People who know me well know that for the last 15 years, I’ve struggled with crippling depression. I found out last week, finally, that the reason I don’t respond to medication is because I’m actually allergic to them… All of them. So, of course, food being my perennial weapon of choice, I looked into recent research into dietary solutions and came upon the Ketogenic diet. Originally developed in the 1920’s to combat refractory epilepsy, it is currently being investigated in small studies for management of mood disorder symptoms. It demands that I keep a totally alien ratio of macronutrients in order to achieve relief: 70-80% fat, 20-25% protein, and no more than 20 g of carbs a day.
I figured it was going to take a long time to really see results. It didn’t. I’ve lost about 9 lbs in the last 4 days, but more importantly, I’m beginning to regain functioning like I’ve really never experienced in my life. Today, I drove more than five miles for the first time in close to a year without a panic attack, or even any anxiety at all. If I haven’t posted in a bit, it’s because this. is. not. typical for me. And it is VERY exciting!!!
That being said, we’re still broke. What else is new? Oh well!! So of course, this excellent, life-saving method of eating needed to fit into our budget to really be a viable treatment plan. Plus, I needed a palatable meal for my husband, who has jumped on the band wagon to drop a few pounds.
So without further adieu, I present to you….
Prosciutto Wrapped Chicken over Alfredo Spaghetti Squash with Cremini Mushrooms and Baby Spinach
Serves 6, but the sauce serves 12, so set aside half before you even start serving, or you’ll quickly wind up with a day’s worth of calories on your plate. Unless you’re down with that, in which case, I like your style.
- 2 chicken breasts, halved through the center to create 4 flat pieces, then cut each piece into 3 tenders
- 12 thin, long slices of Prosciutto (I pick this up at Aldi’s because it’s easy and affordable)
- 1 Tbs ghee (for frying up the chicken)
- 6 oz Neufchatel Cheese (or cream cheese…. whatever.)
- 2 sticks of butter (or 1 cup)
- 5 cloves of garlic
- 8 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
- 4 c fresh baby spinach
- 1 to 1-1/2 c parmesan cheese (to taste, I REALLY like Parm so I just throw it on in there like it’s going out of style)
- 1 c chicken stock (more or less to achieve desired viscosity)
- Sprinkle or two of crushed red pepper
- Ground black pepper to taste
- Salt to taste
- 1 halved spaghetti squash
- 1 Tbs Ghee, divided (for slathering on the spag’ squash)
- Stab the spaghetti squash with a steak knife a couple times to make sure it doesn’t explode in the microwave. That sucks. Not that I know anything about it…. Microwave the whole thing on high for 5 minutes. Cut in half, scrape out the seeds, then coat the inside with ghee, half of that Tbs for each side. Season with salt, and microwave another 5-6 mins. You want the flesh to still be fairly pale yellow with some darker mushier looking edges. Don’t OVER cook it, or you’ll end up with wet mush. If you’re not sure, take a fork to it. Rake the fork over the sides (I suppose I ought to post a video of this…. stay tuned.) and if you’re pulling down thin, clear noodles, you’re doing it right. If it’s mush…. you killed it. Mourn appropriately, but it’s time to grab the Barilla out of the pantry and call it a day. (Or start over with that back up spaghetti squash that pretty much nobody has just chillin’ in their kitchen like that. Your call.)
- Preheat oven to 350.
- Season chicken with salt and pepper (I used a little paprika just for sips and gigs), then wrap each tender with one piece of prosciutto so that they’re pretty much totally encased in a thin, porky, salty blanket. Upload photo to instagram with a hashtag like #DomesticGoddess (or #DomesticGod because we don’t play with gender stereotypes here at Lunchbox HQ). Set aside.
- In a heavy bottom skillet (Or a large, nonstick pan from the Dollar General, as was my MO before I picked up my Calphelon on sale at HomeGoods, whatever pan you have with the largest surface area and the least likelihood of developing hot spots), heat 1 Tbs ghee on medium-high. Once it’s shimmering (moving quickly about the pan when you tilt it, and looking kinda wavy), place each tender seam side down with a good inch or so between each tender. You may need to do batches for this, in which case, see notes at the end of the recipe. Let that sit for about 5-7 minutes, until the seam side becomes crispy. Flip them, let them hang out for about 2 minutes, then transfer the whole kit and kaboodle into the oven. (Unless your pan has a plastic or otherwise not heat proof handle, in which case, refer to batching instructions below. I am yet unaware of any diet or recipe that calls for “molten plastic to taste,” but if you find one I would politely suggest you keep browsing.) I let this go for probably 20-30 mins, because with the amount of fat and salt you’ve wrapped the chicken in, it’s much harder to dry out than your run-of-the-mill boneless, skinless chicken breast recipe. For all you beginner domestic deities out there, rejoice in that this one is hard to mess up.
- So at this point, you’re going to start your Alfredo. In a sauce pan over medium heat, add the butter, let it melt down, and then add your chopped garlic. Really, if you LOVE garlic, you could definitely double the amount I call for in this recipe, because the outcome is essentially roasted garlic, which was probably invented by Jesus to give us hope in dark, dark times. (Not that roasted garlic is partial to any one religion… I like to picture Jesus, Buddha, King Solomon, Muhammed, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster all sitting down at a reclaimed wood dinner table designed by Joanna Gaines, slathering roasted garlic onto sliced baguettes and singing Kumbaya.) It’s milder than raw garlic, and if you refrain from burning it to death, it’s got a lovely, sweet, homey flavor that makes you want to just curl up in a blanket and think about baby bunnies. It’s great. ANYWAY. Let the garlic go for about 10 minutes, stirring pretty often to keep it from burning. I can’t stress enough, don’t put the heat up too high to speed this part up. Burnt garlic tastes much more bitter than either roasted or raw garlic, and it can literally ruin the entire meal. If it looks like your garlic is bubbling too fast or you’re not really sure, turn the heat down and take your time. Better safe than sorry. During this period, I like to shred my spaghetti squash. It makes good use of time and once this is all done, you’re definitely going to want to dive right in.
- Once the garlic is becoming translucent and light brown, add the sliced cremini mushrooms. Cook them down for about another 10 minutes. Stir in the cream cheese, parmesan, and about 3/4 c chicken stock. Stir until combined. If you think the texture is too thick, which is probable at this point, add more chicken stock, a little bit at a time, until you reach your preferred viscosity. Add crushed red pepper, fresh cracked black pepper, and baby spinach. Stir, and fear not, because that baby spinach is going to cook down and not be as invasive as it looks right now. Turn your heat down to medium low or low, and let it finish for about 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent burning. Taste, and salt as desired.
- I like to cut the tenders into medallions. They’re easier to eat that way. But it’s your body, do what you want. Put 1/6 of the spaghetti squash into a pasta bowl, top with Alfredo, and put 2 tenders worth of medallions on top. DON’T FORGET!!!! Put half the sauce away RIGHT away. It’s so good and it’s so easy to go overboard.
Then eat it. 🙂
…. And try not to go for seconds.
*Note on Batching the Chicken: It’s very important not to crowd the pan when you’re searing meats, but particularly in this recipe. No one likes soggy Prosciutto. If you have to sear in batches, do the following:
Once the ghee is shimmering, place, seam side down, however many pieces of chicken you can fit with at least 1/2″ space between them. Let them chill until crispy and darker brown, about 5-7 minutes. Flip, then sear a little longer than if you were placing the pan in the oven. Give them maybe 4 minutes, then put them on a greased cookie sheet (or a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper for my fellow lazy chefs out there!). Repeat with remaining chicken, then place the cookie sheet in the oven and proceed as normal.
** If you don’t have ghee (because unless you’re of Indian descent or know about it some other way, why would you?), use any frying oil you have on hand. Try to stay healthy, but it is what it is.
Time: appx. 45 mins from start to finish
Cost (shopping at Aldi’s):
- 2 chicken breasts: $6
- Cream cheese: $2.69
- Parmesan cheese: $2.69
- 2 sticks butter: $2.00
- Spaghetti squash: $1.49
- 1 c chicken stock: $0.50
- Cremini mushrooms: $1.99
- Baby spinach: $1.99
- Garlic cloves: $0.17
TOTAL COST: $19.53
Feeds 6 with 2 pieces of chicken, then gives you 6 servings of the Alfredo with mushrooms and spinach to use on other stuff at your discretion.