Spinach And Artichoke Stuffed Chicken Rolls

One of my favorite proteins that’s so versatile is chicken.  With that being said, I will share one of my favorite chicken recipes every Thursday with you all!  Chicken is one of the most popular proteins eaten.  It’s great because it’s high in protein and lower in fat depending on the cut of chicken you are using.

When I was in culinary school the instructor always commented about how most people felt chicken was one of the hardest proteins to prepare.  I know those awesome cooks out there are probably laughing at the comment, I definitely did too.  The reasoning why is that chicken can be very hard to cook perfectly. Most of the times people either overcook the chicken and it’s dry or under cooked the chicken and it’s pink.  It can be difficult to cook to perfection where it’s white but still glistening and tender and moist all at the same time.  It’s really trial and error, the more you cook chicken the better you’ll get at making it perfect.

Each week I’ll post one of my favorite chicken recipes I’ve made over the years. Some will be simple while others are a little more complex but all will be delicious! 🙂 Today we’ll start with my first one, Stuffed Spinach and Artichoke chicken breast.  I know that making a stuffed chicken breast can sometimes be intimidating.  It takes a few more steps and more patience than I was use to giving years ago.  I’ve since made stuffed chicken often and it’s gotten easier.  This recipe is pretty standard and not too difficult.  Why not give it a try! Feel free to send me an email or comment with questions.

Spinach And Artichoke Stuffed Chicken Rolls

Ingredients:
6 thin chicken breasts
1 package frozen spinach- (thawed, excess liquid drained) or 1 1/2 fresh, cooked
10-12 artichoke hearts, chopped
4 cheese spread wedges (Garlic and Herb lite) or 4T of cream cheese
4T Romano cheese, grated
3T panko breadcrumbs ( I used Italian seasoned)
1/2T garlic powder
1/2T onion powder
Pinch: Salt and Pepper

Directions: Make sure you squeeze out any extra liquid from the spinach, you can do this with a towel or a paper towel. Add spinach, chopped artichokes, cheese spread wedges, Romano cheese, garlic and onion powder and salt and pepper.  Mix until creamy.  Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375°.  Take chicken breasts and pound out until thin.  You will want them to be pliable.  Season the chicken with salt and pepper and spread the spinach mixture over the chicken.  Leave some room along the edges of the chicken, this will make it easier to roll. Roll the chicken breasts up and added seam side up to baking dish. Sprinkle finished chicken rolls with the panko breadcrumbs.

Bake at 375° for 35-45 minutes until no longer pink.  This is why I have the chicken seam side up to be able to check easier if the chicken is done.  (Note: Cooking times will vary based on thickness and oven temps)

Note: You can substitute the cheese wedges for regular cream cheese.  You can also use other white cheeses like feta, mozzarella, Swiss, etc.  This will not give the mixture as creamy of a texture but will still come out fine.  You can also use fresh spinach.  The first time I ever made this I only had frozen spinach and I wanted to make right away, so I settled for that.  You can also omit the breadcrumb if you prefer, I just like the crunch texture.

Enjoy!

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Meal Prepping 101- Lunch

Meal Prepping 101

I’ve been cooking for so long now and preparing healthy foods that I get a lot of questions from family, friends and those on social media regarding my meal prepping. I’ve been doing it on and off for probably 2 years now. Honestly, it really is the best way to try and stay on track eating wise or to even just reduce the stress of figuring out your breakfast, lunch or dinners during the work week. In this post, I will give you some tips on how I meal prep and what foods I make for lunches. Keep in mind this can be altered to your preferences of food style (low carb, high protein, vegetarian etc) and likes and dislikes.

You can meal prep your lunches for just the work week or for the full week (including weekends.) I typically only do the meal prep lunches Monday through Friday.

The first thing I do when I’m meal prepping is make a list of what I want for the week. I usually pick 2 proteins, 2 carbohydrates and 2 vegetables and then I choose the cooking style. I try and keep the meal as balanced as possible. Sometimes I will omit the carbohydrate and double the vegetables.  Frozen vegetables can be an alternative to making them fresh just to cut down on time.  I don’t ever use canned vegetables for my meal prep, however if you choose to use canned make sure that you use the no salt option otherwise it’s loaded with sodium.

The possibilities for foods are endless, here’s just an example of some of the foods I use.

Protein:
Chicken
Shrimp
Pork
Ground turkey
Fish

Carbohydrate:
White or Brown Rice
Potato
Sweet Potato
Quinoa
Couscous
Beans

Vegetables:
Broccoli
Zucchini
Brussels Spouts
Peppers
Asparagus
Cauliflower
Butternut Squash
Cabbage
Mushrooms
Avocado
Tomatoes
Kale
Lettuce (Of any kind)

After I decided what I’m going to make I decide how I’m going to cook the foods. See below for 6 meal examples.

Example:

Meal 1: Marinated grilled chicken breasts, grilled peppers and onions and baked potato

Meal 2: Baked turkey meatballs, diced sweet potato and steamed broccoli.

Meal 3: Roasted pork tenderloin, Brussels sprouts, and roasted new potatoes

Meal 4: Sautéed shrimp, white rice and asparagus

Meal 5: Baked fish, couscous and a lettuce salad or tomato salad (Note: Cold items will need to be in a separate container)

Meal 6: Taco Salad Ground Turkey, Lettuce and toppings

I usually pick 2 meal ideas and prep that for the week. Keep in mind, you can interchange the cooking methods. Let’s say it’s Sunday and you are all ready to meal prep grilled chicken and it’s pouring rain with no end in sight, just throw the chicken in a crockpot or bake in the oven.  Just be ready to change it up if needed.

For me personally the food containers are so important I’ve bought several meal prep containers over the years. Just check out containers online there are tons of them.  I prefer the 3 opening containers the best, personally.

If your goal with meal prepping is healthy eating and not just convenience I’d suggest getting a scale and weighing your food or measuring out what you eat.  It’s very easy to just over fill an opening in a meal prep container.  All the pictures featured on this post I did just that. I measured out the couscous and weighed the sweet potatoes and the chicken and so on.

I do really enjoy meal prepping. It makes life so much easier.  It will take up some time on your Sunday depending on how complex you make your meals.  However, you won’t regret it.  The work days will come and you will love how easy it is go just grab your prepped meal and be on your way to work!  One thing I can say is don’t over think it.  It shouldn’t be stressful. So don’t stress!  Just do what is easiest for you at that time.  There have been plenty of times I’ve added chicken to the crockpot with salsa and then just baked sweet potatoes and used a frozen broccoli.  That’s okay. It’s going to happen, life gets in the way sometimes and you can always tweak it to your lifestyle.

Stay tuned for some of my favorite recipes for my meal prep.

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Pork Tenderloin, roasted butternut squash and steamed broccoli

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Taco Salad with ground turkey, salsa, cheese, sour cream, shredded lettuce and tomatoes.

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Crockpot lemon chicken, roasted sweet potatoes and broccoli.

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Pork tenderloin, white rice and grilled peppers and onions.

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Tenderloin, broccoli and butternut squash.

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Chicken, sweet potato, brussel sprouts or broccoli

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Turkey Meatballs, broccoli and

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Greek grilled chicken, tomato cucumber salad with red onion and feta topped with tzatziki sauce and couscous.

Favorite Breakfast Dishes: Savory Edition I

I’ve had a few people reach out to me on social media and ask what my favorite breakfast dishes are. It’s funny because I never use to like breakfast or really eat it.  I’d just snack on something mid morning and that would be it.  More recently I’ve been eating more for breakfast and I really enjoy making breakfast on the weekends.  I’m going to do 3 parts to my “Favorite Breakfast” dishes.  First part will be my favorite breakfasts, savory edition part I and then I’ll do part II and last will be a sweet edition.  Stay tuned for part II of Savory and then the Sweet Edition.

Now on to my favorite dishes some are pretty generic but nonetheless delicious!   Below you will see a few of my favorite ones with photos. The bacon and Swiss quiche is one of my favorites but I’m not adding to this list as I’ve posted recently.  Check out my previous blogs for that recipe.

Enjoy!

1: Spinach and Feta Omelet: Serves 1

Ingredients:

2-3 eggs

1/2 T water or milk

1/2 cup spinach, chopped

2T onion, chopped

3T feta, crumbled (more of less if desired)

Pinch: Salt and Pepper

1/2 T of butter or cooking spray

Directions: Heat a small sauté pan to medium heat. Crack the eggs and whisk with water or milk. Add in onion, spinach, feta and salt and pepper. Butter the sauté pan and add in the egg mixture.  Cook about 3-4 minutes and flip over and finish cooking. Then fold sides over. I like to make mine a little brown and crispy. Reduce cook time if you’d prefer to not have it that way.   Serve hot with last tablespoon of feta cheese over the top.

Note: This is not an omelet with the ingredients stuffed inside. You can also do it that way. I just like to have the spinach and feta through the egg vs just inside.

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2: Breakfast Egg Muffins

Ingredients:

2T water/milk

8 Eggs

Cooking Spray

Pinch: Salt and Pepper

2-3 Fillings

Examples: cheese, onion, mushrooms, spinach, cooked bacon, cooked sausage etc

Directions: Preheat oven to 350°. Spray cooking spray in 8-10 openings in a cupcake pan. Whisk together the eggs and add in the water or milk and salt and pepper. Add your desired fillings to the muffin tin evenly, you can add different fillings to some to give you variety.  Evenly add the egg mixture to the openings. Don’t over fill.  Bake for 20-22 minutes until cooked through.  Cooking times may vary.

Remove from the oven and let sit before removing. Run a knife around the edges to assist with removing the egg muffin from the tin.

Note: These can be reheated in the microwave for 30-45 seconds and they can also be frozen for a quick breakfast. Keep in mind you may loose some quality after freezing. wp-image-1324126044

 

#3 Egg “Waffles”

Ingreditents:

2 eggs

1/2 T milk or water

2-3 desired fillings

Examples: cheese, onion, mushrooms, spinach, cooked bacon, cooked sausage etc

Pinch: Salt and pepper

1/2T Cheese (Topping)

Cooking spray

Directions: In a bowl whisk everything together, eggs, water or milk, salt and pepper and the 2 desired fillings. Heat up a waffle iron to medium heat. Spray the waffle iron with cooking spray. Cook 3-4 minutes, check once to make sure it’s cooking. Remove from heat and top with sprinkle of cheese.

Note: I’ll be honest this doesn’t taste strong like eggs.  I actually like it for that reason as sometimes I’m not in the mood for eggs but want the protein.  This is a great option. Try it with other fillings. Mine in the picture below is feta and spinach. (One of my favorite things with eggs!)

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#4 Breakfast Tacos

Ingredients:

4 eggs, scrambled and cooked seasoned with salt and pepper

4 flour tortillas, taco size, warmed

2-4T salsa

1 avocado, diced

1T shredded cheese

Directions: Add scrambled eggs to tortilla and top with salsa (as much as desired) and 1/4 of the avocado and top with shredded cheese.

Note: These tacos are super easy and can be prepped ahead of time. Just heat up the eggs in the microwave slightly and assemble the taco. Feel free to add additional toppings if you’d like. Picture below isn’t great, but I wanted to show an example of how it looks. (I will take a new picture next time I make them)

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Hope you enjoy all these! Stay tuned for part II of Savory Breakfasts coming soon!

Grilled Steak Tacos

Taco Tuesday is my favorite non-weekend day! I just love tacos.  Any kind of tacos, any toppings, any meat, any tortilla it fine. I would eat tacos every single day for every meal if I had a choice.  Unfortunately, I don’t do that. However, I do eat tacos probably more then the average person. I wonder how many tacos I’ve eaten over my life time.  Probably too many!

I’ve been trying to be healthy and lose weight so when I have that craving for tacos the best thing for me to do is make it at home. I then have complete control over what I put into the dish and I make it as guilt free as possible.

My favorite tacos, are steak! No question about it. Check out my steak street tacos recipe below.

Grilled Steak Tacos

Marinade:

2T-Soy Sauce

1/2- Cup Oil
2T- Red Wine Vinegar
4- Garlic Cloves, grated
3- bunches fresh cilantro, chopped
2 limes, juiced
1/2 T garlic powder
1/2 T onion powder
1/2 T paprika
1/2 T chili powder
Pinch:
Salt
Pepper

1lb- Flat Iron Steak

6 street taco tortilla, corn or flour

Directions: Whisk together all marinade ingredients then add in flat iron steak. Marinade for at least 2 hours, turning a few times.

Remove from marinade and let excess oil drip off. Grill the steak over medium heat until cooked to your liking. Cut steak into pieces.  Add the meat to heated tortillas and add your preferred toppings.  I use chopped onion, cilantro and queso fresco and sometimes sour cream or guacamole.

These will be your go to steak tacos recipe. It’s much healthier then take out and taste just as good.

Take a look at the pictures below.

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Traditional steak tacos. Street corn tortillas, cilantro, onion and queso fresco.

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This has avocado crema on the flour tortilla.

9/11

Today is September 11th, a day Americans reflect on with such sorrow. Today we remember all those who were affected by 9/11.

I still remember that day so vividly. Let me give you some background.  My Dad was born and raised in Bayonne, New Jersey about 10 miles from New York City. I lived in Bayonne, for 5 years up until I was 7.  We moved to Chicago in 1993. I spent a good amount of my summers visiting family and friends in Bayonne up until I was about 20 years old. It was my second home. I still remember the feelings I get when I’m on the NJ Turnpike when leaving the airport driving into Bayonne, I can’t even describe it.

When 9/11 happened, my Dad luckily was home in Chicago but I had family and friends who worked in Manhattan and right near where the World Trade Center was. That day I was sitting in class as the news broke about the attack and I started to panic about everyone I knew who would have been in the city that day.  Luckily, by late evening we had confirmation that everyone we knew was accounted for and physically okay. I still remember going back east later in September when my Grandfather passed away and still seeing the smoke from the World Trade, it was unbelievable.

My heart broke for everyone who was there and had to experience this horrendous act. Today we are reminded of all those lives lost, all those first responders and all those who had to endure that day.

When you think of days like today it really makes you realize that life is short and that it can change in a blink of an eye. Be happy, take that trip, buy that purse, eat the pizza and live your life to the fullest!

We’ll never forget!!
Photo courtesy of my cousin, Elisha DeMaria of New Jersey!  wp-image-1724532683

Oven BBQ Chicken

Hope everyone had a great weekend. I’m really loving this weather! Tonight I decided to make bbq chicken inside. I had ran out of gas for my grill and decided to just make it inside. My Dad use to always cook chicken on the stove in a pot with bbq sauce and some water and pretty much boil the chicken in this liquid prior to putting on the grill. It’s so good because the flavor really soaks in. I decided to do it like that today. Check out the recipe!

Oven BBQ Chicken

4 Chicken thighs, bone in and skin on

2 cups + 2T bbq sauce

1 cup water

1/2 T garlic powder

1/2 T onion powder

1/2 T chili powder

Pinch: salt and pepper

1/2 T oil

Directions: Heat a deep saute pan on high heat. Season chicken with spices and salt and pepper. Add oil to pan and place chicken in pan skin side down, cook until slightly golden, flip the chicken over. Add in bbq sauce and water and mix well. Covering the chicken with the sauce. Cover and cook on medium heat for 20 minutes, half way through flip the chicken over and cook another 20 minutes. When done turn off the pan and let sit until ready to finish cooking. Once ready to finish cooking, add chicken to a baking dish and put in a preheated 400° oven. Bake in the oven 10-15 minutes till the chicken skin starts to crisp up. The last 5 minutes, brush the chicken evenly with 2T of bbq sauce. Place back in the oven and turn up heat to 425°. Bake remaining 5 minutes. You can also put on the broiler for a few minutes, but watch the chicken as it can burn quickly.

Once done remove from the oven and serve with your favorite sides. This is a great recipe for when it’s 10 degrees here in Chicago. You can add the chicken to the grill vs finishing it in the oven. Same thing goes, add to a heated grill and cook only about 5-7 minutes and then brush with bbq sauce.

Enjoy!

Bacon Swiss Quiche

Happy Sunday! When I think of Sunday I think of brunch, relaxation and catching up on my DVR.

However, this morning I’ve been a busy bee. Made a quiche for brunch, cleaned the kitchen, mopped the floor and I’m about to meal prep some food for the week. I’ll save the relaxation for later this afternoon.

So, My Mom has been making this quiche I made today for as long as I can remember. It’s a great breakfast dish and easy to make.

Bacon Swiss Quiche

Ingredients:

6 crisp bacon slices, chopped (I use cooked bacon and just cut in thin slices with a scissor)

3 eggs

1 1/2 cups half and half (or heavy cream)

3/4-1 cup Swiss cheese, grated

1/2 medium onion, chopped

1 pie crust (pre-made or homemade)

2t onion powder

Sprinkle: Salt and Pepper

Directions: Preheat oven to 400°. Place the pie crust on a baking sheet. This will catch anything that may drip out while cooking. Add chopped onion, bacon and Swiss cheese to the pie crust. In a bowl mix together eggs and half and half (or heavy cream), onion powder and salt and pepper. Pour the mixture in the pie crust. Place the pie in the oven for 15 minutes at 400° and then reduce oven to 300° and cook for 25-30 minutes. Check the quiche with a knife in the center, if the knife comes out clean it’s done. Let sit for 15 minutes before serving.

Note: You can wrap the edges of the pie crust with foil to keep it from burning. It’s great to partially prep ahead of time especially if you have company staying with you or company coming over for brunch. Just add the onion, bacon and cheese to the pie crust and cover it and place in the refrigerator the night before. The next day you just need to make the egg mixture and pour into the crust. It just cuts down on the time in the morning.

Enjoy your Sunday!

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Grating the Swiss cheese!

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Pouring the egg mixture into the crust.

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Ready for the oven!

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Finished masterpiece!