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From the AICR Test Kitchen
Week of December 13, 2010
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Contact: Alice Bender, (202) 328-7744

Mediterranean Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Spinach

from the
American Institute for Cancer Research

This recipe dresses up chicken with a cheesy, spinach stuffing, flavored with herbs. Easy to prepare, this main dish is nutritious and tasty.

Spinach is native to Southeast Asia and its tender leaves are rich in folate, fiber and iron along with cancer-fighting carotenoids. The spinach-cheese combination provides a creamy stuffing and ensures that the chicken breasts remain moist and tender during baking.

Goat cheese, often called chevre – which is the French word for goat – adds a pleasant, complex and tangy flavor. Chevre may be one of the earliest dairy products produced and is usually lower in fat than cheese made from cow’s milk.

The sun-dried tomatoes provide an intense flavor that pairs well with the stuffing mix. They also contain the powerful antioxidant lycopene and research shows that foods containing lycopene reduce risk of prostate cancer.

Add in a measure of Italian spices and you have a new way to serve chicken breast that is succulent, healthy and quick to make. Selecting the right sized chicken breasts ensures excellent portion control for the servings.

Chicken Soup

Mediterranean Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Spinach

  • 4 (4-oz.) chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
  • 1/2 tsp. dried Italian spices, divided
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • Salt to taste, optional
  • 4 tsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup frozen spinach (thaw, then wrap in a kitchen cloth and squeeze out all extra water and set aside)
  • 3 Tbsp. sun-dried tomatoes (the ones packed in olive oil) drained and chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. herbed goat cheese
  • 2 Tbsp. reduced-fat cream cheese
  • 16 toothpicks (or however many are needed)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Slice into chicken breasts at thickest part to create a pocket, being careful not to cut all the way through.

Season chicken with 1/4 teaspoon of the Italian spices, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and salt, if using. Cover with clear wrap and set aside.

In large skillet heat 2 teaspoons olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic. Cook for about 1 minute or until it becomes light golden brown, being careful not to burn. Add spinach and stir with oil and garlic. Then add tomatoes along with remaining spices and pepper. Stir well and cook for about 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Add cheeses and fold well to create stuffing for chicken breasts.

Divide stuffing evenly among chicken breasts, using toothpicks to secure the opening with about 4 per breast to ensure stuffing remains inside. Work with each breast until all are stuffed and closed with toothpicks.

In heavy bottomed, oven proof pan, heat remaining olive oil over medium-high heat for 1 to 2 minutes, making sure pan is really hot but not smoking. Lower heat to medium and add one breast at a time, making sure there is enough room in pan to thoroughly brown breasts. Cook on first side for about 4 minutes and then turn over for another 4 minutes. Do not flip chicken more than once or meat will dry out and filling might fall out. Brown chicken in batches if necessary.

Once chicken is browned, turn off heat. Place pan in oven. Bake for about 15 minutes or until thermometer in the thickest part reads 170 degrees.

Take chicken out and let rest for about 5 minutes covered with tented foil before serving. Make sure to remove toothpicks. Spoon any juices left in bottom of baking dish over top of chicken.

Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 220 calories, 9 g total fat (3 g saturated fat), 3 g carbohydrate,
29 g protein, 1 g dietary fiber, 190 mg sodium.

***

The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed more than $100 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, www.aicr.org. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.

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