Posts Tagged 'chicken'

Meat and Mushroom Spaghetti Sauce

This is the best spaghetti sauce I have ever made. It is even better than the recipe I inherited from my mother. I combined several recipes, including my mother’s, to make it. What could be bad?  It’s got mushrooms:
meat sauce mushrooms
It’s got ground buffalo:
meat sauce buffalo
It’s got hot Italian chicken sausage
meat sauce sausage
Plus it’s got a bit of crushed red pepper to give it even more zing. And it’s low fat and one recipe makes a lot, so you can freeze it. (Oh, and it freezes well.)

One warning, though. I have made this numerous times. The last time was after I’d gotten rid of my slow cooker in preparation for the move that has not yet happened.  I figured that I could just make it in my giant trusty sauté pan. It was ok, but it lacked the depth and richness of the usual sauce. So you really need a slow cooker for long simmering to make this taste wonderful.

Meat and Mushroom Spaghetti Sauce

1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 cups chopped onion (see note)
1 cup chopped carrot
1 chopped green pepper
½ pound button mushrooms, sliced
6 garlic cloves, minced
16 ounces hot Italian chicken sausage
1 pound ground buffalo
1/4 cup no-salt-added tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 (28-ounce) can no-salt-added crushed tomatoes, undrained
1 cup no-salt-added tomato sauce
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon dried basil

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion, carrot, and green pepper to pan; sauté 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
meat sauce veggies cooking
Add garlic; sauté 1 minute, stirring constantly. Place vegetable mixture in a 6-quart slow cooker.
meat sauce veggies crockpot
Crumble sausage and buffalo into skillet; sauté 6 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble further. Remove meat mixture from skillet using a slotted spoon. Add meat mixture to slow cooker. Stir next 9 ingredients (through basil) into slow cooker. Cover and cook on low 8 hours. Makes 9 servings at about 4.6 grams of fat/serving. Break out the pasta and enjoy.
meat sauce
NOTE: I chop the onion, carrot, and green pepper in the food processor so they’ll blend into the sauce.

Dijon Chicken Stew

When you are eating low fat, you wind up eating a lot of chicken breasts. It’s inevitable.  Fortunately, chicken breasts are rather “neutral” and can be made in a lot of interesting ways, from breaded chicken fingers to curries. But I am always looking for something new to do with them so I don’t get bored. This is a very tasty way to make chicken that is a little different. The sauce is rather brothy, so much so that I plan to experiment with the recipe to create a soup. I had a bit of trouble finding escarole – maybe because it is winter. You could probably use another kind of greens, but escarole has the right crunch. The original recipe was from Eating Well, and I reduced the amount of olive oil to lower the fat a bit. It reheated well for lunch, but I’m not sure it would freeze well because the greens might lose their texture, which is a big part of the charm of the dish.  I served it with a nice crusty bread.  Warning – this is VERY garlicky – which I loved, and was one of the real attractions of the stew.  But if you’re not a garlic fan, you might try to reduce the garlic by half. Don’t eliminate it though. Garlic is one of the  flavors that make this stew special.
Dijon Chicken Stew
1/4 cup water
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup sliced shallots
1/4 cup chopped garlic
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried (I don’t like rosemary – I used marjoram and I think you could use which ever herb is your favorite.)
1 cup dry white wine
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
8 cups chopped escarole (1 medium head)
1 14-ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper


Whisk water, mustard and cornstarch in a small bowl; set aside.
Heat oil in a Dutch oven or large pan over medium heat. Add shallots, garlic and rosemary (or other herb); cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add wine, cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Uncover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the wine is almost evaporated, 5 to 6 minutes.
Add chicken, escarole and broth. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes. Whisk the cornstarch mixture and add to the pot. Bring the stew to a boil and cook for 1 minute or until slightly thickened. Season with salt and pepper.  Makes 4 servings @ 3.5 grams of fat/serving.

Curried Chicken Saute

Often on my frequent trips to Costco I purchase the bag of six sweet peppers in multiple colors – usually red, orange, and yellow. Usually, I cut a couple of the peppers up and sauté them with onions and cut up Italian chicken sausage.

This preparation doesn’t even need oil, just a quick spray with cooking spray and the peppers and onions are caramelized as the sausage cooks. And I usually make some non-fat dip so I can take the remaining peppers along for lunch.

But I had defrosted some chicken tenders – and not defrosted the chicken sausage, so I decided to combine peppers and chicken. The original dish, from Cooking Light, called for using whole chicken breasts, which were to be placed on top of the sautéed peppers. This didn’t seem totally logical to me, so I improvised.  I also mixed the lime juice in with the curry rather than serving lime wedges.
Curried Chicken Sauté

1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder, divided
1 pound chicken tenders
8 ounces mixed bell peppers (packaged and presliced in ok)
1 cup light coconut milk
1 lime

Spray a nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat.

Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of the curry powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper over the chicken tenders, rubbing it on so that the tenders are evenly covered. Add chicken to pan and cook 10 minutes or until done, stirring occasionally. Remove chicken from pan; keep warm. Add bell peppers and remaining 1/2 teaspoon curry powder to pan; sauté 1 minute. Return chicken to pan and add coconut milk, and bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 4 minutes or until mixture is slightly thickened. Squeeze juice from 1 lime and 1/4 teaspoon salt into bell pepper mixture. Serve over rice. Makes 4 servings at about 6 grams of fat/serving.

This is one of the photos I had to retake after my camera died, so you are really seeing leftovers over brown rice mix.

Chicken Empanaditas

An empanada is a stuffed bread or pastry eaten in many countries of Latin America and the south of Europe. Typically it has a doughy crust (like a pie crust), folded into a half moon shape,  and is either fried or baked. I wanted to make a diminutive empanada – an empanadita – a little dumpling that was more finger food than a hand-held snack. I also wanted to eliminate the high fat pie crust-like dough so I that had a low fat, tasty nibble. I decided to use round gyoza wrappers, which can be folded into little half moons. Gyoza are the usually the wrap for Chinese or Japanese pot stickers, so perhaps these are actually Mexican pot stickers.

At any rate, the first time I made these I followed a Food Network recipe for the filling, with appropriate fat-reducing changes, such as using fat-free cream cheese and low fat Mexican cheese blend. These first empanaditas were just awful. The filling was dry and flavorless; the gyoza skins were both tough and chewy at the same time. Even the dogs eyed them suspiciously. But they looked good!

So I tried again, adding some salsa to the filling to give it a bit of zing, and some non-fat sour cream to make it creamier. I also used wonton wrappers, since I was out of gyoza skins. They were fantastic. And it was not only the filling that was better. The wonton wrappers were crisp and vaguely buttery. And they still looked good.

(I have since learned that the dough for the gyoza and wonton wrappers consists of different ingredients; gyoza wrappers are also thicker than wonton wrappers). Now that I have gotten the recipe right, I crave them constantly. Good thing that I froze a bunch.

This recipe makes a large number of empanaditas – almost 100. But they are quite freezable before they are baked, although you might have to bake them for a few minutes longer just out of the freezer.  And once the filling is made, you can make them assembly line fashion, laying out 3-4 wrappers, dropping the filling in the middle, painting the edges with water and pressing them shut.

Chicken Empanaditas

3 cups chopped, cooked chicken
1/4 cup chopped red or yellow bell pepper
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
1 (7 to 8 ounce) package shredded low-fat Mexican cheese blend
4 ounces non-fat cream cheese, softened
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 cups non-fat sour cream
1 cup salsa verde (any green salsa – heat depends on your tolerance)
about 100 square wonton wrappers
Water
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray two large cookie sheets with cooking spray (this will not be enough to cook all the empanaditas, so you will have to repeat baking if you want to make them all at once.)

Place pepper, chicken, and jalapeno in food processor and pulse until chopped. Add Mexican cheese blend, cream cheese, cumin, salt, pepper, sour cream and salsa to food processor. Pulse until well blended. Lay several wonton wrappers on a flat surface. Place about 2 teaspoons of filling in the center of wrapper (you will have to get a feel for how much goes in each wrapper without overfilling them so you can’t seal them.)

(This is a picture of assembling the first batch – but you get the idea. Imagine this is a square, not a circle.)

Brush edges of wrapper with water. Fold in half to make a triangle. Press edges firmly to seal. Repeat with the remaining wonton wrappers. (Up to this point, the recipe can be made ahead and frozen for up to 1 month).

Arrange empanaditas on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown. You will need to check on these so they don’t burn. My first batch wasn’t brown enough, so I left them in for 10 more minutes and they got too well done. Makes about 100 empanaditas at 0.5 grams of fat/tasty little dumpling. (That means you can eat 6 of them sitting in front of the tv, dipping them in salsa if you’d like, and just have 3 grams of fat.)

Chicken in Cashew Nut Sauce

This is one of the best chicken curries I have ever made – or tasted.  I made a three curry dinner for two friends.

The curries are – from the top clockwise, Chicken in Cashew Nut Sauce, Indian Fish Stew, and Buffalo with Green Beans Curry, surrounding a mound of Brown Rice.  More about the other curries at a later date.

Despite the fact there was more than enough food, there was not a drop of this chicken curry left. The sauce is rich, and thickened by the cashew nuts. It is not a particularly hot curry. If you want more heat, add a little cayenne pepper or chopped green chilis into the spice mixture, or do as I often do, have hot sauce on the table. The original recipe comes from Husain and Kanani’s Healthy Indian Cooking.

I’m sure this would freeze well, if there was ever any left!

Chicken in Cashew Nut Sauce

2 medium onions
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
2 ounces cashew nuts
1½ teaspoons garam masala (see note)
1 teaspoon minced garlic
I teaspoon chili powder
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon non-fat yogurt
1 Tablespoon canola oil
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh coriander
1 Tablespoon raisins
1 pond boneless chicken breast, skinned and cut into 1-2 inch cubes
6 ounces small button mushrooms (or larger mushrooms cut in quarters)
1¼ cup water

Place onions in food processor and process for 1 minute. Add tomato sauce, cashew nuts, garam masala, garlic, chili powder, lemon juice, turmeric, salt, and yogurt and process for another minute or so.

Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan. Lower the heat to medium and add the ground spice mixture from the food processor. Fry spices for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally and making sure that the mixture does not burn.  When the spice mixture is lightly cooked, add half the chopped fresh coriander, the raisins, and the chicken cubes and continue to stir fry for 1 minute. Add mushrooms, pour in the water and bring to a simmer.  Cover the pan and cook over low heat for 10 minutes or until the chicken is no longer pink and the sauce has thickened. Serve hot sprinkled with the remaining coriander.  Serve with rice or couscous. Makes 4 servings at about 9.8 grams of fat/serving.

I cooked this a few hours earlier in my large flat-bottomed wok, which I use for everything, and transferred it to a casserole for reheating in the microwave and serving.

NOTE: Garam Masala means warm (garam) spices (masala). Most Indian households have their own mix, handed down from mother – or mother-in-law – to daughter, which is stored in a container for daily use. You can make your own mix from the many recipes available, or buy a good quality garam masala either at an Asian market or in the spice section of your grocery store. I often use the Spice Islands mix.

Almond-Crusted Chicken Fingers

I am creeped out by the idea of chicken fingers.  I always have this flash of an old hen with bony fingers where the chicken claws should be, the ends of her scrawny talon fingers touched with red polish and pointing accusingly at me.  However, chicken fingers are a great favorite with children. So many people say they would lose weight, but their children won’t eat “diet food”.  Without getting into a protracted discussion of what diet food is (and why I don’t eat it), I decided to experiment with making child-friendly breaded chicken fingers that didn’t have to be fried.

Chicken fingers are not actually fingers, of course. They are a strip of rib meat typically found attached to the underside of the chicken breast, and usually sold separately as chicken tenders. They have virtually no fat, and can be cooked in many ways, from stir fry, to threaded on skewers for satay, or just cooked quickly on the grill.  They are the basis for the chicken fingers on so many restaurant children’s menus.

These chicken fingers, which originally appeared in Eating Well, are good, but didn’t have quite the crispiness I was craving. The next time chicken tenders are on sale, I’m going to experiment making them with Panko crumbs instead of almond crusting.  You can dip the fingers in anything you’d like – low fat ranch dressing, ketchup, or a sweet and sour dip (like I made).

Almond-Crusted Chicken Fingers

Cooking spray
½ cup sliced almonds
¼ cup whole-wheat flour
1½ teaspoons paprika
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon dry mustard
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1½ teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 large egg whites
1 pound chicken tenders

Preheat oven to 475°F. Line a baking sheet with foil. Set a wire rack on the baking sheet and coat it with cooking spray.

Place almonds, flour, paprika, garlic powder, dry mustard, salt and pepper in a food processor and process until the almonds are finely chopped and the paprika is mixed throughout, about 1 minute. With the motor running, drizzle in oil. Process until combined. Transfer the mixture to a shallow dish.

Whisk egg whites in a second shallow dish. Add chicken tenders and turn to coat (I did them two at a time). Transfer each tender to the almond mixture, turning to coat evenly. (Discard any remaining egg white and almond mixture.) Place the tenders on the prepared rack and coat them with cooking spray; turn and spray the other side.

Bake the chicken fingers until golden brown, crispy and no longer pink in the center, 20 to 25 minutes.  Makes 4 servings at about 4 grams of fat/serving.

Chicken Tagine with Figs, Apricots, and Honey

I received a tagine for Christmas. A tagine is a conical, round earthenware pot with a lid designed to lock in the moisture and flavors of the food, allowing them to be cooked in a small amount of liquid. The food typically cooked in a tagine is also called tagine – which is an aromatic, spicy stew, often containing fruit. The secret of a succulent tagine is to simmer the meat or vegetables in a seasoned, fragrant liquid over a very low heat, so that the food stays moist and tender. Also, the dried fruit is added when the food is almost cooked, so they don’t turn to mush.

Originally a Berber dish, tagines have evolved as successive waves of Arabs and Ottomans migrated though North Africa.  Traditionally, the earthenware tagine was used over a charcoal fire, which diffused the heat. The conical lid has a hole in the top that lets steam escape, If you are cooking a tagine (the food) in a regular casserole or pan, you need to tip the lid occasionally to let the steam escape.

The cookbook that came with my tagine cautions that an earthenware tagine cannot be used on a gas or electric burner, so it is prudent to cook this tasty dish in a conventional casserole, and then if you have guests serve it in the tagine for impact.  I think it can be used successfully in an oven, although it seems a bit large for that (It’s also a bit large to store in a closet – it is going to have to be a decorative item between cooking.).

I created this chicken tagine from the assorted dried fruit I had in the house. Chicken thighs are a rich enough meat to stand up to the long simmering in an aromatic liquid.  Often, tagines are served on a mound of couscous where the top has been indented and the tagine poured in the center. I ate it with a crusty bread, which is more traditional for an everyday tagine, although I served the very tasty leftovers over rice.

Chicken Tagine with Figs, Apricots and Honey

12 dried figs
8 dried apricots
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced
a pinch of saffron threads
2 cinnamon sticks
2 teaspoons ground coriander
8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs, trimmed of fat, and cut into bite-size pieces
3-4 strips of orange zest, sliced thin (see Hint)
1 Tablespoon honey
sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
¼ cup cilantro leave, chopped

This is one of those dishes where I found it convenient to get everything prepared before I actually started the cooking process.
Clockwise from the mountain of onions and garlic at the bottom, there are the soaked, dried fruit; orange zest strips; a little bowl with the ginger, saffron, coriander and cinnamon sticks; the cut up chicken thighs, and a bowl of cilantro.

Place figs and apricots in a medium bowl, cover with water and set aside to soak for an hour. Drain figs and apricots, saving soaking water. If the figs and apricots are large, cut them in half. Set aside.

Heat oil in a large heavy-bottomed pan or casserole over medium high heat. Add onions and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally until the onions are soft and golden. Add ginger, saffron, cinnamon sticks, and coriander, stirring gently for about a minute. Add chicken and stir until the pieces are thoroughly coated with the onions and spices. Saute for 2 minutes. Pour soaking liquid over chicken. Add additional water if necessary to just cover the chicken. Bring to a boil, cover the pan, reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally and lifting the pot lid to let the steam out.

Stir in figs, apricots, and orange peel. Cover and simmer for an additional 15 minutes. Stir in honey and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook for an additional 10 minutes. Make sure there is enough liquid in the pot, because the sauce should be syrupy, but not dry. Stir in cilantro.  Remove cinnamon sticks if you’d like. Serve immediately (although it was really good reheatd).  This makes 6 servings at about 8 grams of fat/serving.

Hint: If you are going to use orange peel in your cooking, purchase an organic orange so you don’t get chemicals in your food.


ABOUT KAREN

I have lost 200 pounds. I did not do it through surgery – I don’t like knives and needles – or by joining a club, vigorous exercise, or rigorous dieting. I did it by gourmet cooking. To be precise, by cooking low fat, really delicious food. I love to cook as much as I love to eat. Food magazines are some of my favorite reading. I would feel deprived if I couldn’t have the sensuous experience of good food crossing my lips. This blog is about my perpetual feast, my passionate love of food, with recipes, photos, and occasional advice and principles that I have learned along the way.

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