Monday, April 30, 2012

Basil Pesto Chicken

For the past two weeks, I've been making some really poor food choices.  

Let's recap:
- I have been in all-day training meetings at work for the past two weeks.  This means that I have access to free breakfasts, free morning snack buffets, free lunches, and free afternoon snack buffets.  Although I sometimes make good food choices, that doesn't really matter if you eat a ton of healthy food.  The volume of food outweighs the quality of the food at that point.
- Additionally, I took a trip to Disneyworld last weekend.  I had a fabulous time but it is super super hard to eat healthy food while on vacation.  My willpower just can't win in battles like these.

I was so happy to make it back home on Monday so I could try to get my body used to eating some semblance of healthy food once again.  I can also head over to the dance studio now and squeeze in some cardio workouts.  Finally!

I stumbled across this chicken dish through a photo posted on Pinterest.  Can I state how much I love that site?  Such pretty pictures.  I then discovered that the recipe associated with this picture belongs to the Kalyn's Kitchen blog.  I think she has simple, interesting recipes and beautiful photos on her site.  Another thing I love!

After reading through the post, I realized that the Basil Pesto Chicken recipe is actually a part of the South Beach Diet cookbook.  Now, I'm not one to follow diets.  If I want to get my body back on track, I make sure to eat healthy foods and get enough exercise.  But since everything in this recipe is fresh and good for me, I had no qualms about whipping this up.  And of course there's cheese.  There's always cheese.

Basil Pesto Chicken
slightly adapted from Kalyn's Kitchen
makes ~4 servings

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (~1 lb chicken)
  • Salt, fresh ground black pepper, and cayenne pepper for seasoning chicken
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup basil pesto (I used my homemade basil pesto, but you can use any pesto you have)
  • 1/2 - 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2) Trim the chicken so any visible fat and tendons are removed.  Cut the chicken breasts lengthwise into 2 or 3 pieces, depending on how thick or thin you would like them.

3) Season the chicken with salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper as desired.  Don't use too much salt, as cheese will be added later on to the chicken.

4) Spray a 9" x 12" (or 8.5" X 12.5") baking dish with non-stick spray, then spread 1/4 cup basil pesto over the bottom of the dish.

5) Lay the chicken strips over the pesto, then spread the remaining 1/4 cup basil pesto over the chicken.

6) Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and bake the chicken for 15-20 minutes, or just until chicken is barely firm and cooked through. (Don't cook too much at this point, or the chicken will be overcooked by the time the cheese is melted and browned.)

7) When the chicken is barely cooked through, remove the foil and sprinkle the chicken with the grated mozzarella cheese. Put dish back into the oven without foil and cook 5 minutes more, just until the cheese is melted.  Serve hot.

I adore basil.  And my basil pesto did not disappoint here.  The chicken turned out to be very flavorful and it has a little kick from the cayenne.  If you want to keep things rolling along in the "Healthy" lane, this chicken would be great over some brown rice, cous cous, or quinoa.  Other options include spooning this chicken and the sauce over some pasta or white rice.  Who says you can't have both a healthy and delicious meal?


  1. Judy Brunner from Quakertown PaJuly 9, 2013 at 9:28 AM

    sliced tomatoes under cheese is also nice and healthy and very tasty!

    1. Wow, that sounds like an amazing adaptation! Thanks for the tip!

  2. Just finished making this dish over whole wheat pasta and it is absolutely delicious!!! Can't wait to cook this as part of a large family dinner

  3. great dish..I add the tomatoes and quinoa tonight. Everyone loved it. Thanks,Art

  4. Made this dish with tomatoes and quinoa tonight. Everyone loved it.

  5. Great dish! I added the tomatoes under the cheese as well as drizzled balsamic vinegar over the pesto! So yummy!

    1. All these variations sound delicious! I'll have to try them too.