Involving your children in meal preparation is a great way to get them to try to new foods. I feel like having them help us cook takes some of the fear out of new and unknown foods. Face it though, sometimes you just don’t want mac-and-cheese or chicken strips no matter what new and glorious spin you put on them. Sometimes you want dinner that is a little more grown up. A grown up meal doesn’t have to mean that you can’t have fun in the kitchen though.
I am a big kid. I love cartoons, chocolate milk, Froot Loops, splashing in puddles and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I use my children as my excuse to buy the new Pixar movies. Although even if I didn’t have kids I would still buy the movies. And I love getting messy. Now if that mess happens to produce a delicious meal then bonus! I am a firm believer that the messier the kitchen the better the meal. Example: Thanksgiving dinner. I don’t know about your kitchen but in mine there is stuffing, diced onions, cranberries and flour flying EVERYWHERE! It’s a good thing I don’t make homemade pumpkin pie because one of my favorite parts of pumpkin dissection is the gut removal. Me making a homemade pumpkin pie is a recipe for kitchen disaster. I stick to the frozen ones.
I love getting hands-on when it comes to making dinner. Who needs spoons when you have two clean hands? That’s how I make meatloaf . . . put everything in the bowl and reach right in to mix it up. Then I chase after my son with gross meatloafy hands. He screams like a girl. I laugh like a little kid. It all boils down to having fun in the kitchen.
Remember when you were in school and you would finger paint or smear the paste with your hands. You came away looking a dreadful mess and you thought your artwork belonged on a wall in the Louvre right next to the Mona Lisa, but hanging on the refrigerator was just as awesome. Cooking is just the same. Nobody makes the same recipe the same way. We each put our own spin on everything. That’s why there are so many different recipes for chili and spaghetti sauce. And that’s also why everybody thinks theirs is the best. And it is. Yum!
Today’s recipe is a real hands-on recipe and it comes from a website that is cornucopia of meal ideas. Head over to http://recipeland.com and just browse. My mom introduced me to this website. She found a recipe that she wanted me to make the next time she came down for a visit. I found this one while poking around and just HAD to try it. http://recipeland.com/recipe/v/Pesto-Cream-Cheese-Stuffed-Chic-53220
Pesto and Cream Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts
1 1/2 tablespoons pesto, prepared basil*
3 tablespoons cream cheese low-fat
1 x black pepper to taste*
Stuffed chicken breast
24 ounces chicken breast 4 6oz breasts
1 large egg white
1/2 cup bread crumbs, whole wheat
3 teaspoons olive oil
Coat a rimmed baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
In a small bowl, combine the pesto, cream cheese and a few grinding of black pepper. Mix together thoroughly with a spoon.
In the larger end of the chicken breast; use a small thin sharp knife to cut a slit. Carefully cut/tease (leaving the entry slit as small as possible) a pocket into the chicken breast being careful not to cut all the way through. Making the pocket this way instead of cutting horizontally helps to keep the filling from leaking out of the breast when cooking.
Using a small spoon stuff 1/4 of the pesto and cream cheese filling into each of the chicken breasts. Press together the cut to seal and secure with a toothpick if needed. (A bit of salt on the cut with help to glue it together.
Dry and season the breasts with salt and pepper if desired.
Beat the egg white with a fork on a small plate and place the breadcrumbs onto another plate. Dip each chicken breast into the egg white and then into the bread crumbs, pressing to help adhere the bread crumbs to the chicken breast.
Heat the olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Make sure the pan is hot before proceeding.
Brown the chicken breast on one side (the nicest looking side), about 3 to 4 minutes.
Place the chicken breasts on the prepared baking sheet, browned side up.
Bake until the chicken is cooked through. The center should reach 170 degrees F when checked with an instant read thermometer, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Allow to rest for 5 minutes and serve. The filling will be hot.
The only thing I do differently with this one is the way it says to get the filling into the chicken breast. The way this says to spoon it in there is where things get messy and the first time I made this boy did things get messy. Filling didn’t want to go inside the pocket. It somehow ended up all over my counter. It was like a cream cheese tub exploded in my kitchen. It was glorious. The next time I made this I wised up . . . cut the corner off of a zip-top bag and had an instant piping bag. I just squeezed the filling right into the chicken breast. A lot less mess to clean up. If you don’t mind getting messy though then spoon that filling right on in there.
What I intended to be a little bit more of a grown-up meal for my husband and I actually turned into a double bonus because my kids liked it also and promptly informed me that I would be making this again.
Dinner doesn’t always have to be about mac-and-cheese and chicken tenders. And meal prep doesn’t always have to be neat and tidy. All that matters is that you enjoy what you created and that you had fun while doing it.
One more helpful tip from my kitchen . . . My garbage can is on the other side of my kitchen from my counters and stove. Rather than tread that path 500 million times while cooking dinner I just hang a plastic grocery bag from one of the drawers next to me and use that as my trash bag. I clean as I go. That makes kitchen clean up after dinner a lot easier also. All I have to do is take the bag off the drawer and throw it in the trash can.
Do you have tricks, shortcuts, or anything that makes your time in the kitchen easier and faster? I would love to hear them. Please feel free to share them with me on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/heather.mcribbits or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. With your permission I would also love to share your ideas with the rest of Froggyland.
I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Until next time . . .