Chicken Pesto Bake

It’s probably time that I write about something other than booze.  Lately I’ve been sticking to my favorites meals and getting take out for “special” days.  I was prompted to look for some new, seasonal recipes after a discussion with my husband about adding a little more variety to our regular diet.  Plus, it’s summer…and the same old fall and winter crockpot meals just don’t cut it.  While scrolling through Skinnytaste’s facebook page, I came across quite a few really great ideas.  Since I’ve lately felt like we’re in a bit of a meal rut, I didn’t waste any time with inserting these new recipes into the meal plan.

I started with this recipe for Chicken Pesto Bake.  The prep slightly reminded me of the baked chicken parm recipe.  In fact, you’ll see later that I made the chicken parm as well that night – I didn’t have any sauce to put on the top, so I opted to use fresh tomato instead.

For this recipe, you start by making homemade pesto.  As a very generous gesture, I was given a Vitamix mixer a few years ago as a gift.  I’ve really only used it for smoothies, but I know it is capable of so much more.  So, here was my opportunity to start by making homemade skinny pesto (recipe link here).

Ingredients: 1 cup fresh basil, 1 clove garlic, 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan, salt & pepper to taste, 2 1/2 Tbsp olive oil

In a food processor (or blender), blend together basil, parmesan cheese, salt & pepper until smooth.  Slowly add the olive oil while pulsing.  Store in a sealed container and refrigerate until ready to use.  Makes 5 Tablespoons.

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First of all, I did not read the directions before I put everything in the blender, especially the part where it says to add the oil last.  I also discovered that, unless there is enough “stuff” in the Vitamix, it doesn’t do the job it is theoretically supposed to do (everything kept getting pushed up against the sides and under the blades, so I was constantly stopping to push everything back down).  As a result, I had to add more than the 1 cup of fresh basil that the recipe calls for.  I also added a smidge more olive oil, which may not have been necessary. I found that the slower the speed, the better that the ingredients stayed in the path of the blades.

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As far as taste, I am not a pesto expert, by any means.  It was pretty good for my first shot.  But, it also tasted like it was missing something – maybe lemon? maybe garlic powder in lieu of or in addition to the fresh garlic (for better mixing and consistent flavor throughout)?  I don’t know but I hope to experiment with this more.

For the actual dish (recipe link here), you will need the following ingredients: chicken cutlets (I bought 8 cutlets, totaling 2 pounds – the recipe suggests buying 2 half-pound breasts and making your own cutlets by slicing them in half.), 2 medium tomatoes (I used roma tomatoes) sliced thin, Skinny Basil Pesto (made above), shredded reduced fat mozzarella cheese, grated parmesan.

1-Preheat oven to 400F and prepare your baking pan either by lining a baking sheet with foil for easy cleanup or using a glass baking dish sprayed lightly with cooking spray.

2-Place the chicken on the prepared baking sheet and spread 1 tsp (more or less – I did not use a measuring spoon and probably used a little less pesto than the recipe calls for) over each piece of chicken.

3-Bake for 15 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink.  Remove from the oven and top with tomatoes and mozzarella cheese.  Sprinkle with parmesan.  Bake for an additional 3-5 minutes or until the cheese is melted.

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This was good, but missing something…some flavor.  I don’t know if it was the pesto that lacked the flavor, or just the dish all around.  I do plan to make this again next month and will update here with any adjustment.  But, taste aside, this recipe requires little prep and I LOVE that it uses all these fresh ingredients that are so abundant this time of year.

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