Rush Hour Dinner - Chicken Spinach Parm Panini

Rush Hour Dinner - Chicken Spinach Parm Panini 
Written by Jennifer Fisher with The Fit Fork 

As fall takes off and I head into the school year, fast and easy meals are a priority at my house. Trying to coordinate a busy work schedule around the never-ending “mom support” required for my three boy’s to participate in sports, band and academic activities is challenging enough – I don’t need the challenge of making completely-from-scratch meals stressing me out as I try to remain Zen-like in hideous rush-hour traffic.  It would be easy to pull into the nearest drive-thru and fill my guys up on fast food – but that’s not a healthy solution.

My answer to “rush hour” dinner is to keep my fridge and pantry stocked with delicious ingredients for sandwich-making. Not boring, brown bag sandwiches, but hot, made-to-order panini sandwiches that feature protein-packed lean meats and nutritious fresh veggies between whole grain bread – like my recipe for Chicken Spinach Parm Panini!  You can’t get more convenient than this quick panini recipe – or, as my kids call it, “fancy grilled chicken and cheese sandwich.” It may sound fancy but, it’s so easy to make, especially because it relies on pre-cooked chicken tenders, prepared spaghetti sauce, pre-washed and dried bagged baby spinach, and Opadippity Spinach Parmesan Dip. This recipe is simple and safe enough for older children to make, especially if you have a panini press or George Foreman-type grill – but a skillet works too!

To give my recipe a little more flavor of the old world, I like to pre-prepare a batch of compound butter made with Litehouse Food’s Instantly Fresh Italian Herb Blend. A little goes a long way, so spread this flavored butter sparingly onto bread of your choice. I always choose whole grain bread, not just for taste and texture, but because of the health benefits. Whole grains provide an abundance of vitamins and fiber and have been linked to a reduced incidence of heart disease, diabetes and other health concerns. Unfortunately, most of us (parents and kids included) aren’t getting enough whole grains in our diets. A recent study found that 39 percent of children and teens and 42 percent of adults consume NO whole grains at all. And, only 3 percent of children and teens and about 8 percent of adults are eating at least the recommended three servings per day.

So, if you’re busy tonight (or any night), whip up my Chicken Spinach Parm Panini – it’s quick, it’s easy, it’s so yummy! The kids won’t even care that you’ve snuck some spinach in there!  Serve with a salad or side of fruit and you have a well-rounded, healthy dinner. Enjoy!

Chicken Spinach Parm Panini
  • 1 stick softened butter
  • 1 ½ tablespoons Instantly Fresh Italian Herb Blend
  • 8 slices whole grain bread
  • 4 slices provolone cheese
  • ¼ cup spaghetti sauce from jar
  • 4 pre-cooked chicken breast tenders (breaded or plain)
  • 2 ounces baby spinach
  • •¼ cup Opadippity Spinach Parmesan Dip
Place butter in small bowl and mix in herb blend with spatula until combined.

Spread a thin layer of compound butter on each slice of bread. Remaining butter can be kept covered tightly in the refrigerator for up to a month.

To assemble sandwich, place slice of cheese on slice of bread, butter side down. Top cheese with 1 tablespoon spaghetti sauce and then one cooked chicken tender.  Top other slice of bread (butter side down) with handful of spinach and 1 tablespoon of spinach parmesan dip. Repeat for remaining sandwiches.

To cook sandwich, bring both sides together and grill in panini press until golden brown and cheese has melted, approximately 4 - 5 minutes. This recipe may also be cooked in a skillet over medium heat, flipping once to brown both sides.

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