Thursday, January 31, 2013

Spinach Artichoke Dip Stuffed Chicken Breasts

I just LOVE spinach artichoke dip; and that got me thinking about trying to use it as a filling.  When it is really good, it has many of the elements we prize in a dish:  color, texture, flavor, creaminess, and complexity.  So why not use that to dress up our poor little "blank slate" chicken breasts?!   Sounds like it might be worth a shot, huh?

I suppose this could get a little complicated, but we are going to take some short-cuts here to making this delicious Spinach Artichoke Chicken quickly... as in "you just got off of work and need to make dinner, shuttle kids to games, and help with homework" quick.  Rather than make my Spinach Artichoke Dip from scratch, I am just going to pick up a prepared container of it at the market.  I know, I know... please don't shake your head in disappointment.  This is an after work recipe!  Stay with me!

Here is the video tutorial:

Print this recipe! 

Ingredients:  
  • skinless boneless chicken breasts, trimmed of fat
  • prepared spinach artichoke dip
  • To taste:  salt, pepper, garlic powder, dried basil 
  • 1 can of medium artichoke hearts (packed in water), drained
  • 1 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp all purpose flour
  • 2 - 3 large cloves of garlic, minced fine
  • handful of grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups grated mozzarella cheese 
  • handful of fresh basil, cut into ribbons




Step-by-Step:
Use a sharp knife to create a pocket into each chicken breast, being careful to not slice all the way through it. 

Stuff each pocket with a large spoon of spinach artichoke dip.  I didn't measure it.  It will depend on the size of each of your chicken breasts. 
Use two toothpicks to close up each breast to contain the dip.  
Arrange them in an oven safe casserole dish that you have sprayed with a little cooking spray.  Season each breast liberally with kosher salt, black pepper, dried basil, and a little garlic powder. 
Kosher salt...

Black pepper...

Dried basil...
Garlic powder...
In a medium sized bowl, combine the drained artichoke hearts with the halved tomatoes, olive oil, flour, minced garlic, dried basil, salt and pepper.
1 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved.
1 can of medium sized artichoke hearts, drained and quartered.

2 Tbsp all purpose flour.  This will help to soak up and thicken the juices as the dish cooks.
2 - 3 large cloves of garlic, minced.
Season with 3 Tbsp olive oil, kosher salt, black pepper, dried basil.

Top the chicken breasts with the artichoke tomato mixture.

Bake the chicken uncovered until an internal thermometer in the thickest part of the chicken reads about 155 degrees F.  The time will depend on how large or thick your chicken breasts are! 
Remove the chicken from the oven...         Note - the chicken is NOT fully cooked yet!
  Top the whole dish with a handful of grated Parmesan cheese and 2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
Then return it to the oven uncovered until the internal chicken temperature reaches 165 degrees F.  
Top the chicken with fresh basil ribbons. 
Serve hot and gooey!!



Alternate Method: I used the oven to cook the chicken and vegetables because it may be a better "busy mom" option for those of you who may be helping with homework or school projects.  But if you have two hands available to you, another idea would be to cook the stuffed, seasoned chicken breasts in a searing hot black iron skillet in a little olive oil and butter first. Then, I would deglaze with a little white wine or chicken broth to make a lovely sauce. Then reduce the heat and add the tomatoes and artichoke hearts to the sauce! This is what makes cooking fun... being able to do things however you want to! Don't care for artichokes? Try fresh asparagus spears or zucchini.

PS... They were even better as leftovers! :)

Looking for more chicken and/or pasta recipes?  Check out my Recipe Index for tons of ideas, with step-by-step tutorials and many that have video tutorials as well! 

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May I recommend....
Spinach Artichoke Dip    (the homemade one is always better when you have the time!)
Roasted Red Pepper and Basil Pesto Penne
Creamy Chicken Piccata
 Spicy Garlic Shrimp


Method:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Use a sharp knife to create a pocket into each chicken breast, being careful to not slice all the way through it.  Stuff each pocket with a large spoon of spinach artichoke dip.  I didn't measure it.  It will depend on the size of each of your chicken breasts.

Use two toothpicks to close up each breast to contain the dip.  Season each breast liberally with kosher salt, black pepper, dried basil, and a little garlic powder.  Arrange them in an oven safe casserole dish that you have sprayed with a little cooking spray.  In a medium sized bowl, combine the drained artichoke hearts with the halved tomatoes, olive oil, flour, minced garlic, dried basil, salt and pepper.  Top the chicken breasts with the artichoke tomato mixture.

Bake the chicken uncovered until an internal thermometer in the thickest part of the chicken reads about 155 degrees F.  The time will depend on how large or thick your chicken breasts are!  Remove the chicken from the oven, top the whole dish with the grated mozzarella cheese, then return it to the oven uncovered until the internal chicken temperature reaches 165 degrees F. Top the chicken with fresh basil ribbons.


Sunday, January 27, 2013

Blueberry Lemon Bars

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These dainty Meyer lemon bars are made extra special with the addition of fresh blueberries and a toasted coconut shortbread cookie crust! 

There are SO many recipes around for lemon bars, that it is really hard to know where to start!  But when I came across a recipe by Mountain Mama Cooks for lemon bars with toasted coconut in the crust, I KNEW it was the one for me!!  Then, I kicked it up a notch with the addition of a big handful of fresh juicy blueberries.  They add a wonderful color and texture balance, and just a hint of tartness to balance out the sweet lemony filling.  Keep in mind that Meyer lemons are not quite as tart as regular lemons, and a little sweeter.  They are a like a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange.

Ingredients:
Crust -
  •  2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup shredded coconut, toasted and cooled
  • 12 Tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) chilled butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
Filling -
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 Tbsp lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup Meyer lemon juice
  • 2 tsp all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup fresh blueberries + 1 tsp flour to dust (or cornstarch)
Note - Meyer lemons are not as sour and tart as regular lemons.  If you are using regular lemons, you may want to either cut back on the amount of lemon juice or add more sugar.

Step-by-Step:
Crust -
Add the coconut into a rimmed pan and broil to toast (~ 6 minutes total), shaking the coconut around every couple of minutes.  Watch it carefully!  
1 cup shredded, sweetened coconut

Toasted coconut... yum!!
Combine flour, sugar, salt, and coconut in a food processor.  
2 cups flour

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt

1 cup toasted and cooled coconut
Pulse to combine.
Then add the cold cubes of butter and pulse until the whole mixture resembles wet sand and begins to clump together a little bit. 
12 Tbsp cold butter, cut into 1/2" squares.
Press the dough into the baking dish.  You can use your fingers, or a meat pounder, or even the bottom of a drinking glass.  
 

Bake the crust at 350 F for 25 minutes.
You want a nice uniform thickness.
Filling -
Into the food processor combine sugar, eggs, lemon zest and juice, flour, baking powder, and salt.
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

4 eggs

3 Tbsp lemon jest (I needed 4 lemons for this.  You may need more lemons depending on their size.)

1/2 cup Meyer lemon juice

2 tsp flour
1 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp salt
Process this mixture on low until well mixed and smooth.   Pour the filling over the warm crust.

In a small bowl, dust the blueberries in a little flour and shake the excess off.  The flour will help to keep the blueberries from bleeding.  
1/4 cup fresh blueberries

A little flour or cornstarch.  No need to really measure.

 Add the floured blueberries, and return the dish to the oven.  Bake for another 25 minutes uncovered.
 
Cool completely.  Use a sharp knife to go around the short ends of the dish where the filling is in contact with the dish, then use the parchment to lift the whole thing out.  Cut into squares or bars. Garnish with powdered sugar.  I actually let mine cool overnight in the fridge.  
 




Written Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 F degrees.  Line the bottom of a 9 x 13" baking dish with parchment paper, allowing it to come up the sides.  Later, we will use that to pull the whole dessert out of the dish. Add the coconut into a rimmed pan and broil to toast (~ 6 minutes total), shaking the coconut around every couple of minutes.  Watch it carefully! 

To make the crust - combine flour, sugar, salt, and coconut in a food processor.  Pulse to combine.  Then add the cold cubes of butter and pulse until the whole mixture resembles wet sand and begins to clump together a little bit.  Press the dough into the baking dish.  Bake crust for 25 minutes at 350 F. 

While the crust is baking, make the filling - Into the food processor (clean first, please), combine sugar, eggs, lemon zest and juice, flour, baking powder, and salt.  Process this mixture on low until well mixed and smooth.  In a small bowl, dust the blueberries in a little flour and shake the excess off.  The flour will help to keep the blueberries from bleeding. 

Pour the filling over the warm crust, add the floured blueberries, and return the dish to the oven.  Bake for another 25 minutes uncovered.  Cool completely and garnish with powdered sugar.  Use a sharp knife to go around the short ends of the dish where the filling is in contact with the dish, then use the parchment to lift the whole thing out.  Cut into squares or bars.  

Looking for more great desserts to satisfy your sweet tooth?
Mississippi Mud Puddles
 Homemade Snickers Bars
Double Chocolate Pecan Pie
Lily's Blackberry Cobbler
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