Thursday, February 23, 2012

Mediterranean Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Spinach

I really love this combination of flavors.

I was always wary of goat cheese, until I had it at The Green Well in GR several years ago and loved it.  Combining it with the cream cheese and adding all of these delish ingredients also mellows out the flavor, so for those of you who were skittish, this is a good gateway recipe for goat cheese.  This comes from a weekly email I get with healthy recipes from AICR.  I had a similar, but more decadent version of this at Vino Cappuccino a long time ago, and they served with with risotto.  I think some couscous would be good (and easier), too. 

Mediterranean Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Spinach
4 (4-oz.) chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
1/2 tsp. dried Italian spices, divided
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, divided
Salt to taste, optional
4 tsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 garlic clove, minced       
1/2 cup frozen spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed dry
3 Tbsp. chopped and drained sun-dried tomatoes
2 Tbsp. herbed goat cheese
2 Tbsp. reduced-fat cream cheese
16 toothpicks (or however many are needed)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice into chicken breasts at thickest part to create a pocket, being careful not to cut all the way through.  Season chicken with 1/4 teaspoon of the Italian spices, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and salt, if using. Cover with clear wrap and set aside. 

In large skillet heat 2 teaspoons olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic. Cook for about 1 minute or until light golden brown, being careful not to burn. Add spinach and stir with oil and garlic. Then add tomatoes along with remaining spices and pepper. Stir well and cook for about 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Add cheeses and fold well to create stuffing for chicken breasts.  Divide stuffing evenly among chicken breasts, using toothpicks to secure the opening with about 4 per breast to ensure stuffing remains inside. Work with each breast until all are stuffed and closed with toothpicks. 

In heavy bottomed, oven proof pan, heat remaining olive oil over medium-high heat for 1 to 2 minutes, making sure pan is really hot but not smoking. Lower heat to medium and add one breast at a time, making sure there is enough room in pan to thoroughly brown breasts. Cook on first side for about 4 minutes and then turn over for another 4 minutes. Do not flip chicken more than once or meat will dry out and filling might fall out. Brown chicken in batches if necessary.  Once chicken is browned, turn off heat.

Place pan in oven. Bake for about 15 minutes or until thermometer in the thickest part reads 170 degrees.  Take chicken out and let rest for about 5 minutes covered with tented foil before serving. Make sure to remove toothpicks. Spoon any juices left in bottom of baking dish over top of chicken. Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 220 calories, 9 g total fat (3 g saturated fat), 3 g carbohydrate,
29 g protein, 1 g dietary fiber, 190 mg sodium

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