The Hearty Ingredient That Takes Spinach-Stuffed Chicken To The Next Level

Is there a better bang for your buck than the humble chicken breast in terms of lean, boneless protein? American consumers' demand for chicken breast remains so high that it's been hard to find the cut in stores recently. However, they aren't without their challenges. Overcooking dries the meat out, and overexposure to chicken breast cooked the same way over and over can lead to burnout, thus increasing food waste or forcing you to find pricier ways to fill the table for dinner. Mashed recipe developer Kristen Carli knows this thorny conundrum well, but she also has a solution in the form of a flavorful vegetable that could surprise your guests and titillate their tastebuds — artichoke hearts. These nutrient-packed thistle-tops come in cans or jars, which makes them a perfect cupboard hero that's ready to transform a bit of bland chicken breast into a magnificent, Mediterranean-inspired meal.

Carli is a registered dietician, as well as a Fruit & Vegetable Ambassador in Action for the Produce for Better Health Foundation, so we're unsurprised that she brings this overlooked vegetable to the forefront in her recipe. She has engineered an elegant entree with shelf-stable ingredients in the form of her Stuffed Chicken Breast recipe with spinach and artichoke hearts. She advises that the stuffed breasts are "best when fresh", but they "will keep and reheat okay". They make a great lunch when paired with a salad, or for a more substantial meal, try them "with rice, potatoes, or over polenta."

Why artichoke hearts are next-level

Artichokes are a kind of thistle — not a produce you see too often. To get the succulent hearts, the giant, spiky leaves and fuzzy, purple petals are cut away and discarded. This exposes the meaty, cup-shaped center of the plant known as the artichoke's heart. They oxidize quickly, so they're usually packed in brine or oil or frozen in order to preserve their color and texture. Marinated or canned varieties are especially tangy. This tanginess is an essential part of the famous artichoke dish that is seemingly echoed in Carli's recipe — hot spinach and artichoke dip. Typically made with cheese, mayonnaise, artichokes, and sometimes other ingredients like garlic, it's America's favorite Olive Garden appetizer.

Carli has kept the winning flavor of an artichoke dip, but her approach uses the artichoke's richness to elevate more neutral-tasting meat. This easy-to-prepare dinner stars familiar favorites like chicken and cream cheese. Plus, a vegetable that offers various benefits gets to the share the spotlight. Artichokes are packed with nutrients including manganese, potassium, vitamins C and K, and folate.