Pesto Change-o

Like a lot of folks who are trying to eat a little healthier but rarely feel truly satisfied at the end of a meal that doesn’t contain a little meat, chicken has become a staple in our kitchen. It’s easy to work with, pretty affordable, and neutral enough in flavor that it goes with almost anything else you can put next to it. But, if you’ve found yourself leaning kinda hard on poultry to do the heavy lifting, you might be running out of ideas. That’s pretty much where I was when I started pondering ways to liven up the party.

I think I might have stumbled upon a good one, you guys. These chicken roll ups are packed with flavor, but portion controlled, and still hold the door wide open for very nearly any vegetable or starch you want to pair with them.  They’ve got just enough creamy and cheesy, thanks to goat cheese; a little bite of salty from black olives; some sweetness from the roasted red pepper; and the herbaciously savory goodness of pesto. It’s a perfect little package of yum.

Equipment:
Knife and cutting board
Medium mixing bowl
Spoon for mixing
Can opener
Measuring spoons
Large sheet pan
Tongs
OPTIONAL: Tooth picks

Ingredients:
1 package thinly sliced chicken breasts (mine had six pieces in it, which is what this recipe is based on)
Salt & Pepper
1 3.5 oz container of goat cheese crumbles
1 large roasted red pepper, small dice (You can either buy a whole jar of them and use the rest for a salad or something, or, if you want to just buy one fresh red pepper and roast it yourself, you can find directions here.)
2.5 tablespoons pre-made pesto
1.5 tablespoons chopped black olives
3 tablespoons finely chopped, fresh parsley
6 tablespoons shredded Parmesan (slightly more than 1/3 of a cup)
Pan spray

Preheat your oven to 325°.

In the mixing bowl, combine the goat cheese, diced red pepper, pesto, chopped olives, and chopped parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Spray your sheet pan with pan spray. Season both sides of each piece of chicken breast with salt and pepper, then lay them out flat, big end towards you, on the sheet pan. Place a heaping tablespoon of the filling on the big end of each piece of chicken, then roll them up, tucking the chicken around the filling as you go.  If you want to use a toothpick to make sure they stay rolled up, go for it. Mine held together without them, though.

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Pop the chicken roll-ups into the oven for 20 minutes, or until they’re just cooked through. Top each roll-up with one tablespoon of the shredded Parmesan, then put them back into the oven just until the cheese melts. Let them rest for 5-7 minutes before serving.

I had one for lunch with about 3 ounces of cooked farro, and I was pleasantly full. For a dinner sized portion, you could do two with a starch and a veg. As you probably figured out, this recipe makes six, but doubling the recipe is a cinch if you have more mouths to feed or want to make sure there are lots of leftovers. Also, if you wanted to add a little more color to the plate, take the remaining roasted red peppers and puree them up in the blender with a little water or stock and a pinch of salt for a nice bright sauce to drizzle over the chicken.

Enjoy!

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