I love to garden. I have one major problem, though, and that’s the fact that I have no outdoor space to work with whatsoever. When we were signing the lease to our apartment, I knew very well that we were asking for the bigger apartment with no balcony – and I’ve subsequently suffered from renter’s remorse since winter passed. When walking around my neighborhood, I regularly endure pangs of jealousy every time I spot a balcony filled with various plants, flowers, and herbs.
A few months back, I took the problem into my own hands and decided to turn one of our windowsills into an indoor basil garden. I repotted two small basil plants and placed them on our windowsill where there is a decent amount of sun exposure. They suffered the first week, but I mothered them back to life and they have burgeoned into quite the impressive personal fresh basil supply.
Lucky for me, I have a ten-day vacation that starts in less than a week. This doesn’t bode well for the basil plants, however, as they will be left alone without anyone to water them. It doesn’t take a botanist to deduce their fate. Consequently, I decided to use most of the basil and make a huge batch of pesto; but I still had a bunch of extra basil leaves that I didn’t want to go to waste. Thus, a caprese (tomato, basil, and mozzarella) themed dinner popped into my head and I just went with it and prepared caprese cauliflower mash and caprese stuffed chicken breasts.
The stuffed chicken breasts turned out amazing. They tasted delicious and gave the dinner an elegant ambiance that isn’t often present in my cooking. As for the cauliflower mash, well, I hate myself for not cooking it years ago. It was scrumptious. The consistency wasn’t as thick as mashed potatoes, but the taste was just as flavorful and satisfying. The best part was how many calories were saved: Three cups of plain mashed potatoes (with margarine) comes out to around 732 calories, while three cups of plain cauliflower mash (with fat-free half and half) comes out to only 114 calories. That’s a savings of 618 calories, which is more than most meals! The cauliflower mash was simple to prepare and it’s a recipe that I will certainly be reusing.
Caprese Cauliflower Mash
-1 medium cauliflower
-2.25 cups of chicken broth
-1 cup of water
-3 to 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
-1 medium white onion, chopped
-1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
-2 cups of freshly chopped basil
-3 tbsp fat-free half and half
-1/2 cup of fresh buffalo mozzarella cheese
-3.5 tbsp of parmesan cheese
-Salt and Pepper to taste
-Chop the stalks off of the cauliflower and place the florets in a medium sized pot. Cover the cauliflower with the water, chicken broth, and a dash of salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Once the liquid is boiling, lower the heat to a simmer and let cook for twenty minutes. Drain the cauliflower in a colander. It’s important the cauliflower is as dry as possible, so let the liquid drain for about five minutes (I let it drain while the garlic, onions, and tomatoes cooked).
-While the cauliflower is draining and cooling, sauté the garlic and onion in a pan on medium heat for about five minutes. Add the quartered cherry tomatoes and a dash of salt and pepper and let cook for another couple of minutes, or until the tomatoes have softened.
-Once the cauliflower is drained, place the contents back in the pot, add another dash of salt and pepper, then take a masher (or a fork, it will just take longer) and mash the cauliflower until the consistency resembles that of actual mashed potatoes.
-Put the pot of cauliflower mash back on a burner at low to medium heat. Add the three tablespoons of half and half and continue to mash together.
-Stir in the cooked garlic, onions, and tomatoes with a spoon.
-Add the cheese and freshly chopped basil and stir together. Let cook for about 10 minutes to let the cheeses fully melt and so that any leftover liquid can steam off.
-Let cool for a couple of minutes. If desired, add salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy (guilt-free).
Caprese Stuffed Chicken Breasts
-2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
-2 cloves of garlic, chopped
-2 Roma tomatoes, sliced
-Approximately 4 large fresh basil leaves per chicken breast
-2 generous slices of fresh buffalo mozzarella
-Salt and Pepper to taste
-Preheat oven to 400 degrees and rinse the chicken breasts.
-In order to get the chicken breasts thin enough to fold, they need to be pounded with a meat mallet (or rolling pin). Pound them to your desired thickness, but remember to pound the chicken breasts evenly so they cook uniformly. I pounded mine fairly thin because I didn’t want the chicken to overpower the taste of the caprese stuffing.
-Pounding meat can be a messy ordeal, but if you wrap the meat in saran wrap or parchment paper and pound it on a cutting board, the mess can be kept to a minimum. Sprinkle the flattened meat with salt and pepper.
-Once the chicken breasts are flattened to the desired thickness, it’s time to assemble the caprese stuffing. Place a few slices of roma tomatoes on one half of the chicken breast. Proceed to add the garlic, fresh basil, fresh mozzarella, and salt and pepper to taste.
-Fold the top part of the chicken breast over the caprese, and with a toothpick, secure the chicken breast.
-Sprinkle the stuffed chicken breast with salt and pepper, place on a cooking sheet covered in foil, and cook for approximately 30 minutes (cooking times vary depending on oven and size of chicken breast).
-Let cool for a couple of minutes and enjoy!