Grilled Spinach Pesto Chicken

I’ve recently discovered that my entire family loves pesto. My husband has always liked it. I’m a bit late to the pesto game, only discovering how good it was a few years ago. My super picky 7-year-old just started liking it, and my almost 4-year-old has always liked it. Well, she used to love it, then she stopped loving most things. Now we are trying to get her back into her “eat anything” mode. 
 

One time, I made her pasta with pesto and I told her to just try it. She took a bite and I said, “See, that’s not bad at all!” She agreed with me and now she often requests that I make her “the pasta that’s not bad at all” :0)

What I love so much about this pesto is that it is mostly spinach. I also use walnuts (you can use any nut), which adds another layer of nutrition. I’ve made it before, but I’ll post the recipe again.

Spinach Pesto

In a blender, add the following (all eyeballed):

½ bag of prewashed baby spinach (about 3 oz or so)

1 big bunch of fresh basil

½ cup of walnuts

3-4 cloves garlic

½ cup parmesan cheese

Hefty pinch of salt & a sprinkling of pepper

Olive oil

Put everything in the blender. Start with about ½ cup olive oil and then you can add more as needed based on the consistency you want. 

 

Let the blender do its thing and ta-da! Pesto! Isn’t that green color gorgeous?!


You can use this in so many ways. For this meal, I cut two chicken breasts in half lengthwise to get four thinner pieces. Then I coated each piece in some of the pesto and let it marinade for about 20 minutes. You can do this longer, even overnight. You could also do this in a freezer bag and freeze the whole kit-n-caboodle. Then you’ll have premade pesto chicken ready whenever you want it.

 

When I was ready, I just grilled the chicken for about 7 minutes per side over medium-high heat.   

 

Serve with more pesto on top.

If I had mozzarella on hand, I think this would be delish with a couple tomato slices on top of the chicken, then place some sliced mozzarella and put the chicken under the broiler for a couple minutes until the cheese melts. Maybe even add a drizzle of balsamic glaze! Oh my mouth is watering already…

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Spinach and Bacon Salad 

My relationship with salad has become stagnant. Boring. Dullsville. I have been relying on my standby of plain ol’ “side” salad for too long. That’s not to say I don’t still like the old classic: crunchy iceburg lettuce, juicy tomatoes, crisp cucumbers, maybe a little cheddar and diced avocado for a little treat, all joined together by everyone’s favorite, Ranch dressing. 

Sure, that little salad has gotten my through life so far, but we’ve reached a plateau. It’s about time I upped my salad game, dear readers, and this simple little dish is just what I was looking for. 

I wouldn’t say that I like spinach. I don’t dislike it by any means, but it’s not my favorite. If it is cooked in something (like a dip or those spinach tortillas or made into noodles), I’m all about it, but raw spinach? Eh, I could take it or leave it. 

My husband loves spinach. I make him salads a lot to eat for lunch throughout the week and they are always spinach-based because spinach is really so good for you. It is high in folate, vitamins, iron, dietary fibers… I could go on. That all being said, when it came time to see what kind of salad-trouble I can get into, I started with a simple google search: Spinach Salad. 

There are soooooo many combinations out there! They all look really good too! I found a few recipes that look really good and I can’t wait to try. The best part is they are all so simple. Only a few ingredients and a dressing and you’ve got yourself a healthy salad. I figure you could serve any of them as a side dish or even a main meal, if you wanted. 

This warm spinach salad is the most common one I found, with lots of different recipes for it. The first recipe I came across was from Alton Brown, so I knew it would be good. I was right, it was delicious. And calling “warm” is a bit misleading. The dressing is warm, but the salad was more room temperature. 

Heed my warning, though, and don’t make the same mistake I did. This makes a lot of salad. I broke the cardinal rule of all salad-making and I dressed the whole thing right away, even though I knew we weren’t going to finish it that night. The next day, the texture was way off and it was just not good. I mean the flavor was still there and the rest of the components were yummy, but the spinach itself did not hold up. So, unless you are planning on finishing the whole thing, just dress individual portions. Or make less. 

Alton Brown’s Warm Spinach Salad 

8oz package of baby spinach

8 strips of bacon, diced

2 eggs, hardboiled and sliced

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar

½ teaspoon Dijon mustard

Salt and pepper

*walnuts

**4 large white mushrooms, sliced

**3 ounced red onion, thinly sliced 

*This was my own addition and it was delicious 

**Note: I do not like mushrooms, so I didn’t include them. I didn’t include the onion either because forgot to pick one up from the store and I didn’t want to go back just for one thing. You understand.** 

Wash and dry the spinach. Put into a large bowl with the walnuts, egg, mushrooms, and onion. Set aside. 

In a pan, fry the bacon, remove from the pan and dab with a paper towel. Add to the spinach.

  

Reserve 3 tablespoons of the bacon grease in the pan. You can get rid of the rest. To the grease, add the red wine vinegar, sugar, mustard, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Wisk over low heat until well combined.
  

Pour the dressing on the salad and toss.

Serve as an entree or side.

 

Homemade Spinach Pasta 

If you remember, my hubby got me a pasta maker for Christmas. The first time I made pasta turned out pretty good, but not great. I think the problem was I left the fresh rigatoni in a pile and it stuck together. I also don’t think I cooked it long enough, so it was a bit chewy. My dough didn’t look quite right using the recipe from the instruction manual, but the flavor was good, so I don’t know what the exact problem was.I decided to give it another try, but this time I made spinach spaghetti. I used this recipe from Williams-Sonoma as a guide. Since this recipe was for a different type of pasta maker, I just used the dough, but not the steps that followed. Even if you don’t have a pasta maker, I think you could probably still use this recipe. Just make sure your dough is rolled out thin enough and then cut it out how you want.

I admit I was a little bit concerned about how this would taste. It uses a pound of spinach and I was afraid it would taste too spinachy. My fears were totally unfounded. This pasta was so good! It wasn’t too spinachy at all, it tasted great and I let it cook a lot longer than the rigatoni, so it wasn’t chewy at all. The only problem was I let it get stuck together. I made little piles of the pasta as it was coming out of the machine. Literally, the only reason I did this was because that’s how Aziz Ansari made his pasta on Master of None and I thought that was a thing to do with fresh spaghetti. Either I did it wrong or I should not take lessons about pasta making from a comedian. I think I did it wrong, though, because I just Googled “fresh spaghetti” and there are lot of little spaghetti nests out there.

Fresh Spinach Spaghetti

1 pound fresh spinach, stems removed
2 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour


In a large skillet, add the spinach and cover. Let it cook for about 3 or so minutes until wilted down. It will look like a lot at first, but when it wilts down, it will be just over a handful.

Put the spinach in a sieve and run cold water over. When it is cool enough to handle, ring it out in a towel until mostly dry.


Add the spinach to a blender or food processor with one egg and blend until combined.


 On a cutting board, pile up your flour and make a crater inside. To the crater, add your spinach mix and the second egg (slightly beaten). Using either a fork or your hands (I used my hands), mix the egg and spinach into the flour until well combined, working the ingredients into a solid dough.



If using a pasta machine, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for making the pasta of your choice. If not, roll out the dough and make the pasta shape of your choice.


I served mine with a chicken and veggie stir fry in a Thai peanut sauce and it was really such a delicious and healthy meal. I will absolutely be adding this to our arsenal!