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This is one of those meals that your family and friends will remember, and probably ask for again.  Kind of a lighter version of a restaurant stuffed chicken breast.  Easy, inexpensive and gourmet tasting, what else could you ask for? 

Really sorry I didn’t take a picture of the inside. I wanted to add an element of surprise (actually, I just plain forgot).

My kicked up recipe takes plain ol’ boring chicken to another level, hemisphere, galaxy, if you will.  Smooth, light cream cheese is mixed with cheesy parmesan, sweet sun-dried tomatoes and fresh basil.  This flavor bursting filling is stuffed into a garlic seasoned chicken breast, seared to perfection, and baked in a rich, tomato basil marinara sauce.

Money saving tip: Stock up on good bottled marinara sauce when your grocery store has the 2 for whatever priced specials.  One could be used for Stuffed Chicken and the other for my Sausage Parmesan Zucchini Pasta.  Mix it up, try other flavor varieties like roasted garlic or mushroom.

In the words of the comical Guy Fieri, “Now that’s a winner, winner chicken dinner!”

CREAMY SUN-DRIED TOMATO STUFFED CHICKEN with FRESH BASIL

serves 4

  • 1 lb – CHICKEN BREASTS, BONELESS, SKINLESS (4 – 4 to 5 oz breasts, cut into filets if too large)
  • 1 tsp GARLIC POWDER
  • SEA SALT AND PEPPER TO TASTE
  • 4 oz CREAM CHEESE, NEUFCHATEL, REDUCED FAT, softened
  • 1/4 cup SUN DRIED TOMATOES, PACKED IN OIL, sliced
  • 3 tbsp BASIL, FRESH, chiffonade or chopped
  • 2 tbsp PARMESAN CHEESE, FRESHLY GRATED
  • 1 cup SPINACH, BABY, (or ARUGULA/SPINACH MIX)
  • 25 oz MARINARA SAUCE, TOMATO BASIL (1 jar)
  • 2 tsp OLIVE OIL, EXTRA VIRGIN
  • 8 WOODEN TOOTHPICKS

1. Prepare the chicken. Pound all four chicken breasts between wax paper, or in a plastic zip top bag (slightly closed), to about 1/4″ thickness. Sprinkle both sides evenly with garlic powder (more or less to taste), sea salt and pepper. Set aside.

my fourth chicken is in another pan

2. Make the filling.  In a small bowl, using a fork, combine softened cream cheese, sun dried tomatoes with oil, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper, if desired, until well incorporated. Gently fold in the fresh basil with a small spatula.

3. Stuff the chicken. Lay chicken breasts on a large platter. Place even amounts of sun-dried tomato cream cheese in the center of each flattened chicken piece. Spread cream cheese around with a butter knife or spoon leaving about 1/2″ around the edges. Place a layer of spinach on the filling and roll up chicken, jelly roll style, starting at the thinnest end with the small tip. Secure seam in place with 2 toothpicks. Repeat with remaining 3 chicken breasts.

4. Sear the chicken.  In a large skillet, heat 2 tsp olive oil over medium high heat. Place stuffed chicken breasts in hot pan and sear all sides (cook just until browned – no need to cook chicken through).

5. Bake the chicken (oven or slow cooker options).  While chicken sears pour a small amount of marinara sauce in a glass baking dish or slow cooker (large enough to fit all chicken breasts – preferably with a lid). Spread sauce just so it covers the bottom. Place partially cooked chicken, seam side down in the prepared pan, pour remaining sauce over top and cover with lid or foil. Bake at 250 degrees, or on low, for 1 1/2 -2 hours (or until cooked through) or at 350 degrees, or on high, for 35-45 minutes (or until cooked through).

Serve with my Roasted Rosemary Potatoes, or topped on whole grain pasta or couscous. Serving size: 1 stuffed chicken breast with ¼ of the sauce. Garnish with extra basil and parmesan cheese, if desired.

**Please remember to remove before serving, or remind guests (especially for kids), of the toothpicks in the chicken.

VARIATIONS: If you don’t feel like stuffing the chicken, just add all filling ingredients (maybe a little extra spinach and tomatoes) to the sauce, cook and serve over grilled or pan cooked garlic chicken.

NUTRITION INFO PER SERVING: 360 calories, 15g fat, 6g sat fat, 78mg cholesterol, 24g carb, 2g fiber, 17g sugar, 31g protein

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