Tag Archives: Chicken

Summer picnic on crack

A little while back I wrote about “summer picnic,” Nadia’s favorite dish of grilled shrimp and asparagus (abd sometimes other random grilled meats and veggies) with toasted bread. We recently started limiting our bread, pasta and sugar intake, so instead of the bread, I just upped the veggies and the meat.

I purchased the asparagus, red bell pepper and corn from casinoin.us the Laguna Niguel Farmers Market. The chimichurri on the shrimp, the beer-marinated chicken and chorizo Argentino came from Puerto madero in Santa Ana.

Everything was finished with a spritz of lemon.

Everything was totally awesome.

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My favorite Asian take-out comes from Trader Joe’s

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I generally try to avoid frozen foods, but when I’m burned out in the kitchen, the first place I turn to is Trader Joe’s.

I know they have an amazing selection in the freezer, but I’m really only interested in two things: the orange chicken and the teriyaki chicken. Both are only $5 per bag.

First, I’d rather someone else make these two specific items than for me to make them at home. Second, I’d rather buy at least the orange chicken this way and bake it instead of heading off for take-out and picking up a deep fried, over-sauced version of the exact same dish.

I prefer the orange chicken to the teriyaki because I’m fat and love meats/cheeses lovingly embraced by batter/breading. There are 320 calories per serving (approximately, but not always, 5 servings to a bag) and a serving really isn’t much on the plate. If I have some wiggle room, I’ll go two servings; if not, one and a half. Lay the pieces out on a sheet pan, blast at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, flipping once if you can, and you’ll have little nuggets of chicken that are a good enough to stand-in for the double-fried stuff you find at Asian chicken joints. Add the sauce, a bunch of scallions and it’s a wrap.

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Alternatively, I’ll use the Trader Joe’s BBQ Chicken Teriyaki on days where I need something lighter and less batteriffic. It’s 150 calories per serving and has 3.5 servings in a bag. I add veggies and a little bit of rice to stretch the meal into four solid portions.

For the dish above, I let the frozen strips of chicken sit out for a half hour to soften up. I cut them into bite-size chunks; then I halved 8 oz. of whole baby crimini mushrooms so they’d be a similar size. To finish prep, I tossed two servings of rice in the rice cooker and separated and halved the leaves of four baby bok choi heads.

You liven up the frozen chicken by building flavor, but it’s all very easy: With a little bit of oil in the pan over medium heat, saute 1/2 a shallot and 2 or 3 cloves of garlic, both minced, until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the mushroom and a generous pinch of salt; cook for 3-5 minutes until most of the water has cooked out of the mushrooms and the pan is dry. If you have it, deglaze the pan with a splash of mirin and add the chicken. Cover with a lid and turn the heat to medium-low, allowing the steam to bring the chicken to temperature. When the chicken is ready, mix in the raw bok choi. The heat will wilt the thin pieces. Finish with the teriyaki sauce and dig in.

If you do it this way, this one makes four portions. The orange chicken is best fresh from the oven, but the teriyaki is perfect packed up and ready for the next day’s lunch. Clearly, it doesn’t suffice for going out to actual Chinese/Japanese (Vietnamese/Thai) restaurants, but if I’m not eating out every day, this is a solid way to split the difference.

Stretching your pesos: Fat Dude’s Mexican Fiesta, Part 7—Shrimp fried Mexican rice

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This is the last post of my “Stretching your pesos” series, which I essentially wrote because I made too much chicken for Nadia’s cousins and I had to figure out what to do with it.

On a small scale, the series taught me to use my leftovers to their full extent. And that’s important to do, considering people in this world are starving while Americans waste 33 million tons of food annually, according to NPR.

I only had a few shrimp, some Mexican rice and pickled red onion in the fridge by the end of this experiment, and I wanted to mix it up a bit, so I took inspiration from Orange County’s Dos Chinos food truck which fuses Asian and Mexican cuisines.

Enter: Shrimp fried Mexican rice.

I found the blueprint at Epicurious:

  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 bunch scallions, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup leftover pork, chicken, or beef, diced
  • 1 cup frozen peas and carrots, thawed (plus any leftover vegetables you have on hand)
  • 4 cups cold cooked white or brown rice (In this case Mexican rice, recipe here)
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste

The recipe makes four servings, but here’s a couple of ways to make it a little healthier if you aren’t using leftovers like I was: Use 2-3 cups of rice, so each person has less than 1 cup, with 1/2 cup per person being the target–and go brown rice; use low-sodium soy sauce. You can also reduce the oil, but this rice does need to crisp and you’re at less than 1 T per person. Try using 2 T, and add a tablespoon if necessary.

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Follow the link above for the full step by step, but the method is fairly simple and the result far less greasy than any box of takeout I’ve ever brought home.

You start by cooking the egg and the scallions with some of the oil. Then the meat and veggies get tossed in the pan and scrambled around. The rest of the oil goes in to crisp up the rice and you wrap it up by adding a mixture of soy sauce and water to flavor the rice.

Garnish with fresh cilantro and lime, and dig in.

Stretching your pesos: Fat Dude’s Mexican Fiesta, Part 5—Chicken, rice and bean burritos

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I already made a healthy, hearty quesadilla last week (recipe), so it was only natural to keep going with the stack of uncooked flour tortillas in my fridge.

Ditching the fold for the roll, we opted for chicken burritos with more of the leftover tostada chicken breast (recipe). I had the foresight to  leave some of the breasts whole instead of shredding all the meat. I chopped one breast into large chunks and it was enough for four mini-burritos.

The trick to healthy burritos is to reverse the quantities of all the worst stuff with the best stuff. That means more meat and beans, less rice and cheese. Here’s what each burrito looked like:

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My burritos had about 2T each of beans and Mexican rice, 1/2 oz. of Oaxaca cheese and 1/4 of a chicken breast. If you’re looking to make Mexican rice at home, here’s a recipe.

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I like wrapping the burritos and finishing them on the cook top to make sure they have a bit of a crust. Top each one with 1t each of low-fat sour cream and guacamole (mashed avocado, flavored with a little salt and lime).

It won’t be the hulking beast from the taqueria or Chipotle, but this smaller-sized burrito hits all the right flavor notes and doesn’t leave you feeling carb heavy and bloated.

 

Stretching your pesos: Fat Dude’s Mexican fiesta, Part 2—Rice bowl with braised chicken and pickled red onion

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My main problem with restaurant rice bowls is the amount of rice they use. I’ve flipped out a rice bowl from Flame Broiler before and counted full 2 cups of rice. That’s 400 calories of non-nutritious filler before you even get to the stuff on top.

A better serving of rice is 1/2 cup, which will leave you with enough grains to feel substantial without drowning the dish in carbs. With less rice in the mix, you can fill up the bowl with better ingredients including lean meats and veggies. Brown rice would be best, but I’m still working on giving up white rice and pasta, which is hard for me anyway, because I don’t eat much of either so I think

Here’s a recipe that will leave you with four rice bowls:

Make the rice, Chef Brian’s version: Saute 1/2 onion, small diced, adding 1/2 t ground cumin and 1/2 t ground coriander. Add 1 cup of rice and mix well. Use a ratio of just under 2 cups of liquid (chicken stock or water), subbing in 2/3 cup of the amount of water with tomato sauce–preferably El Pato brand, which has some good spice to it. Throw some frozen peas and carrots in too if you’d like.

Bring the contents to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 20 minutes.

While the rice is cooking, pickle the onion: Slice 1/2 red onion into thin slices and coat with a healthy pinch of salt and the juice of 3/4 of a lime. Give it a few stirs within the 20 minutes the rice cooks and by the time that’s ready, so will the onions.

Prepare the chicken (recipe here): Instead of shredding the chicken as we did for tostadas, cut the meat into larger chunks. Use 1/2 chicken breast for every serving–2 breasts total. Warm the chicken in a pan with a little cooking spray, 1 can of black beans, drained, and 1/2 cup of frozen corn kernels.

Assemble the bowl: When the mix is warm, add it to the rice and scoop into bowls for serving. Garnish with the pickled onion, a sprinkle of cotija cheese, cilantro and a squirt of lime from the remaining 1/4 you saved.

Up next: Poached shrimp with cotija-lime corn!

Stretching your pesos: Fat Dude’s Mexican fiesta, Part 1—Shredded chicken tostadas

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We had Nadia’s cousins and brother over for football this weekend. We’re all big, hungry dudes, so you know I had to whip up something tasty.

I bought a lot of chicken–too much chicken for the tostadas I planned to make–so I’ve been tinkering with new ways to use the leftover ingredients since Sunday. But before we get into reincarnating the leftovers, it’s best to show you the recipe that left me with a Mexican bounty.

If you are looking for a healthy, frugal meal that will carry you through, look no further than the humble tostada: Corn tortilla, beans, meat, veggies, salsa, cheese and condiments.

For the recipe I made, the ingredients were: Pinto beans, chorizo, shredded chicken breast, shredded iceberg lettuce, pickled jalapeno, Oaxaca cheese, cotija cheese, Mexican crema, salsa verde, cilantro and lime.

A healthier me would have omitted the chorizo and the crema, but it was game day and I splurged. But, a little bit of either—about two tablespoons of chorizo and a two teaspoons of sour cream or light sour cream—ain’t gonna hurt none. (Read more: 8 Fatty Foods with Health Benefits—Sour Cream.)

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You will get 8 to 10 tostadas from two chicken breasts, depending on how large they are. Forget the quantity I use in the pictures, as I said, I cooked for an army and still have leftovers. Anyways, let’s cook!

Make the dry rub: It made enough for 10 large chicken breasts: 2 T kosher salt, 2 T garlic powder, 2 T onion powder, 1 T Cambodian Kampot peppercorns from Pepper Project (any black peppercorns will do though), 1 T of paprika, 2 t Mexican oregano, 2 t cumin, 2 t chili powder, 1/2 t cayenne pepper and 2 bay leaves.

Run the mix through a spice grinder or mortar and pestle and that’s it.

For an alternative dry rub made with chipotle chili powder, use Chef Brian’s Chicken Taco Spice.

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Your best bet to get the chicken tender enough to shred easily with a fork is to braise the meat. To get the chicken ready for braising, give it a good massage with the spice mix and let it sit out and temper for about an hour.

The braise: Heat an appropriate amount of oil in the pan for the number of chicken breasts you are using and sear all of the meat, browning both sides for 2-3 minutes per side. In my version, I first cooked the chorizo in the pan and then removed the meat, leaving behind the chorizo fat to cook the chicken in (with the addition of some canola oil). Once all the chicken is done, add a chopped onion and 3 cloves of chopped garlic to the pan, scraping the bottom free of whatever’s stuck to it.

Add a little tomato paste and cook for 2-3 minutes, until it starts to stick to the bottom of the pan. Deglaze the pan with chicken stock (Video: How to deglaze a pan). Add the chicken back to the pan, and fill it about halfway up the height of the chicken with more stock. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 1/2 hours.

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When the chicken is done baking, it will be in a pool of braising liquid. Gently remove the chicken (it’s tender now, so it might fall apart) and leave the braising liquid to cool. When it has cooled, reserve it in a plastic container and put it in the fridge for later use (which we’ll get to on the blog soon).

Make the beans while the chicken bakes: Pinto beans or black beans, either one works here. Black beans are better nutritionally, so that’s a plus, but sometimes I like the lighter flavor of pinto beans better.

Heat 2 t of oil in a small pot and sautee 1/2 white onion and 2 cloves of chopped garlic. You can add spices at this point, including cumin and corriander, if you wish. Add 1 cup of chicken stock and 1 can of drained black beans. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Break up the beans while they cook. The liquid will boil out and the beans will thicken into a paste. Salt to taste.

Bake the tortillas: Crank the oven up to 400 degrees once you’ve pulled the chicken out. Hit as many corn tortillas as you’ll need with a spritz of cooking spray and a dash of salt (a solid serving is two per person; a lighter eater might want one and a side salad) and bake directly on a sheet pan for about 10 minutes. I start checking mine at 8 minutes, and keep checking them until they’re done around the 10-12 minute mark.

You want to leave them space on the pan and have the patience to cook them until they’re done right, or else they will be chewy and gross instead of crisp and awesome.

Knock out everything else while the tostadas bake: Shred the chicken with the backs of two forks. Slice the lettuce super thin with a sharp knife. Get spoons in the sour cream and the salsa. Whatever you gotta do to make it Tostada O’Clock.

Layer properly: Beans. Then meat. Then veggies. Then cheese. Salsas. Crema. Herbs. Lime.

Bonus! Breakfast tostadas!

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Tomorrow: Mexican rice bowls with braised chicken and pickled red onion.

Game Day Grub: Baked chicken wings and homemade ranch

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NFL playoffs are in full swing so it’s been hard to avoid a nonstop run of commercials with all the best-worst foods like burgers, pizza and chicken wings.

Of all the cookbooks I’ve read, the best resource for bar-food made healthy is Men’s Health series of “Cook This, Not That” books.

So instead of going out for these greasy goodies I turned to the handy little guides for burgers and Buffalo wings.

I’ll put up the burger later this week, but I’m more excited for the wings. The sauce is equal parts hot sauce and butter, plus a fair amount of fresh lemon juice for an acidic zip. Tip: If you run out of fresh lemon, as I did when I used this recipe again on chicken legs, throw in half the amount of white vinegar instead.

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They pair it a Greek yogurt-based blue cheese dip, but we went with a healthy homemade ranch dressing (equal parts olive-oil mayo and Greek yogurt with onion powder, garlic powder and fresh parsley and chive). That recipe is also from the books, but a different one than the wings recipe is in.

Click here for the Cook This, Not That Buffalo chicken wings recipe.

Ditchin’ the salad bar: A tribute to Sizzler’s Malibu chicken

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I butchered and froze the various parts of three chickens early last week and I’ve been thawing it out in phases for different recipes: stock from the bones for beans and soup; coconut “fried” chicken and grilled coconut curry chicken with the thighs; Buffalo sauce with Greek yogurt ranch on the wings from “Cook This, Not That”; and a Philly chicken “cheesesteak” with one of the breasts.

I haven’t decided what to do with the legs yet, but I’m leaning toward rubbing them down in pesto and roasting them in the oven.

We were going to do chicken tikka masala with rest of the thawed out breasts but Indian food is freakin’ complicated and I didn’t feel like measuring out 100 different spices. I was about to make more of that cheesesteak chicken when the craving for Sizzler’s Malibu chicken hit me simultaneously in belly and brain.

I must have seen a Sizzler commercial during football and the propaganda worked.

My brain did a quick scan: Chicken and ham, check. Panko, check. Mustard, mayo, honey; yup.

It was on.

I ran the chicken through the batter station and par-pan-fried it on each side. They roasted at 400 degrees for 10 minutes before I pulled it out of the oven.

I covered it with the ham and slivers of muenster cheese. In general 2 oz. of deli meat is 50 to 60 calories and 1 oz. of cheese is 100 calories. I know I’ll spend 160 extra calories in the name of good taste, and you shouldn’t be afraid to either if you are eating lean all the time.

I whipped up the sauce while the chicken cooked for another 5 minutes. Equal amounts of yellow mustard and low-calorie olive oil mayo with a drizzle of honey. You’ll want about a tablespoon for each breast. That’s about 50 calories.

When the chicken is done put it on a plate, spoon some of the sauce on it and sprinkle with a little parsley for some fresh zip. The simple sauce is greater than the sum of its parts and you can’t argue with tender chicken in a crunchy coating covered in salty ham and gooey cheese.

I grew up eating at Sizzler. All you can eat shrimp as a kid, and later steak and Malibu chicken dinners with mom when I got older. I’ve since left the restaurant and its bountiful buffet behind, but with this recipe in my arsenal the loss of dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets and garlic toast doesn’t sting as much.

I had a mental breakdown while making coconut-crusted chicken

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I’ve been trying to cook every meal at home since the new year began. I’ll delve deeper into that on Saturday when I post the first weigh-in of 2013, but, to get to the point, I’ve had all but three meals out (one breakfast and two lunches) in the last 10 days.

It wasn’t a resolution necessarily, but a goal I’ve had for a long time. For some reason, this time, it’s finally starting to click.

The idea for “coconut crusted chicken” popped into my head a couple of nights ago. I found a link to “Coconut Crusted Chicken Tenders” from the Can You Stay For Dinner blog. I went looking for chicken and left with a whole new outlook on weight loss.

The blog is written by Andie Mitchell, a 27-year-old who lost 135 lbs. by cooking and exercise. Her honesty is encouraging, and seeing that she lost so much weight without any gimmicks is inspiring. She writes about taking it one day at a time, one choice at a time, and that truly is the right mindset to make it happen.

So, back to the chicken.

I wasn’t so much looking for an exact recipe as I was just to see how someone else did it without messing it up. I planned to de-bone the chicken thighs I had cut down earlier in the week, but they were still slightly frozen by the time I arrived home. It was a pain to get the bones out and more then a few times I wanted to call it quits.

Because I wanted to add more coconut flavor, I soaked the meat in coconut milk while it came to room temperature (better for cooking evenly). Then came the batter station:

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Drain the excess coconut milk from the chicken, drop it in flour, then in egg, and finally into the coconut/panko mix. Pan fry for 3 minutes per side and bake on 400 degrees for 10 minutes.

I’m terrible with batters, especially using wet and dry hands. I’m always running back and forth from the sink. That, paired with the hunger of having to stop at the grocery store for a couple of ingredients, then waiting to marinate, AND THEN  … AND THEN!!! … fighting with monster batter hands. I had enough.

There were obscenities, more obscenities, and this: “I don’t want to BLEEPIN’ cook, I’m over this, let’s just go out already!”

I slumped against the kitchen cabinets and slid all the way to the ground in protest.

“Screw you coconut chicken.”

Nadia, who was napping before dinner, woke up, came to the kitchen and calmed me down. She said she’d help with the batter and we pushed through. The chicken was done and in the oven before I knew it. The slaw– 2 cups of shredded cabbage and 1/4 thin-sliced red onion soaked in lime juice with salt plus cubed pineapple and scallion–took about as much time to assemble as it did for the chicken to bake and then rest.

We almost went out. Because I almost gave up. It wouldn’t have been worth it, and nothing could have been better that night than the coconut-crusted chicken WE worked together to make.

There are going to be nights where I don’t want to cook, but, if I truly want to control what’s going into my body, I’m the one who has to take control.

I’m the one behind this wheel.

Now, on to the next one.

Enfrijoladas locas!!!

My buddy Dave introduced me to enfrijoladas recently at a Santa Ana restaurant called Potzol den Cano and I have a continual craving for this dish, which is essentially enchiladas, but with bean sauce. It’s possibly the best way to use beans ever.

Wifey Nadia hates enchiladas because she’s not down with the red sauce (which I think is crazy), but she was in love with these because the black beans go so well with chorizo and shredded chicken. Keep reading for the how-to. Continue reading Enfrijoladas locas!!!

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