Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Spinach and Two Kinds of Cheese

This was one of the first recipes I came up with when my husband and I decided to eat a low-carb diet.  The skinless, boneless chicken breast is a staple in a lot of kitchens.  It is easy to prepare, low in fat and high in protein.  It can also be a little lacking in flavor, easily over-cooked and can end up tough and dry.   For these, reasons I created my stuffing to be super flavorful with a base of sauteed onions, garlic and spinach.  To this, I add Feta cheese for a salty, tangy kick and Ricotta cheese for its creamy texture.  Both Feta and Ricotta cheeses are lower in fat than a lot of other cheeses and spinach is a great source of vitamins K, A, C and high in Iron and Potassium.  I then bake the chicken in a glass baking pan to keep the natural juices of the chicken from cooking off so it remains juicy and delicious.  This is a super easy, healthy and tasty way to elevate the chicken breast.  It also looks gorgeous enough to serve to company but it is easy enough to prepare for a weeknight meal for one.

Here is what you need:

3-4 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts - butterflied (tutorial below)
2 cups raw Spinach Leaves or 1 box of frozen Spinach - drained
1 small Onion - chopped
2 cloves of Garlic - minced
1/3 cup Ricotta Cheese
1/3 cup Feta Cheese
1/2 tsp of Salt - divided
1/2 tsp of pepper - divided
2 tbsp of Olive Oil - divided

Here is what you will do:
Butterfly the chicken breasts and prepare the stuffing.  Season chicken and cook in a glass baking pan at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until the internal temperature of the chicken is 165 degrees.
Serves 3-4

The first thing to do is butterfly your chicken breasts, which is actually really easy even though it can sound intimidating.  Grab a silicon or plastic cutting board and locate the thickest side of the chicken breast.  Get your sharpest knife and place one hand on the top of the breast and start slowly slicing it in half.  When the breast starts to split, take the top flap and peel it back so you can see where you are cutting.  Then continue slicing, being careful not to slice all the way through.  I use the tip of the knife to get into the bottom part of the breast too.  You want the chicken breast to lay flat almost in a triangle shape. 
 Start slowly on the thickest side of the breast.
 When you have sliced through enough to lift a flap, hold it up so you can see where your knife is going.
 I like to use the tip of my knife to get to the edge and the bottom of the breast without going all the way through.
Continue this method with the rest of your chicken breasts.
If you make a mistake or cut through the side or the bottom, it is OK.  This is a very forgiving dish and mistakes are easy to hide by moving the chicken and stuffing around.

Now that the hard part is over, we can start our stuffing.  Wash hands and heat 1 tbsp of oil in a pan over medium heat, then add onions and garlic.  Add 1/4 tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp of pepper.  Cook this until the onions are translucent.

Add your spinach to the pan.  You will need to add it in two batches so there is room.  It seems like a ton of raw spinach, but it cooks down so much.  You can also use frozen spinach here, just make sure to squeeze the excess water out before adding it to the pan.
It does not seem like so much spinach now.

Once your spinach has wilted and cooked through, transfer the mixture to a glass or heat safe bowl.  Add your Feta and Ricotta Cheeses and mix it all up.

Divide the mixture and place right in the center of the chicken breasts.  Now pull up the top flap of the chicken and fold over the mixture as best you can.  Your hands will get a little messy here because you want to really to work the mixture under the flap.  It is totally OK if the top of the chicken does not cover all of the stuffing though. 

I only had three breasts, so mine were a little full.  This is actually not a problem in my book though.

Now, transfer your chicken to your glass baking pan.  Don't forget to wash your hands before handling anything after you have touched the chicken.  I have a phobia of chicken juices being transferred and obsessively wash my hands when I am working with chicken.  Once your chicken is in the pan and your hands are washed, it is time to season.  Drizzle 1 tbsp of olive oil over the breasts and season with the remaining salt and pepper.  We want to season well so the actual chicken has flavor too.

You can secure your breasts with a toothpick before cooking, but it is not necessary.

Bake the chicken at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes or until the chickens internal temperature is 165 degrees.  

If you used a toothpick to secure, remove and serve.
So much flavor packed into one chicken breast.

This is a fantastic way to eat a low-carb, healthy dish that is packed with flavor and different textures.  I sure hope you try this and love it as much as I do!