Monday, March 30, 2009

Molly's Pesto Chicken Fingers

This recipe is an easy, healthy, and inexpensive dinner that everyone in your household with love. Even the pickiest eaters are guaranteed to devour these chicken fingers. By using egg whites, whole-wheat breadcrumbs, and parmesan; and by baking in the oven (instead of frying in oil), these chicken fingers are very low in fat. Sometimes baked chicken nuggets can be bland or soggy. But after many reincarnations, I finally ended up with this recipe which is full of pesto flavor and has a nice crispy texture. Serve this with any steamed green vegetable for a healthy, balanced meal.

1 lb chicken tenders
1/4 cup store-bought pesto
2 egg whites, beaten
1 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
1/2 c grated parmesan cheese
pinch cayenne pepper

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with oil and set aside.

2. Salt and pepper chicken tenders sparingly.

3. Set up dipping stations--in 1st bowl, put pesto. In 2nd bowl, put egg whites. In 3rd bowl, combine bread crumbs, parmesan, and cayenne.

3. Dip each chicken tender in pesto, egg white, and bread crumb mixtures. Lay on the baking sheet. When all the tenders are coated, put the baking sheet in the oven. Cook for 7-10 minutes, or until tenders are firm to the touch and no longer pink in the center.

Serves 4.

Printable version here.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Brown Rice Asparagus Risotto

Do you associate the word "risotto" with guilt? In my opinion, we should never feel guilty about what we eat. Now, if I'm being honest, that's more an ideal than a reality sometimes...but if we can embrace a life filled with healthy foods--whole grains, vegetables, fruits, lean meats and fishes--and we eat those things most of the time, then indulgences like risotto (or any number of delectibles) should just bring feelings of pleasure and satisfaction! But let's be honest...when we 'indulge' so rarely, we start to miss some of our favorites. Well, this dish is my answer to that dilemma. This risotto has the texture, the flavor, and the great mouth-feel of your standard risotto, but is not laden with butter, cream, and rich cheese. Plus you have the great benefits of whole-grain brown rice instead of white rice. I encourage you to learn the technique I use in this recipe, and then replace the asparagus with whatever beautiful and organic produce is in season and that appeals to you. I think I'll be trying this one with fresh peas for Easter!

3 Tablespoon butter
1 cup short-grain brown rice
6 cups chicken stock
1 lb asparagus, trimmed
1 oz goat cheese
Salt and pepper

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt generously. Put the asparagus in the pot and boil for 3 minutes (or until tender enough to be easily blended but not at all mushy). Put 2/3 of the asparagus in the blender with 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid and blend. Put the other 1/3 of the asparagus under cold water or in an ice bath (to retain the green color).

2. Heat a large sautee pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 Tablespoon butter. When butter is melted, add rice. Coat the rice with the butter. Add 1 cup stock. (You should hear a sizzle...if you don't, turn the heat up). Cook, stirring constantly, until the liquid is almost gone. Add another cup of stock. Continue this process until you have used up all your stock.

3. At this point, you will have created great flavor and a creamy texture, but because brown rice takes longer to cook than arborio rice (white short-grain rice), it is still much too firm to eat. So, now we will steam it the rest of the way. Add 1/2 cup water and cover. Turn heat to medium-low and leave for 10 minutes. (Don't lift the lid during this process).

4. Take off the cover and if there's any more water, cook it off. Add the rest of the butter. Add the asparagus puree and gently cook, stirring. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the goat cheese. Cut the cold asparagus into small pieces and add that to the pot. Stir, combining all the flavors, warming the asparagus and the cheese, and letting all the flavors meld. After a few minutes, take off the heat and serve immediately.

Serves 4.

Printable version here.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Slow-cooked Turkey, Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes, and Spinach Salad

This week's budget meal is a comfort-food pleaser without being full of fat and calories. The meal is almost fat-free but full of flavor. Serve with a side salad of baby spinach dressed with your favorite low-cal dressing. Enjoy!

Slow Cooker Turkey with Sage and Citrus

The slow cooker can be a real life-saver on busy days. This slow-cooker turkey breast is super easy. At the end of the day, all you have to do is make the gravy and finish the sides, and you're ready to go! (We're talking 10 minutes here!)

1 bone-in turkey breast
1/2 c chicken stock
1/2 c white wine
4 1-inch strips of lemon rind
3 1-inch strips orange rind
10 sage leaves
Generous amounts of salt and pepper

2 Tablespoons chopped sage leaves
2 Tablespoons flour
2 Tablespoons water
Salt and pepper.

1. Place turkey in the crock pot. Pour over the stock and wine. Salt and pepper generously, then lay rinds and sage on top. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

2. When the turkey is done, take it out of the slow cooker and let it rest on a cutting board. Carefully lift the insert out of the crock pot and pour the liquid into a gravy separator. Pour all the broth and about 1 Tablespoon of the fat into a small saucepan over medium-high heat. In a separate small bowl, make a slurry by combining the water and flour with a whisk. Slowly whisk in the slurry into the broth mixture. Bring to a boil. (For the thickeners to activate, they need to reach a boiling temperature). Simmer for 5 minutes. Add sage. Salt and pepper to taste.

3. Remove the skin from the turkey breast and slice across the grain. Serve with gravy.

Serves 4 (+)

Printable version here.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Twice-baked Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are loaded with nutrition-y goodness. Try them this way! You can prep them ahead of time and then just stick them in the over to baked the 2nd time as you're prepping the rest of your meal.

2 sweet potatoes
1 Tablespoon butter
2 Tablespoons milk
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Wash and dry potatoes thoroughly. Poke with fork a few times.

3. Place in the oven for 1 hour.

4. When done, remove from oven and let cool. Lower oven temp to 350 degrees.

5. Cut each sweet potato in half and scoop out flesh, being careful not to tear the skin.

6. Place flesh in a bowl and combine with milk, honey, butter,salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Mash.

7. Refill the potato skins with the mashed sweet potato.

8. Place back in the oven for 20 minutes.

Serves 4.

Printable version here.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Chicken Salad with Mango and Peanuts

If you have a rotisserie chicken sitting around and you want something different for lunch or dinner, give this salad a shot. It's definitely not the lackluster weekday lunch you may be used to. So, give it a try! Mix it up, baby!

2 cups mixed greens
Breast of rotisserie chicken, chopped (discard skin)
1/2 mango, chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh mint, chopped
1 Tablespoon peanuts
Juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon lite soy sauce
1/8 teaspoon Chinese chili sauce (or whatever hot sauce you like)
1 Tablespoon neutral-flavored oil (canola, vegetable, grapeseed, etc.)

1. Place greens on a large plate. Top with mango, mint, and peanuts.

2. In a small bowl, whisk lime, soy, and chili sauce. Slowly whisk in oil. Pour over salad.


Serves 1.

Printable version here.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Roasted Butternut Squash and Goat Cheese Ravioli

My mother called me the other night after having had a great meal at a restaurant called Coquette in Milwaukee, WI. She raved about the butternut squash and goat cheese ravioli she had devoured that night. Since I live across the country, I decided that I would make up my own version of the dish. I use fresh lasagna sheets from the store, so this meal is actually pretty labor-light but flavor-full!

2 packs fresh lasagna noodles (or homemade if you're feeling ambitious)
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and chopped into 1/2"cubes
1 small tube goat cheese, (usually 3-4 oz)
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, halved
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
Truffle Oil

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Toss squash, onion, and garlic with enough olive oil to just coat, then sprinkle with salt and pepper and lay out in one layer on a roasting pan/cookie sheet. (If you have them piled up, you will end up steaming them)

3. Put in the oven and roast till the butternut squash is very soft. Remove from oven and let cool slightly.

4. In a food processor, combine squash mixture and goat cheese. Puree. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

5. Lay out one fresh pasta sheet. Drop 6 rounded teaspoons of the squash-cheese mixture, spacing evenly. With your finger or a pastry brush, dip in water and slightly dampen the area around each mound. Place another pasta sheet on top , sealing the edges around each mound, pressing firmly to ensure a good seal. Cut using a paring knife or a pasta wheel, creating six ravioli. Repeat until all the pasta is used. (If you have leftover squash mix, this makes a great dip!)

6. Bring a big pot of water to a boil. Salt generously. Making sure not to overcrowd the pot, boil the raviolis--you will probably have to do this in a couple batches. Fresh pasta cooks quickly--this should only take 3-4 minutes per batch. Fish out the raviolis using a slotted spoon, and place in a bowl with a couple Tablespoons of the pasta water. (Keep warm with saran wrap if doing another batch).

7. When you have all the raviolis cooked and in the bowl, add a couple Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, and about 1 Tablespoon truffle oil. Toss very gently, making sure not to break the raviolis.

8. Plate raviolis and sprinkle with toasted walnuts.


Rating: I guess I have to rate this as "devilish" because it's white pasta with cheese--but it's really not that bad. Goat cheese is naturally lower in fat, plus you have the super-healthy butternut squash, and we're finishing with a healthy oil.

This recipe was submitted for this week's Presto Pasta Night, hosted by sidewalkshoes. The creator of this event is Ruth from Once Upon a Feast. Thanks to you both for this great event!

Printable version here.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Olive-Crusted Tilapia over Citrus-Artichoke Salad

Citrus fruits are plentiful and inexpensive during the winter, so make use of them for more than snacking! Citrus is loaded with Vitamin C as well as B Vitamins, Potassium, and FLAVOR!!! Artichoke hearts are a staple in my pantry because they're so versatile, flavorful, and healthy. The combination of this tangy, light salad paired with the flaky fish and the richness of the olive makes for a totally satisfying meal. Best of all, you can make this meal in about 15 minutes, start to finish! It's really healthy, it's sure to please, and it's super cheap!!!

4 tilapia fillets (1 lb)
1 navel orange, supremed*
1 lemon, zested
1 grapefruit, supreme half--save other half for another use
1 can artichoke hearts, thinly sliced
1 Tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon light vinegar (champagne/white wine, etc)
2 Tablespoon kalamata olive paste OR 1/4 cup kalamata olives, minced or ground in food processor**

1. Preheat broiler

2. Spray sheet pan with cooking spray. Lay tilapia fillets on top. Grind a little pepper on each. Evenly spread the lemon zest and the olive paste on the fillets. Place under broiler.

3. In a medium bowl, combine artichokes, orange, grapefruit, parsley, pepper flakes, olive oil, and vinegar.

4. When fish is done (the flesh should be firm but not tough-this should only take 5 minutes or so), remove from oven. Serve over artichoke mixture.

** Note: If you are not a fan of olives, leave em off! Just use the lemon zest and give them a sprinkle of salt and a drizzle of olive oil. The picture below is what this dish looks like without the olive paste.

* Supreme is the French term for cutting the flesh of the orange, eliminating all the membranes. Here is a video on how to supreme an orange.

Printable version here.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Sunday Night Dinner

Thank you, President Obama, for bringing America's attention back to the family dinner. I am well aware that daily suppers aren't plausible for a lot of families--including mine--but I want to encourage the Sunday night dinner. It's a great way to end the previous week and to start the new one. It can be something that every family member can count on. And eating around a table as a family helps ensure communication and a sense of togetherness within a household. Below are two recipes that are perfect for a Sunday night dinner, when you have a little bit more time to cook a big meal. Enjoy!

Roasted Chicken with Lemon-Parsley Gravy

There is something so comforting about a roasted chicken dinner. The wonderful anticipation in the air as you begin to smell the chicken, the garlic, and the aromatics infuse your home with these lovely, wintery scents. There's also something just implicitly wrong with eating a homemade roasted chicken in front of the television. A homemade roasted chicken calls for long, lingering dinner complete with conversation around a table with a lovely bottle of wine. I serve this chicken with steamed green beans and big chunks of whole grain baguette. To start, how bout a simple salad? Tonight, I served a salad with fresh tangerines, parsley, and a simple sherry vinaigrette. As for the rating for this recipe? Well, if you do not eat the skin and do not have the gravy, it's angelic. If you do indulge in the skin and the gravy, this recipe is a little more devilish--but really great to pull out after a tough week. This kind of dish just screams "I love you."

1 whole chicken, preferably organic
1 lemon
1 bulb garlic
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried rosemary, rubbed in your hand to release oils, (or 1 Tablespoon fresh, finely chopped)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine

For Gravy:
1 Tablespoon flour
1 cup chicken stock
1 teaspoon butter
1 Tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
Lemon, to taste
Salt and pepper

1. Preheat overn to 400 degrees.

2. Rinse and dry bird with paper towel. Generously salt and pepper bird all over, including inside cavity. Put bird in roasting pan on a rack. Pour wine into the pan.

3. With the lemon whole, take off just the rind (not the white pith, which is bitter) of the whole lemon. Place in a small bowl with the thyme, the rosemary, and 1/4 cup(+) olive oil. Rub the whole bird with this olive oil mixture, inside and out.

4. Cut the top of the garlic bulb, horizontally, so that you have bisected the cloves of garlic. Place in the bird. Halve the lemon. Place on half in the bird as well. (If you'd like to add a fresh sprig of rosemary or a few sprigs of fresh thyme, also put these in the cavity).

5. Place the roasting pan (holding the bird) into the oven. Roast until a thermometer inserted into the deepest part of the bird in between the leg and the thigh, reads 170 degrees. Take the bird out and let it rest. (This is essential to the final carry-over cooking process as the bird will continue to cook for about 10 minutes due to the residual temperature inside....and also for the juices to redistribute throughout the meat. If you cut into it now, all the juices would run out and you would have a dry bird.)

6. Pour all the pan drippings into a gravy separator or clear bowl. Discard the fat (except for 1 Tablespoon), return the juices to the pan, and place the pan on the stove over medium-low heat. Sprinkle the flour over the fat, and stir. Let this mixture cook for a few minutes to ensure that any raw flour taste has been cooked out. Now, stir in the chicken stock and bring to a boil. (The mixture will not thicken until it reaches boiling temperature). Turn the heat down slightly and cook until it reaches the desired consistency for your gravy. (This should only take a couple minutes).

7. Strain again, into a small bowl, making sure to get rid of any solids. Stir in the butter, the parsley, and the lemon juice to taste. Adjust salt and pepper.

Serves 4.

Printable version here.

Crispy lettuces with Tangerines, Parsley, and Sherry Vinaigrette

This is a great winter salad, and it's super easy. I hope you'll try it.

1 bag Italian lettuce blend (or whatever crunchy lettuce you like)
1 tangerine, segmented
1 Tablespoon fresh parsley leaves, kept whole or torn
1 Tablespoon champagne vinegar
1 Tablespoon sherry vinegar
1/2 shallot, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
6 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1. Combine vinegars, mustard, shallot, and a pinch of salt. Let sit for a few minutes.

2. Slowly whisk in the olive oil.

3. In a large bowl, toss together the lettuce, tangerine, parsley, and vinaigrette.

Serves 4. (With extra vinaigrette to save in the fridge)

Printable version here.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Yummy Snack

I just invented a snack that is totally worth's low-carb and creamy and sweet!!!!

1 container fat-free Greek yogurt ( I like Fage)
1 packet Splenda
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon natural peanut butter

Stir. Eat. You will do a happy dance.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Mom's Apple Crisp

My mom used to make this for breakfast growing up...I'd eat it at my fold-up table in front of the TV with my little Smurf mug filled with milk. Oh, it brings back such warm fuzzy memories. Then in college, I'd make it and eat half a pan at a now I make it when there will be other people to enjoy is apple-y goodness. In this version, I added 1/2 c. dried cranberries.

6 c. sliced tart apples (6 medium)
1/2 c. flour
1/8 t salt
1/2 c oats (or more)
3/4 t. cinnamon
3/4 t. nutmeg
1/3 c. butter, softened.

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a squar 8 x 8 baking dish. Place apples in baking dish.

2. Mix remaining ingredients thoroughly. Sprinkle over apples. Bake 20 minutes covered with foil, then 20 minutes uncovered, or until apples are tender and topping is golden brown. Serve warm with ice cream.

*Best vanilla ice cream in the world as far as I am concerned, is Dr. Bob's:

Printable version here.