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Chicken Stuffed with Spinach, Mozzarella, and Pine Nuts plus August 30 Weekly Menu

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This stuffed chicken breast recipe was adapted from a recipe in Cooking Light [2].  I’ve been on the lookout for some new low calorie recipes for my clients, but somehow the typical “light” recipes just don’t call to me so I rarely give them a go.  I made this recipe twice, originally with feta as written, then with a substitution for fresh mozzarella.  Cooking spinach completely changes the taste, IMO.  I could eat buckets of raw baby spinach, but start cooking it and I become the world’s harshest food critic.  If it’s not perfect, the flavor and the color become something altogether different.  First, let me point out, that I *only* use baby spinach.  I draw the line at baby animals, but baby vegetables?  They offer the best color, the best flavor, and the softest texture.  Baby spinach, when eaten raw, tastes like crunching a springy little pillow in your mouth.  Just like the texture of a perfect braised artichoke leaf, firm appearance, yet soft in delivery, and almost meaty in taste.  Full grown, mature spinach tastes more like regular old green leaf lettuce to me.  Not that green lettuce isn’t great, it’s just a different character and more “I’m feel like something light, maybe a salad” instead of “I’m having a crummy day, I need something gentle to catch me when I fall”.  So the second time through the recipe I went with the milder flavor of fresh mozzarella.  Mozzarella and feta are similar in caloric counts and for the extra two and a half calories per serving, I felt they dissipated the bitter flavor that appears when cooking spinach.  If you think of spinach in traditional cooked preparations, it’s usually matched with olive oil or cream or butter or bacon grease.  In this case, I feel the mozzarella complements the spinach in a similar way, where the feta brings out the more tangy, acidic flavors.

I also browned the chicken longer than in the magazine recipe.  Perhaps this is due to variations in my stove, but it brings up one of the most fundamental bricks of cooking.  Whenever you’re cooking, you have to look, feel, smell, and most importantly pay attention in order to adjust cooking times or temps.  If that doesn’t sound fun to you, you better stick to the crock pot and order meal delivery service.  I’m not talking major adjustments, just little ones, like inching your heat up a bit, or deciding something is browning quicker than expected or more slowly.  And for heaven’s sake, if your going to cook meat, get a good, digital, instant read meat thermometer.  I truly don’t know how people function without them.

If you come across any other recipes using pine nuts outside of this one, salads, or pesto, send me a note.  I went a little crazy in the bulk section and may be working through $30 of pine nuts until Christmas ; ) If you’re purchasing fresh mozzarella for this recipe, it only takes about an ounce and a half for four servings.  Since it’s hard to purchase only an ounce and a half, hear are another few ideas to utilise your remaining cheese:  Caprese Salad Crostini [3], Roasted Chicken, Mozzarella, Tomato, Onion, and Pesto Panini [4], Mediterranean Pasta with Sundried Tomatoes, Kalamatas, Capers, and Fresh Mozzarella [5], or my favorite, eaten straight as a snack.

Dinnerandconversation.com Meal Delivery Service [6] now has expanded facilities!  Weekly Menus will no longer be one option per day, but 4 options per week, available any day of the week.  Email orders to lane@dinnerandconversation.com

Aug 30 Menu

Tortilla Soup – Made from scratch broth based soup with shredded chicken, yummy vegetables, the perfect level of spice, and everyone’s favorite, freshly fried tortilla strips

Pulled Pork Sandwiches – Slow cooked pulled pork, piled onto bread and topped with thinly sliced red onions, L.E. and Quentin love this meal!

Lane’s Chicken Salad – no nuts and lots of hand shredded chicken with a touch of fresh herbs and a sprinkling of oregano, I’ve been told the flavor only improves in the fridge over a couple of days

Fish Tacos – Spicy Tilapia or shredded chicken for non-seafood eaters topped with a light and colorful vinaigrette coleslaw

Sides and Desserts available off meal delivery service menu [6].

Happy Eating!

Chicken Stuffed with Spinach, Fresh Mozzarella, and Pine Nuts

adapted from Cooking Light Sept 2010, serves 4

2 tbsp pine nuts

5 oz fresh baby spinach

2 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 and 1/2 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into a 1/4 inch dice

4 skinless boneless chicken breasts

kosher salt

fresh ground pepper

1 tbsp olive oil

3/4 c. chicken broth

In a braising pan with a tight fitting lid, toast pine nuts in dry pan over medium high heat uncovered.  Shake every 20 seconds to rotate nuts, then remove to a bowl after about a minute and a half.  In same pan, gently cook spinach until it just begins to wilt, also uncovered.  Continuously rotate leaves with tongs, then remove to a strainer.  Use a paper towel to gently press spinach to strainer removing as much water as you can.  Add spinach to bowl with pine nuts.  Use a fork to combine with lemon juice, garlic, and mozzarella cubes.

Preheat oven to 350.  Rinse chicken, trim, and pat dry.  Starting from the top of the chicken breast at the thickest part, use a knife to slit lengthwise just as you would to butterfly the breast.  Make a pouch three quarters of the way through the breast.  Stuff each breast with a little of the spinach filling , then seal with wooden picks.  Season both sides of chicken with a sprinkling of salt and pepper.

Wipe pan down with a paper towel and return it to medium high heat.  After 1 minute, add the olive oil, after 1 more minute, swirl oil to coat pan, then add chicken breasts.  Cook on first side for 5 minutes or until browned, then turn and repeat.  When nicely browned on both sides, add chicken broth to pan, cover and bake in oven for 15 minutes.