When it comes to sneaking vegetables into things, I’m not a huge fan. If the only way you’re going to get a child to eat vegetables is to puree them and sneak them into macaroni and cheese or other familiar foods, that’s not hurting anyone but it isn’t helping them learn to love vegetables, either. I think the best route is to make the vegetables themselves more appealing, or to add them to familiar foods but in obvious ways. I’m by no means an expert and because I believe that vegetables are an important part of any child’s diet, I’m not going to tell you to stop attempting to hide spinach in a brownie. What I will tell you is that I don’t think operating that way helps children learn to love any vegetable- if they don’t know there’s spinach in something you can’t say they like spinach after doing this. What most experts do encourage instead is that you repeatedly present the offending food. That’s why in this house there are no separate meals, I cook one dinner and that’s what everyone’s eating. I also don’t try to hide beets in my chocolate cake.
I’m lucky that the kiddos do love their vegetables and on most days will happily eat them and even request seconds. When I came across this recipe for zucchini stuffed chicken, I wasn’t sure what the kids would think of zucchini. I decided that mixed with a little cheese and rolled (obviously, not hidden) into some breaded chicken would be a good way to expose them to it. I had some extra zucchini filling after rolling up the chicken, so I served a little extra zucchini on the side and M cleaned her plate, then asked for more zucchini. O, the pickiest eater in the house (although he’s come a long way in a short time) also ate his without complaint. It looks like summer’s going to be easy for me, because I love the abundance of zucchini and serve it frequently. This is a really easy chicken dish that looks much fancier than it is and is quick enough for a weeknight. I cooked the zucchini just until it was heated through and even after cooking and baking the zucchini wasn’t soggy as I feared it might be. The little bit of cheese that’s added is enough to hold the filling together but not enough to mask the flavor of the zucchini, so if it’s deception you’re after this isn’t the dish for you. This makes a total of eight chicken pieces but they are on the small side. If you have substantial sides one piece per diner is probably enough but served with just a salad, I’d suggest two pieces (I served this with green beans and roasted potatoes and one piece was enough for me).
Zucchini and Cheese Stuffed Chicken Rollatini
- 1 tsp. olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 1/2 C. (1 medium) zucchini, shredded
- 1/4 C. + Tbsp. grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
- 3 oz. part-skim shredded mozzarella
- salt and pepper to taste
- 8 thin chicken cutlets, 3 oz. each
- 1/2 C. Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
- 1 lemon, juice of
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- olive oil non-stick spray
Pat chicken cutlets dry with paper towels and season both sides with salt and pepper.
Heat oven to 450 degrees and lightly spray a baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
In a large skillet, heat 1 tsp. olive oil over medium-high heat.
Add garlic and saute for a minute, until golden.
Add the zucchini, 1/4 C. of the Romano cheese and salt and pepper to taste.
Cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes and then set aside to cool.
When the zucchini mixture is cool, add the mozzarella and stir to combine.
Lay the chicken cutlets out on a work surface and spread 3 Tbsp. of zucchini mixture on each cutlet.
Loosely roll each chicken cutlet and keep them seam-side down on the work surface.
Combine the bread crumbs and remaining Romano cheese in a small bowl.
In a second bowl, combine the 1 Tbsp. of olive oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper.
Dip each piece of chicken into the lemon juice mixture, then into the bread crumbs and place seam-side down in the prepared baking dish.
When all chicken is in the baking dish, spray lightly with olive oil cooking spray (I use a Misto).
Bake for 25-30 minutes and serve immediately.
Makes 8 servings.