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Stuffed Shells

I recently made shells stuffed with chicken, homemade ricotta, spinach, sun dried tomatoes and topped with a white bechamel(ish) sauce.  They turned out to be pretty yummy.  It takes a bit of time to prepare, but it is well worth it!  I used home made ricotta cheese, but with all of the other flavors going on I don’t think it was necessary.

These measurements makes 6 generous portions.

1 box jumbo shells

3 large chicken breasts

1 1/2 cup ricotta cheese

3 or 4 cups fresh spinach

1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350.

I boiled the chicken to cook it.  Once it was cooked (it will turn white, double check by slicing into a piece and making sure it’s cooked no and no longer pink in the center) remove the chicken and place on a plate.  I boiled the shells in the broth from cooking the chicken.  While the shells are cooking, shred or cube the chicken and place in a bowl.  Add the ricotta cheese.  In a skillet, heat olive oil and add crushed garlic.  Let the garlic brown and then remove.  Add the fresh spinach to the skillet and let it wilt.  When the spinach is wilted add it to the bowl and mix with the ricotta cheese and chicken.  Chop the sun dried tomatoes and mix them in.  Once the shells are cooked, let them cool enough that you can touch them.  Stuff the shells with the mixture.  When you have the shells filled, place them all in a 10 x 14 pan.

My version of a bechamel sauce is really easy to do, and comes together quickly.

In a large heavy bottom sauce pan, melt a stick of butter.  When the butter is melted (but be careful not to brown it), sprinkle in a tablespoon of flour and stir until combined.  It took about 2 or 3 tablespoons of flour total to get the right consistency.  You want it to be a paste like mixture.  Keep stirring the mixture to cook the flour taste out.  In a smaller sauce pan, warm milk over a low heat.  Once the flour taste has cooked out, about 4-5 minutes, stir in a small amount of milk and whisk quickly to incorporate.  Keep adding more milk and whisking until the sauce becomes thick.  I added a bit of parmesan cheese once it was thick.  Season with salt and pepper.

Pour the white sauce over the shells in an even layer.

Bake for about 30-40 minutes, until everything is heated through.

 

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Slow cooker chicken with peppers and onions

This chicken recipe is a bit like a fajita style, but done in the slow cooker.

1 or 1 1/2 chicken breast

1 green pepper

1 red pepper

1 small white onion

1/2 can diced tomatoes (I used fire roasted with green chilis)

1 cup chicken broth

1 TBSP Tastefully Simple Fiesta seasoning (or just use taco seasoning if you don’t have that)

 

Slice the chicken breast in thin strips.  Sprinkle and massage the fiesta seasoning into the chicken.  Place the chicken in the slow cooker and cover with the chicken broth and about 1/2 of a can of diced tomatoes.  Cook on low for about 5 hours (since the chicken is sliced so thinly, this gave it plenty of time to cook through.  After about 3 hours, add in the peppers and onions (I think if they were cooked for the full time, they would’ve become too soggy).

 

Voila!  A simple and flavorful meal that is simple and delicious 🙂

 

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Orzo with Chicken, Blue Cheese, and Red Onion

I love pasta.  It is like the party bus of foods.  Not only is it made it all kinds of awesome shapes and sizes, but it’s also an amazing vehicle to carry all kinds of different ingredients.  The party bus doesn’t discriminate; it welcomes all kinds to the culinary celebration of dinner time.  It tells marina sauce and meatballs to hop on for the classic tour around town.  It pre games for vodka sauce with chicken to be tossed in for a crazy night.  Throw some shrimp, garlic and butter into the mix for a decadent affair.  Your options for a delicious pasta meal or only limited by your imagination.

I recently decided to be the driver of the party bus and used orzo and added chicken, blue cheese and red onion so that we could use the car pool lane right to Yummytown (aka my stomach via the tongue entrance ramp!).

Another great thing about pasta is that it’s cheap and really stretches.  You can feed a lot of people with only 1 or 2 pounds of pasta.  This recipe can easily be adapted for however many people you are planning on.  I am terrible with portions of pasta, so I honestly can offer no guidance as far as how much uncooked pasta would serve 1 person.  I do know I made spaghetti with lemon chicken and asparagus (using 1 pound of pasta) and it feed 7 and still had left overs.  I originally anticipated making just 2 servings of this (1 for dinner that night and 1 for lunch the next day), but it did in fact feed me for 3 meals.  Orzo is especially tricky to determine a serving size of!

So this again was 3 full meals.

1/2 bag of orzo

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (cut into bite size cubes)

about 1/2 cup of crumbled blue cheese

1/2 red onion

1/2 cup flour

salt and pepper to taste

a couple of shakes of Tastefully Simple Bacon Bacon!

Cook the orzo according to package directions in salted water.  Meanwhile cut the chicken in small bite size pieces.  Combine the flour, salt, pepper and Bacon Bacon (if you are using it) in a bowl.  Dredge the pieces of chicken in the flour.  Warm extra virgin olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and add the chicken.  Cook, stirring often, to brown and cook through.  Chop the onion in small pieces.

Once the pasta is done, drain almost all of the liquid.  Reserve a little bit still in the pan to help the other ingredients stick and thicken the dish slightly.  Add a drizzle of EVOO to the pasta.  Add the blue cheese and stir, letting the cheese melt.  Add the uncooked red onion and the chicken.  Give a stir to combine well.  Pour into the serving bowl and top with a little bit more blue cheese crumbles.  I opted not to cook the red onion, because I wanted the crunch and the bite.  But, the onion did soften slightly from the pasta.  I’m sure it would also be really good if you sauteed the onion a little bit.

This is a super easy meal to prepare for 1 or 10!

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Pesto Chicken

I recently tried to make a kind of deconstructed chicken parm with pesto or a backward chicken parm.  It didn’t go exactly as I had planned, and when I make it in the future I will definitely adapt it.  I like the flavors enough to definitely keep perfecting a good way to blend the flavors for a better outcome.

1 chicken breast per person

1 cup Panko breadcrumbs

1 cup prepared pesto

1/2 flour

salt and pepper to taste

3 plum tomatoes

6 slices mozzarella cheese

note: the 1 cup portions were for 2 servings, adjust accordingly.

Set out 3 bowls; place flour and a pinch of salt and pepper in one, pesto in the second and panko breadcrumbs in the third.  Dredge the chicken breasts in the flour and then coat with pesto.  You really need to get in there with your hands and rub the pesto all over.  Then dip into the bread crumbs.  You also need to really press the breadcrumbs in.

Warm oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Place the chicken in the skillet and brown.  Flip the chicken after 5-7 minutes and cook on the other side.  Cover the pan to make sure the chicken cooks through.

Meanwhile, cut the tomatoes in half and scoop out the seeds.  Salt and pepper the tomatoes and place in the oven at 350 for about 5 minutes.  This gets them just soft.  Remove them from the oven and place the slices of cheese.  Place under the broiler for just a couple of minutes to brown and bubble the cheese.

Once the chicken is done, place the tomatoes on top or on the side.  We added more pesto on the top of the chicken to give more flavor.  The pesto flavor did really cook out.  Which is why I’ve concluded that that step isn’t really worth it.  In the future I will probably just season the chicken with salt and pepper and bake it and then top it with the pesto.  I will let you know how that turns out when I try that!  I served this with pasta with pesto sauce.

 

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Lemon Chicken

This meal is nice and fresh and perfect for spring and summer, and is a snap to prepare!

1 chicken breast per person

1/2 cup flour

2 lemons

1/2 -3/4 cup dry white wine (I used a sauvignon blanc)

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet.  Cut half of one of the lemons in slices.  Combine flour and a pinch of salt and pepper in a bowl.  Dredge each piece of chicken in the flour and place in the pan.  Brown the chicken on each side (should take about 4-5 minutes per side).  When the chicken is browned, squeeze the other lemon over the chicken and then pour wine over.  Cover each chicken breast with a slice of lemon.  Reduce the heat to medium and cover the dish.  Let the chicken cook through for another 8-10 minutes, or until the juices run clear when cut into.  That’s all there is to it!  I served it with herb and butter rice and sauteed zucchini and summer squash.

Baked Honey-Lime Chicken

This recipe is from Good Housekeeping’s “Best Chicken Recipes” cook book.  The recipe says to use drum sticks, but I adjusted in and used chicken tenders.  The glaze got very dark and crunchy on the pan, but the chicken did glaze nicely and stayed moist.  Sadly, I was out of aluminum foil so my pan was a mess.  If you are making this with chicken tenders, I would maybe suggest cooking it at a slightly lower temp than it calls for.  It may also work a little better if you do actually use the drum sticks.

3 limes, plus wedges for garnish

1/4 cup honey

3 small garlic cloves, minced or crushed

1 tsp gound coriander

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper

24 medium chicken drumsticks, skin removed or I used about 1 1/2 chicken tenders

1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro, chopped

Prepare over to 450.  From limes grate 2 tsp peel and squeeze 1/4 cup juice.

In small bowl, with fork mix honey, garlic, coriander, salt, pepper, lime juice and 1 tsp lime peel.

Arrange chicken on jelly roll pan.  Drizzle lime mixture over chicken, toss to coat evenly.  Bake for 30-35 minutes (I did about 15-20 minutes with the tenders), turning and brushing with glaze occasionally.

Transfer chicken to serving dish.  Drizzle with pan juices.  Sprinkler with cilantro and remaining lime peel.

Stuffed Chicken Breast

This is a combination of a couple of recipes I came across recently.

1 chicken breast per serving

1 small log herb goat cheese (I think it was 2.5 or 3 oz)

2 TBS sun dried tomatoes

2 TBS fresh basil, chopped

Butterfly the chicken breast (slice horizontally through the middle of the breast being careful not to slice the whole way through).  Place the breast flat between 2 pieces of parchment paper or plastic wrap and pound the chicken very thin.  In a bowl mix the goat cheese, sun dried tomatoes and basil.  Spread about 1/2 -3/4 TBS on each chicken breast and wrap .  Secure with tooth picks to hold together, if needed.  Heat extra virgin olive oil with a bit of oil from the sun dried tomato oil from jar in a large skillet.  Brown the chicken, about 3 minutes per side.  Once it has good color to it, cover the skillet and let the chicken finish cooking for about 10 minutes over medium heat.  Remove from the skillet and take out the tooth picks. and serve!

This recipe was quite tasty, but the goat cheese has  a strong flavor.  In the future I will probably use cream cheese or another soft more mild cheese.  This also works great if you are entertaining and have guests who are vegetarian.  A friend texted me the night before I was serving this to let me know that she was not eating meat for 21 days, so not to be offended if she didn’t eat much but also not to go to any trouble.  I’m not one to invite someone over and not let them sit at my table and not eat a good meal!  So, I picked up large portabello mushroom caps and used the same stuffing on top of the mushroom and backed it at 350 for about 12-15 minutes.

I forgot to take pictures of the chicken actually in the pan, but I’m sure you can figure that part out!