels and shrimp risotto for my mother’s day dinner – he spent $89.

    I then did my weekly shopping, which included making lunches for my SIL, all of my breakfasts and six dinners. . . and spent $84!

    Have a safe trip – can’t wait to hear what that’s about!

  14. cwaltz
    May 15, 2012 / 7:08 pm

    I’m actually quite proud of myself. I’ve started taking Zumba classes on Wednesdays to add to my walking routine(the walking simply isn’t working to take off weight at all anymore and I can’t afford even a single pound more). My goal next month is to get a full blown physical to check vitamin( in particular iron levels) and attempting to incorporate at least one strength training class a week into my routine. There are some days I simply don’t want to do it and then I remind myself how crummy I will feel if I give in to lethargy and resign myself to couch potato status.

    By the way I love these money matters posts. A lot of the frugal sites have recipes but no nutritional breakdown and many of the other sites that have a nutritional breakdown do not have anything to indicate an approximate cost.

    I have a question. Is it possible to get a calorie total for just the chicken? I have a child who loathes rice and a husband who’d leave it rather than take it more often than not. For those reasons I do not make it much. The chicken portion looks like it would be good on pasta or even as a sandwich filling.

    • Nicole, RD
      May 15, 2012 / 10:25 pm

      Congrats on Zumba, that’s great! I love Zumba!

      I’m glad you’re enjoying the nutrition & cost break downs, I will endeavor to keep it up!

      P.S.For just the chicken and sauce it would be 220 calories per 5 ounces. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Thanks for reading!

  15. Katie {Epicurean Mom}
    May 15, 2012 / 11:32 pm

    Good for you Nicole! Gee, I can hardly get myself to get off the elliptical, let alone run 3 miles! I’ve never been a runner. Clearly I need to take lessons from you., and this basil chicken! YUMMM!!! I’ll be making this asap!

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  18. Lizzie
    June 9, 2012 / 2:43 pm

    Just made this for lunch. I halved the recipe easily.

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