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Summer Pesto Chicken…and the exploding dinner party

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Confession time… I used to cook very little. I lived alone until my early thirties and cooking for one is BORING. My knowledge of cooking was so scant that when my friends and I would have potluck Thanksgiving dinners, I would be asked to bring the cranberry sauce. One year, feeling somewhat inadequate, I made the cranberry sauce from scratch just to prove to everyone that I wasn’t a complete cooking moron.

When I moved in with my husband, I was suddenly cooking for four. While that was a steep enough learning curve, my husband also loved to throw dinner parties. When he would tell me he’d invited friends over for dinner, I would feel the anxiety rising up over me like a fast moving tide. What?! Cook for 8? What on earth could I possibly serve? Every time we had a dinner party, I was a mess. Then one day, our dinner party exploded.

My husband had asked me to throw a dinner party for six. I was stressing about what to cook and looking up recipes online when I received a facebook message from an acquaintance. She wrote that my husband had invited her family for dinner next week and that they would love to come, they just didn’t know where we lived. Confused, I went upstairs to ask my husband about it. I hadn’t known he had invited more people. When I told him about the RSVP and he turned pale and quietly mumbled, “Umm… I have something to tell you”. My heart dropped into my stomach and a tight knot formed in my throat. I waited nervously for him to continue, but instead he pulled up an excel spreadsheet on his computer. An EXCEL SPREADSHEET? He added four names to the spreadsheet and I quickly realized that it was a guest list.  For 60 people. 60 PEOPLE! My friendly and VERY social husband had apparently invited everyone he had talked to for the past week. Even people we didn’t really know. Panic ensued. I nearly fainted. My husband apologized at least six times. The dinner party had exploded into a massive feast.

That day I learned the value of an easy, (yet visually stunning AND delicious), go to recipe, for large dinner parties. So I’m going to share mine. While “technically” an Italian dish, I’m a little unsure of it’s authenticity. However, it’s ability to be easily adjusted for any number of guests made me want to post it here for all of you.

I call it SUMMER PESTO CHICKEN and often pair it with green beans and roasted potatoes. If I’m serving over 10 people, I add in a pasta dish, salad and bread. (Stay tuned for those recipes!)

I’ve written the recipe to serve 6 people, but you can serve it to as little as four or make an entire tray to serve 20.

First, place your chicken into a baking dish large enough to accommodate them.

Cover the chicken generously with pesto sauce.

Cover with spinach.

Drain and gently squeeze the water from the artichoke hearts (this will prevent your dish from becoming soggy). Spread evenly over spinach. Then add the tomatoes.

Finally, sprinkle dish with mozzarella. I like to grind fresh black pepper on top too.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes or until chicken cooked through.

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That’s it! You’re done. Now you can relax and enjoy your party.

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SUMMER PESTO CHICKEN
Ingredients
  • 6 chicken breasts
  • 8 oz (small jar) pesto
  • 8 cups fresh spinach
  • 14 oz can artichoke hearts
  • 2-3 cups roma tomatoes cut into eigths
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese shredded
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees

  2. Place chicken breasts into a baking dish large enough to accommodate them

  3. Cover chicken generously with pesto sauce

  4. Cover with fresh spinach

  5. Drain and gently squeeze water from artichoke hearts. Spread evenly over spinach

  6. Chop roma tomatoes into 8ths. Spread evenly over dish

  7. Sprinkle shredded mozzarella cheese over the top

  8. Bake for approximately 45-50 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through

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