Healthy Recipe: Macnut-Crusted Pesto-Stuffed Chicken with Acorn Squash

One look at this chicken dish and you can see that it’s something special.


It all started when I found a large bunch of fresh basil and had a hankering for pesto….then entered a bag of macadamia nuts and some free-range chicken tenders. I wasn’t really sure where this dish was going to lead, but I’m glad that I took the time to find out. It ended up being one of the most delicious dinners ever.

This recipe has a few extra steps, due to the stuffing and crusting, but it’s well worth the effort when you’re biting into the tender, flavorful result of your efforts.

Here’s what you need:

For the Acorn Squash: (If you want to skip the acorn squash, serve on a bed of arugula.)

  • 1 acorn squash
  • juice from half a lemon (save other half for pesto)
  • salt and pepper

For the Pesto:

  • 1/2 cup macadamia nuts
  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
  • Juice from half a lemon
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • dash of sea salt

For the Chicken:

  • 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken tenders
  • 1/3 cup Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup, grade B
  • 1 Tablespoon sweet paprkia
  • 1/3 cup macadamia nuts, finely chopped
  • 1/8 cup coconut flour
  • salt and pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease 2 baking pans with olive oil.
  1. For Acorn Squash: Slice the acorn squash in half, scoop out the seeds and using a sharp knife score the inside of the squash flesh. Place in one of the prepared baking pans and drizzle with the lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 50 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
  2. For Pesto: Place the macadamia nuts, basil leaves, garlic, nutritional yeast, salt and pepper and lemon juice in a food processor. Pulse until well combined while drizzling in the olive oil. Set 1/3 of the pesto aside to serve with the chicken.
  3. For Chicken: Rinse the chicken tenders with cold water and pat dry. Place between two sheets of wax paper and lightly pound with the back of a wooden spoon. The idea is to flatten the tenders out so they are wider, yet still intact.
  4. Place a tablespoon of pesto in the center of each tender, and spread out until the pesto evenly covers the entire side. Roll the tender up and place, seam side down, in the prepared baking pan, leaving space between each chicken roll.
  5. In a small saucepan combine the mustard, olive oil, syrup and paprika over low heat. Mix constantly, and remove from heat after 3 minutes, when the sauce is uniform. Spread a tablespoon of the mustard sauce over the top of each chicken roll, reserve the leftover sauce.
  6. In a small bowl combine the chopped macnuts, coconut flour, salt and pepper. Press a tablespoon of the macadamia nut topping over the top of each chicken roll.
  7. Cover the entire pan with foil. Bake for 25 minutes covered. Remove the foil and turn on the high broiler. Broil, watching closely, for 2-5 minutes, until the tops are nicely browned.
  8. Scoop the cubed acorn squash out of the shells and place in a skillet over medium heat. Add the reserved mustard sauce, and mix until fully combined. Continue to heat until the squash is fork-tender and the sauce covers each piece.
  9.  Place a scoop of acorn squash on each plate, then top with slices of chicken roll. Serve with a few dollops of the reserved pesto.

8 Servings

Nutritional Analysis: 328 calories, 17g fat, 614mg sodium, 13g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, and 29g protein

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