Spinach & Mozzarella Chicken Roll Ups

We’re gettin’ fancy over here today, folks! Rolling up a delicious filling inside a thin piece of meat has long been a trick of restaurants to make a dish look polished and expensive. Truth is, you can do it right at home! This was super delicious and didn’t take much effort to get a restaurant-quality plate.

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Now, I pulled a bit of a multi-tasking trick here. I knew I planned on making Parmesan rice with this (find the recipe here!) so I made more “filling” than I needed so that I could stir it into the rice. I highly recommend you do the same, because it makes the rice even better! The measurements I give allow for you to have that extra amount of filling.

In a skillet over medium heat, heat up a couple tablespoons of olive oil and then saute half a diced sweet onion and two cups of chopped frozen spinach. (Add lemon juice, salt, pepper, and basil while cooking.) When the onions start to become translucent, add 2 large cloves of minced garlic, toss, and then remove from the heat.

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For your chicken, take two large breasts and cut them in half so you have four thin slices. Salt and pepper each half, then sprinkle mozzarella cheese on the wider end of each. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of your filling on top of the cheese, then carefully roll up from the wider end to the thinner end. Place in a greased baking dish seam side down and then top with lemon zest, salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese.

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Bake for 25 minutes at 425 degrees or until chicken is cooked through. Serve with Parmesan rice (don’t forget to stir in the extra filling!) and sauteed green beans.

(For the green beans: melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute 1/4 finely diced onion or shallots for two minutes, then add 8 ounces frozen green beans, salt & pepper, reduce heat to low, and cover. Cook for 8-10 minutes or until green beans are cooked with a little crunch left to them.)

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Wow your family or entertain dinner guests with this fabulously fancy (and deceptively easy) dish! Serve with a mild white wine like Pinot Grigio if you’re feeling extra fancy. 🙂

Full Recipe:

Spinach and Mozzarella Chicken Roll Ups

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 sweet onion, diced
2 cups chopped frozen spinach
2 large cloves garlic, minced
Zest & juice of 1/2 a lemon
Salt, pepper, and basil, to taste
2 large chicken breasts, each cut in half into thin slices
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Process:

1) Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2) Heat olive oil over medium heat in a medium skillet, then saute onions and spinach with lemon juice, salt, pepper, and basil until onions become translucent. Add garlic, toss, and remove from heat.

3) Salt and pepper each piece of chicken, then evenly divide mozzarella cheese on the wider end of each piece. Top cheese with 2 tablespoons of spinach filling, then carefully roll up each piece of chicken and place seam side down into greased baking dish.

4) Sprinkle lemon zest, salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese on top of chicken, and then bake for 25 minutes or until cooked through.

5) Serve with Parmesan rice – stir extra filling into rice for added body and flavor.

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Coconut Chicken with Pina Colada Glaze and Hawaiian Rice

Happy Valentine’s Day to all! This would be an awesome dish to make your valentine if you’re sick of the cold and want to imagine you’re in the tropics with a Mai Tai in your hand and not a care in the world! (Stay tuned later this week for my amazing take on a mai tai.) Of course, this is also just an awesome dish in general – I’d even wager that your kids would like it, as long as they don’t have anything against coconut or pineapple.

The title is a little of a mouthful (sorry!) but there’s a lot of moving parts to this meal and there’s just so many good things about it that I had to include as much in the title as I could!

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The recipe following is for four, but feel free to adjust as necessary!

The first thing you’ll need to do is preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and then put together your breading assembly line. Doing any kind of “breading” process on meat is very simple, but so many people wind up with their yummy coating not sticking and falling off the meat! There’s an easy trick to it, as some may remember from my Parmesan Breaded Chicken (which was a popular hit on Pinterest!): you have to coat the meat in flour first, THEN egg, THEN the breading. Coating in flour first gives the egg something to stick on to, which then makes the breading adhere better!

So, you’ll need three shallow dishes:

Dish 1: 2 tablespoons of flour plus 1 teaspoon of salt plus 1/2 teaspoon of pepper
Dish 2: 1 egg, beaten
Dish 3: 1 heavy cup coconut flakes plus 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans

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MAKE OR BREAK TIP: Adding the salt and pepper to the flour ensures that the flavor is close to the chicken and doesn’t get lost in the breading. Follow this rule any time you’re breading meat, especially with coarser coatings like this one!

Next, prep your chicken. I tend to buy the store brand of chicken breast, and they are HUGE, so I cut one of those babies in half to make two better portioned pieces. Cut two large breasts in half to make four pieces and then get a few tablespoons of canola oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Coat the chicken first in the flour (shake off excess), then the egg, and finally the coconut. You’ll really need to use your hands to coat the chicken thoroughly. Lay each piece carefully in the pan and allow to brown on both sides. (About 2 minutes or so per side.)

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Once the chicken is browned, put the pieces in a glass baking dish, sprinkle with some additional coconut (1/4 cup or so) and bake for 20-25 minutes. (Conveniently, that should be about the time you’re finishing up everything else.)

Next, you’ll need to get your pina colada glaze reducing. In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup pineapple juice, 1/4 cup cream of coconut, 3 tablespoons sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 cup coconut flakes, and 2 ounces of crushed pineapple (1/4 of an 8 oz can). Stir well and keep over high heat, allowing it to boil and then reduce down while you’re making the rice.

KITCHEN TIP: You can find cream of coconut in most liquor stores, or in the section of your grocery store where they sell drink mixers. As my loyal readers know, I’m a bit of an amateur mixologist, so I always have some on hand for when I make tropical drinks!

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I use regular old Uncle Ben’s white rice, which takes about 20 minutes to cook. Put 1 cup of rice and 2 cups of water in a medium saucepan, allow to boil, then cover and reduce heat to low to allow the water to soak into the rice while it cooks. (Otherwise, follow the directions for whatever kind of rice you use.) Once the rice is going, you can work on the rest of the components to make the rice super delish. 🙂

I call it Hawaiian rice, but really, it’s essentially just fried rice with some minor changes… I gave a recipe for excellent fried rice in my Slow Cooker Teriyaki Chicken recipe, but since this is a bit different, here’s a refresher:

Dice 1/4 of a sweet onion and 1/2 a green (or red, or yellow, or orange…) pepper. Put these in a skillet over medium high heat with a few tablespoons of oil. (I just washed the pan I used for the chicken and used that one – less dishes later!) Once these have sweated for about a minute or so, add 3/4 cup frozen peas, stir to distribute, and allow to cook for 4-5 minutes. Just before it’s done, add 1 clove of minced garlic.

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KITCHEN TIP: Buy your peppers in bulk and prep them once your home – I usually like to julienne some and dice the rest. Put them into separate Ziploc freezer bags, labeled with the date, and freeze them! They’ll be good for up to 6 months, and then you can just take out what you need.

Once the veggies are cooked, push them to the side and pan-scramble one egg in the empty space of the pan. It’s not going to look super appetizing, since it’s going to pick up the oils and juices from the vegetables, but don’t worry. The brown stuff is packed with flavor!

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Once the egg is cooked, mix it in with the rest of the vegetables. Add your cooked rice, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper, and 1 tsp ground ginger, along with 6 ounces of crushed pineapple (the rest of the can you opened earlier for the glaze) and 2 tablespoons each of soy sauce and teriyaki sauce. Stir this all together until combined and then remove from the heat.

By the time your chicken is done, your glaze should have reduced nicely. Take the glaze off the heat and get the chicken out of the oven. You’re ready to plate and serve! Top the chicken with the glaze and serve immediately. (You could also double the glaze recipe and add it to the rice, too!)

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I’m not responsible for when this dinner disappears faster than you can blink! Once you get the process down, it works like a well-oiled machine, and I’m sure this will become a staple dinner for your house!

Full recipe:

Coconut Chicken with Pina Colada Glaze and Hawaiian Rice

Yield: 4 servings

Chicken:

2 large chicken breasts, cut in half to make 4 pieces
2 tbsp flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 egg, beaten
1 heavy cup coconut flakes, plus more for sprinkling
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
3 tbsp canola oil, for the pan

Glaze:

1 cup pineapple juice
1/4 cup cream of coconut
3 tbsp sugar
2 ounces crushed pineapple
1/4 cup coconut flakes
1/2 tsp salt

Rice:

1 cup regular white rice
2 cups water
2 tbsp canola oil, for the pan
1/4 onion, diced
1/2 green pepper, diced
3/4 cup frozen peas
1 clove garlic, minced
1 egg
6 ounces crushed pineapple
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp ground ginger
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp teriyaki sauce

Process:

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare breading assembly line by combining flour, salt, and pepper in first dish, beaten egg in second dish, and coconut and pecans in third dish.

2) Coat a large skillet in canola oil and put over medium heat. Bread the chicken by coating first in flour, making sure to shake off the excess, then the egg, and finally the coconut. Use your hands to ensure the chicken is well coated in coconut and then lay each piece carefully into the pan. Brown on each side for about 2 minutes, then transfer to a glass baking dish, top with additional coconut, and bake for 20-25 minutes or until cooked through.

3) In a small saucepan, combine pineapple juice, cream of coconut, sugar, crushed pineapple, coconut flakes, and salt. Stir to combine and bring to boil over high heat and then allow to reduce.

4) In a medium saucepan, add rice and water. Bring to a boil and then cover and reduce heat to low, allowing rice to cook through until all the water is gone.

5) In large skillet, heat canola oil over medium high heat and add onion and pepper, allowing to sweat for a minute before adding frozen peas. Let this cook for 4-5 minutes, then add garlic and cook for one additional minute.

6) Push the vegetables to the side of the pan and pan scramble an egg in the open space, then stir into the vegetables.

7) Once the rice is done, add to the vegetables, along with pineapple, salt, pepper, ginger, soy sauce, and teriyaki sauce. Stir to combine and then remove from heat until ready to serve.

8) After chicken is done baking, remove from oven and plate with the rice. Top chicken with glaze and serve!

French Toast Bread Pudding

So, a few days ago, we had a nice Italian dinner with home-made garlic bread. You know, the kind where you buy the uncut loaf from the store and slice it yourself and coat it in garlic and Parmesan goodness and then bake it. We had so much bread left in the loaf that we had French toast the next morning for breakfast.

And then there was STILL some leftover…

I didn’t want to have boring old French toast again, but the bread really needed to be used up, as it’s really only good for a couple of days, so I got to thinking, what if I made a hybrid of French toast… and bread pudding? I mean, are they really all that different?

And thus, this dish was born.

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Start by preheating your oven to 400 degrees. Take three 1 inch slices of Italian bread and cube them into 1-inch cubes. (It should end up being about 2 cups of bread.) Then, dice up 1/2 a granny smith apple and slice 1 banana into 1/4 inch slices.

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In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together 2 eggs, 1/4 cup milk, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 2 tsp vanilla, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1 tsp cinnamon. (If you like, you can also add 1/2 tsp of almond extract, and/or use almond milk instead of regular milk.)

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To this, add your bread cubes and gently fold them into the egg mixture until they are all coated, then fold in the apples and bananas.

Split 2 tbsp of melted butter between two ramekins and brush it over the bottom and sides, then spoon the bread pudding into each ramekin. Sprinkle the top with cinnamon sugar.

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Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until cooked through and apples have softened. Serve immediately!

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Full Recipe:

French Toast Bread Pudding

Yield: 2 servings

Ingredients:

Three 1-inch slices of Italian bread, cubed (about 2 cups)
1/2 granny smith apple, diced
1 medium-large banana, sliced

2 eggs
1/4 cup milk (or almond milk)
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp almond extract (optional)

2 tbsp melted butter
Cinnamon sugar, for sprinkling

Process:

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2) In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, sugar, cinnamon, salt, and extracts.

3) Fold in the cubed bread to the egg mixture first, then fold in the apples and bananas.

4) Split the melted butter between two ramekins and brush to coat the bottom and sides of each.

5) Spoon the bread pudding into each ramekin and bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until cooked through and apples have softened. Serve immediately.

Baked Lemon Chicken with Parmesan Rice

So remember the Lemon Coconut Cookies and how I hadn’t figured out a “real meal” to use all those lemons?

Yeah. I figured one out. And it is AMAZING.

And it’s seriously SO easy!! Like really, it looks all fancy and stuff but it’s almost as simple as a crockpot dinner. Not even kidding.

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Start by getting a marinade together for your chicken. I used the juice of a whole lemon and the zest of half of it (I saved the other half of the zest for the rice), 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/2 cup orange juice (or any citrus juice you have on hand, really), two smashed cloves of garlic, 1 tsp each of oregano, thyme, and crushed rosemary, and a 1/2 tsp of crushed red pepper, just for a little kick.

MAKE OR BREAK TIP: Put this all in a plastic bag, add your chicken, and seal the bag. Use your hands to make sure it’s all distributed, and then pop it in the fridge for at least an hour. Using a plastic bag means you need less marinade to cover the meat, and it’s much easier clean up and takes up WAY less space in the fridge!

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This recipe serves four, and I used two large chicken breasts cut in half. You could also do four of the kind that are already sliced thinner (like Perdue “Perfect Portions”) – but basically, just make sure there’s four pieces of meat that are each reasonably sized for one person.

After your chicken has marinated for a while, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a baking pan by coating it with about a tablespoon of olive oil, and take another lemon and slice 8 thin (1/4 inch or so) slices. Place the chicken in the pan (discard the marinade), sprinkle with salt and pepper, and then put 2 lemon slices on each piece of chicken.

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Bake for 40-50 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

As for the rice, when you have about 15-20 minutes left to go on your chicken cooking time, go ahead and put 1 cup of uncooked white rice, 1 cup of water, and 1 cup of milk into a sauce pan. Bring it to a boil, add your leftover lemon zest from earlier, the juice of whatever was left of the lemon you used for your slices on the chicken, and a tablespoon of salt. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and let the liquid absorb.

MAKE OR BREAK TIP: Using milk as part of your liquid to cook the rice makes it thicker and creamier! Remember that rice just needs a boiling liquid to cook in – it doesn’t necessarily have to be just water!

Once the rice is almost done, add another teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of thyme, a teaspoon of oregano, and a 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Stir these in, and then add 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese. Stir this in until it has melted and then remove the rice from the heat.

Once your chicken is done, take it out of the oven and let it cool for just a minute.

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Spoon rice onto each plate, then use tongs to place a piece of chicken over each bed of rice. Serve immediately and enjoy!

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This would really be super with some blanched green beans, or asparagus, or even a nice side salad, if you’re looking for something green to color it up! I just only had the energy for two dish components this time 😉

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This will become a house favorite – I guarantee it!

Full Recipes:

Baked Lemon Chicken

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

2 large chicken breasts, cut in half lengthwise
Juice of 1 lemon, zest of half of it
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup orange juice
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp crushed rosemary
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
8 thin lemon slices

Process:

1) In a plastic bag, combine lemon juice/zest, olive oil, juice, garlic, oregano, thyme, rosemary, and red pepper flakes. Add chicken, seal bag, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

2) Once the chicken has marinated, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a baking pan with 1 tbsp olive oil.

3) Place chicken side by side in the pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then top with lemon slices.

4) Bake for 40-50 minutes or until cooked through. Serve over rice.

And for the rice…

Lemon Parmesan Rice

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

1 cup uncooked white rice
1 cup water
1 cup milk
1 tbsp salt
Zest & juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 tsp salt
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Process:

1) Add rice, water, and milk to a saucepan. Bring to a boil.

2) Add 1 tbsp salt and lemon zest/juice. Cover, and let simmer until liquid is almost all absorbed.

3) Once rice is almost done, add 1 tsp salt, thyme, oregano, and pepper. Stir to combine, and then stir in Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

Roasted Red Potato Wedges

The Irish blood in me makes me a big fan of potatoes. I mean, a huge fan. Mashed, fried, roasted, grilled, doesn’t matter. When they’re done right, potatoes can be one of the most versatile staple foods ever.

And these roasted potato wedges are done all kinds of right.

This is just a little mini post to hold you over until tomorrow’s showstopper… 🙂 Start by getting your oven preheating to 400 degrees, and then get to work!

The great thing about potatoes is that usually it’s pretty easy to judge how many to use – one medium-large potato for every person you’re planning on serving. In my case, I used four and cut them into wedges. (You could also do cubes, or diced, but wedges work best with tomorrow’s dish!) Red potatoes are my favorite, but this would work with almost any kind.

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Put your wedges into a large bowl and pour about 1/4 cup of olive oil overtop, and then add spices. I used salt, pepper, garlic, oregano (about 1 tsp of each of those), parsley flakes (2 tsp) and then a dash or two of cayenne, for a little heat. Toss the potatoes with the oil and spices until they are coated. I do this by holding the bowl in my hands and jerking it upward in a circular motion so the potatoes “jump” out of the bowl and back in again, but if that sounds too risky to you, just use a large spoon!

Tossed Wedges

Prepare a baking sheet by laying a sheet of non-stick foil on it. (It HAS to be non-stick. Trust me, it will make life so much easier!) Lay the potatoes out on the foil, ensuring they are all laying on a cut side and not on a skin side. They should all be able to fit in one layer. If they don’t, find a bigger baking sheet, or use two.

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Bake them for about 45 minutes or until they are starting to crisp at the edges and turn golden. That’s it! Super easy, and very little hands-on time. The hardest part is waiting for them to bake! Check back tomorrow for the ahh-maz-ing main course these potatoes and yesterday’s coleslaw are going to pair with!!

Fun fact, when the weather is warmer, these are great to do on the grill, also!

Full Recipe:

Roasted Potato Wedges

Yield: 4 Servings

Ingredients:

4 medium to large red potatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp oregano
2 tsp parsley flakes
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Process:

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with non-stick foil.

2) Cut potatoes into wedges. Each potato should make about 8-10 wedges.

3) Put wedges in a large bowl and dress with olive oil and spices. Toss to coat.

4) Lay wedges on prepared baking sheet, ensuring a cut side is facing down (and not the skin side) on each wedge.

5) Bake for 45 minutes or until edges are crispy and wedges are golden brown. They should be crispy on the outside and nice and fluffy on the inside!