I’m always on the lookout for healthy recipes that don’t look like healthy recipes. Partly because I’m not generally a fan of HEALTHY healthy food. Partly because I don’t care for very many vegetables. Partly because I like cooking too much to give up all the tasty things I love to make. Partly because if I want to eat healthy, I’ve got to find a way to make sure my “test kitchen” wants to eat it also.
This recipe sounded promising from the start. Cream cheese? Pesto? Crunchy chicken breast? Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? Hardly sounds healthy at all, really. Except that the cheese is low-fat cream cheese, the pesto is made with heart-healthy olive oil, the breading is egg whites and super-crunchy panko and the chicken is briefly pan-fried before being finished in the oven–giving it all the crunch of a fattening fried chicken breast, with much less oil.
Cheesy Pesto Stuffed Chicken Breasts
Adapted from EatingWell Magazine
- 2 tablespoons reduced-fat cream cheese (neufchâtel cheese)
- 1 tablespoon basil pesto (store-bought or homemade)
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (1-1 1/4 pounds total)
- 1 egg white
- 1/4 cup plain dry breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1/2 tsp Italian Seasoning blend
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.
2. Combine cream cheese, pesto and pepper in a small bowl with a fork.
3. Cut a horizontal slit along the thin, long edge of a chicken breast half, nearly through to the opposite side. Open up each breast and place one-fourth of the filling in the center. Close the breast over the filling, pressing the edges firmly together to seal. Repeat with the remaining chicken breasts and filling.
4. Lightly beat egg white with a fork in a medium bowl. Place both kinds of breadcrumbs in a shallow glass dish. Stir in italian seasoning and garlic powder. Hold each chicken breast half together and dip in the egg white, then dredge in the breadcrumbs. (Discard leftovers.)
5. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken breasts; cook until browned on one side, about 2 minutes. Place the chicken, browned-side up, on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until the chicken is no longer pink in the center or until an instant-read thermometer registers 170°F, about 20 minutes.
NUTRITION INFORMATION: Per chicken breast: 233 calories; 7 g fat; 71 mg cholesterol; 11 g carbohydrate; 30 g protein; 1 g fiber; 231 mg sodium.
Note: This is one of the most decadent healthy recipes I’ve come across in a long time. If you’ve never used neufchâtel cheese you’ll be pleasantly surprised; it’s like cream cheese, but has 1/3 less fat than traditional cream cheese, without any of the aftertaste or texture problems of “low fat,” “reduced fat,” or “fat free” cream cheese. Look for the “1/3 less fat than cream cheese” in the product name, and you’ll know you’re buying the right one. I did use a small container of storebought pesto, only because my basil crop wasn’t quite ripe for picking. I served this with Pesto Mashed Potatoes, which is code for leftover mashed potatoes with pesto in them (about 1 Tbsp of pesto for every cup of mashed potatoes). The whole dinner was delicious.