Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thanksgiving! Recipes to come

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving because I certainly did. It was my first time to host Thanksgiving. I wasn't too nerve-wracking because I didn't force myself to make excessively complicated dishes plus I prepared several things ahead of time. I have to admit, cooking my first turkey was a bit unnerving, but I researched a lot of sites which helped me figure out my methodology well in advance and  it turned out really delicious.

My menu included:

Superstuffed Deviled Eggs
Baby butter lettuce salad with feta, dried cranberries, pecans, and green apple with raspberry vinaigrette
Easy Green Beans with Caramelized Onions
Parsnip-Apple Mash
Sweet Potato Crisp (a grain-free re-vamp from my old version)
Spiced Cran-Apple Sauce
Dry-brined Herbed Turkey
Wine: 2010 Chateau Ste. Michelle Chardonnay

It was so nice sharing this meal not only with my parents but with some of my grad student family. It made all the effort worthwhile.

One significant thing about this Thanksgiving was that it was grain-free and pretty healthy if I do say so myself. I will post the recipes in stages over the next couple of weeks, and I hope they help as we progress through the holiday season.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Vegetable Fajita-Stuffed Chicken

I took an exam and had my first committee meeting this past week, and now the only thing keeping me from Thanksgiving break is one biology class and a biochem exam. I can't wait for Thanksgiving. I'm preparing the meal for the first time this year. I'm going to try some eclectic dishes and just play the edge with the traditional menu. I'm doing this for many reasons: 1) I would like a healthy menu with lots of fruits and vegetables, 2) it will make up for all the time I've lost playing in the kitchen during this crazy semester, 3) I will be able to set a menu where some foods can be prepared in advance, keeping it easy on me, and 4) I really want to experiment with some new foods!

While I haven't had much of an opportunity to make show-stoppingly pretty foods this semester, I did experiment on one recipe. I had been craving fajitas, but of course it takes some work to devise a grain-free fajita method. As you might have noticed I have been trying to stick with the Paleo/Primal way of eating (not as easy during this semester, where sometimes I get stuck working on campus and don't have access to my usual foods). So to completely eliminate the tortilla situation, I used the chicken itself as a wrap, stuffed with vegetables prepared in the fajita-style and smothered with tomato salsa. It really satisfied my craving and was a real treat for the eyes. This would be great for a dinner party because it's a festive recipe but won't require your guests to messily put together their own fajitas. Another plus, beating the chicken breasts out to thin pieces was a great stress reliever :)

Vegetable Fajita-Stuffed Chicken
Printable Recipe

1 tsp olive oil
1 green bell pepper, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 medium onion, sliced
1 cup + 2 tbsp tomato salsa, divided
1 1/2 tsp paprika, divided
1 1/2 tsp chili powder, divided
1 tsp ground cumin, divided
1 tsp ground coriander, divided
2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro, divided
1 lb chicken breast, cut into fillets (about 4-6 fillets depending on the size of the chicken breasts)
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the peppers and onion. Season with salt and pepper and a half teaspoon each of the paprika, chili powder, cumin, and coriander. Stir-fry until tender. Stir in 2 tablespoons of salsa and cilantro and set aside.
3. Stir together the remaining spices and some salt and pepper to make a spice rub and set aside.
4. Place each chicken breast fillet on top of a piece of plastic wrap and cover with another piece of plastic wrap. With the smooth side of a meat mallet or the bottom of a heavy frying pan, flatten the meat until it's less than 1/2" thick. Repeat with all chicken pieces, then lightly season all sides with the spice rub.
5. With the widest end of the chicken facing away from you, place a thin layer of vegetables on top of the chicken breast. Leave about 3/4" inch uncovered on the edge that is away from you. Roll the chicken breast up. Seal each chicken breast with either butcher's twine or toothpicks.
6. Lightly grease a non-reactive baking dish large enough to accommodate the chicken. Pour about 1/3 of the remaining salsa in the bottom, then place the chicken breasts in seam-side down. Pour over the remaining salsa and distribute any leftover vegetables on top.
7. Bake the chicken for 40-50 minutes or until the juices run clear. Allow the chicken to rest 5 minutes before removing from pan and cutting into 1" slices and arranging on a platter. Pour the salsa pan juices on top and serve.

  • Servings per recipe: 4
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 167.6
  • Fat: 2.4 g
  • Saturated fat: 0.3 g
  • Cholesterol: 55 mg
  • Sodium: 559.1 mg
  • Carbohydrate: 12.7 g
  • Fiber: 3.9 g
  • Sugars: 0.2 g
  • Protein: 25.2 g

Paleo Italian Wedding Soup (Minestra Maritata)

I only have about a month to go before this semester is over and I can't wait. As you can tell by my few posts this year compared to other years, my academic work has been on overdrive. Not only that, this semester is one of my toughest yet.

Because I have been so busy, I have been primarily subsisting on rotisserie chicken and pre-packaged salad mixes. On the instance I do have time to cook, I prepare something that I can eat for several meals to maximize my time and effort.

Earlier in the semester, I prepared some homemade chicken broth and have kept it in the freezer. There's no comparison between boxed and canned chicken broth! You can't get the same silkiness in boxed broth. To make the broth I basically build up a stock of chicken bones from roasted chickens and less-than-attractive vegetables (carrots, celery, parsley, and onion) and freeze them. Once I get several quart bags of bones and vegetables, I add them to my two stock pots, cover the ingredients with water, and sometimes supplement the ingredients with more fresh vegetables. I season with sage, thyme, parsley, and bay leaves and allow the mixture to simmer for at least an hour and a half. I allow the broth to cool to room temperature then strain it and cool it completely in the refrigerator. I scrape any residual fat off the top to make the broth nearly fat-free. It's so wonderful to have on hand. One other thing I should note is that broth does not keep long in the refrigerator and you also need to be very careful to cool it completely before refrigeration because it can sour easily. If you can't use it within a couple of days, freeze it.

Moving on from that, I made a wonderful soup based on a classic Italian recipe, but I altered it slightly for the Paleo touch. I used almonds instead of breadcrumbs and Parmesan, and I actually liked their nutty flavor in the meatballs. One of my favorite parts of this recipe is the drizzle of egg into the end of the soup-straciatella. It's just like little yellow ribbons running through the soup and they not only look nice but they add more protein to each serving. I also added more vegetables than the original recipe has.

Paleo Italian Wedding Soup (Minestra Maritata)
Printable Recipe

For the meatballs:
16 oz lean ground turkey (93% lean)
2 tbsp grated onion
2 tbsp minced flat-leaf parsley
1 clove garlic, grated
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup ground almonds or almond meal
1/4 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper, to taste

For the soup:
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 stalk celery, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 medium onion (the remainder of the onion that had been grated for the meatballs) diced
12 cups chicken broth (I used my own homemade)
1/4 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp dried oregano
5 oz fresh spinach, cut into ribbons
2 eggs, beaten
salt and pepper, to taste

1.  Combine all the ingredients for the meatballs in a large bowl. Roll the meat into small meatballs (I got about 48). Set aside.
2. Heat a soup pot over medium heat. Heat the oil, then add the celery, carrot, and onion. Sweat the vegetables until they are tender.
3. Add the chicken broth, season with basil and oregano, and bring the temperature up just enough for a gentle simmer. Drop in the meatballs and allow them to cook through. They will float to the top as they cook. Depending on how big the meatballs are, it could take 8-10 minutes for them to cook.
4. Add in the spinach and allow it to soften about a minute.
5. Pour in the egg in a thin stream, stirring with a fork at the point that it meets the soup. Serve the soup immediately.

  • Servings per recipe:8
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 262.2
  • Fat:  20.5 g
  • Saturated fat: 6.8 g
  • Cholesterol: 122.5 mg
  • Sodium: 117.9 mg
  • Carbohydrate: 2.5 g
  • Fiber: 1.4 g
  • Sugars: 0.4 g
  • Protein: 16.8 g

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Roasted Chicken and Mushrooms with Rosemary and Lemon

Even in West Texas, the chill of fall is starting to creep in the air...at least until midday. It's time for roasted foods again, and I could not be more happy. I have always loved fall, and I think it's mainly due to pot roasts, pumpkins, and roasted, crispy chicken (and maybe candy corn, too).

I recently dined at a local Italian restaurant, where I shared a side of delicious sauteed mushrooms. I never thought about mushrooms themselves and a vegetable side dish...they more or less went into other things to flavor them. However, they are quite substantial and deserve more recognition on the plate. So I combined roasted chicken and roasted mushrooms together into one autumn-appropriate dish. I seasoned the chicken with a lemony-rosemary oil to help the skin get crispy. Also, I used the trick of patting the chicken dry before roasting it to ensure a crispy texture. Any juices released from the cooked chicken were mopped up by the roasted mushrooms. This made an elegant dinner and was quite easy to prepare. I even had time to make two more vegetable side dishes: basic roasted butternut squash and my own version of green beans amandine. They made an attractive presentation with the chicken.

Roasted Chicken and Mushrooms with Rosemary and Lemon
Printable Recipe

4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp minced fresh rosemary
2 tsp fresh lemon zest
12 oz white button or cremini mushroom caps
1 tbsp fresh minced parsley
fresh lemon juice, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste
dash paprika

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
2. Blend the oil, rosemary, and lemon zest, and some salt and pepper in a small bowl.
3. Blot excess moisture from the outside of the chicken pieces with paper towel. Gently loosen the skin and rub all surfaces of the chicken, even under the skin, with the seasoned oil.
4. Arrange the chicken pieces on a foil-lined baking sheet large enough to accommodate the chicken and the mushrooms, which will be added later. Decorate each piece with a little paprika. Place the chicken in the oven for 20 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, cut the stems of the mushrooms flush with the caps. After 20 minutes, add the mushrooms to the pan, tossing them in the rendered chicken juices and season them with salt and pepper. Arrange them stem-side down and return the pan to the oven for 20-25 minutes. Cook until the chicken is white and opaque and the juices are clear.
6. Serve the chicken and mushrooms sprinkled with parsley, lemon juice, and pan juices.

  • Servings per recipe: 4
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 233.8
  • Fat: 9.9 g
  • Saturated fat: 2.1 g
  • Cholesterol: 136.1 mg
  • Sodium: 181.9 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 1.3 g
  • Fiber: 0.5 g
  • Sugar: 0.7 g
  • Protein: 33.4 g
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