The Actor and The Scientist

A Tale of Two Sisters' Trials & Triumphs in the Kitchen (and Out)

Lighter Chicken Bellagio

One of our favorite restaurants – and by our I mean me, Paul and Tina – is the Cheesecake factory. I hadn’t been for a long time when Mom and Dad S gave us a gift card for our wedding anniversary (3 years!). Back a couple weeks ago we finally decided we needed a date night and went. Now, if you know cheesecake factory, you know that it has been named one of the least healthiest restaurants in america. Also, their menu is a book, so many choices! So, even though they have some of the worst meals, you can also find healthy options.

With all of this in mind, we get to cheesecake factory and all I could think about was my absolute favorite dish there: chicken bellagio. Now, this is one of the worst dishes on the menu with almost 2000 calories! I got it anyways, I couldn’t resist. Cmon we’ve been married for three years, time to celebrate! Even though I only ate half, between the bread, wine and cheesecake I had way too much for one evening!

Anyways, a week or so later Gina at Skinnytaste posted a recipe for Baked Chicken Milanese with arugula and tomatoes. Because of the delicious looking chicken and arugula it reminded me of the chicken bellagio. Brilliant idea! I’ll create my own healthier version!

I have never tried to recreate a dish I had in a restaurant. But this seemed simple enough and difficult to screw up. Only three parts: 1. chicken 2. sauce and 3. pasta

Now, I’m going to have to ruin the ending up front with you here. I hated how this came out, only took about 3 bites and couldn’t eat the rest I thought it was soooo gross. My easy to make meal turned into the worst thing I ever created. Now, hold on before you go anywhere. Paul thought this was delicious. Everything I didn’t eat from my plate he was eager to bring over to his. Now if you’ll follow along you’ll see that it all comes down to arugula.

1. Chicken  We’ll start with the chicken. I was originally planning on pan frying it, but again came Gina to the rescue with the idea to (what I’m calling) “oven fried” chicken. Not sure if oven frying is a real thing, but this is how I would imagine it would go. Dipped in oil then breadcrumbs and sprayed with more oil and into the oven. This chicken turned out good, but not awesome. Guess that’s what happens when you don’t really fry the chicken.

2. Sauce I made a basic basil cream sauce. I heated some milk and parmesan cheese in a saucepan while I made a homemade pesto. Then combined the two and voila basil cream sauce. Most sauces like this call for heavy cream or half and half instead of milk, but I wanted the sauce to be really light but really flavorful = milk instead of cream and tons of basil and garlic.

3. Pasta Now here is where things got interesting. I wanted to use less pasta and more greens than the cheesecake factory chicken bellagio. So, I decided I would throw arugula and spinach in with the pasta. When I took out the bag of arugula I couldn’t believe how much was in there! Holy arugula! So, originally I thought I would use half of the arugula and also use a bunch of spinach (since it has a way milder taste). But what am I going to do with all of this arugula? I don’t have the slightest of idea what else to do with it. Plus we’re going to be out of town for a couple of days and it’ll probably be bad by the time we get back. So – and this is where I went horribly wrong – in went all of the arugula and out went the spinach.

Looks so delicious! right?! I couldn’t wait to dig in! After the first bite I was so incredibly disappointed. All I could taste was the pepperyness of the arugula and I guess I really don’t like arugula that much because I thought it was gross. Paul loves the taste of arugula and couldn’t get enough!

I ate the chicken but was still hungry so I made myself a little cheese pizza and poured a (second) glass of wine. Maybe I’ll try it again one day and use WAY less arugula. At least I made my husband happy 🙂

Lighter Chicken Bellagio

Bread crumbs (prefer whole wheat)
Parmesan cheese
Dried Basil
Garlic Powder
Chicken Breasts sliced flatly lengthwise (each breast gives two thin flat pieces)
Olive oil
1 cup milk
1/2 cup grated parmesan
2 cups fresh basil
2 cloves garlic (this is what I used but I recommend adding more)
1/3 cup olive oil
Whole wheat spaghetti
Arugula (I used a huge bowl full – next time I’ll probably try including somewhere around 2-4 cups)

Preheat oven to 450. Lightly spray pan with oil. Combine first four ingredients. Dip chicken in oil then in bread crumb mixture. Lay in pan and spray with a little more oil. Bake for 10 minutes, flip then an additional 5. Combine milk and parmesan in a saucepan and heat on medium-low. Make pesto (or could use a store bought pesto) by combining olive oil, basil, and garlic in a food processor. Mix pesto into cream. Cook pasta and once drain add the arugula and toss until wilted. Combine the sauce with the pasta/arugula mix.


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