Monday, September 17, 2012

I Love Green...That Is All

Green...It is absolutely, positively my most favorite color... without a doubt... It is the color of our bedroom. It is the color of my dress in my profile picture.  It is the color of my future child's nursery.  No, I am not pregnant.  No, I do not plan on being pregnant for a while.  Yes, I do have my unborn child's nursery designed in my head. No judging!

With having said this, I also love to eat green food.  Leafy greens contain so many vitamins and minerals, including iron, magnesium, calcium, as well as, Vitamin K that protects your bones from osteoporosis.  Lets be honest though...sometimes it is just plain difficult to make them taste good.  Okay... here goes!

Chicken Pesto Pasta... with a twist.  When people think of pesto, they think: basil, Parmesan, pine nuts, garlic, and olive oil.  Now, don't get me wrong, that kind of pesto is very delicious, but pesto can be made out practically any leafy green out there.  

This recipe makes enough for two batches.  I usually save half of the pesto and freeze it for an easy dinner in a week or two.  Start off with one to two garlic cloves.  Garlic has been shown to protect against various cancers, including breast, prostate, and colon cancer.

Add one cup of Parmesan cheese.  Parmesan has more protein and less fat than most cheese.

Add 1/3 of a cup of chopped walnuts.  Walnuts contain large quantities of Vitamin E which has powerful antioxidant effects and is high in protein and fiber.  

Pulse the mixture until it looks crumbly.  If I am feeling truly sinful, I add a dash of Siracha.  It adds another layer of flavor and keeps things interesting.  I love it both ways; it just depends on my ever fluctuating mood.

Add half of a bag of fresh spinach and pulse until it is combined along with black pepper.  I do not add salt to this pesto.  Every single time I have, I have regretted it.  It turns out way too salty, and I wake up in the middle of the night dying of thirst.  The parmesan adds enough salt to add flavor and with the punch of the garlic, you will not miss the extra sodium.  Oh...and your kidneys told me to tell you, "Thank you."

Add the second half of the bag and pulse.  It may not combine completely so add a few TBSP of extra virgin olive oil and it should turn into creamy, dreamy goodness.

Now, oils in general are not placed in a "healthy" category, but as Momma always says, "Everything in moderation."  Olive oil contains Vitamin E like what is in walnuts.  It has been shown to promote healthy digestion and balance fatty acids in your diet.  Studies have shown that it lowers your LDL cholesterol ("bad cholesterol") and increases your HDLs ("good cholesterol").

Oooo Ahhhh... creamy green love

Take 2 whole chicken breasts and trim them of their excess fat

Slice them into long strips

Coat the bottom of the pan with the pesto

Place the chicken strips in the pan

And cover the chicken with more of the pesto.  Like I said previously, I made extra pesto so I could save it for another quick, weeknight supper.  The other half is nestled safely in my freezer... for now

Did you know green was my favorite color?  I seriously had so many pictures of just the pesto on the raw chicken meat.  I just loved the contrast of the colors.

At this point I added some shredded mozzerella and covered the pan with tin foil.  Place the pan in a 375 degree oven for 25 minutes.  Remove the foil and let the top brown in the oven for another 10 to 15 minutes.   

The addition of mozzarella is 100% optional.  It does not add a nutritional benefit to this dish...but why wouldn't you?

Spinach Pesto Chicken

1 bag of fresh spinach
2 chicken breasts
2 cloves of garlic
1 cup of grated parmesan cheese
1/3 cup of walnuts
3 TBSP of extra virgin olive oil
dash of black pepper
1/2 cup of mozzerella cheese (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F

Add parmesan, walnuts, and garlic to your food processor and chop until crumbly.  Add 1/2 the bag of spinach and puree to incorporate it into your mixture.  Add black pepper, the other 1/2 of the bag of spinach, and the olive oil.  Puree until smooth.  Use half of this mixture for the rest of this recipe and store the other half of the mixture for later use.

Trim your chicken breasts of the excess fat.  Cut the chicken into long strips.  Coat the bottom of your baking dish with the prepared pesto and layer the chicken strips on top.  Add more of the pesto on top of the chicken.  Sprinkle the top with mozzerella cheese and cover the baking dish with tin foil.  Bake in the oven for 25 minutes and remove the foil.  Continue to cook the chicken for another 10-15 minutes until the chicken is cooked all the way through and the cheese has browned to your liking on top.

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