Chicken Pastry Pockets

Long time no see, my faithful foodie followers! We all know that sometimes life happens, yes? Hopefully, since the last time we’ve all been together, you’ve had delicious food encounters, been adventurous in the kitchen, and perhaps found a new favorite food. I’ve had a lot going on in my kitchen, and I’m looking forward to sharing it all with y’all. The dish for this particular entry was born of my constant search for something fun and different to do with chicken breasts. One night, a search through my fridge turned up puff pastry and Laughing Cow cheese wedges. I thought to myself, “Surely I can combine these things for something delicious!” A quick Google search showed me that I wasn’t crazy and provided a template for my adventure. Now I bring my adventure to you: chicken pastry pockets!

Chicken Pastry Pockets

Chicken Pastry Pockets (adapted from: Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry recipes)

Ingredients
8 – 10 ounces skinless, boneless chicken breast
4 wedges Light Mozzarella, Sun-Dried Tomato, & Basil Laughing Cow cheese
1 clove garlic – minced
7 basil leaves – chopped
1 sheet puff pastry – thawed
1 egg
splash of water
Seasoning of choice for the chicken
Olive Oil – no more than a tablespoon

Steps
1. Take your chicken breast and put it on a cutting board, cover with plastic wrap, take a flat-bottomed implement, and then pound the chicken breast until it’s all one thickness across. I don’t go for a particular dimension, just something that is uniform. My implement is a drink muddler, but use whatever you have…a heavy drinking glass, a meat mallet, or a heavy skillet.

Flattening Chicken
2. Season your chicken breast on both sides with your chosen seasoning. I went with Greek because the flavors go well with the cheese.
3. Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees.
4. Preheat your skillet by placing on the stove turned to medium-high heat, or 5 out of 10. Add your olive oil, and let it heat up for 2 – 3 minutes.
5. Add your chicken breast and cook about 3 minutes on each side. You don’t want or need to cook it through as there will be more cooking time in the oven. You are browning it and just starting the cooking process.

PreCooking Chicken
6. In a bowl, combine the cheese wedges, minced garlic, and the chopped basil leaves.
7. On a clean cutting board, place your puff pastry sheet, and begin to gently use a rolling pin to roll it out and make it a little thinner, and extend the edges.
8. When you remove the chicken from the heat, let it cool for a few minutes (perhaps while you finish step 7) before you chop it or slice it into small pieces. Don’t worry if there is an undercooked section in the middle.  The chicken will finish cooking in the oven.

Cut up Chicken
9. Score your puff pastry sheet into quarters. Spread your cheese mixture evenly onto each quarter. Just eyeball the amount. Add the chicken pieces on top.

Chicken Pastry Pocket Collage
10. Carefully, pick up each quarter’s edges and fold/tuck them over and on top of each other until all the edges and corners are folded up. Pick it up as a bundle and place it on a parchment paper lined or greased jelly roll pan, seam-side down.
11. In a clean bowl, beat an egg, add a splash of water, and then brush your mixture over the pastry pockets so they’ll bake up a lovely golden brown.

Chicken Pastry Pockets Collage
12. Bake for about 12 – 15 minutes. In my oven, I check them at 10 minutes and rotate the pan to ensure even browning. As always, when you take it out of the oven, give it a minute to cool before you eat to avoid scalding your tongue!

I hope you enjoy these as much as folks in my home have! I believe that you could substitute the flavor of Laughing Cow cheese for a tasty variety in your pastry pockets, but so far I’ve stayed with the tomato and basil option. In terms of leftovers, they do keep for the next day or two and microwave at work just fine. The puff pastry will lose its crunch. But it will still have the deliciousness you had from the day before.

Golden Brown Pockets
Let’s chat about puff pastry for a moment or two, shall we? I’ve heard on Food Network and seen several recipes that talk about keeping puff pastry in your freezer as a kitchen staple. I agree that is a handy recipe ingredient, and fairly versatile as well. However, let’s be real that puff pastry is not an economical ingredient, really. I cringe when I buy it, and I don’t buy it often. Lately I’ve been using crescent rolls as a substitute for puff pastry in a lot of recipes, although I have not yet tried it here. Crescent rolls are less expensive and so far seem to work just as well, although they are a little flimsier, in recipes where I’ve substituted them. For a while, my grocery store stocked crescent roll sheets instead of the triangles. The sheets don’t require as much manipulation, and that made them easier to use as a substitute. I’ve wondered about pizza dough and its efficacy with this particular dish. It might turn out to be somewhat like chicken calzones. If you try it, let me know!  Even with these options, I do think that puff pastry is worth the splurge, now and again.

While the puff pastry may balance it out calorically, I do appreciate that Laughing Cow cheese is a healthier alternative to cream cheese, which is what I saw commonly used as a binder in this type of recipe on the web. Plus it comes already flavored! In terms of your additional flavor boosters (here, the garlic and basil), I think you could vary it as long as you stuck with the theme of the cheese. If you wanted, you could chop up some sun-dried tomatoes or other Italian herbs. If you were using the Garlic & Herb Laughing Cow cheese, any complimentary herbs could be used with a clove or two of garlic. Should you venture out into the Queso Fresco & Chipotle, I still think the garlic clove would be a good idea with perhaps some peppers of your choice. A little Mexican oregano would also be appropriate, I think. There are so many possibilities for flavor additions!

I know that so many of us eat chicken frequently and are thus constantly in search of creative ways to serve up new chicken dishes. I hope this has inspired you to try something new in your home with just a few ingredients that you might not have thought about combining before. The prep goes quickly, and it’s incredibly tasty every time. Let me know how you like it! Happy eating!

Nutritional InfoChicken Pastry Pockets Ingredients per pocket
Calories: 474
Fat: 28.7 g
Carbs: 29.3 g
Protein: 21.3 g
Calcium: 9.7 %
Iron: 11.9%

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Rogue Food Pen Pal: Jedi Max

This month, despite taking a leave from the official Foodie Pen Pals exchange due to travel, I sent a package to a very special pen pal with a story that I hope will touch your heart. Jedi Max is the eight-year-old son of a high school friend of mine, Jay, and her husband, Scott. In high school, Jay and I were in theatre together so we have lots of crazy stories! I don’t have too many close friends from my youth anymore, so the few who I do have are quite precious to me, as are their families. Max and I even have a history. 🙂 Once, I visited Jay over Valentine’s Day weekend, and Max declared himself my boyfriend. He was quite the sweetheart all weekend long.

With permission from his mama, I sent Max questions about food allergies and preferences, just like I would for any other pen pal and waited for his response. I’m pretty sure that Max wins the award for fastest response time for any of my pen pals so far as I had his answers back in under 30 minutes! His questions were a little more kid-friendly, but still centered around likes/dislikes/information-gathering for my shopping purposes. When his answers came back via Jay, one thing was clear: the boy has a sweet tooth!! I also appreciated that he said he was willing to try new things.

Here is what Max and Jay had to say about the treats Max received. They also took great pictures with some of the most hilarious faces ever!

Dried Pineapple: “It smelled okay. It looked interesting.” He didn’t like it. “I like my food with more moisture.”

Dried Apple Rings: He was scared when he saw it. He tasted it and disliked it. He said “It tasted like a bad frozen yogurt.” (He and Katie both tried the fruit).

Katie's thumbs down           Max's thumbs down
(Yikes on Max’s face, huh? Kinda feel sorry for him just a little bit!)

Julio’s Chips: “They looked good. The bag was bright!” He said they were “okay” but disliked them more than he liked them. He had more fun feeding them to me b/c they are GOOD! 🙂

Mom LOVES Julio’s, even if Max isn’t a fan.

Jr. Mints: They were melted in the box. 😦 He said it smelled “nice and minty.” He said, “They didn’t taste like I thought they would.” He was hoping they would taste more like the ice cream.

Green and Red Apple Jelly beans: “The red ones were the best… they were sweeter.”

jelly bean and jumior mint collage
Blueberry Oatmeal: “Kind of okay.” He said it “looked good” but there was “too much blue and not enough berry.”

Green Apple Soda: By far his favorite! “It was green and delicious!”

green soda face

What is this??

close up with soda

Love the soda!

Mmm…mmm…good!!

Everything Max (and Mom!) got.

If you take a minute and look up at the tabs across the top of my blog, you’ll notice a new tab titled “Jedi Max.” There you can find more details about what I’m fixing to share with you and how you can make a difference, but I wanted to introduce it to you in person. At the beginning of May, Jay took Max to the doctor several times over the course of two weeks for not feeling well, and it culminated in a trip to the ER and emergency transport from their town to Dell Children’s Hospital in Austin because Max had a mass on the right occipital lobe of his brain. In under a week, he had surgery to have the mass taken out, and while he was slated to be in the hospital for at least a week, he was released in 4 days. Now he’s just finished radiation with chemotherapy soon to follow. They travel 800 miles a week, total, for his medical appointments which are all in Austin where they do not live, but the doctors do. It has gotten difficult financially for them and will continue to get even more so as Max’s medical bills come in over time. At this point, it’s unclear if Jay will be able to return to her job in the fall or not.

Getting radiation in his Star Wars face mask.

Just a boy and his Legos.

A friend of theirs has started a donation site at Give Forward where folks can donate to help cover their expenses. I’ve read through the site, and it seems legit. What I did notice is that the site takes 7% of funds raised (“a small processing fee”), so if we want to give Max and his family $20,000 in September, we really need to raise approximately $21,500 (if I did the math right). If you feel led to help a little boy and his family, or even just to learn more about his story, please click on the “Jedi Max” tab for links to the original blog of his story, the current blog, and the donation site. If every pen pal and friend who visited my blog over the next few days was willing to donate $15 (the cost of the average pen pal package), we could nearly double the amount they currently have raised. Can we do that? I bet we could! I feel confident about the difference we can make.

In the mean time, enjoy some pictures of Max! He’s a great kiddo with a big heart who is going to beat this cancer and go on to make a difference in the world. Love this kid!

Mmmm…turkey leg!!

miami vice max

Miami Vice Max! He’s got charm, for sure!

Yowsa! Bless his heart for trying! 🙂

Did I mention he has a sweet tooth?

Foodie Pen Pal Fun: Inbound from Florida

Holy heat wave, batman! How did we get to the end of June? The good news about being at the end of June is that I get to share with you the delightful treats that my pen pal from Florida, Adriana from Foodie Be Fit, sent me. These refreshing treats help me forget the triple digit action outside, so I recommend you go right out to get some of them for yourself, too. This month, it’s hard to pick my absolute favorite treat from the box because they’ve all been so great. Adriana asked me great questions and really did a fantastic job of broadening my horizons. Here is the full bounty, minus one poor sacrifice to the mailing gods.

foodie pen pal box

Not included in the photo was a mango that Adriana sent me from her backyard. How stinkin’ cool is that?! I love that she sent me homegrown produce. It would have gone great in my latest summer salad obsession. If you love mango and avocado, you should definitely check it out. I was out of town when the package arrived, so it pretty much baked in my apartment package pick-up area for several days at 100+ degrees. Poor mango, it just didn’t stand a chance. Fellow Foodie Pen Pal Stacy composed an obituary haiku for my homegrown Florida mango:

Sweet, juicy mango
Austin was unkind to you
The thought is what counts.

In every package, I appreciate snacks that I can take to work, and this package certainly delivered.
Snack Bars
I’ve been noshing on the bars and crackers all week, much to my taste buds’ delight. Lara Bars certainly make the Pen Pal rounds, but I’ve not seen an Über Lara Bar before. Last month, I had a comment conversation with another blogger about how she doesn’t like Lara Bars because she likes to see the ingredients in what she eats, and that can be tricky in a typical Lara Bar. Well, my foodie friends, if that is your stance, then the Über Lara Bar is for you. The fruits and nuts in the bar are larger and more identifiable. There are more ingredients in these, it seems, but I’m okay with that. It was crunchy, sweet, and fruity. I’ve never had a Clif MoJo bar either. I’ve seen them in the store, but never committed. Well, I’m committed now. This was nutty, chocolaty; also, you can see all the ingredients in this as well. It has a fair bit of protein and fiber, which is nice. Plus it is 70% organic which goes a long way for a lot of you.

Lara Bar front

Lara Bar front

Lara Bar Back

Lara Bar back

Clif MoJo Bar

Clif MoJo Bar

These crackers have been a staple in my lunch this week.
Pumpkin Seed and Cheddar Crackers
I’ve only had Dr. Kracker once before, and I wasn’t a huge fan because they were so thick that it sort of gave me a headache eating them. These, however, are not obscenely thick and crunchy. They have a nutty and slightly salty flavor between the roasted pumpkin seeds and the cheddar that is baked on. One cracker sheet is a serving and is pretty healthy. I *might* be eating two sheets now and again…don’t judge. 🙂 They are THAT good. There are a bunch of flavors which gives me lots of exciting choices to try.
Dr. Kracker box
Dr. Kracker varieties

The salad dressing has been good on my salads this week and in my snacks for dipping cucumber. I’ve not had a super ton of Green Goddess dressing before, so it’s pretty new to me. It’s quite herbaceous and lemony. I think it will be excellent with some seafood and pasta, perhaps even together. I’m really looking forward to finding ways to use this. If you have tips or suggestions for me, let me know!
Salad with Green Goddess dressing

Y’all, she sent me the cutest gummy pandas! Her pen pal last month sent them to her, and she has continued the chain of goodness.
Gummy Pandas
These are delightful. I like gummy candy now and again, but really my favorite part of these is the grapefruit part. I was slow to come to love grapefruit, but indeed I have come to love this controversial fruit. These sweet pandas are tangy, but not sour, and somehow I am compelled to eat at least two small handfuls every time I open the bag. I will be sad when they are gone, so hopefully I can find more in my neighborhood. These are also certified organic so you can get excited about that!
Grapefruit Gummies

Lastly, the honey-roasted peanut butter was freshly ground at her farmer’s market which I think is so great.
Farmer's Market Peanut Butter
I also received some flavored, homemade peanut butter in my first pen pal box which was tasty too. This peanut butter has a different texture than my nut butter from Sarah. Sarah’s peanut butter was smooth, and had more flavors added into the butter. This nut butter is crunchy, but not chunky-crunchy like store peanut butter. The nut pieces are plentiful throughout which makes it almost like a paste. It is a thicker-spreading peanut butter with far more peanuts to butter, so to speak. I put it on my breakfast toast and immediately fell in love. I scraped clean the container I brought it to work in and then immediately had a large spoonful when I got home. After all this exposure to non-store bought peanut butter, I will be exploring more fresh, homemade nut butters, for sure.
Chunky Peanut Butter

This month, I sent my box o’ goodies to Alexandra over at Healthy Life, Happy Wife. Go check out what great Texas delights I sent her. The tweet I got when she received the package indicated I did a pretty solid job of selecting goodies. That makes my heart happy. 🙂

Foodie friends, if you are not signed up to be a pen pal yet, then let’s get you on board. Visit Lindsay’s blog (The Lean Green Bean), to get the expanded details from the master organizer. The abridged version is that you sign up before day’s end on July 4th so you can get your pairings from Lindsay on July 5th. Then you have 3 days to contact them, find out their food allergies, preferences, etc., and then with a $15 spending limit, you are off to the grocery store. Ship the tasty treats by the 15th, and wait on your own box of goodies to arrive. If you are a blogger, you post on the last day of the month. If you are a reader, you just sit back, eat, and enjoy. It’s pretty much the best food choice you could make, so just pop on over and sign up already. Seriously. All the cool foodies are doing it.

Happy eating!

The Lean Green Bean