Baked Pesto Chicken

Obviously, I love food and love to eat, but I have decided to put my bad habits on hold for a little while. This winter I have spent so much money eating out during the week and on weekends. I stopped going to the grocery store because my food was going bad and I was never home long enough to make anything. I would eat lunch at work and then meet friends out for dinners. While I love the social aspect of going out to dinner and meeting up with friends after work, I realized not only my budget, but my waist line was starting to feel the effects. I finally decided last week to go to the grocery, make food for my lunches so they are ready to go and force myself to head home or to yoga after work. I wasn’t perfect, but I did do a lot better than I had been.

A few of my friends had been wanting to get together for dinner this past week, so I suggested we make dinner at my place. I had food left from my grocery run and everyone pitched in. My friend Caroline had been craving pesto, and luckily  I hadn’t made it yet for my recipe collection so it was the perfect dinner idea!

Mix basil, olive oil, salt, pepper, Parmesan (or Romano) cheese, and pine nuts in a food processor.

Make sure to blend well and continue to add ingredients based on the taste. I tasted my pesto several times before deciding it was done. I also didn’t follow a recipe. I bought some Basil, a bag of pine nuts and just mixed the ingredients together slowly, and not all at once. You can also use spinach instead of basil if you are on a budget. I had some great suggestions from people on Twitter for making pesto and using spinach was one I had never heard of. Also, if you have any leftover, you can freeze in ice-cube trays and use later. This was a great tip from a co-worker who also has some great recipes to share!

Baked Pesto Chicken

4 Boneless Chicken Breasts

For the Pesto:

Fresh Basil

Pine Nuts

Olive Oil

Salt

Pepper

Romano or Parmesan Cheese

Blend pesto ingredients together or you can use pesto from the store. In a baking dish, spray dish with Pam (cl) and then cover the bottom lightly with pesto. Add the cleaned chicken breasts and cover with the remaining pesto. Sprinkle the cheese over the top and cover with aluminum foil. Bake at 350° for 35-40 minutes. Make sure to check the chicken after about 30 minutes and adjust time accordingly. It took about 45 minutes in my oven and I removed the aluminum foil after about 30 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

With spring right around the corner I know it is going to be hard to keep up with my new plan of eating at home and being more active, but hopefully I can stick with it and stick to my budget…!  Wish me luck.

Lucia

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Redemption

It was a long weekend, but I still was excited to make a new meal…that is until I realized I forgot the main ingredient in my Strata….

For dinner tonight, I decided to make a Broccoli Rabe Pesto Strata and homemade biscuits.  The dinner started off rocky when I realized I did not buy enough basil for the pesto, but thankfully Ryan ran to the store for me and bought more.  So, while Ryan was out buying the basil, I started making the biscuits.  I was trying to do about three things at once, and not having the basil really threw me off.  I got a little flustered and was hurrying to get dinner finished because it was getting late and everyone was hungry.  I finished the pesto and even though I didn’t have enough basil, it was pretty good.

Homemade Biscuits

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients:

2 cups flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp fine sea salt

1/2 cup cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch dice

2/3 cup whole milk

Preheat the oven to 450°.  Lightly grease a baking sheet with butter.

Ina large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  With your fingertips, rub the cold butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal, handling it as little as possible.  Stir in the milk and blend with a spoon just until all the liquid has been absorbed.  With lightly floured hands, work the dough briefly until it barely holds together in a flaky ball.

Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface.  Roll or pat the dough out into a round about 1/2 inch thick. With a 2-inch biscuit cutter or the rim of a glass, cut out as many rounds as possible.  Father up the scraps, work into a cohesive ball, re-roll, and cut out more rounds. do not re-roll the dough more than once, or you will end up with tough biscuits.  Transfer the biscuits to the prepared baking sheet and bake in the center of the oven until golden brown, about 15 minutes.  Serve immediately.

Broccoli Rabe, Pesto and Smoked Mozzarella Strata


Ingredients:

3/4 lb broccoli rabe, thick stems removed

5 slices sourdough bread, about 1/2 inch thick, crusts removed

1/4 cup pesto

1 1/2 cups shredded smoked mozzarella cheese

1 cup whole milk

2/3 cup heavy double cream

4 large eggs

2 tsp Dijon mustard

Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Bring a large saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil.  Add the broccoli rabe and blanch until almost tender, about 5 minutes.  Drain immediately and rinse under cold running water until cool throughout.  Gather into a ball and squeeze out as much water as possible.  Chop the broccoli rabe coarsely.

Generously grease a 7-by-1 inch or similar-sized baking dish, and place about 2 1/2 slices of the bread in the base, cutting as necessary to make an even layer.  Spread the broccoli rabe evenly over the bread.  Add the pesto in dollops, spacing them evenly.  Scatter with half of the smoked mozzarella and top with the remaining bread, again cutting to fit.

In a large bowl, combine the milk, cream, eggs, mustard, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a generous grinding of pepper. Whisk vigorously until smooth.  Pour the custard mixture over the bread and use the back of a large, flat spoon to press the bread down into the custard mixture.  Cover the baking dish with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F.  Press the bread down into the custard after about 15 minutes, and again just before placing in the oven.

Sprinkle the top within the remaining cheese.  Bake until puffed, golden, and crisp, about 45 minutes.  Let stand for 5 minutes, then cut into squares and serve.

 

The biscuits were pretty easy to make and I was happy to just put them aside.  I was so excited the pesto turned out (I have never made pesto before), I got a little over zealous and quickly finished the Strata.  I put it in the oven and just relaxed.  After about 30 minutes I got up to check on the Strata and started to get a little anxiety.  I couldn’t figure out why I felt like I did something wrong, so I got out the cookbook and realized….I forgot the egg mixture.  The main part of the dish, and I just didn’t make it.  The strata was already cooked, but I decided to add the egg mixture with more bread and more cheese and put it back in the oven at a higher temperature for about 20 minutes.

Thankfully, it turned out great!  I had redeemed myself in the kitchen and couldn’t believe it actually turned out, and tasted pretty good!   My biggest fan, Alyssa, loved it!  It’s so nice cooking for her because she just LOVES my food (you’re the best and I’m glad you found your key).

So glad he was in town and able to try one of my meals!

Another day in the kitchen, another adventure, and many more lessons!  Excited for another adventure this week…just waiting for my inspiration.