Sorry guys, I’m on a cheese kick. If you’re looking for a way to liven up your typical (boring) chicken dish for dinner tonight, look no further: you just hit the jackpot. This is one of my easiest, most flavorful “go-to” chicken dishes for a typical busy weeknight. 15 minutes to assemble, 30 minutes in the oven, and voilà — you have a restaurant-worthy chicken dish on your plate ready to devour.
I present you: Cheesy Spinach Stuffed Chicken.
Before I was adamant about healthy cooking, I LOVED making stuffed chicken. Cheddar, bacon, ham, lots of butter, cheeses, and bread crumbs went into my old versions. These days, I usually avoid combining a ton of fat-laden ingredients into one little chicken breast. For the most part, fewer ingredients means fewer calories/fats/carbs, and when you get the right ingredients with flavors that really complement each other, you get rid of the need to shove an endless list of things into one recipe (which is also easier on your wallet). This recipe packs ALL of those benefits, and it looks pretty on a plate. What more could you ask for?
I used this in one of the meal plans that I built for my coworker a few weeks back, and it became an instant favorite of hers. I also made this for a little double-date dinner action at our apartment two weekends ago. Everyone loved it. This chicken is VERSATILE. Easy enough to make during the week, but the presentation is enough to impress people.
Cheesy Spinach Stuffed Chicken
Nutritional Overview (per 1 chicken breast)
Serves: 4 small stuffed chicken breasts (I personally eat 2 for dinner with some rice and veggies)
Cook time: 45 minutes (15min active, 30min baking)
- 4 thin-sliced chicken breasts (~3oz. each)
- Salt (to taste)
- Pepper (to taste)
- Paprika (to taste)
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 2 tsp. minced garlic
- 1/2 cup chopped spinach (I use fresh; frozen would work well too)
- 1oz. goat cheese
- 1/4 cup low-moisture part skim shredded mozzarella
- 1/3 cup light Italian dressing (I used Bolthouse Farms)
Note: If you’re not into mozzarella and would rather do all goat cheese, I’d recommend using 1.5oz of a flavored goat cheese (like Mont Chevre or other brands — Whole Foods has a TON) and nixing the mozzarella. I’ve tried both methods. Equally delicious.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Cut your chicken breasts to be ~3oz. each (I always save the extra in a little Ziploc bag and make chicken strips for dinner later in the week.)
- Season chicken with salt, pepper, and paprika
- Heat olive oil in a medium skillet over low-medium heat
- Add garlic, spinach, and cheeses. Stir until well combined and cheese is melted
- Let mixture cool, then scoop about 2 tbsp. into center of chicken breasts. Optional (but recommended): Make sure you have a Bailey around to help clean up any messes.
- Roll ’em up! This part tends to get a little messy. Don’t freak out if some of the filling falls out. Secure with toothpicks and place in a baking dish
- Top with dressing and bake for 30 minutes
And the Winner Is…
My second blog giveaway closed last night, and I want to say a big THANK YOU to everyone who participated! I ran this giveaway through Rafflecopter, and their system (weighted giveaways/random selection) totally recognizes hard work. There was one person who I could tell REALLY wanted to win this thing. She must’ve shared the post at least 5 times, AND she made my slow cooker chicken wings for the Super Bowl last weekend. Yes, the winner was selected randomly, but to be completely honest — I was pulling for this girl because she put in a TON of effort. I’m glad Rafflecopter agreed with me! So, CONGRATULATIONS are in order for Cristina T.! You get a month of free ass-kicking workouts at Synergy — any location, any class, one full month with no strings attached. :o) I’ll email you with more details.
Why You Should Weight Train (It’s NOT Just For Men)
On the note of exercise… I noticed something last night that really made me think about the way that I used to approach working out. It’s another invaluable lesson that I’ve learned in the last year, and I wish I would’ve known it before I wasted hours of my life on the elliptical while living in fear of picking up a dumbbell.
Even though I’m down to what my doctors have always said was my “goal weight” for my age, height, and body type, I’ve realized that I still want more. For the first time EVER, I don’t care about what the scale says. I want definition. Lots of people call this being “toned” for women, but really, it’s just a matter of building more muscle. And to me, it’s the true picture of “healthy.” I’m not built to be rail-thin, and I definitely don’t aspire to be skinny anymore. I just want to be ripped. Not “bodybuilder” ripped, necessarily, but I want biceps, I want serious abs, and I want to grow my butt. And I’m going to work for it.
Knowing this, I decided to add more strength training to my usual routine (45 minutes of HIIT 4-6 times each week at Synergy). HIIT helped me torch the body fat that I needed to get rid of first, so my game plan is to stick with that because it works WONDERS and is super fun, but throw a little weight training on top to grow my muscle mass. Progress is only made when you push yourself out of your comfort zone and past what you THINK your limits are. I need to keep pushing myself if I want to continue to improve and grow.
Back to what I noticed last night. I don’t mean to sound superficial or judgmental when I say this by ANY means — this was just a simple observation. Based on my new workout regimen, I made my way to the weight room after boot camp to work biceps and chest. While I was lifting, I noticed a ton of girls who looked exactly like I did a year ago: overweight and running themselves ragged on the treadmill/elliptical. Not a single one of them came over to the weights to do any strength training. Here’s the way I see it: when I was working out on my own (pre-Synergy), I saw zero progress when I spent an hour a day on the elliptical because I wasn’t pushing myself. Spending hours on cardio, in my opinion, is a waste of time. Next time you’re at your gym, take a look at the people lifting weights and compare them to the people on the cardio machines. On average, who seems to be in better shape?
It took a lot of trial and error before I realized that lifting isn’t just for guys, and contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t make girls look “bulky” (unless you do a bunch of steroids or take testosterone supplements). If you train with weights, your muscle mass will grow. Lean muscle mass effectively BURNS more calories while at rest. To put it into simpler terms: lift weights –> build muscle mass –> burn more calories while NOT working out because muscle works in your favor –> EAT MORE FOOD. And, in most cases, you shouldn’t be afraid to lift a heavier weight. At boot camp, my results skyrocketed when I stopped telling myself that the 10-pound dumbbells were “too heavy” and picked up the heavier set. Today, Kristina gets all excited about me sharing weights with the boys in boot camp because I AM strong enough to lift as much as they do, and I’m proud of it.
That being said, I really wanted to go ask all of those girls on the treadmills what their goals were — my best guess is that they’re trying to get in shape for swimsuit season — and tell them that cardio alone won’t do the trick. If you want to look great in that bikini, you should probably consider expanding your workout horizons, look into HIIT, and do some weight training. But, I’m not a personal trainer and I didn’t want to come off as a creeper, so I kept my mouth shut. (Figured it’d be better as a blog post anyway, right?)
Girls shouldn’t be scared to pick up a 15, 20, or 25+ pound set of weights. If you want “toned” abs, defined arms, or a bikini-ready booty, lifting weights will get you there. Don’t be afraid to go beyond the treadmill!