Get as creative as you like with fillings

Surprise the family this weekend by tucking their favorite cheese or vegetables inside a rolled-up chicken breast.

All you have to do is pound the chicken breast flat then roll it around a piece of cheese or a mix of cheese and vegetables for a more colorful presentation.

These in the photo aren’t very colorful because all I used was Dijon mustard, Gouda cheese and a little onion and garlic. One roll had a little diced red bell pepper added to the cheese.

You can get as creative as you like with the fillings. If you lay a thin layer of fresh spinach, basil, parsley or cilantro leaves over the pounded chicken and then layer the cheese and filling, it gives you a nice spiral effect when you slice it.

Ham and cheese are always popular with the younger ones. Ricotta, Fontina, herbed cream cheeses, Swiss, goat, mozzarella, provolone or any cheese you have in the refrigerator can be used. Any vegetable can be added as a filling and since it takes only a small amount, this is a good way to use leftovers.

Roasted red bell peppers, asparagus, sautéed mushrooms, pepperoni and mozzarella, spinach, artichoke hearts and tomato are suggestions. You don’t need a recipe; you can add whatever filling you like.

About “pounding” a chicken breast: That’s what you do to flatten it or make it an even thickness. Some people place the breast between plastic wrap and whack it a few times with the bottom of a small skillet.

Make sure you do this on a sturdy cutting board or padded counter area, to protect your counter top.

I think the easiest and least messy way is to place a chicken breast inside an open gallon-size plastic storage bag and roll it with a rolling pin or pound it with a meat mallet. If you lightly dampen the breast, it won’t stick to the plastic bag and will be easier to flatten out.

Start in the center, or thick part of the breast, and gently pull the stroke toward you or toward the outside edge of the meat.

Don’t tear holes in the meat; you want it just over a 1/4-inch thick. The same plastic bag can be used to flatten the other breast pieces.