Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Stuffed Chicken and Pasta

It's been a while since I've photographed my homemade recipe efforts, so I hope you'll excuse that I ended up with one good photo that I'm willing to share.  Turns out photographs of fresh whole wheat pasta are not all that appetizing.

But to the recipe!  I've been doing my best to shove vegetables into every meal I can, and kale has become a recent favorite.  It's so versatile, and with my allergy to spinach, it's the best green I can think of to use in basically any recipe.  Also, cheese.  Lots of cheese goes into this chicken.

This stuffed chicken method is really a jumping off point for so many variations.  I used the ingredients I had on hand, but feel free to use a different green (chard, spinach, mustard, arugula), or a different base veggie (onion, broccoli, potato, zucchini...), and so many different kinds of cheese (swiss, mozzarella, ricotta, brie if you're fancy, even cottage).

As for the pasta, the method I'm using below is a very shortcut-y riff on the classic cheese sauce method.  I love weeknight shortcuts.  And to take even more shortcuts, feel free to use a marinara sauce if you already have one on hand!

Kale and Red Pepper Stuffed Chicken Rolls
Serves 2-4

For the chicken:
2 chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
1/2 red bell pepper
Pinch onion powder
4-5 leaves kale
1 clove garlic, minced
1 oz cream cheese
2 Tbs. plain yogurt
1 oz goat cheese
1/4 c. shredded cheddar
2 green onions, chopped
2 Tbs. almond meal
1 Tbs. wheat flour
Pinch garlic powder

For thick chicken breasts, cut in half horizontally to create two thinner filets of chicken.  For thinner chicken breasts, no cutting is necessary.  Cover the chicken with plastic wrap and pound out the chicken with a mallet, or use the heel of your hand, to get the chicken to a mostly even 1/2 inch thickness. Season both sides with salt and pepper.  Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a baking dish that will fit your chicken (I used a glass 9x5 bread pan).

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Chop the red bell pepper into small (1/8 to 1/4 inch) dice.  Add a small glug of fat (olive oil, butter, coconut oil, vegetable oil) to your skillet, and toss in your chopped pepper.  Add salt, pepper, and pinch of onion powder, and saute.  While the bell pepper cooks, remove kale off the thick stem, and chop small.  When bell pepper is getting soft (about 3-5 minutes), add kale and garlic.  Saute for a couple of minutes, then turn heat to low for the kale to continue to wilt.

In a small bowl, combine cream cheese and yogurt, and mix with a fork to mostly combine (it's okay if it's still a little chunky).  Add goat cheese, cheddar, and green onion, and mix together with a fork.
Note: you can really use any cheese/yogurt/milk combination.  You want some soft cheeses like cream cheese, ricotta, etc. in order to give things a creamy consistency, but use whatever you have on hand.
Add the kale and pepper mix to the cheeses, and use a fork to combine.  Or just get you hands in there to make sure everything is incorporated well.  Taste and season with more salt and pepper if desired.

Combine almond meal (or 2 Tbs. almonds, chopped as small as possible), wheat flour, and garlic powder in a bowl.  Add some salt and pepper if you like.

To assemble, lay chicken breasts out flat.  Add a dollop of the kale and cheese mixture to the center.  Roll the chicken around it, and place the chicken, seam side down, in your prepared baking dish. Repeat with remaining chicken breasts.  Sprinkle almond mixture over top to cover chicken.  Spray tops of chicken with olive oil or cooking spray.  Bake in oven for 30-35 minutes, or until cooked through.

Serve chicken with a side of creamy pasta and marinara for dipping.

Creamy Pasta and Quick Marinara
2 on-the-vine tomatoes
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp dried basil
1 Tbs. ketchup

4-8 oz pasta
2 Tbs. plain yogurt
1 Tbs. cream
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
Fresh cracked pepper

For the marinara:  Chop the tomatoes into rough quarters or eights, then process in a blender until mostly smooth (if you like a chunky marinara, stop the blender early to ensure chunks).  Alternately, hand chop the tomatoes very small.  Pour tomatoes (and any juices on the cutting board) into a skillet (feel free to use the same skillet from the peppers and kale above!) over medium low heat.  Add garlic, basil, and ketchup.  Allow to bubble away until all other meal components are ready, but at least 10 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
Note:  Ketchup is used to thicken things just a bit and add a touch of sweetness.  Feel free to skip on that and add a small bit of honey or brown sugar.  Or a teaspoon or two of tomato paste would work.

For the pasta:  Bring a pot of water to a boil and salt generously.  Add pasta, and cook to al dente.  Drain the majority of water off, being sure to leave just a bit in the pot (a few Tbs. up to 1/4 c.)  Add yogurt, cream, cheese, and pepper, and stir over a medium heat until everything is combined and creamy, adding salt to taste.

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