Monday, May 2, 2011

Chicken with garlic spinach & cheese

Lately I feel like I've been in a chicken funk... or rather, no-chicken funk.  I've been attracted to every other kind of meat and protein, some of which I don't regularly cook with, and this has led to some exciting culinary pursuits: savory oatmeal with eggscrab cakesherb-marinated pork roast!  Very different, yes, but also equally delicious and unique.  Between you and me, I could eat crab cakes  But, between you and me, I don't think I can afford justify $15/pound for enough crab meat to sustain me week in and week out.  Not yet, anyway.

Enter the always-affordable and infinitely adaptable chicken.  I once proclaimed that if I could only eat three foods for the rest of my life, they'd be 1) string cheese, 2) bananas, and 3) chicken.  Yep, surprising and strangely simple.  I think that proclamation stems from my eating habits during sophomore year of college.  The dining options on campus were plentiful, but after about a week, Pizza Hut, Subway, Chick-fil-A wore out their welcome.  So I survived mostly on grilled chicken because everything else was too heavy and greasy for everyday consumption.

While grilled chicken is great simply seasoned with olive oil, salt and pepper, it can become a bit predictable and bland.  I'm always looking for ways to spice up ordinary chicken.  Ham and Swiss chicken rouladesProscuitto-wrapped chickenOrange brown sugar chickenCoconut chicken!  And, goodness, they are all so absolutely tasty that I could've picked any one to make again.  But, where would the fun in that be?  After all, I wanted to turn over a new leaf and share something with you.

Behold, chicken with garlicky spinach and melted mozzarella cheese!

Individually, the ingredients are nothing out of the ordinary, nothing that will stop you in your tracks.  But, together, they create an aromatic chicken dish that will lure you into the kitchen. 

Frozen chopped spinach has become one of my heroes in the kitchen.  Inexpensive, gorgeous, and packed with vitamins.  Quickly sauteed with some garlic and it becomes the most delicious side you could imagine.

I divided the spinach among the tops of the chicken breasts and added some mozzarella cheese!  Just look at that melty, gooey potential.

Confession: There would've been a whole lot more cheese had I been smart and checked my supply before starting dinner.  You see, a certain little bird came to visit and was hungry and may have nibbled on some mozzarella.  Though I blame myself for not warning him and then checking.  Fail.  So, add as much cheese as you want/have on hand.  You won't be sorry!

Thankfully, the chicken turned out splendidly.  I served it over some cooked pasta.  Look at those cute noodles!  Matt and I both agreed that eating these noodles made us feel like we were 8 years old again.  New favorite pasta shape is radiatore, for sure.  Another quick weeknight meal for the books!

Chicken with Spinach and Melted Mozzarella
(adapted from Gina)
-makes 4 to 6 servings

Ground black pepper
1 teaspoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
10-ounce package frozen spinach, thawed and drained well
3 oz shredded part skim mozzarella
Nonstick cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400°.  Season chicken with salt and pepper and place on lined cookie sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Bake chicken10-12 minutes or until cooked through, careful not to overcook and dry out the chicken.

Meanwhile, heat a sauté pan on medium heat. Add oil and garlic, sauté a few seconds, add spinach, salt and pepper. Cook a few minutes until heated through.

When chicken is done, remove from oven.  Divide spinach evenly between the 6 pieces and place on top. Divide mozzarella evenly among top of chicken breasts and bake until melted, about 6-8 minutes.  Serve over pasta, if desired.

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