We hear it all the time. One of the greatest worries many people have when considering a move to a senior living community is the meals.While for some of us, the idea of having a 5-star dining room catering to your every dietary need and serving scrumptious meals to you every day sounds divine, for others it is a serious cause for concern.Many of us have spent a lifetime cooking our own meals as well as cooking for family and friends and, frankly, we love the idea of cooking.
You’re in luck! You certainly do not need to give up your passion for the kitchen when transitioning to a senior community. Most, if not all, independent living settings have small kitchens in each unit.While you won’t need to give up sautéing and baking to your hearts content, you will need to rethink some of your recipes to accommodate a more compact kitchen and less counter space.
In this series, we have taken many of your favorite menus and ‘re-worked’ the process to make them more ‘limited space’ friendly. They will help lead you on a new culinary adventure in your new home!
Check back often for more recipes!
Pesto Chicken Rollups and Pasta
I have always teased my mother that my real father must be Italian. From the time I could say what I wanted for dinner until now, Italian food has always been at the top of my list. When we were kids, it was Chef Boyardee’s Spaghetti-Os (pronounced ‘ba-sketti’ back then). Today it’s Pasta Arrabiata (spicy tomato sauce). There was just no correlation between my meat-and-potatoes German back ground father and my love of anything with tomato sauce. Of course, I was just kidding but like with most of us, anything Italian always piques our interest at mealtime. Even when playing chef at home, a good many meals start with a base of my stand-by trinity in cooking-tomatoes, onions, and garlic.
Chicken is so versatile because it can be matched with any number of flavors, sauces, spices, and herbs.There’s very little that can’t be made with chicken. Today, with all the advice of cutting back on red meats, it’s nice to have something that we can enjoy a thousand different ways.
This is a simple but impressive meal loaded with flavor and shortcuts. A great dish to serve for friends and neighbors as well, these roll-ups can be done early and stored in the fridge covered in plastic wrap and baked later on just before serving. Everything else is easily found at the supermarket ready-to-use.There are so many bottled marinara sauces available, it sometimes requires the eenie-meenie-minie-mo method to choose one. Although I prefer to boil my own pasta, if you’re looking for an easier alternative, some companies produce packets of pre-cooked pasta that only require a few minutes in the microwave to prepare.
When making this recipe, the thinner the chicken breast, the quicker and more thorough the cooking. Most people use a mallet to pound out chicken breasts, but if you don’t have one, hold a can of vegetables with a kitchen cloth to protect your hand and pound using the bottom of the can–make sure it’s a can without a rim so it doesn’t cut the meat. You might also be able to find breasts that have already been pounded and crumbed at the grocers, or you can ask your butcher to flatten them for you. Choose ‘normal’ sized breasts, not the Jurassic-sized monster breasts we sometimes find in the stores these days!
As always, I rarely put exact amounts as it’s all a question of taste. For example, I like pesto so I put a fair amount, but others may like only a hint of flavor. It’s all up to your taste buds.
What you’ll need:
Boiled pasta of your choice (or package of pre-cooked pasta)
1 Chicken breast per person, flattened
1 jar of pesto sauce (or homemade)
1 jar of your favorite marinara sauce
Salt & Pepper
Drizzle or spray of olive or canola oil
What to do:
Preheat the oven to 350̊F.
Place each chicken breast between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound them until flattened and as thin as possible.
Sprinkle a pinch of salt and some freshly ground black pepper on both sides of the breast.
Spread some of the pesto sauce on one side of the breast.
Sprinkle a handful of Mozzarella around the breast on top of the pesto.
Roll up the chicken breast tightly and secure with the toothpick.
Drizzle or spray some oil into a baking pan large enough to hold all the chicken breasts and spread it around with a paper towel.
Place a layer of the sliced tomatoes at the bottom of the pan.
Put the breadcrumbs in a shallow bowl and roll each chicken breast in the crumbs and place them directly on top of the sliced tomatoes.
Bake the chicken on the oven’s lower shelf for about 30–40 minutes. This may vary depending on the thickness of the chicken breast. They should be firm to the touch and thoroughly cooked.
While the chicken is baking, boil the pasta or prepare the pre-cooked pasta in the microwave according to the package’s instructions.
Heat the marinara sauce in a small saucepan. Serve the chicken rolls on top of a few of the tomato slices and pasta on the side. Spoon the marinara sauce over all and top with grated Parmesan cheese.