Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Comfort Food at its Finest

Just like everyone else, I get stuck in cooking ruts. I keep preparing the same types of dishes that are no brainers for me and it gets to the point to where I'm not enjoying cooking or eating as I normally do. In between lots of errands and working at Grant's school yesterday, I met Whitney for a light lunch (well, not so light-Mexican food. LOL). Whitney and I always have such a good time having lunch together and one thing in particular that we have in common is cooking. She casually mentioned that she was making chicken and dumplings for dinner which quickly sparked my interest. "I have never made chicken and dumplings before-and what a great night for it!". So, I listened very carefully to Whitney's instructions (and did have to call her while making the dumplings for clarification) and off I was to Publix to buy what I needed.

When Marty returned home from work and I excitedly told him that I made chicken and dumplings (and I know he smelled something good), he immediately said, "That sounds fattening".  I was thrilled to inform him that on the contrary, this recipe was low fat and healthy. 

One of the things that intrigued me about this recipe was that it's rustic. I don't have to finely chop my veggies and I don't even have to saute anything.  What a treat! Kitchen clean-up was quite simple, too.

My mother told me that she and her grandmother both made chicken and dumplings but I don't recall ever eating it for some reason. Even though I have heard of chicken and dumplings and new it was a classic, old fashioned one pot dish, I have never thought about making it. I do believe that I will be making this one on a regular basis throughout the winter months. It hit the spot more than anything else has in several weeks. Thanks Whit!

Not a very good photo and you can't see the chicken under the dumplings but you get the idea.

Whitney's Delicious Chicken and Dumplings

  • 2 cartons of low sodium chicken stock
  • 1-2 cups of water (as needed)
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 5-6 carrots, roughly chopped
  • 5-6 stalks of celery, roughly chopped (include leaves)
  • 4 skinless breasts of chicken with ribs
  • 2 cups of Bisquick
  • 2/3 cup of skim or 2%milk
  • salt and freshly ground pepper (to taste)
  • fresh thyme, several sprigs (or your favorite dried herbs for soup)
  • fresh flat leaf parsley (optional)
In a large pot, bring 2 cartons of chicken stock to a boil. Meanwhile, chop the onion, carrots and celery and add to the stock. Then, add the chicken, fresh thyme sprigs (you can remove the stems later) 2 bay leaves, and salt and pepper. Be careful with adding salt. Both stock and the dumplings will already have salt in them.  Once it comes to a boil, bring it back down to simmer and cover. After about 20 minutes, check the chicken to make sure it's cooked through. Then, remove all of the chicken off of the bone and place it back in the pot. 

For the dumplings, in a medium size bowl, mix 2 cups of Low Fat Bisquick mix with 2/3 cups of milk. Make sure it's thick-almost like pizza or bread dough. Spoon the mixture (small dollops, the size of cookie dough to make cookies) into the soup. Simmer for 10 minutes uncovered. Move the dumplings around slightly and then continue to simmer covered for 10 more minutes. Add fresh parsley at the end for added color, flavor, and nutrients.

*I served the soup with a mixed greens salad with balsamic vinegar dressing. 
*Noted by Whit-don't be afraid that you messed up this recipe when you see the dumpling mixture floating in the pot. She claimed that it will look weird but not to worry. She was right and I'm glad I was warned. 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Dried Cherry Chicken with Capers

2011 will be about trying new healthy recipes. I am feeling very good about my training as a runner these days and am convinced that healthy eating is an integral part of this.  Since I am terrible at meal planning, this is how I came up with this recipe. I went to Costco yesterday to stock up on all the necessities for the week. I spotted packaged fresh organic chicken breasts and couldn't resist-especially when the cost was considerably less per pound than at Publix. As I was about to check out at Costco, I spotted the dried fruits and suddenly had a craving for dried cherries. Oh, how much I love dried cherries.

So, as I was munching on some cherries while on the computer, I decided to google dried cherries and chicken. I came across several recipes that all seemed similar. One in particular was Persian but I didn't have all the ingredients. So, I decided to combine ideas and this recipe was what I came up with. 

I hate dry chewy chicken...
In general, baking boneless skinless chicken breasts scares me. So many times, the chicken ends up being too dry and chewy which can basically ruin a meal. I am 100% convinced that using organic chicken made all the difference. I was very pleased with how this chicken came out. It was moist, flavorful, and the paprika gave it a pretty color. My son Grant LOVED it and wanted it packed in his lunch for the following day.

Good carbs vs bad carbs...
I love my unhealthy carbs and if you read my blog, you already know this- white bread (specifically french baguettes) and pasta in particular. Even though I am a runner and weight management is not an issue for me, my New Years resolution is to focus on the good carbs-not only for my own overall health but also for my weight conscious husband.  I cannot tell the difference between whole wheat and white couscous and I noticed other similar cherry chicken recipes are served with couscous. It was perfect.

Oh, how I love asparagus...
The easiest way to serve asparagus is steamed. But, because I have a double oven and some time on my hands waiting for the chicken, I decided to roast it. I pre-heated the oven to 450 degrees, snapped off the ends of the asparagus (no mom, I didn't feel like peeling it), coated it with olive oil, salt and pepper, and threw some sliced onions on top. Cooking time is usually about 15 minutes but check it and make sure it doesn't stick. Also, be sure not to overcook it. No one likes mushy asparagus (except for my husband but he grew up on canned asparagus. Ewww...).
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1.4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts-I prefer organic
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small vidalia/sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (less if you don't like too much heat)
preheat the oven to 400 *F
In a small bowl, combine the paprika, salt, and black pepper. Place the chicken in a large shallow roasting pan. Brush with 1 tablespoon of the oil and sprinkle with the paprika mixture.
Bake for approximately 45 minutes. It is very important to check the chicken by cutting into a piece. Ovens and size the size of chicken can vary. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onion for 5 minutes, or until soft. Add the broth, cherries, capers, honey, cumin, and red pepper flakes.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the cherries are plump and the sauce has thickened. 
When the Chicken is cooked, for extra flavor, if desired, drain off any pan juices and stir them into the cherry sauce.  Place the chicken on a serving platter and top with the sauce.

If you decide to make this, let me know what you think!

    Saturday, January 8, 2011

    Omega 3 Fatty Acids for Fat Ass

    Just few days ago, I decided to not end my Fat Ass 50K streak (two previous years) and head out to Sweetwater State Park in Lithia Springs, GA tomorrow morning with over a hundred GUTS runners. Just recently, I started working on my speed again and was going to save myself for Museum of Aviation Marathon in Warner Robbins, GA which is the following weekend. But in a weak moment, I found myself sending Vikena Yutz a message to let her know that I was coming.

    At Costco yesterday, I bought $22 worth of salmon and decided to try a new marinade that I bought awhile back: Roasted Rasberry Chipotle Sauce-also purchased at Costco. So, for dinner we had grilled salmon with lemon wedges, brown basmati rice with a tablespoon of butter, sauted fresh spinach with garlic and olive oil, and a mixed green salad. Pretty easy and basic.

    The purpose of buying a large amount of salmon is to use it for leftovers. Nothing is more delicious than cold salmon the next day whether it's on a salad or on a sammie. 

    The days that I don't run, I'm ravenous! I don't know why but I can eat a fairly decent sized breakfast and be very hungry just an hour or two later. So, today, which is a rest day, I decided to have lunch at 10:15 a.m. I just couldn't wait any longer-not to mention I kept thinking about that yummy salmon in the fridge. Am I the only one who is hungrier than normal the days that I don't run? Or is my mind telling my body, "You better eat a lot today, you've got 31 or so miles to run in the a.m., girly!"?

    A salmon sammie is what I made and it took 5 minutes to toast a baguette (also bought at Costco) in the oven, spread a little dijon mustard (mayo would have been great, too), the leftover mixed green salad from last night, and of course, some leftover salmon with lemon juice.

    The temperature tomorrow morning for Fat Ass 50K is going to be cold-23 degrees or something. Salmon has Omega 3 Fatty Acids which is supposed to be great for keeping the skin from drying as a result of cold, dry weather. I am not sure if I care that much about this but it was worth mentioning. LOL.  We are recommended two servings of Omega 3s a week and it can also promote healthy joints and fight against heart disease. Wild salmon is supposed to have higher Omega 3s than ocean farmed salmon.

    *When I took the photo, I realized I had the sammie on one of my $1.00 Walmart plastic plates. Actually, it doesn't look that bad. LOL.