Chicken & Spinach Pita Sandwich, My DC Area Favorite

Northern Virginia can be a frustrating place to live. The DC Metro Area is home to constant traffic, a very high cost of living and wall-to-wall people (just turn on your news this weekend to watch the swarms of people here for the presidential inauguration!).

spinach

But Northern Virginia is also full of hidden gems, my favorite being interesting local restaurants and ethnic stores. Lost Dog Cafe is a neat local sandwich and pizza place with a large selection of beer. The owners also established a foundation dedicated to rescuing stray cats and dogs.

pesto

My favorite sandwich at Lost Dog is called “Muttly.” The Muttly is a warm pita full of spinach, chicken, provolone, tomatoes and pesto. Because I’m a picky eater and always trying to figure out new things to tolerate for lunch, I really wanted to recreate this sandwich so that I could enjoy it more frequently (and, of course, cheaper).

sliced chicken

The outcome was great. Make sure you buy large pitas; mine were a bit small so I wasn’t able to pack in as much spinach as I wanted to. I made the pesto from scratch, which always beats adding more ready-made, processed food to your diet, but the recipe I used was time-consuming. To cut down on time I didn’t chop it quite as much as I should have. I hope you will forgive my “lazy” pesto.

spinach and pesto

Please note that this is not a spicy chicken wrap, a Cajun chicken melt or a chicken sandwich smothered in tangy ranch dressing. I seasoned my chicken generously before baking it, but the flavor is mild (though not bland) and it’s not dripping with any condiments. I love this about the sandwich, but I just wanted to warn you not to expect something like Panera’s Chicken Bacon Dijon calorie festival. Happy lunching!

ghost muttly

“Muttly” (Chicken & Spinach Pita Sandwich)
inspired by Lost Dog Cafe

1 package large pitas
1 lb chicken breast, uncooked
1 small tomato
1 package frozen spinach
1 package sliced provolone cheese
2 tablespoons white wine
paprika, salt, pepper, Montreal chicken seasoning, cayenne, to taste

For the pesto
1 bunch of basil
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup pine nuts
3/4 cup parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 F. Cut your chicken breasts in half so that they resemble chicken cutlets. Sprinkle the bottom of a 13×9 baking pan with 2 tablespoons of white wine. Arrange the chicken pieces in the pan and season generously with paprika, salt, pepper, Montreal chicken seasoning and cayenne. Bake the chicken for 25 minutes.

In the meantime, chop tomato and set aside. Cook package of frozen spinach according to package instructions and set aside.

To make the pesto, you can find some great instructions at 101 Cookbooks. Mine didn’t turn out as authentic or attractive because I don’t have a mezzaluna, but the pesto was fine for me and used less oil. I basically followed this recipe except I chopped it until it was minced, not finely minced (because all that chopping took 101 Cookbooks thirty minutes, and that didn’t sound so great to me!). I would also recommend adding a bit of salt to the recipe.

When the chicken is done, allow it to cook enough that you can handle it comfortably (leave the oven on). Slice the chicken into bite size pieces and set aside.

Arrange the pitas on a baking sheet and add one slice of provolone followed by some spinach, pesto, chicken and tomatoes. If your pitas are malleable, fold it over like a sandwich (without breaking the pita).

When you’re finished putting together the sandwiches, set the baking sheet in the oven for approximately 5 minutes (just until the sandwiches are warm). Remove tray and serve! Wrap tightly and store any leftovers (we had leftover sliced chicken and pesto in addition to leftover sandwiches).

Cream Cheese Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Happy New Year! Edwin and I hope you had a safe New Year’s Eve.

I enjoyed a fun gathering of a few friends at my apartment. Two of these friends had been staying with my husband and I for the last few nights, so I wasn’t interested in spending a lot of time in the kitchen preparing food on New Year’s Eve. On nights like that it helps to have some quick and reliable recipes for finger foods to set out.

spinach and artichoke cooking

I never liked spinach and artichoke dip until one day in college I ordered an amazing sandwich at a now-closed restaurant in Charlottesville, VA – sliced chicken with spinach and artichoke dip (spread on the sandwich as if it was mayo). It was surprisingly delicious and I miss ordering it!

bread bowl

Since I began experimenting with spinach and artichoke dip, I’ve received a lot of good feedback about this recipe, particularly because it isn’t mayonnaise based and contains a lot of the good stuff (spinach and artichokes). The great thing about it is that you can modify it to best fit your palate and it will still be delicious. I tend to use a little more spinach and artichokes (because I have to trick myself any way possible into eating more vegetables). I’m also heavy handed with the garlic powder and red pepper flakes.

Enjoy!

spinach and artichoke dip

Cream Cheese Spinach and Artichoke Dip

1 cup frozen chopped spinach
1 cup artichoke hearts
8 oz cream cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 tsp crushed red peppers
salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste
Sour dough boule (optional)

Cook spinach according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.

Rinse, drain and chop artichoke hearts (sometimes when you buy them in a jar they’ve been sitting in flavored oil, make sure you rinse them unless you want that taste to carry over).

Boil artichokes in 1/2 cup water on medium for 5 minutes. Add spinach for an additional minute. Drain well.

In a microwave safe bowl, microwave cream cheese for one minute until soft. Stir until smooth. Combine cream cheese and spinach/artichoke mixture in a medium sized bowl, stirring well. Add Parmesan cheese and spices to taste, stirring until thoroughly combined.

Add dip to a serving bowl of your choice. I like to buy a sour dough boule, cut a hole in the top, pull out the bread inside and cube it all for dipping. I pour the dip into the bread bowl and arrange the bread cubes around it.

Total prep and cook time is about 20 minutes (if you’re slow like me).