Spinach & Artichoke Stuffed Chicken Breast

CHICKEN. It’s what’s for dinner! 99% of the time.

Amiright?

Chicken was always a staple of our household growing up. Pretty much most weeknight meals at our home consisted of either chicken or pasta. When I started taking an interest in cooking, I soon realized that while chicken is one of the most readily available and easy to cook ingredients out there, it’s easy to fall into a chicken rut.

Don’t take it out on the chicken, Rachael. It’s not its fault it’s boring to eat!

There’s only so many things you can add to a chicken breast before you get sick of it. So you have to start getting creative…

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A little while back, I blogged about La Terra Fina dips and how much my roomie and I LOVED THEM.

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The Chunky Artichoke & Jalapeno was definitely my favorite of the two. It has mild chilies in it that go PERFECTLY with the cream cheese-based spread. Add in artichokes and I’m in heaven.

While I decided that the Chunky Artichoke & Jalapeno was my favorite to go at with chips or veggies, the Spinach Artichoke & Parmesan screamed RECIPE to me.  It’s a bit more smooth than the Artichoke & Jalapeno, and is delicious heated up. And thus this recipe was born.

Delicious dips + boring chicken –> miracle recipe!

Though La Terra Fina’s dips are all made of natural ingredients, are gluten free, and include no trans fat, they don’t claim to be “low-fat” or “light” or any of that nonsense.

So to keep this entree on the healthier side, I used a trick I often do when cooking chicken breasts, which is: to butterfly them and split them in half. One serving of chicken breast is 4 oz (about 140 calories)…Most chicken breasts that you buy in the store come in at nearly twice that size. Unless you’re a body builder, you probably don’t need that much protein in one sitting! Butterflying your chicken breasts makes them a healthier portion size…plus, your chicken will cook faster! With the space you save on your plate, you can load up the rest of your plate with more veggies, salad, whole grains…whatever is your jam.

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PLUS, butterflying your chicken breast makes it much easier to wrap around some delicious spinach & artichoke dip 😉 How bad can that be?

INAAAAAAA. How’d you get in there?!

Spinach & Artichoke Stuffed Chicken Breast
makes 2 small servings

1 large chicken breast, butterflied & split into 2 separate pieces
2 tbsp La Terra Fina Spinach Artichoke & Parmesan Dip (or your preferred dip)
~1/4 cup breadcrumbs
salt & pepper
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. After cutting your chicken width-wise down the length of the side of the breast and splitting into two thinly sliced pieces, season with salt and pepper. Place about 1 tablespoon of dip on the chicken breast, closer to the base of the breast. Carefully roll the chicken over the filling, using a toothpick or skewer to keep the ends closed.

Sprinkle/cover/roll chicken breast in breadcrumbs (If you want, you can coat the chicken in egg wash first, but I found it wasn’t necessary) and place on a baking dish sprayed with cooking spray. Cook for about 15 minutes, or until done. Watch out for dip oozing out of the sides 🙂

Disclaimer: La Terra Fina provided me with dips to review/taste/develop recipes. All opinions, however, are my own!

Protein Packed Lentil Stew

So I’ve kind of fallen off the recipe wagon. There’s a number of reasons for this- I’ve had a few cooking fails in the kitchen, I just haven’t been inspired to make anything new lately besides soups and stews (which have largely been fails…see reason #1), and the biggest reason is because nothing ever looked good enough to photograph.

I want you guys to feel like what I make actually looks appetizing enough to make yourself. Fuzzy iPhone photos with a promise of, “it tastes better than it looks!” aren’t my aim (but they are what I sometimes have to resort to). You’ve gotta shoot in natural light, without flash, if you want to make something look good.

That’s hard to do when you get off work at 5:30, right around the time the sun goes down. Normally I’d make a few dishes on the weekend to blog about (slash eat for lunch) during the week, but a couple of jam-packed weekends have precluded me from doing that. You guys will know I’ve been having busy weekends when I go more than 3 weeks without a Meatless Monday post.

I decided to make an exception this week, and I photographed my dinner on Tuesday night under the fluorescent lights of my kitchen.

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Much to my delight, it didn’t go so badly!

I’ve cooked with lentils a lot, but never really made anything worth sharing. The dishes always tasted too….lentilly. This dish is an exception. It gets a lot of flavor from the seasoning of the chicken, and from fire-roasted tomatoes. As a lifelong tomato-hater trying to change my ways, fire-roasted is the way to go for me. Pretty much anything will taste great when it’s roasted long enough to char.

I’ve been trying to incorporate more weight training and protein into my fitness and diet; lentils and chicken are both high in protein. Lentils are also a good source of fiber and low in calories, which means a little goes a long way in keeping you full. You’ll actually only find 140 calories in 1/2 cup, which is what I used in this recipe (and it was enough for 3 meals!)

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Jigga what? Yeah, check out those nutritional stats. That’s for one cup (one serving size for me was about 1 1/4 cup, which upped it to 170 calories) of this stew. I only put it one chicken breast, but toss in another and see the protein count increase even more!

Not only did I photograph this finished meal, but I took step-by-step pix too. Aww yeah.

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Start with sauteing some seasoned chicken. I added salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and oregano.Remove from pan.

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Build the base of your stew. Saute onions and garlic, then add lentils and tomatoes, as well as chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cover.

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Choose some veggies to bring to the party. Try (and fail) to keep your kitchen mess out of the picture.

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After about 20 minutes, the lentils should have soaked up most of the liquid in the pan. Stir in your veggies and chicken.

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Simmer until ready to serve, and enjoy. Fail once again to not get your kitchen mess (and super cool slipper) out of the frame.

Seriously you guys, this was so good. I split it into three servings…I’m having the last of it tonight and I’m sad. It could probably even stretch into four one-cup servings if you pair it with a nice crusty piece of bread and a salad (I don’t have any bread in my apartment at the moment — I KNOW — so I’ve been eating it by itself or with a tortilla). Lentils are more filling than they look!

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But not more delicious than they look. Because if you ask me, they look pretty damn tasty.

Protein-Packed Lentil Stew
makes 3-4 servings

1-2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I only used one)
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp oregano, divided
salt & pepper
1 1/2 tsp olive oil, divided (or however much you need for your saute pan)
1/2 small yellow onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup dry lentils
1 13-oz can fire-roasted tomatoes, drained if desired
1 13-oz container low sodium chicken broth (can substitute veggie broth, or water)
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1 cup broccoli florets (frozen is fine)

Chop chicken into bite sized pieces and season with a pinch of each seasoning. Dice and mince onion and garlic, if not already done. Heat 1 tsp olive oil on medium-high heat. Add seasoned chicken and cook about 5 minutes, turning once. Remove chicken to a paper-towel lined plate.

Add another 1/2 tsp olive oil to the pan. Add onion and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another minute. Add lentils – rinse or pick through your lentils if their instruction says to do so. Add the can of tomatoes. (Drain them first if you want a less tomatoey broth)  Stir, then add chicken broth. It may seem like a lot of liquid, but the lentils really do soak up a lot. Stir again and bring to a low boil. Once it has reached a low boil, lower heat, cover with a lid, and keep at a simmer. Let simmer for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare your veggies. I chose mushrooms and frozen broccoli because they are what I had on hand. Once 20 minutes is up, add the vegetables and chicken into the pan with the lentils (now would be a good time to add some more oregano too!), and let simmer until ready to serve (at least 10 minutes).

Serve with a nice piece of bread to soak up all the broth!

Shredded Mexican Chicken

I’ve got pregnancy brain today.

No, no, no, I’m not pregnant. But have you heard of pregnancy brain? I’ve been watching a crap-ton of How I Met Your Mother lately, and there’s a whole episode dedicated to Lily’s pregnancy brain. For example, she leaves her wallet and keys in the freezer. For us non-pregnant peeps, I think I’ll call it Friday Brain.

Friday brain. When you’ve gone through an entire week of work (and play), are at the peak of your sleep deprivation, and your brain just doesn’t wanna work anymore.

Case in point: This morning, I spent 15 minutes prepping today’s lunch (Pesto Chickpea burger on top of a salad! Yum), because I’m meeting an old boss for lunch in the park. Then, immediately afterward, I spent 10 minutes preparing my gym bag to go for a jog at lunch because it’s finally cool enough to jog outside. Derp derp.

This is in addition to the half a dozen times in the past month that I’ve accidentally left either my makeup, cell phone, or lunch at T-Man’s house before he drops me off for work in the morning.

Let’s just say my brain has been out of it lately.

However, this tip I’m teaching you today is pretty much foolproof. Here’s the deal… T-Man has a Crockpot. I do not. In exchange for letting me try out recipes in his Crockpot, I let him eat the food I make with it. Back when he asked me to make him a meal plan, I scheduled in “Meat that Katie prepares for you”, because I was in the habit of making some kind of meat for him in a Crockpot on Sundays for him to have for lunch on Monday and Tuesday (if it lasted till Tuesday!).

(If anyone is curious, T-Man followed the meal plan pretty well for a few weeks! He definitely ate out less. But as his congressional campaign has really ramped up, time to prepare meals has decreased. Fortunately, people bring food into the campaign office [homemade and otherwise] so he’s been getting fed one way or another! With my recent reasons to reflect upon my own eating habits, it may be something we revisit together after November 6th)

This is the recipe I usually prepare in the Crockpot for lunches during the week: Shredded Mexican Chicken! It’s easy, super flavorful, and you can put it in a variety of things. Usually T-Man puts his in a burrito, I like to pile mine on a toasted tortilla and make a tostada!

I’ve been waiting to share this recipe for a long time, but as you can tell, it’s not extremely photogenic. I compiled pictures from a couple of different times I made it  – trust me when I say it is DELICIOUS! This recipe really came in handy this summer when we had 10 million cans of Coors Light in our fridge after our 4th of July party that we didn’t really want to drink.

It’s as easy as this:

Ingredientses

Cover el pollo with the seasoning and veggies (they give it lots of flavor themselves!)

Then pour the beer over…

Cook on high for 3 hours…

Shred it all up with a fork, and enjoy!

Shredded Mexican Chicken
makes 3-4 servings

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (thawed works best)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chile powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/2 medium onion
1/2 bell pepper (I like to use a combo of red and green. If you only use one kind, use green)
1 tomato
~1 can of beer

Prepare vegetables by roughly chopping into chunks. (They will shrink while they cook.) Trim fat from breasts, if desired.

Place in Crockpot and season meat with desired amounts of cumin, chile powder, garlic powder, and cayenne. Use whatever Mexican spices you have on hand! Next, pile on the veggies. Add beer until the chicken is covered by at least 1/2 inch of liquid.

Cook on high for about 3 hours. Check on the meat once or twice while cooking to ensure it isn’t drying out. After 3 hours, use two forks to shred the chicken, and cook for 30-60 minutes longer with all the juices. After that, it’s ready! Drain extra juices if desired.

Notes: If you don’t have beer or would prefer not to use it (the taste doesn’t come out too much with all the other seasonings), I’m sure chicken stock or water would also work fine.

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P.S. I’ve been fidgeting with my blog’s color scheme lately…there will probably be more tweaks to come! Let me know what you think!

Arroz con Pollo (kinda)

The difficult thing about having short(ish) hair is that you actually have to get it cut every once in a while.

Since I have been so busy with work and moving, I realized that my hair is seriously overgrown and in need of a trim. Since I donated my hair last year, I usually tell myself, “If all your hair fits into a ponytail, it’s time to get it cut!”

I’ve been in ponytail land for weeks now. It’s time.

The problem is, I have gotten my hair cut by the same stylist for over 10 years and he works in my parents’ neighborhood, which is 20 minutes away. I am a car-less, bike-less girl who depends on her boyfriend to drive her everywhere, and I work from 9-6 every day. What’s a girl to do? I’m starting to realize that a change in stylist might have to happen soon.

But change isn’t all that bad, you see. I’ve been bookmarking recipes for Arroz con Pollo for a while now, and I’ve been really wanting to make it. The most appealing are this paella-style Arroz con Pollo from A Cozy Kitchen, and this beautiful version from Joy the Baker.

I noticed a common ingredient in both recipes, which presented a problem: Arroz con Pollo is not Arroz con Pollo without saffron. And try as I might, I can’t find those little red stems anywhere! Okay, so I only looked in one aisle at Safeway and at the Grocery Outlet Bargain Market where everything is 1 day away from expiring……but that’s beside the point.

I decided that a change was necessary, and I put my own Tex-Mex spin on the one-pot dish. It may not have been traditional, but it was delicious, and easy to make! Continue reading