Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Skinny Spinach Artichoke Chicken and Whole Wheat Pasta with Homemade Pesto...

So this is the first real meal that I cooked at home and I was very excited about using my new kitchen.  Since Joe is traveling the rest of the week and then I travel at the end of this week to the end of next week, this was the only meal we really had together.  I wanted to try something new so of course I went on Pinterest for inspiration.  I knew we had chicken that had been in the freezer for a while so I figure why not find a Chicken recipe.  I fell in love with the Spinach Artichoke Chicken recipe and was super excited to try it.

While up in Chicago, Marisa had asked if I had ever made pesto, because she loves all of the ingredients in pesto but never found a pesto she liked.  I think homemade pesto taste completely different from store bought pesto and it is so easy to make and modify to your taste!  I am not a huge fan of pine nuts which are found in a lot of pesto's so you will see there aren't any in the recipe I make.  If you want more cheese, just add it!  It is incredibly simple and easy to make.  When I went up to the patio yesterday after the rain I saw our basil was sooooo tall that it was starting to break and fall over so I picked about 5 cups of it (there is still a ton left too!) and decided to make pesto to freeze so that it wouldn't go bad!  With that, the side dish for today's meal was inspired.  I was simply going to make whole wheat orzo and mix in about 3 tbsp. of pesto to have along with the chicken.  I think the pesto complimented the spinach artichoke well and all turned out so well!  So, with that, below is a healthy and light chicken recipe as well as the homemade pesto recipe!

Basil Pesto
4 medium cloves of garlic
2 cups fresh basil, stems and buds discarded
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 cup part skim ricotta cheese
1 shallot, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

Toast the garlic in a small skillet over medium heat, shaking the pan occasionally, until the color of the cloves deepens slightly, about 7 minutes. Transfer garlic to a plate to cool and then peel the cloves and chop coarsely.

Place the basil in a heavy-duty gallon-sized resealable bag. Pound the bag with the flat side of a meat mallet or a rolling pin until all the leaves are lightly bruised. (Bruising the leaves apparently helps to release their oils and intensify their flavor.)

Process the garlic, basil, Parmesan, ricotta, shallot, oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a food processor until smooth, about 30 seconds. Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Transfer the mixture to a small bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste.

The pesto can be covered with plastic wrap pressed flush against its surface and refrigerated for up to 3 days. Yields 1 cup

Spinach Artichoke Chicken Recipe
  • olive oil spray
  • 8 chicken breasts
  • 13.75 oz artichoke hearts packed in water, drained
  • 10 oz frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 375º F. Spray baking dish with olive oil nonstick baking spray.
  2. Place chicken into baking dish. Salt and pepper chicken and then bake 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine remaining ingredients and then pour on top of chicken. Bake 20-25 minutes.
  4. Let stand about 5 minutes before serving. 

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