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Naperville Eats: Working mom shares make-ahead chicken breasts

Lynn Strevell sometimes finds it challenging to get these cookies dipped into chocolate since her family can't wait to eat them.  |  Judy Buchenot~For Sun-Times Media
Lynn Strevell decorates her Chocolate-Dipped Shortbread Cookies, an easy and rich holiday treat.  |  Judy Buchenot~For Sun-Times Media

Facts

Gruyere, Arugula and Prosciutto Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Caramelized Shallot Sauce 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts 6 thin slices of prosciutto 6 slices Gruyere cheese 1-1/2 cups trimmed arugula 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon pepper 3 tablespoons flour 1 tablespoon olive oil Sauce 1 cup thinly sliced shallots 2 teaspoons tomato paste 2 cups dry white wine 2-1/4 cups chicken broth 1-1/2 teaspoons water 1 teaspoon cornstarch Pound each breast between waxed paper to 1/4-inch thickness. Top each breast with 1 slice prosciutto, 1 slice cheese and a few arugula leaves being sure to leave a 1/4-inch border around the edge. Fold each breast in half, pinching edges to seal. Sprinkle breasts with salt and pepper. Chicken can be wrapped and refrigerated overnight at this point if desired. Dredge chicken in flour. Heat oil in a nonstick skillet and cook chicken 5 minutes on each side. Place in a baking pan and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. While chicken is cooking, prepare the sauce by cooking shallots for 4 minutes in a skillet sprayed with nonstick spray. Add tomato paste and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add wine and bring to a boil. Cook until mixture is reduced to about 1 cup, about six minutes. Add broth and bring to a boil. Cook until reduced by half, about 8 minutes. Combine water and cornstarch in a small bowl and mix until smooth. Add to sauce mixture and bring to a boil. Cook and stir for 1 minute. Spoon sauce over chicken to serve. Chocolate-Dipped Shortbread Cookies 2 cups flour 1 cup butter 1/2 cup powdered sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla 2 cups semi-sweet mini chocolate morsels, divided 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts Cream together butter, powdered sugar and vanilla. Gradually add flour and mix until blended. Stir in a cup chocolate morsels. Shape dough into 2-inch logs. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes. Melt remaining morsels. Spoon melted chocolate over one end of each cookie. Dip in chopped nuts. Set on waxed paper until chocolate is set.

When Lynn Strevell has a few moments to relax after a busy day as a working mom, she often pulls out a recipe book.

“I love recipe books with pictures,” the Naperville resident says. “I like looking though them, reading the recipes and then photocopying the recipes I want to try.”

She enjoys the challenge of a new dish.

“I have been trying a lot of southwestern dishes lately, and my whole family seems to really like them,” she says.

By looking through recipes, she has been able to serve her husband and three children meals that go “way beyond hamburgers and hotdogs.” This past summer, she discovered pizza cooked on the outdoor grill, and successfully experimented with several topping combinations.

As the holidays approach, Strevell, 46, is busy planning meals for her family but is reminded of others who are struggling. As the homeless student advocate for DuPage County, she works to help students who have no home address to get placed into a school.

“Back in 2005-2006, there were 269 homeless students in DuPage County. There are now 1,300 in DuPage County,” she says. “People are more willing to be giving at holiday times, but the need continues all year. It is very hard to go through the holidays in a car or a shelter without a home.”

She encourages everyone to remember to support local food pantries and charities both now and all year long.

She likes to share meals with friends as well, especially at the holidays. One of her favorite recipes for entertaining is a stuffed chicken breast that can be partially prepared in advance.

“I actually think it is better when I stuff the breasts ahead of time because sitting overnight helps seal the chicken together,” she says.

Although the recipe calls for Gruyere cheese, Strevell says other cheeses can be substituted for different flavors. She also has used spinach in place of the arugula in the recipe.

The trickiest part of the dish is timing the sauce to finish at the same time as the breast. After dredging the breasts in flour and browning them lightly, they must bake 15 minutes.

“The sauce has to be reduced for about 15 minutes also, so I start the sauce before I put the chicken in the oven,” she explains.

Strevell says roasted asparagus goes well with the stuffed breast. She puts the asparagus in a pan, heats butter until it is golden brown and then adds a few chopped shallots. She spoons the mixture over the asparagus and puts a foil tent over it. She then bakes it for 10 minutes at 350 degrees.

“The chicken has a sauce that is red, which makes for a nice presentation with the green asparagus — the red and green is great for Christmas,” she says.

She serves the stuffed breast and asparagus with some crusty bread for an easy yet delicious meal.

For dessert, Strevell likes to offer her chocolate-dipped shortbread cookies.

“These cookies are delicious even without being dipped in chocolate,” Strevell says. “Sometimes they get eaten before I have a chance to dip them in chocolate.”

The cookies can be made in advance and keep well in an airtight container. Strevell shares both recipes for others to try for holiday entertaining.

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Facts

Gruyere, Arugula and Prosciutto Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Caramelized Shallot Sauce 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts 6 thin slices of prosciutto 6 slices Gruyere cheese 1-1/2 cups trimmed arugula 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon pepper 3 tablespoons flour 1 tablespoon olive oil Sauce 1 cup thinly sliced shallots 2 teaspoons tomato paste 2 cups dry white wine 2-1/4 cups chicken broth 1-1/2 teaspoons water 1 teaspoon cornstarch Pound each breast between waxed paper to 1/4-inch thickness. Top each breast with 1 slice prosciutto, 1 slice cheese and a few arugula leaves being sure to leave a 1/4-inch border around the edge. Fold each breast in half, pinching edges to seal. Sprinkle breasts with salt and pepper. Chicken can be wrapped and refrigerated overnight at this point if desired. Dredge chicken in flour. Heat oil in a nonstick skillet and cook chicken 5 minutes on each side. Place in a baking pan and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. While chicken is cooking, prepare the sauce by cooking shallots for 4 minutes in a skillet sprayed with nonstick spray. Add tomato paste and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add wine and bring to a boil. Cook until mixture is reduced to about 1 cup, about six minutes. Add broth and bring to a boil. Cook until reduced by half, about 8 minutes. Combine water and cornstarch in a small bowl and mix until smooth. Add to sauce mixture and bring to a boil. Cook and stir for 1 minute. Spoon sauce over chicken to serve. Chocolate-Dipped Shortbread Cookies 2 cups flour 1 cup butter 1/2 cup powdered sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla 2 cups semi-sweet mini chocolate morsels, divided 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts Cream together butter, powdered sugar and vanilla. Gradually add flour and mix until blended. Stir in a cup chocolate morsels. Shape dough into 2-inch logs. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes. Melt remaining morsels. Spoon melted chocolate over one end of each cookie. Dip in chopped nuts. Set on waxed paper until chocolate is set.
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