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!

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Monday Night Football Feast – Week 7

Hey everyone! I am finally bringing you a post (potentially a series of posts) that I’ve been wanting to share for a long time now!

As many of you who follow my Instagram feed know, every week my friend Dave (HI DAVE! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!) hosts Monday Night Football at his house and cooks a meal typical of whatever city is hosting that night’s game. This tradition of his isn’t new – he’s been doing it for a few years now — I’m just new to the friend group. Actually, the moment I showed up Week 1 with Beer Mac n’ Cheese in hand was probably the moment they decided I was allowed to come back haha.

Anyway, instead of kicking in a few bucks for the food, I’ve used the MNF tradition as an excuse/inspiration to challenge myself to make creative dishes to share. Here’s a few of the themes we’ve had so far and what I’ve brought:

Week 1: at Washington. Good ol’ American hamburgers & freshly cut/deep fried French fries (Dave’s contribution) and Beer Mac n’ Cheese from yours truly (one of my Cooking Bucket List items!!)

Week 2: At Cincinnati. David made breakfast pizzas with a base of Goetta, (a sausage native to Cincinnati) topped with scrambled eggs & spinach

Week 4: At New Orleans. Dave made traditional gumbo (left) and gumbo z’herbes (right), and I made and fried BEIGNETS! Those beignets might actually get their own separate post one of these Mondays.

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Week 5: at Atlanta. I actually couldn’t make it that week, but I had already made loaded mashed potatoes to go with Dave’s fried chicken and collard greens, and Landai’s peach cobbler. These guys were loaded with bacon, chives, and cheddar cheese. YUM.

Now, for week 7

We spent all day in the kitchen yesterday (seriously my happy place) preparing an Italian feast for tonight’s game, which is hosted by the New York Giants. My game plan was to make tomato sauce from scratch and two different kinds of gnocchi, and Dave prepped stuff for Caesar salad, garlic bread, and meatballs. Tonight he’ll also be cooking up minestrone soup, and grilled lamb. Needless to say…….we’re gonna have a lot of food.

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First up was the sauce! For 2 kinds of gnocchi, I decided to make 2 kinds of sauces. The first was a tomato sauce (from scratch! See my recipe here) with onions, peppers, and mild Italian sausage.

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This was probably the most time consuming item of the day. I forgot how long it takes to peel and de-seed tomatoes! It’s totally therapeutic, though.

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This is the best picture I got of my meat sauce. Saaarrrrrrry.

Next up was the gnocchi – I got regular Russet potatoes (to pair with the tomato sauce) as well as a few sweet potatoes (with which I’m hoping to pair with a mushroom cream sauce) and went to town.

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Dave actually had a ricer, which was a total luxury. The last time I made gnocchi, I used a hand grater! Here’s the riced Russet potatoes with the cooked sweet potato.

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Next it was time for the sweet potato. I think I over-cooked them, because it was a lot harder to gather the sweet potato into a dough. We decided to forgo the typical gnocchi ridges for those ones since they were too delicate, but I thought the ridges looked awesome on the regular potato gnocchi!

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And voila! Into the freezer they went, and out they came a day later!

Here’s how they looked after cooking….they were a little mushy because they thawed a bit too much before I could get them into the boiling water. But they were still delicious!

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Here’s some of the other food:

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Ravioli with Nicole’s family recipe meat sauce

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Nicole’s meat sauce with Dave’s minestrone soup stew in the back.

What’s your favorite Football Food?

Do you have any fun cooking traditions you do with friends? MNF meals, “family” dinners, etc?

Meatless Monday: Zucchini-Corn Fritters

Labor Day is the worst.

For me, it has always marked the end of summer. No more pool days, no more white pants, goodbye 9pm sunsets, goodbye barbeques!

I have had an epic weekend, however, which I will share pictures of tomorrow. Wine, grape stomping, college friends, Sunday Funday, Nutella…If I have to say bye to summer, I might as well send it off right…right?

These past few years, I’ve also begun to love summer produce. Tomatoes have always been one of my most hated foods…but between the months of June and September, I find myself popping fresh cherry tomatoes like candy. Every meal is accompanied by corn on the cob, and I can’t remember the last stir fry I made that didn’t involve zucchini.

Luckily for us in California we get summer produce year round! For a price 😉

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This summer, I’ve been trying to perfect the zucchini fritter. It’s such an easy Monday night meal – there’s minimal prep needed; just scoop together a bunch of veggies and fry ’em up! My ratio was always off, though…too wet, too crumbly, etc. Last week, I finally hit my sweet spot and they turned out delicious! But really, who doesn’t like fried food?

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So make these tonight, make them next week or next month, and enjoy the lingering produce of summer!

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Unfortunately I learned that taking pictures of food isn’t super easy to do with a cast on your thumb…haha.

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#epiclyblurryfoodphotos

Zucchini-Corn Fritters
loosely based on Zucchini Fritters by smitten kitchen

makes 4 fritters

1 medium zucchini
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped basil (fresh) or 1 tsp basil (dry)
1/2 cup corn, removed from cob
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp baking powder (optional)
oil, for frying

Shred zucchini with a box grater or, if you’re smart and lazy, a grater attachment on your food processor. Place in a strainer and sprinkle salt over the shredded zucchini. Let stand for 10-15 minutes, then using a clean towel or thick paper towels, wring out all the excess water. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.

To the lump of zucchini, add salt, pepper, basil, corn, and egg and mix. Add flour and baking powder and combine until well incorporated.

Heat about a tablespoon (or more if desired) of oil over medium-medium high heat. One at a time, scoop blobs of zucchini batter into the pan. Let cook for about 3-4 minutes, or until brown, then carefully flip to the other side. Once it’s on the other side, you can flatten it out a bit so it has a fritter shape. Let cook on the other side for another 3 minutes and remove to a paper towel-lined plate. Serve immediately!

What I Ate Wednesday

Though I have been blogging for well over a year now, there’s one typical “healthy living blogger” blog post I’ve never done…until today!

What I Ate Wednesday.

I try to avoid posting pictures of every.single.thing I eat, unless what I’m eating is particularly good looking, great tasting, or if it’s a meal I’m really proud of making. Well, none of the things in this post are good looking or mind blowing recipes.. but I generally don’t eat anything that isn’t delicious 🙂 Thankfully, even if I don’t share it on the blog, I have friends who don’t mind me snapping pix of everything I eat to them on Snapchat (Hi Linda Li!)

I’ve also been known to post what I can actually eat/make with a cast, and this time around is no exception! Actually, I’ve found that eating might be even harder with this broken thumb than it was with my broken hand. Though I eat with my left hand, I require my right thumb to chop veggies and hold a spatula. Also, washing dishes is interesting:

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(wearing a rubber glove, Grocery Outlet bag, and a plastic produce bag)

Without further ado, here’s what I ate yesterday.

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My standard breakfast for, like, the last month is 2 slices of Alvarado Street Bakery sprouted toast + Laughing Cow Smooth Sensations cream cheese spread. I won 5 wheels of the stuff in a Twitter contest back when I was at Blend, and I am still working through them! Pictured is cinnamon (left, SO yummy) and strawberry.

I am also really loving Alvarado St. bread at the moment. You can find it at Trader Joe’s (I got their Essential Flax bread there), but my trusted Grocery Outlet discount store recently started stocking it for way cheap! I usually get the California-style complete protein bread, or sprouted whole wheat. They’re the perfect size, pack some protein, and are only 80-90 calories a slice!

And since we’re on the subject of breakfast…

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I was so stoked to be able to make my overnight oats in almost-empty nut butter jars TWICE in the past couple of weeks! Although that also means I’m out of peanut butter and almond butter 😦

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This morning, I had an epically fruity yogurt bowl. Banana cream pie yogurt, fresh pineapple, blueberries, and a dollop of my grandma’s apricot jam. The apricot jam and banana yogurt were actually a really yummy combo!

Since Friday, I have also been having either a calcium pill or multivitamin with breakfast 🙂

Snacks during the workday for the last 2 weeks have not changed:

SO ADDICTIVE!

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I only grab 3-4 at a time, but I always end up eating 2 servings (20 pretzels) worth in a day, haha. I have stopped trying to fight it, but I at least limit myself to one serving before lunch and one after 😛

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As is somewhat normal for me, I did a short workout at lunch. I lifted one small (5 lb) weight and, after realizing it was kind of painful, decided I probably shouldn’t risk injury. So, I’ve relegated myself to the sorority girl workout: elliptical and abs! I’ve made it my goal to have a 6 pack by the time my cast comes off in 4 weeks, haha. Yesterday, I did 20 mins on the elliptical, followed by a 1 min plank, 30 sec side planks, 2 sets of V-ups and Stability Ball sit-ups, and a little bit of work on my obliques.

Also, related note: be glad you’re not friends with me on Snapchat 😛

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Lunch was part 2 of the summer stew I prepped on Sunday: onion, garlic, zucchini, fire roasted tomatoes, corn, lentils, and bell peppers. Aaand a La Tortilla Factory 100-calorie tortilla. LOVE those. 100 calories, 8g of fiber, and they’re huge! I was kind of ravenous after my workout, so I also found an Oats n Honey granola bar to tide me over till dinner.

Last night was laundry night so I was at my parents’ house for dinner:

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BLT’s are probably my family’s most common summer meal, since my dad grows so many tomatoes! Mine was 2 slices of 12-grain bread, 3-4 slices of juicy garden tomatoes, 3 slices of bacon (the real kind, not turkey…my brother’s request) and lots of arugula. On the side was honey dijon Kettle chips, pineapple, and a Lagunitas IPA! Seriously, perfect summer meal.

After dinner, I folded laundry and watched Breaking Bad (I’ve been catching up for almost a year, and am finally on season 4!)

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…while snacking on peanuts and tasting some sangria my mom bought. Yum!

Do you take pictures of everything you eat?

What’s your go-to breakfast?

Any ab/core workouts to recommend?

Meatless Monday: Vegan “Caprese” Pizza

If you follow me on Instagram/Twitter/Facebook you probably saw this picture on Friday:

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I went to the store after work intending to buy white wine and avocados (standard Katie-Essentials) and somehow 2 bottles of kombucha and a tray of tofu found their way into my basket (um, not so standard Katie-Essentials). Most normal people, when strolling through the grocery store, will pick up “impulse purchases” like chocolate….cookies…chips…

Me? I’ve apparently gotten to a level of healthy blogger status that my impulse purchases are tofu and kombucha. Really…who am I?!

As far as the kombucha goes, I’m trying to incorporate more non-alcoholic and non-caffeinated beverages into my diet. I realized when filling out that Healthy Living Survey on Friday that the only drinks I consume on a regular basis are water, tea, wine & beer. Whenever I sit down to read blogs or watch my TV shows in the evening, I often pour myself a glass of wine out of boredom more than anything else. Apparently, I can’t just sit and watch tv – I need to be sipping on something! I figure kombucha is a healthy alternative, since I don’t drink soda or juice.

The tofu though…I can’t really explain. I guess I was just buying it as an experiment and a challenge, since I’ve never cooked with it before. I also might have been inspired by Becky’s BBQ Tofu Pizza. 🙂

I am actually often not a fan of tofu. I used to actually pick out the slimy pieces of tofu in my miso soup as a kid, the slippery texture really freaked me out. However, I’ve challenged myself to figure out a way to cook it in a way that I like, and I’ve discovered it’s actually really easy!

My first trial involved the stove and I tried sauteing it in a stir fry – not so great.

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My second try was a success, and made its home on this pizza. I decided to let tofu stand in for the more traditional mozzarella cheese and call this baby a caprese pizza! It does have all the other traditional ingredients – giant tomatoes from my boss’s garden, and a kick of basil in the [cheeseless] pesto. I drizzled a little balsamic on top and voila! Vegan pizza.

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Baking the tofu in the oven gives it a nice crispy exterior and an all-around firm texture. Plus, it’s a perfect meal for one that will be ready in less than 30 minutes. Winner winner chicken tofu dinner?

Vegan “Caprese” Pizza
serves 1
inspired by Becky’s BBQ Tofu Pizza

1 whole wheat tortilla or pita
2-4 tablespoons vegan pesto (I whipped one up that did not include cheese)
2-3 slices tomato (about 1/4-1/2 inch thick)
5 oz extra firm tofu, cubed (about 1 cup)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

Begin by preparing your tofu – preheat oven to 375F and grease a baking sheet. Place tofu on baking sheet (if you’d like to roast the tomatoes, you can add them too) and bake for 20 minutes, flipping all the pieces once halfway through.

Meanwhile, prepare your pesto (if making yourself) and the balsamic drizzle. Heat balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat and boil for about 5-10 minutes, until it becomes syrupy and reduces in size by almost half. Remove from heat and set aside until needed.

Place tortilla in oven for last few minutes of baking the tofu. Remove the tortilla and tofu (slash tomato) and start assembling: spread pesto on the tortilla, and top with tomatoes and tofu. Drizzle with balsamic glaze. Cut into slices and eat like a pizza, or just dig in!

Have you ever cooked with tofu?

Gorgonzola Turkey Burgers

So it’s gotten to that point in the year when I buy 75% of my groceries at the Farmer’s Market.

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Basically, I’m eating a ton of veggies.

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This is what most of my weekday meals look like. And literally every ingredient besides the beans and tortilla were purchased at the Farmer’s Market! I could buy tortillas at the farmer’s market too, I know they have a tortilla stand at the Thursday market by my office 😉 Though I’m not sure I’d wanna pass up the almost-expired $1.99 tortillas from Grocery Outlet!

The problem with my tendency to eat plant-based meals like the ones you see above is that they don’t pack enough protein for the days when I’m working out. Since it’s been so hot lately, I have shifted my exercise focus from running outside (otherwise I’d die of heat stroke) and I’m doing more indoor strength training workouts. I subscribed to the Women’s Health iPad app a few months ago and really enjoy it, especially the animated workout demonstrations:

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You can scroll through and actually see how the exercises are properly done! Sometimes they have actual women (and not creepy cartoon women) demonstrating the workouts as well.

I did this 15 minute upper & lower body workout on Monday and my arms are still sore today!

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Those of you who also attended Blend Retreat are familiar with GPP Fitness, since they hosted both boot camps at the retreat. Every day, they post the gym’s workout of the day on their website and invite everyone to try them out and comment with their times/reps/etc. I wanted to do an ab workout yesterday and boy oh boy did I get an ab workout. I’ve never done Tabata* before, and it was pretty intense! There’s nothing like an automated timer to keep you from slacking.

Today is one of those days where I’m realizing how much I use my abs doing regular day-to-day activities (biking, laughing, sneezing, etc) because I am HURTING every time it happens!

{*Each rep of a Tabata workout consists of 20 seconds work and 10 seconds rest and is repeated 8 times for a total of 4 minutes per exercise}

So what I’m getting at here…is that I need some protein to rebuild my muscles after these workouts, and a serving of beans (<10g protein) isn’t gonna cut it!

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Enter: turkey burger.

At 21g of protein per serving and 8g of fat, lean ground turkey is probably one of the healthiest sources of (animal) protein you can get. If you’re really concerned about the fat content, you can get Extra Lean turkey, but that’s when it starts getting dry and not very tasty! To both healthify and jazz these guys up a bit, I spiked them with shredded zucchini and gorgonzola cheese. Because if you add zucchini, it cancels out the cheese, right?

I am all about sneaking shredded zucchini into pretty much everything during the summer months…for the health benefits, for added moisture, and, well, mostly because my dad usually ends up with 3 dozen in his garden and can’t get rid of them fast enough.

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Confession: I didn’t actually eat these on a bed of lettuce…it’s all a sham!

I love carbs too much to enjoy a burger without a bun. Or in this case, 2 small pieces of bread 😛

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I had the first two within a day of making this batch, and froze the remaining 3. On Monday after aforementioned workout, I grilled up a semi-defrosted burger along with a TON of veggies. Farmer’s market goodness + barbecued meat…Who says you can’t have it all?  (sidenote: I’m sorry to all my friends that have to see all my food-related snapchats! :-P)

Gorgonzola Turkey Burgers
makes 5 burgers

1- 20 oz package lean ground turkey
1/2 small red onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/2 zucchini, shredded (should be about 1 cup shredded)
1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese, about 1.5 oz
~5 basil leaves, thinly sliced

Combine all ingredients in a bowl with clean hands until just mixed. Don’t overwork the meat. Separate mixture into 5 equal sized portions and then carefully mold the burgers. To avoid the burgers being fat in the middle, use your thumb to make a small divot in the middle of the burger like THIS. Prepare saute pan or grill, or wrap burgers in saran wrap and foil to be frozen, if desired.

If preparing immediately, heat up grill or saute pan over medium high heat. Add burger and cook on each side until done, 7-9 minutes per side. If freezing the burgers, you will ideally defrost them a little bit, but regardless will need to cook them much longer.

It’s important to cook turkey all the way through to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F – if you have a meat thermometer, use it!

Eat over a bed of lettuce, or like a normal person: between two buns!

Notes: feel free to sub Blue cheese for the Gorgonzola, or your favorite fresh herb of choice for basil. If you must use extra lean ground turkey, I would recommend adding an egg to the mix to make things a little more moist.

Father’s Day Weekend in Photos

***If you didn’t last week, don’t forget to enter my Food Should Taste Good chips giveaway!! There are 2 days left to enter!***

Hope you all had a great Father’s Day weekend. Mine was certainly filled with good food, that’s for sure:

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On Friday night, we made a deeelicious dinner. Chicken and shrimp in this soy-marmalade glaze, accompanied with sesame grilled veggies (sauteed a ton of veggies & just added sesame oil at the end), corn, and cilantro-lime rice. I love being able to make a “fancy”, more involved dinner on Friday nights. Usually during the week I only have energy to cook a chicken breast, put some fries on the side and call it a meal.

We also enjoyed some great Pinot and watched approximately 283974 hours of Raising Hope and the final season of The Office.

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For the second week in a row, I trekked out (ok ok, it’s only 4 blocks from my house) to the Midtown Farmers Market. There were a few strange finds, including green cauliflower (there was also a yellow one) and a Kombucha truck that had several kinds of Kombucha on tap! I haven’t yet joined this health-food bandwagon, but if they’re there again next week I might have to give it a shot!

I also fought the urge to buy another $5 thing of Avocado-Cilantro Hummus from Zena Foods (possibly the best dip to ever enter my mouth), because I’m hoping to try to recreate it myself soon. Keep a look out 🙂

20130617-100147.jpgAfter some shopping and EDC DIY-ing with my friend Lisa (she’s the one attending EDC…I’m just helping her bedazzle her outfits!), T-Man and I saw This Is the End with our friend Amanda. Definitely worth seeing in the theater. An enormously stupid movie, but it kept me laughing the entire time! Afterwards, we grabbed a beer at a new-to-us dive bar, The Hideaway.

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Had a nice hearty breakfast on Sunday morning…scrambled eggs, toast, bacon, and some cherries from the market. Then, I went to get some ingredients for Father’s Day dinner and FINALLY found some Chobani Flip at Safeway!!! Wahoo! I snagged one at Blend Retreat last month and accidentally left it in our hotel fridge haha. I haven’t tried it yet…waiting for a morning when I don’t have time to prep overnight oats the night before. #ChobaniNerd

Quick stop at kickball: {click to view video}

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We almost won a game for once! We usually get creamed…like…shut out creamed. But we ended up losing 6-7 at the bottom of the 6th (which is the last inning). I think it’s because my dad came to cheer us on! 🙂 Also maybe because it was only 90 degrees outside, and not 113.

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Flash forward to Father’s Day Dinner. Much like last year, most of the meal was cooked on the grill: chicken, veggies (carrots, summer squash, and green cauliflower), and Pacific snapper…because my dad loves fish but never gets it at home! I brushed a mango-cilantro sauce onto the meat…it was soooo good. Might have to recreate it for the blog soon! Finished it all off with a kale salad with strawberries, gorgonzola & poppyseed dressing. Perfect summer meal! Hope my dad enjoyed it!

What did you do for Father’s Day?

When you have time to spend on cooking, what is your meal of choice?