Pesto Chicken Grilled Cheese

Omnivores can cheer, this sandwich contains meat! Mildly inspired by my favorite panini at a local Italian restaurant, this recipe is hearty and filling but still a more exciting profile than your traditional cheddar.

I feel like most places with a “gourmet” grilled cheese option just shove about eleven pounds of cheese on there, with maybe the option of bacon and tomato. Although there’s nothing wrong with this method and it can be quite delicious (other than ruining a perfectly good sandwich with mostly raw tomato), I don’t find it particularly new and interesting anymore.

However, pesto and chicken are a match made in heaven and adding cheese to the concoction can only improve it. I chose Gruyère, mainly because I love Gruyere, but any sort of cheddar or pepper jack or whatever have you around would be equally delightful. A smidge of goat cheese adds a wonderful creaminess and a slight tang, but is totally optional if it’s not your thing. For an extra veggie boost I added a layer of fresh baby spinach which complemented everything nicely.

This is a great way to use up leftover chicken (which is what I did) but is definitely worth it to make specifically as well. I picked a striped rye bread I had around which was excellent, but almost anything would be awesome.

Also, tangy cheese and herby pesto are a fantastic combination in themselves, so for a vegetarian option just leave out the chicken (or replace it with roasted bell peppers). I promise it’s excellent both ways.

Pesto Chicken Grilled Cheese
Makes 1 sandwich

Ingredients

1 Tbsp pesto
1 Tbsp goat cheese (optional)
2 oz Gruyère, thinly sliced
1/4 cup cooked chicken, shredded or in thin slices
1/4 cup fresh baby spinach (optional)

2 slices bread
butter or oil

Directions

  1. In a medium pan (big enough to fit both slices side by side) heat a little butter or oil over medium-low.
  2. Spread pesto on one slice of bread. Dollop with goat cheese (if using) and top evenly with chicken. Optionally, add a layer of fresh spinach atop the chicken.
  3. Arrange Gruyère on the other slice and transfer both to the pan.
  4. Place a lid (or a plate, or whatever you have around) over the pan and continue to cook low and slow until the cheeses are melty and warmed through. 
  5. Gently move the Gruyère slice on top of the other and cook an additional 30-60 seconds so the flavors meld.
  6. Remove from pan, slice in half, and enjoy immediately.

Notes

I like this method of grilled cheese preparation because it doesn’t require flipping the whole sandwich, and I think the cheese melts faster, but feel free to use your own preferred method!

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Broccoli Cheese Soup

Happy almost New Year and hope everyone had a merry winter holiday, for those of you that celebrate it. I spent Christmas with M’s family in Oregon, which was a little weird given the lack of snow, but nice to spend the time with his family. We did not celebrate with the cinnamon rolls I posted two weeks ago, but I did make pie for Christmas Eve dinner with the grandparents. Maybe I’ll get the blueberry recipe up sometime next year.

Broccoli Cheese Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

This week I’m posting a nice cozy soup, great for the week between Christmas and New Year’s where all you want to do is hang out inside and relish those last few days off work or school. This is a simple recipe, and pretty quick to make, but it’s hearty and creamy and with all that broccoli in there it masquerades as vaguely healthy.

I like to use sharp cheddar in soups, but some pepperjack or gouda or any combination that strikes your fancy is sure to be delightful. A creamy base with generous amounts of cheese is intertwined with a hefty amount of broccoli, sure to please your cozy palate without feeling too much guilt about it.

Broccoli Cheese Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

I added a little celery as filler, but it’s just fine without it if you don’t have it on hand. Likewise you could throw a little zucchini in there. Since it’s puréed anyway, it’s a great soup for sneaking a couple extra neutral veggies into a meal.

When I was making it, M frowned at the idea of a meatless soup, so I added some diced turkey at the end to satiate him. It certainly is not necessary and the soup is great in its original vegetarian state, but if, like me, you have some carnivores to appease, some chicken or turkey is a great addition.

Broccoli Cheese Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

It goes great with a side of whole grain bread for either lunch or dinner, and reheats nicely if you have leftovers. If you’re looking for a simple and classic meal that’s maybe a little less extravagant than typical holiday fair, make a batch of this soup.

Broccoli Cheese Soup

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Makes about 2 quarts (a little more if you add meat)

Ingredients

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely diced
2 small stalks celery, finely diced (optional)

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup half-and-half

4 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
1/2 tsp garlic powder
freshly ground pepper, to taste

1.5 pounds broccoli, chopped small (about 8 cups)
1 large carrot, grated (about 1 cup)

1-2 cups cooked, diced chicken or turkey breast (optional)
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Directions

  1. In a heavy pot over medium heat, melt the butter.
  2. Add onion and celery and sauté until softened and onions are translucent.
  3. Stir in flour until no lumps remain, then stir in half and half until smooth.
  4. Add broth, garlic powder, and pepper, and bring to a simmer.
  5. Simmer over medium-low about 10 minutes, until mixture thickens slightly.
  6. Add broccoli and carrot, and simmer until softened, about 20 minutes.
  7. Use an immersion blender (or any blender) to puree the soup to your preferred texture. I like it mostly smooth with a few chunks of broccoli, but you can blend as little or as much as you like.
  8. If using poultry, add it now and simmer an additional 5 minutes or until meat is warmed through.
  9. Remove soup from the heat and stir in the cheese until completely incorporated.
  10. Serve hot with an extra pinch of cheese, a sprinkle of freshly ground pepper, and a side of savory bread.

[Slow Cooker] Enchilada Soup

Bozeman has been slow to head towards winter which makes it difficult to dive into fall cooking. The weather is a little bipolar, often jumping between 20’s one week and high 50’s the next. As someone who loves cold weather, the latter of the two makes me very upset inside. Recently, however, we had a short bout of 30’s, which led me to making this wonderful slow cooker soup.

[Slow Cooker] Enchilada Soup >> Baking Bytes

In addition to being incredibly fast to assemble (not including cooking time, of course) this soup is delicious and perfect for a chilly fall day. A little spicy, this soup version of a Mexican dinner is warm and hearty and goes great with a side of cornbread. (Or if you’re me, cornbread goes great with a side of this soup.) M is a hunter so I used deer steak we had in the freezer, but use whatever meat or poultry you prefer. Corn, black beans, and green beans come together for a healthy and filling meal with the spiciness of chili peppers and enchilada sauce.

As with most slow cooker recipes, this one is very easy to modify to fit your personal preferences. Add and subtract canned/frozen veggies as you like, but be mindful of the overall volume as my small crock pot barely fit this recipe. It’s also easy to tailor towards your own spice tolerance; choose mild or hot enchilada sauce and peppers as you prefer. I’m fairly wussy so I tend towards medium and mild, respectively.

[Slow Cooker] Enchilada Soup >> Baking Bytes

This recipe makes enough to feed a decent crowd, or an average family with leftovers for later. If your weather is guiding you to soup cravings, this one is sure to satiate you.

Enchilada Soup

Adapted from SnarkRecipes
Makes 3 quarts

Ingredients

1 lb meat/poultry of choice1

1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes, drained
1 (10 oz) can enchilada sauce
1 (4 oz) can diced green chili peppers
1 (10 oz) package frozen corn2
1 can green beans (optional)
1 can black beans, rinsed

1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp black pepper

2 cans chicken broth3

cheddar cheese, grated (optional garnish)

Directions

  1. Dice meat into bite-sized cubes and brown in a skillet over medium heat. Drain and add to slow cooker.
  2. Stir in onions and garlic to distribute evenly.
  3. Layer remaining ingredients except chicken broth.
  4. Gently pour in the chicken broth, being careful not to overflow, and stir gently.
  5. Cover and cook on low for about 6 hours, or on high for about 3 hours.
  6. Serve garnished with shredded cheese.

[Slow Cooker] Enchilada Soup >> Baking Bytes

Notes

Again, I used deer steak but use whatever you prefer. Chicken or beef would both be great.
If you buy frozen corn in bulk like I do, 10 oz is about two cups.
If you have a larger slow cooker and would prefer a more brothy soup, you may want to add an additional can of chicken broth.
If you want to come home to a lovely dinner already made, cooking this a few extra hours won’t hurt it. Throw it together the night before, store it in the fridge overnight, turn it on “low” in the morning, and have dinner ready to go when you walk in the door.

Sweet & Spicy Honey Baked Chicken

M and I don’t normally eat a lot of chicken, mainly because our freezers (yes, plural) are always full of elk and venison. While I love having lean, wild meat at my disposal, every once in a while chicken just sounds perfect. To satiate my most recent craving, I pulled out a recipe I hadn’t made since 2009, during my exchange in Scotland. I figured if 2009-Lindsey could handle it, 2013-Lindsey definitely could. (The 2009 version was substantially less domestically inclined.)

Sweet & Spicy Honey Baked Chicken

2009-Lindsey had mad skills. And ugly plates.

I love this recipe because in addition to being ridiculously easy and super delicious, I always have everything on hand (except maybe chicken.) Honey, mustard, and curry powder come together in a delightful sauce in which chicken breasts are baked to perfection. It goes perfectly with rice and a side of vegetables. Whether there is any chicken leftover or not, extra sauce and rice heat up well for a quick and tasty lunch the next day.Sweet & Spicy Honey Baked Chicken - Baking Bytes

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts from the boneless, skinless chicken breast farm (joking) are my preferred cut of choice, but it should work with thighs or whatever is more your style; you might just have to adjust the cooking time a little bit.

Although the baking duration doesn’t make this a quick dinner, there’s not a lot of active cooking time. It also works really well to prepare everything in the morning (or the night before), stick it in the fridge, and throw the dish in the oven whenever you get home. This doesn’t save a ton of time, but if, like me, you don’t like to do a lot of dinner preparation after you get home from work, it gives you more time to relax without resorting to cold cereal for dinner. (This is something I may or may not do on a semi-regular basis…)

If you’re feeling the sweet & spicy flavor, throw this recipe together and let me know how it goes. Be sure to taste the sauce and adjust it to your preferences. I have a super low spice tolerance so maybe you want to up the curry powder. Maybe you don’t love sugar as much as I do and you want to decrease the honey. Or maybe you’re in a sugary mood and you want to up the honey. Play with it: I don’t think you can mess it up. (That is not a challenge.)

Sweet & Spicy Honey Baked Chicken - Baking Bytes

Sweet & Spicy Honey Baked Chicken

Adapted from Gretchen
Makes 4 chicken breasts and lots of sauce

Ingredients

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

8 Tbsp (1 stick) butter, melted1
3/4 cup honey
1/2 cup mustard (I like Dijon)
1 tsp salt
1 – 1.5 tsp curry powder

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk remaining ingredients until thoroughly combined.
  3. Pour a small amount of the sauce in an 8″x8″ or 9″x9″ baking dish and squeeze in your chicken on top; cover with remaining sauce.
  4. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until chicken reaches 165 degrees internally.
  5. Let cool for a few minutes, then serve with rice and a green vegetable.2

Notes

1 You could easily cut back the butter on this recipe, probably to 1/2 a stick (1/4 cup). I plan to do so next time I make it.
I think this recipe would also be great with noodles. I’d probably cut up the chicken into bite-sized pieces and mix everything together before serving.