Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Decade in the Making: Spinach and Feta Stuffed Chicken

November 6th, in a wedding ceremony on the beach in St Augustine, Florida, my dear friends, Mike(y) and Amanda were married in front of 54 of their friends and family.

November 10th, they will celebrate their ten-year anniversary during their honeymoon in Jamaica. These two started dating our Sophomore year in high school (this suddenly makes me feel pretty old). They are newlyweds with the experience and history of a couple that has been married for years.

These two have been a staple couple in my life practically since the era of real dating began. Amanda’s sister, Sarah, gave a great maid of honor speech at the reception which included a list of trends and events that were going on during the year the couple started dating: “Survivor” was in its first season, The infamous Florida election recounts were underway, Amikeda even precedes Brangelina (and Brangelina have 6 kids). Sarah also mentioned that she always admired the fact that Amanda always knew, from the start, that she wanted to spend her life with Mike. I think we all (those that are close to them) always knew they would end up together as well. I remember talking to our other friends on several occasions about how excited I was for them to get married because their wedding would be really special not only to them, but to those of us who watched them grow together. It takes two really special people to A) recognize the kind of partner they want to be with for the rest of their lives at such a young age and B) be the kind of partner someone wants to be with for the rest of their lives at such a young age.

(I wish I had a really embarrassing picture of the two of them from high school to insert here)

I am so proud to call these two people my friends. They are two of the most fun and interesting people I know and such a blast to hang out with. They do not need my well-wishes or congratulations because Amanda and Mike’s wedding was just a great celebration of what they already have and will continue to have together as long as they both shall live.

I don't have many pictures from the wedding day, but here is a look at the little rehearsal set up on the porch of the beach house where the families were staying for the weekend:

The rehearsal was followed by a dinner at Saltwater Cowboys on the marshy, uniquely Florida land:

Here is my one and only good shot of the bride all dressed up:

Something Amanda and Mike have always loved to do together is cook. Although Amanda’s favorite food seems to be simply toast, she has bragged about their picadillo recipe for a long time. I told her to guest blog about it so hopefully she will be sharing that with us soon. I know they also like to create unique spice blends, which might be interesting to hear about as well. I almost love cooking with someone I love more than I love eating with someone I love. It can be a romantic activity to cook with your significant other or it can be a fun activity to share with your family during the holidays. Since the wedding was in St. Augustine, I had the pleasure of visiting with my brother’s family in Jacksonville for a few days before and after the festivities. I found myself in the kitchen cooking for my family on Sunday afternoon for one of three to four meals a year my immediate family gets to have together. I had a special helper in the kitchen for most of the cooking time.

Olivia was by my side, brushing olive oil on the bread, handing me toothpicks for the chicken and of course taste testing anything that was safe to eat. I was cooking for about two hours total, and I want to say she stayed with me for well over an hour of it. I kept explaining to her that sometimes if you want something to be really really yummy, it takes a long time to make (referring to the fact that we were making the croutons for the salad ourselves instead of buying them already made). She learned what garlic was and how fresh spinach “shrinks” when you sauté it. I learned how fun it can be to cook with curious little kids (it gave me an idea of someday teaching a “mommy-and-me” or even just a kids cooking class…could be chaotic-I-mean-fun right?). I also learned how much nicer/easier/better it is to cook with unlimited counter space and a garbage disposal.

It was such a treat to cook with someone I love so much. Olivia and I made panzanella (which basically gets better every time I make it), roasted potatoes and chicken stuffed with spinach, feta cheese and pine nuts. I realize I forgot something very important in making this recipe for my family because while they were all very complimentary of the dish, it could have used some fresh LEMON JUICE in the stuffing mixture. Lemon juice, by the way, is the miracle ingredient that provides bursting flavor to so many meals without adding a single calorie. You can use this recipe as a base for any stuffed chicken you would like t try. Sub goat cheese for the feta with the spinach, try something totally different with goat cheese and sun dried tomatoes or use Katie’s mom’s suggestion of creating a cream cheese and onion mixture to act as the stuffing. The stuffing can be made up of anything that sounds good to you. Just make sure it has a lot of strong flavors or else you run the risk of the dish coming up flat. Lastly, a nice flavorful sauce could be a great addition to the stuffed chicken (the gorgonzola sauce that goes with Ina Garten’s Beef Tenderloin recipe perhaps?).

This recipe is completely kid-friendly, see? (There is a bite or two way down at the bottom of her plate, people)

Although I am sure Charlotte prefers her popsicles:

Sometimes if you want something to taste really really yummy, it takes a long time to make. This is not one of those times.

Spinach and Feta Stuffed Chicken: not a decade in the making, but still good

(Makes 6-8 servings)

6 Chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
1 package fresh spinach
4 oz feta cheese (or more...you will never regret using more)
1/4 c pine nuts
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves chopped garlic
juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper
Olive oil for the pan

Coat a large pan with just a little bit of olive oil and place over med-high heat.
Add onion and garlic to the pan and cook until tender (about 8 min)
Add the fresh spinach to the pan and cook until wilted (about 5 min)
Add salt and pepper to taste, and remove from heat (try to drain, squeeze out or pat dry any excess moisture you can).
Toast pine nuts in a toaster oven until they turn slightly light brown (you can use a regular oven or just throw them in with the spinach in the pan for the last couple minutes while it wilts).
Add pine nuts, lemon juice and feta cheese to the spinach mixture, and combine well.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Lay out the chicken breasts on a cutting board, and cover with plastic wrap.
Pound chicken breasts out until they are less than 1/2 inch thick (no thinner than 1/4 inch), and remove plastic wrap.
Place a small handful of the spinach mixture in the middle of each chicken breast, and roll them up, securing with toothpicks (to keep them from unrolling.
Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste on the outsides of the chicken rolls.
In a large pan coated with a little bit of oil, brown the chicken rolls on all sides.
Place chicken in a small casserole dish.
Bake for 25-30 minutes (mine took 28) at 350 degrees F (until the juices run clear and there is no pink left in the flesh of the chicken.

I got a chance to chill with my brand new niece after dinner when the world was quiet (i.e. the other two girls were in bed).


The Boston Lady said...

What a sweet tribute to a wonderful couple! I love everything you said about their relationship - I look forward to meeting them one day!

"The Girls" are all adorable and I can see you have a sous-chef in Olivia. I think a moms n tots class would be a great idea.

Yummy recipe! Ann

Joanie said...

So cute! This recipe looks so yummy and easy, definitely have to try it! :) PS You, Becky, and Amanda look beautiful! Miss you guys!

Anonymous said...

Just thought you should know, I cooked this for dinner for Jordan and me last night. I think the official take away was that we could have eaten like 3 chicken breasts each! SO delicious. We added sun-dried tomatoes to ours and it was YUMMY!! Thanks for the recipe, I will definitely be coming back for more ideas!!

Kara Raynor

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