Tag Archives: chicken

Honey Baked Chicken Tenders

19 Apr

When it comes to meat, there are very few options that Sophie is interested in eating.  Given a choice, she would eat primarily salami, pepperoni, sausage, summer sausage, and chicken nuggets.  All delicious in moderation, but not the healthiest choices on the block.  So when I suggested that we could make our own chicken nuggets, she said that I was sort of missing the point.  And while I was probably missing her point, my point was this – there has to be an option that would be both healthier AND something we’d all like to eat.

And of course, there is.

These chicken tenders were super easy to make, definitely healthier, and decidedly tastier than their processed-out-of-a-bag counterparts.  Without much prep and a little time in the oven, the chicken tenders were done in no time.  Made a bit crispy from an egg/flour coating and a little sweet with the addition of honey, they were delicious.  And everyone ate them – WITHOUT COMPLAINT.

Honey Baked Chicken Tenders
Serving size: 3 oz.
Serves: 4

Olive oil cooking spray
12 oz. chicken breast, cut into 16 pieces
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 t. kosher salt
1/2 t. garlic salt
10 turns freshly ground black pepper
1 egg
2 T. soy milk
1 T. honey

Preheat oven to 375° F.  Spray baking sheet with olive oil cooking spray.

In a bowl, combine flour, salt, garlic salt, and pepper.  Stir to combine.

In another bowl, mix together a lightly beaten egg, soy milk, and honey.   Add chicken and stir until all of the chicken is coated in the egg mixture.

Remove each piece of chicken and dredge it in the flour mixture.  Place on baking sheet so that none of the pieces touch.  Spray all of the chicken with olive oil cooking spray.

Bake in oven for 15 minutes, turning chicken every five minutes and spraying again with olive oil cooking spray.  When chicken is lightly browned and a bit crispy, remove from oven and serve.

Estimated calories:  234 cal/serving

Print it: Honey Baked Chicken Tenders

Creamy Chicken Soup

8 Mar

Earlier this week I spotted a recipe for Creamy Roast Chicken and Rice Soup at Fuss Free Cooking that sounded really good.  I LOVE creamy soups, but rarely make them because they can be a bit heavy and sometimes lose a little in the non-dairy translation.  This recipe, however, was ALREADY non-dairy and did not require any substitutes.  The trick here is genius – instead of adding cream or non-dairy cream, cook rice until it is mushy and then puree it to make a creamy base.  I loved the idea, but have to admit, that I doubted that it would work OR taste good.  I WAS WRONG.

I modified the recipe from the original to make a stock, added the meat that was used in the process, threw in some vegetables, and finished the soup in the crockpot.  As far as crockpot recipes go, this is a speedy one, which makes it perfect for those days when you have a little time but not the entire day for your meal to cook on the countertop.  This soup is very tasty, and as an added bonus, SUPER low in calories.  This recipe makes approximately 9 c. of soup, and each serving is only 157 calories.  Compare that to a regular cream of chicken soup which comes in around 240 cal for the same amount, and what you have is not only a tasty meal but a calorie saving jackpot.

This recipe was popular at our house, and I’d highly recommend it.

Creamy Chicken Soup
Serving size: 1 c.
Serves: 9

1 T. olive oil
3 chicken thighs, bone in, skin on
1/2 c. carrots
1 stalk celery, leaves included, coarsely chopped
1/2 onion, quartered
7 c. water
1 c. uncooked jasmati rice
1-1/2 c. carrots, chopped
1 c. frozen corn
Salt and pepper
In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add chicken and cook on each side for 3-4 minutes, or until browned. Add carrots, celery, and onion and stir, then cook for 2-3 minutes. Add water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook for 1 hour. Remove chicken and set aside to cool slightly. Strain stock and discard solids. When chicken has cooled, remove meat and chop into bite sized bits, discard skin and bones.

Add stock and uncooked rice to a crockpot. Cook on low for one hour. When rice is cooked, puree with a hand blender. Add reserved chicken, carrots, and corn. Cook for at least one hour on low, adding water if it gets too thick.

Estimated calories: 157 cal/serving

Print it: Creamy Chicken Soup

Pumpkin Gnocchi and Roast Chicken with Tomato Sauce

30 Jan

I love, love, love gnocchi.  But, I almost never make them, primarily because the idea of a big bowl of carbs just seems like a bad idea.  This weekend, as I stared down the items in the freezer, it occurred to me that if I added something less starchy to the gnocchi mixture, I may be able to lighten it up a bit.  And right in front of me was the perfect answer – pumpkin.

Last fall, I decided to roast the non-carved pumpkins I’d used to decorate the front step.  It was very easy, exactly like roasting a squash, but on a larger scale.  Here are the basics:
– Cut pumpkin in half, remove the seeds and discard (or save for something else)
– Place open side down on a baking sheet, bake at 350 degrees F until the flesh is tender.  Set aside to cool.
– When cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and place in baggies to freeze.  I froze mine in 2 c. portions so that I wouldn’t have to measure later, and could easily thaw enough to use in most recipes.
– When ready to use, set at room temperature to thaw.

Roasted pumpkin is different from canned pumpkin (not flavored pumpkin pie filling, just the canned pureed pumpkin) in two big ways – texture, and moisture content.  To use the pumpkin in this recipe, I removed a LOT of water before it was ready for the gnocchi.  When I set the pumpkin to thaw, a bunch of water came out right away.  But when I gave it a squeeze, I could tell that there was still quite a bit of moisture in the pumpkin.  To remove even more liquid, I put the pumpkin into the potato ricer and used it like a press.  It isn’t important to get the pumpkin to come out of the ricer, it is simply a way to press out a ton of liquid.  When I was done, the pumpkin had reduced almost in half, but was nice and dry.  Still sort of chunky, I decided to chop it finely on the cutting board.  This left me with slightly stringy pumpkin mush, which turned out to be perfect in texture for the gnocchi.

For most recipes, I am a big supporter of substitutions.  In this recipe, there is one substitution you CANNOT MAKE – you must have a potato ricer.  If you don’t have a potato ricer, you’re definitely going to want to get one if you’re going to give gnocchi a good try.  In order for gnocchi to be light and awesome, all of the ingredients need to be mixed and handled gently.  Otherwise, you run the risk of having super heavy gnocchi, which while they still taste fine, serve as an anchor for your gut.  Using anything other than a potato ricer to prep the potatoes will result in heavy gnocchi – mashers and mixers that usually work fine on potatoes for other recipes, just will not do for gnocchi.  Trust me on this one – the ricer is totally useful, not very expensive, and essential for light gnocchi.

The combination of the gnocchi (now slightly healthier due to the pumpkin), tomato sauce, and chicken was delicious.  A flavorful and hearty dish, 2 out of 3 of us LOVED the dish.  At my house, this is considered wildly successful.  I’ll definitely make this again, probably when the other 1/3 is off doing something else.

Pumpkin Gnocchi with Roast Chicken and Tomato Sauce
Serving size: 1
Serves: 6

3 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
1 t. olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 c. spaghetti sauce (Barilla Tomato & Basil recommended)

12 oz. yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced (about 2 c.)
12 oz. roasted pumpkin chunks (about 2 c.)
1-1/2 c. flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Kosher salt


Preheat oven to 450° F.  Spray an oven-safe dish with cooking spray.  Coat hands with 1 t. olive oil and rub over the chicken.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Place chicken in dish skin side up and cook for 30-40 minutes or until chicken reaches 165° F.  Remove from oven, set aside for 10 minutes or until cool enough to handle.  When chicken has cooled, remove the skin and bones and discard.  With hands or fork, shred chicken into bit-sized pieces.  In a medium-sized pan over low heat, combine the sauce and chicken and keep warm.

While chicken is roasting, fill a large pot with water over high heat to bring to a boil.

In a microwave-safe dish, add potatoes and cover with water.  Microwave on high for 7-8 minutes or until potatoes are tender.  Remove from water, rinse and set in a strainer to remove as much water as possible.  When slightly cooled, pass the potatoes through a potato ricer, and add to a large bowl.  Using the potato ricer, press as much liquid out of the pumpkin as possible.  After the liquid has been removed, place on cutting board and chop finely.  Add pumpkin to the potato, and mix well, trying to keep it as light as possible.  Add flour, eggs, and salt and stir gently.  Using hands, bring together until a dough forms and is pliable.

Lightly flour a work surface.  Pull a piece of dough about the size of a racquetball.  Gently roll into a tube that is about 3/4″ thick.  Using a knife, cut into one inch pieces.  Place the gnocchi on a baking sheet covered in wax paper.  Gently press with finger to create indent.  Repeat until all the gnocchi have been formed.

In several batches, drop the gnocchi into boiling water.  When they float to the top, about 2-3 minutes, remove with strainer and add to the warm sauce.  Stir well to combine, then serve.

Estimated calories:  297 cal/serving

Print it: Pumpkin Gnocchi with Roast Chicken and Tomato Sauce

– Feel free to make some substitutions with the chicken – chicken breast would be fine or leftover rotisserie chicken would be awesome.  If you prefer to have a meat-free dish, cannellini beans would be wonderful in this dish in place of the chicken.
– You can use any tomato sauce you like – home made or from a jar.  This time I used Barilla’s Tomato and Basil sauce, it is light, flavorful, and saved me a bit of time.
– I used pumpkin in this recipe, but really anything in the squash family would be just fine.
– If you’re like me, and love to make parts of the meal ahead of time, then this recipe should work well for you.  When I made this, I roasted the chicken in the morning and added to the sauce, then simply reheated when I put the water on to boil.  I also made the gnocchi in the morning, covered, and placed the cookie sheet in the refrigerator until I was ready to drop them into the boiling water.

Spring Rolls

9 Jan

I am not a big fan of New Year’s Resolutions.  For me, they are usually a long list of things I think I ought to do instead of the things that actually get done.  The notable exception to this is the year I resolved to pair up socks before putting them away.  Totally manageable, and not so hard to achieve and repeat.  So this year, instead of making a resolution that is hard to set into regular action, I’ve decided to give myself a challenge.  Introducing, the 2012 10 Food Challenge.  My goal is to make my way through the following two lists.

Six Items I’ve Never Made Before:
1. Beef Wellington
2. Spring Rolls
3. Non-Dairy Banana Cream Pie
4. Sunday Gravy
5. Spatchcocked Chicken
6. Croquembouche

Four Items, A Search for the Ultimate Recipe:
1. Hamburger Buns
2. Pizza Crust
3. Pizza Sauce
4. Italian Sausage, for Pizza

I’m worried about some of these more than others.  To start, I decided to tackle Spring Rolls – manageable ingredient list, not a ton of prep, and something my family will eat.

Turns out, Spring Rolls are not that hard at all.  Most of the ingredients can be prepared in advance and kept in the refrigerator until you’re ready to assemble.  To me, this is a big deal.  Most nights the time between when I start cooking and when we eat is pretty short, so if I can have most of the work done ahead of time it makes dinner much less stressful.  One other thing I really liked about this recipe is that since each one is assembled separately, it makes customizing the spring rolls to the palate of the eater super easy.  For example, Sophie hates shrimp and cilantro and carrots and cucumbers, so I made hers without those items.  Martin hates rice wrappers, so he ate chicken and cucumbers while his Party Pizza was baking in the oven.  Please note: Party Pizzas are not in the ingredient list for this recipe, but it never hurts to have one on hand.

The thing that kept me from making Spring Rolls for so long is the rice wrapper.  How would I know when it was soft enough?  Could I assemble them without tearing the wrapper?  Would they hold together?  Like many things in life, I worried about this far too much.  Rice wrappers come in a package that looks a bit like a frisbee, and a quick soak in hot water is all it takes to turn the disk into a pliable wrapper.  For me, this transformation took about 15 seconds (longer as the water cooled).  I placed the soft wrapper on a flat surface, lined the ingredients in the middle, and folded over the top and bottom (see above).  Then, folded one long end completely over the ingredients in the middle and tucked and rolled until I reached the end.  I had a one roll learning curve to assembly confidence.

There are lots of variations on Spring Rolls, and this one is most like the Vietnamese variety.  However, I added more vegetables, and adjusted the sauce to be more like the one served at a nearby Thai restaurant.  So while not totally traditional, we thought they were delicious.  I think it is a very flexible recipe – feel free to add other vegetables, use beef or pork, or omit meat for a vegetarian roll.  As long as the ingredients are cut into strips and are cooked, it should work just fine.

Spring Rolls
Serving size: 1
Serves: 8

1/4 c. water
2 T. lime juice
2 T. sugar
1 T. fish sauce
1 t. sesame oil
1/2 t. sriracha
1/4 t. chili flakes
1 clove garlic, minced

4 oz. chicken breast
1 oz. bean vermicelli
8 medium-sized shrimp, cooked, peeled, and deveined, halved lengthwise
2 c. lettuce, shredded
1/2 cucumber, julienned
1/2 c. carrots, julienned
1/4 c. cilantro, coarsely chopped
8 rice wrappers

Place all of the sauce ingredients in the food processor and pulse until the garlic is finely chopped and everything is incorporated.  Set aside at room temperature until ready to use.

Cook chicken breast in a pot of boiling water for 5-7 minutes until fully cooked.  Remove and shred or cut into thin strips, set aside.  In still boiling water, add bean vermicelli and cook for 3 minutes.  Remove and drain, rinse with cool water and set aside.

Prep all other ingredients and set up like an assembly line.

Add very hot tap water to a large bowl.  Take one rice wrapper and place in the hot water and move it around so that it is fully coated.  The rice wrapper will begin to soften.  Remove the rice wrapper once it is just soft enough (a bit stretchy, flexible, but just before it starts to tear).  When the water is hot, this takes about 15 seconds, and a bit longer as the water cools.  Place the wrapper on a flat surface and add little bits of ingredients to the center.  Fold down the top and bottom sides, then fold over one remaining side to completely cover the ingredients.  Tucking as you go, roll as tightly as you can without tearing the wrapper.

Repeat with remaining rolls.  Serve with a side of sauce.

Estimated calories:  106 cal/serving

Print it: Spring Rolls

– Feeling nervous about the assembly part?  I was.  Until I watched this, then I felt ready to give it a go.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uw-7pYq7wSc

Creamed Chicken Over Biscuits

3 Nov

Many times, I feel like I need to make a choice between having the comfort food I crave and consuming something healthy. This is disappointing, of course, because I really want both.  The pleasure in eating something that is tasty and comforting does not last very long if I feel like I blow through a lot of calories to eat it, especially if it was particularly rich or heavy.  Calorie remorse is the enemy of happy consumption, and I avoid it at all costs.

Creamed chicken over biscuits is one of those decadent sounding things that you’d expect would be a terrible choice for the calorie conscious.  In the hands of Paula Deen or without regard to portion size, it sure could be.  This recipe is heavy on the vegetables, includes flavorful chicken and a creamy gravy, all served over a biscuit.  And comes in at 117 calories per serving.  As a point of comparison – that’s almost the same as just one ounce of cheddar cheese.  And if you’re like me, that means that you can have the comfort food for dinner and still feel okay about eating that cheese later because you were so darn calorie-thrifty.

The creamed chicken part of this recipe is super easy to make, requiring only a little prep and cooking time in the crock pot.  I used canned biscuits (see all my biscuit notes below), so the time between when we got home and when we sat down for dinner was only as long as it took for the biscuits to bake and to serve it up.  The kids loved this meal, particularly the biscuits.  Even the child who just earlier this week said he “did not care for dough”.

Creamed Chicken Over Biscuits
Serves: 10
Serving Size: 2/3 c. creamed chicken + 1 small biscuit

1 c. cooked chicken
1 c. frozen green beans
1 c. potato, peeled and cubed
1 c. carrot, diced
1/2 T. olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
3 T. flour
3 c. chicken stock
1/2 c. soy creamer
Salt and pepper
1 can small biscuits (10 per can)

Add chicken, green beans, potato, and carrots to a crock pot.

In a large skillet, add olive oil over medium high heat.  Add onion and cook until transluscent.  Add flour and stir constantly for about a minute, until all the oil is absorbed and starting to turn a little golden in color.  Add chicken stock 1 c. at a time, bringing to a boil between each addition.  Add soy creamer and stir until combined.  Pour mixture into the crock pot and stir.  Cook on low for 6 hours or until the potatoes are tender.  Season with salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven and bake biscuits according to the package directions.

Split biscuit in half and place in a bowl, top with 2/3 c. creamed chicken.

Estimated Calories:  117 cal/serving

Print it: Creamed Chicken Over Biscuits

– Feel free to use milk or cream in place of the soy creamer used here.
– There are LOTS of kinds of canned biscuits to consider.  I chose a store brand (Food Club) that had small-sized biscuits that were also non-dairy.  If non-dairy is important to you, it is easy to overlook canned biscuits as an option, especially since most are described as “buttery” or “buttermilk”.  I’ve found that many times, store brands are non-dairy, inexpensive, and pretty tasty.
– More about the biscuits.  The biscuits I used in this recipe were 50 calories each, so adjust your calories accordingly.  At our house, we each ate more than one, but because they were only 50 calories each, I didn’t feel bad in having a second.
– Last thing about the biscuits.  Next time I would buy two cans because they went so quickly, and everyone wanted a few extras.

Chicken Spaetzle Soup

3 Oct

Chicken soup is always a big hit at our house.  Sophie especially loves it when I make homemade noodles and add them to the soup.  I’m happy to make it for her, but it can be kind of messy and a bit labor intensive.  A few weeks ago, I picked up a Spaetzle Maker hoping that it might be a little easier than making homemade noodles.  Before we get to the recipe, I should explain spaetzle.

To start, spaetzle is pronounced in a few different ways.  Some say “SPAT-zle”, at our house it is “SCHPET-zle”, and when my grandma talks about them she simply calls them as “nep” – as in, “grandma used to make us eat liver nep soup”.  Basically, they are little German dumplings.  On the DOUGH IN SOUP SPECTRUM, they land somewhere between a dumpling and a noodle.  On the MAKING DOUGH IN SOUP SPECTRUM, they are the easiest and require little cleanup.

Making spaetzle is easy, as long as you have a spaetzle maker.  It looks much like a grater with a box on one side where the dough is held.  It balances on the top of a pot of boiling water or broth, and you quickly grate the dough over the pot and they drop in to cook.  Spaetzle makers are not very expensive, don’t take up much space, and while you can make spaetzle without one, this tool makes it fast and easy.  Plus, with the tool you can ensure that they are uniform in size so they cook evenly and quickly.

Onto the soup.  I started with a whole chicken and cooked it down for about an hour.  I use this same approach whenever I make a chicken-based soup.  It makes a rich, flavorful broth plus cooks the chicken perfectly with very little effort.  Overall, this soup was very easy to make and full of flavor, I’ll definitely make it again.  It makes a very big batch, which means that we’ll have enough to eat this week plus some to freeze for later.

Chicken Spaetzle Soup
Serves 14

2 T. olive oil
1 onion, quartered
2 stalks celery, cut into big chunks
2-1/2 c. carrots, chopped, divided
3-1/2 lb. whole chicken (without neck or giblets)
14 c. water, more if needed
2 eggs
2/3 c. plain soy milk
2 c. flour
1/2 t. kosher salt
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, heat oil over medium high heat. When oil is hot, add onion, celery and carrots and cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add chicken and brown on all sides. Add water to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a low simmer and cook for one hour. Add water if needed to keep chicken covered.

Remove chicken and set aside to cool slightly. Remove all of the solids from the pot and discard. Increase heat to high and bring stock to a boil. When chicken has cooled enough to touch, remove all of the skin and bones. Shred chicken into bite-sized bits and return to the pot. Add carrots to the pot, and return to a boil.

In a bowl, beat eggs until they are foamy. Add half of the soy milk, flour and salt and combine. Add remaining soy milk, flour, and salt and combine. By hand, combine until the dough is elastic but not sticky. Add more flour or soy milk if needed.

Using a spaetzle maker, drop spaetzle into the pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for about 4-5 minutes or until carrots are tender.

Estimated Calories: 292 cal/serving

Print it: Chicken Spaetzle Soup

– You can substitute cow’s milk for the soy milk if you prefer

Chicken Kabobs with Oranges and Rosemary

12 Aug

We whooped it up for National Night Out while we were in Tucson, spending the evening with my family and their neighbors.  We prepped and planned a bunch of tasty food and drinks around our party theme – “We’re Going to Have Fun Whether it is Real or Fake.”  It proved to be an effective theme, and we totally succeeded in having both Real and Fake Fun.

One of the key components to planning both Real and Fake Fun are hats.  For this party, we utilized chicken hats, courtesy of Gold’n Plump Chicken.  Chicken Hats = Immediate Festivity.

Since we were planning for a crowd, we used two Gold’n Plump family-sized packages of chicken breasts.  This recipe makes quite a big batch (see printable version of this recipe for quick reference chart to reduce the size of this recipe for less people), and the exact number of skewers and orange wedges needed varies based on how big or small you cut up the chicken.  So, if you’re the kind of person that needs EXACT numbers for cooking, this recipe will likely give you a headache.  If you’re a flexible person who “ballparks” instead of “measures”, this recipe will work fine for you since you’re probably loosely following it anyway (for you: pork is awesome instead of chicken, and you could skip the oranges if you felt like it, and you could just use whole pieces of meat if you don’t feel like all that cutting, and if you decide at the last minute to order pizza instead of cooking I would totally approve).

One of the things I like about this recipe is that it requires little prep, some time while the chicken soaks up the marinade, a little assembly time, and they grill quickly.  In no time at all, you have a beautiful tray of kabobs ready for dinner.  The orange and rosemary flavors are delicious with the chicken, and grilled oranges are surprisingly tasty.

This is also a very flexible meal, and can take on a wide variety of sides.  We were super lucky and had a delicious caprese salad topped with vinegar pearls (SCIENCE! IN THE KITCHEN!), and salad topped with basil green goddess dressing (totally divine, recipe available here, this batch courtesy of Valla).

Chicken Kabobs with Oranges and Rosemary
Serves: 16

2 c. orange juice
2/3 c. soy sauce
1/3 c. olive oil
1/4 c. fresh rosemary
6 cloves garlic, minced
4.75 lbs. chicken breasts (2 family-sized packages), cut into 2” cubes
12 clementines or cuties, quartered (can also cut oranges into halved wedges)

Combine orange juice through garlic in a pitcher and stir to combine.  Place all of the pieces of cubed chicken in a large ziplock bag then pour marinade into bag.  Close tightly and refrigerate for at least an hour.

While chicken is marinating, soak bamboo skewers in water for at least 30 minutes.

Starting with an orange wedge, thread it on a skewer, three pieces of chicken, an orange, three pieces of chicken, and finish with an orange.  Repeat until all of the chicken has been skewered.  Grill over medium-high heat for about 4 minutes a side.  Test to be sure that the chicken is done before serving.

Estimated Calories:  346 cal/serving

Print it: Chicken Kabobs with Oranges and Rosemary

Brined Chicken Thighs

26 Jul

Last winter I tried my first ever brined turkey.  It was just as juicy and delicious as everyone said it would be.  It was easy to brine the turkey in the winter because during that time of year, my garage turns into a big walk-in cooler.  In July, the garage is more like the steam room at a spa (except slightly less glamorous and with fewer people wrapped in towels), so it’s not a good place to store anything while it brines.  Instead, I decided to give brining bone-in chicken thighs a try.  Much smaller in scale, they can be stored in the refrigerator in a brine solution.  Plus, I had a giant family sized pack of bone-in skin-on Gold’n Plump chicken thighs in the freezer.  This is important to note because I am super impatient when it comes to thawing.  It is a rare day when I think ahead far enough to remove food from the freezer in time to thaw properly in the refrigerator.  This time, I removed the chicken in the morning and put it in the fridge.  After a few hours, I could break apart the frozen thighs enough so that I could put them into the brine solution.  The thighs thawed completely while brining – accomplishing both tasks at the same time.  I like food that can multitask, especially when it helps to overcome my short-sighted thawing  skills.

Making a brine is super easy and it makes the chicken juicy and fully flavored.  The chicken can sit in the brine for just a few hours or up to a few days, depending on how good you are at planning and waiting.  I’m not very good at either, but this is a forgiving recipe and it was delicious even when brined for only 8 hours.

Brined Chicken Thighs
Serves: 4
Serving Size:  1 thigh

4 chicken thighs, bone-in and skin on
8 c. water, divided
1/4 c. kosher salt
2 T. brown sugar
2 T. Coopers spice rub
1/2 c. Coopers sauce

In a pot over high heat, combine 2 c. water, kosher salt, brown sugar, and spice rub.  Bring to a boil and stir to dissolve salt.  Remove from heat, add remaining water and stir.  Set aside to cool.  When brine mixture has cooled, add chicken, cover, and place in refrigerator for at least 8 hours and up to 3 days.

Before grilling, remove chicken from brine, rinse, and pat dry.  Grill chicken over direct heat for 7-10 minutes a side, then move to indirect heat for 7-10 minutes until chicken is firm and liquids run clear when pierced with a fork.  Remove from heat, cover and let rest for 5-10 minutes.

Remove skin, cut from bone, and serve with 2 T. sauce drizzled over the chicken.

Estimated Calories:  450 cal/serving

Print it: Brined Chicken Thighs

Life With Coopers is Better
Coopers BBQ is my favorite place to get good bbq when we’re in the Texas Hill Country.  When I’m not there, I make sure I’m fully stocked with Coopers spice rub and sauce.  The spice blend is a bit on the peppery side and makes everything it touches well seasoned and tasty.  While the rub is good, the sauce is great.  It is light, vinegary, and very liquidy.  Drizzle some over meat just after you pull it off the grill, use it for dunking, or add it to grilled vegetables for a light dressing. 

If you don’t have Coopers spice rub or sauce, you could substitute your favorite bbq spice rub and sauce.  YOU COULD.  But what you should do, is order some.  http://www.coopersbbq.com/  Or jump in your car immediately and drive on over.  Get there early in the day for the best choice of meats on the pits, then grab a bowl of beans (the only baked beans in the world I like), a glass of tea (sweet or unsweet), and enjoy.

Beer Can Chicken with Malt Vinegar Potatoes

13 Jul

I’ve made beer can chicken in the oven, but never on the grill.  So this week, when I received an email from America’s Test Kitchen describing the best grilled beer can chicken ever, I decided to give it a try (watching their video is not a bad idea either, especially because they do such a good job of illustrating the charcoal arrangement method for optimum heat distribution).  Making grilled beer can chicken is super easy and requires minimal prep work.  I was a bit unsure whether I’d be able to keep the grill at the right temperature for the hour that this takes to cook, but I didn’t have any trouble.  You won’t either if you remember one thing – do not remove the cover for any reason. 

For this recipe, I made a rub in two parts – spice rub that went under and on the skin, and a herb rub that is placed under the skin only.  Both of these gave the chicken great flavor, and the steam from the beer made the chicken super tender and juicy.  And as long as I was throwing the chicken on the grill, I decided to add a packet of potatoes as well to save me some effort in making a side dish.  After you remove the chicken from the grill, it’s a good idea to let the chicken rest a bit before carving.  During the naptime, remove the potatoes from the foil packet and toss with some malt vinegar and parsley for a tasty and tangy side.

One thing about making beer can chicken – it looks weird, sitting upright on a beer can standard.  Just remember, pre-grilling weirdness results in juicy, tender chicken just one hour later. 

Beer Can Chicken with Malt Vinegar Potatoes
Serves: 6
Serving Size:  chicken + scoop of potatoes

3.5 lb. whole chicken
2 T. fresh oregano, chopped
2 T. fresh chives, chopped
2 t. chili powder
2 t. paprika
1 t. black pepper
1 t. garlic salt
1/2 t. cumin
1/2 t. kosher salt
1/4 t. ground coriander
1 can beer
Wood chips (apple, mesquite, etc)

1-1/2 lbs. baby red potatoes, halved and cut into ½” slices
1 T. olive oil
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
2 T. malt vinegar
2 T. fresh parsley, chopped

Soak wood chips in water.  Start grill; if using charcoal, use about 60 briquettes.  Place chicken and beer on counter to allow it to warm a bit while preparing the rub.

Combine oregano and chives, set aside.  Combine chili powder through coriander, mix together.  Loosen skin on the chicken, and put half of the spice mixture under the skin, then add herb mixture under the skin.  Pat remaining rub on the outside of the chicken.  Remove about 1/4 c. of beer from the can.  Insert can into the chicken so that it looks like it is sitting upright (I used a beer can chicken stand to position it properly).

In a bowl, toss potatoes with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Using tinfoil, fold the potatoes into a packet so that it makes a box-like shape.  Use several layers of tinfoil to ensure a good seal.

Dump coals on outside edges of grill, add soaked chips on top of coals, place a disposable tinfoil pan in center, then place grill grid in place.  Position the chicken in the center, potatoes behind it to receive indirect heat.   Cover and grill for 45-60 minutes; keeping grill temperature between 310°F and 350°F.  Remove chicken when thigh temperature reaches 170°F.  Remove from grill, cover with foil and set aside for 15 minutes before carving.

Remove potatoes from foil packet, toss with malt vinegar, parsley, and season with more salt and pepper if needed.  Cover with foil and set aside until ready to serve.

Estimated Calories:  537 cal/serving

Print it: Beer Can Chicken with Malt Vinegar Potatoes

Bonus – Beer Can Chicken Playlist!
I think every special occasion deserves a playlist.  Holidays, special events, garage sales – I’ll make a playlist for just about anything, and Beer Can Chicken Month is no exception!  Start the playlist when you place the chicken on the grill, and when the last song has played the chicken will be done (or almost done)! 

And in case you want one, here’s a printable version of the Official Beer Can Chicken Playlist CD cover.

Grilled Panzanella Salad with Chicken

11 Jul

I could eat bread at every single meal.  It makes a fine side, a scoop for liquidy items, a delivery system for meats or cheeses, a reason to get up in the morning.  Well, not the only reason (unless you count toast). 

I COULD eat bread at every meal, but I DON’T because tied to that carby goodness is the fact that as much as I love bread, it is not good for me to eat as much of it as I’d like.  In order to justify bread consumption, I try to pair it up with equal or greater portions of veggies.  Although that ratio is not nutritionally proven in any way, it makes me feel better, mentally and physically.  And as anyone who is on day one of a no-carbs diet can tell you, bread is definitely tied to a positive outlook on life.

This salad uses the standard components of a Panzanella salad – tomatoes, cucumbers, and cubed bread.  Instead of using dry, old bread, I like to grill the baguette to give it crunch and added flavor.  And as long as you’re going to grill, might as well throw the onion and romaine on there as well to add a smoky, warm, and slightly wilty twist to the traditional salad.  Even though chicken isn’t always used, I like to make it a complete meal by adding protein to the mix.  The dressing for this salad is a little lighter than the norm, but it packs plenty of flavor without adding much extra fat.

Grilled Panzanella Salad with Chicken
Serves: 4
Serving Size: 1 Salad

2 T. lemon juice
1 T. cider vinegar
1 T. olive oil
1 T. water
1 t. lemon zest

2 Roma tomatoes, diced
1 cucumber, peeled and diced
1/2 c. Kalamata olives, halved
1/2 c. mixed fresh herbs (parsley, chives, basil, oregano)
14 oz. chicken breasts
1 head romaine, halved lengthwise
1 onion, halved
1/2 baguette, cut lengthwise
3 T. olive oil, divided
1 clove garlic, peeled
4 oz. mozzarella, cubed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a small bowl, combine the dressing ingredients, stir to combine.

In a large bowl, combine tomatoes, cucumber, Kalamata olives, herbs and dressing.  Stir to combine.  This can be done up to a few hours ahead.

Season chicken with salt and pepper.  Place onion on a skewer.  Using 1 T. olive oil, lightly brush sides onion, and both sides of romaine.  Using 2 T. olive oil, brush both sides of the baguette.   Season onion, romaine, and baguette with salt and pepper.

Place onions and chicken on grill over medium high heat. Chicken will take approximately 5-7 minutes per side.  When about halfway through cooking, add baguette and romaine, grilling for about 2-3 minutes per side.  Remove all from grill.  Cut chicken and onion into bite-sized chunks and add to tomato mixture.   Stir to combine, then remove any excess dressing and set aside.

Rub the garlic clove over the inside surface of the grilled baguette, then cut the bread into cubes.  Add to salad. 

Coarsely chop romaine into bite-sized pieces and divide between four plates.  Scoop panzanella mixture onto each plate, top with mozzarella cubes, and drizzle with reserved dressing.  Serve.

Estimated Calories: 486 cal/serving

Print it: Grilled Panzanella Salad with Chicken

1. You could easily make this non-dairy by omitting the mozzarella.
2. For this recipe, I used a package of Just BARE Chicken by Gold’n Plump.  I especially like these chicken breasts for grilling because they are so even in size and thickness, which makes cooking them properly easier for a grill novice like me.
3. Chicken tastes better when wearing chicken hats.