Favorite Recipe Friday: Ina Garten’s Chicken Piccata

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You can almost guarantee that if a recipe is Ina Garten’s (Barefoot Contessa), it’s gonna be good.  Her unconventional Chicken Piccata is one of my long-time favorites. The chicken breasts are lightly breaded, quickly pan fried and finished in the oven.  The sauce is silky and tart, buttery yet light. It’s quick, easy, and kid-friendly yet elegant enough for guests.  As is, the recipe is good.  But, I made a few changes to make it a bit healthier.  Mainly, I decreased the salt, swapped out seasoned breadcrumbs for whole wheat panko and fresh herbs, decreased the serving size and cut the fat and it’s still SO good and satisfying.  The best part about this recipe is it’s easy and the chicken comes out perfectly juicy every time.

Nutrition Note: Did you know that typical pre-seasoned breadcrumbs contain partially hydrogenated oil, preservatives, anti-caking agents and numerous types of sugar?  Totally unnecessary!  I like to substitute whole wheat panko (like these by Kikkoman) because they are super crunchy, are less processed and contain way less sodium.

Here’s my version, (adapted from) Ina Garten:

Chicken Piccata

Ingredients:

1 pound (2) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, halved horizontally

1 ¼ teaspoon Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 large egg

½ tablespoon water

¾ cup whole wheat panko bread crumbs

4 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs (such as parsley, thyme, and/or basil)

2 teaspoons olive oil

2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 garlic clove, minced

1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (1-2 lemons), lemon halves reserved

½ cup dry white wine (I use sauvignon blanc)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Place each chicken breast piece between 2 sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap and pound out to ¼-inch thick. Season chicken with ¼ teaspoon salt and pepper.

Mix the flour, ¼ teaspoon salt, and pepper in a shallow plate. In a small bowl, beat the egg and ½ tablespoon of water together. Place the bread crumbs, 3 tablespoons fresh herbs, ¼ teaspoon salt, and pepper on a third plate. Dredge each chicken breast lightly in the flour, shaking off the excess. Next, dip in the egg and bread crumb mixtures.

Heat a medium non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add 1 teaspoon of olive oil and 2 chicken breast pieces, cook for 2-3 minutes per side, until browned.  Remove and place on prepared sheet pan.  Add remaining teaspoon olive oil, cook remaining chicken pieces and add them on the prepared sheet pan. Transfer to oven and bake for 10 minutes while you make the sauce.

For the sauce: Wipe out the skillet with a dry paper towel. Over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of butter.  Add garlic, sauté for 20 seconds, then add the lemon juice, wine, reserved lemon halves, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Boil over medium heat until reduced in half, about 2 minutes. Off the heat, add the remaining 1 ½ tablespoons of butter and swirl to combine. Discard the lemon halves and serve 1 chicken breast half on each plate. Top each with sauce and remaining herbs.

Serving size: (3 ounces chicken with sauceCalories: 310  Total Fat: 14 g  Saturated Fat: 6 g  Cholesterol: 138 mg Sodium: 524 mg  Carbohydrate: 13 g  Fiber: <1 g  Sugars: 2 g  Protein: 28 g

Serving suggestion: Serve over mashed potatoes, cauliflower puree or whole grain rice with a side of roasted veggies or green salad.

 

Supermarket Saturday: Tillamook Old-Fashioned Vanilla Greek Yogurt

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(Berries and almonds not included)

Yogurt in it’s purest form is a healthy snack. Plain yogurt is great in baked goods or as a healthier alternative to sour cream. BUT, you won’t find me spoon-deep, snacking on a single-serve container of plain yogurt. 

There are plenty of “fruit at the bottom” varieties to choose from but they tend to have more sugar than a doughnut in even a small 8 ounce serving.  Yes, you could jazz up plain-Jane yogurt up by adding fresh fruit but it’s just not quite right.  It needs a little added sugar.

Tillamook to the rescue!

The one and only flavored yogurt I buy is Tillamook Old-Fashioned Vanilla Greek yogurt.  It’s not your standard artificially flavored vanilla yogurt.  It’s thick and creamy and laced with those mesmerizing black specs of real vanilla bean.  It’s 140 calories, low fat and has 14 grams of protein.  Yes, it has 12 grams of sugar (about 8 of which are added) but it’s still better than most other (non-artificially) sweetened yogurts.  Oh, and did I mention the vanilla beans??

I love to top it with a handful of fresh berries and sliced almonds for breakfast or as a mid-day snack.  Tillamook does offer the same variety of yogurt in fruit flavors but the Old-Fashioned Vanilla is where it’s at!  Buy it. Eat it. Repeat.

Where to buy: Conventional grocery stores, health food stores, superstores (like Target)

 

Supermarket Saturday: Delallo Organic Whole Wheat Lasagna

Everybody likes lasagna.  Even Garfield.  Cheese, tomato sauce, Italian herbs, cheese, noodles and did I mention cheese?.? Lasagna is amazing because it’s easy to make, can be made ahead of time, it’s great for a crowd (or as leftovers) and it’s DELICIOUS.

I recently stumbled upon these Delallo Whole Wheat Lasagna noodles.  Not only are they nutritious (5 g of fiber vs. 2 g in white lasagna noodles), they are sturdy enough to hold their shape once cooked but not gummy like some whole wheat pasta can be.  They have 2 ingredients: whole wheat and water.  And BONUS: they are oven-ready, which means you don’t have to boil them before you build your lasagna.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of very tasty noodle-less lasagna recipes but, I ♥ carbs. I need carbs.  In fact, we ALL do.  But, it is important to choose nutritious carbs, most of the time.

So, why choose 100% whole wheat over traditional white pasta?  To make a long story short…white flour undergoes a process that removes it’s outer bran layer.  The bran layer is where most of the fiber and important nutrients live.  So, when that layer is removed, the nutrients are too.

So what?

Well, that fiber and those nutrients (including, but not limited to B vitamins) are really important.  Fiber helps regulate your blood sugar, prevents constipation and keeps you fuller longer.  And B vitamins help maintain a healthy metabolism, immune and nervous system and maintain healthy skin, hair and muscles.

When I make pasta at home (which is usually about 1 time a week), I always upgrade to 100% whole grain noodles.  My kids really don’t know any different and they gobble it up every time. And, I honestly prefer the nutty flavor and added texture you get from whole grains (which by the way, has improved SIGNIFICANTLY since first becoming commercially available).

Moral of the story: Make lasagna with THESE delicious whole wheat noodles and you’ll live forever!  Just kidding. But you will have an excuse to eat more lasagna.

Buon Appetito!

P.S. Delallo actually sells more varities of delicious whole wheat pasta than any other widely available brand I’ve seen.  Check ’em out HERE.

Where to buy: Health food stores or on Amazon HERE.

 

Supermarket Saturday: Trader Joe’s Toasted Oatmeal Flakes

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The American cereal aisle is a sea of sugar and refined grains.  Decent (healthy, delicious and satisfying) cereal is REALLY hard to find. Yes, I could grab a box of Bran Flakes or Fiber One but I’d rather not eat cardboard for breakfast.   I often find myself calling upon The Force to beam down some new cereal options.  Unfortunately, The Force is not within me, so I end up with something “healthy-ish”.  That is until I found Trader Joe’s Toasted Oatmeal Flakes…

“Made with Whole Grain Rolled Oats & Whole Grain Wheat”,  it’s like Frosted Flakes on steroids.  And by steroids, I mean beefed up with healthy ingredients like whole wheat, oats and a lot less sugar than you find in most cereal (see below).  More importantly, it’s delicious, super crunchy (and holds it’s crunch in milk), and because it’s got 3 g fiber and 3 grams of protein (both naturally occurring) it will keep you fuller longer. And since it’s just flakes, it’s a perfect base for a handful of berries and a sprinkling of sliced almonds for an extra boost of protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals.

Where to buy: Trader Joe’s.  Click HERE to find a Trader Joe’s near you.

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Supermarket Saturday: Saffron Road Korean BBQ Crunchy Chickpeas

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Move aside BBQ flavored Corn Nuts, there’s a new kid in town.  One of my favorite go-to snack foods is Saffron Road Korean BBQ Crunchy Chickpeas. These chicks are seriously addictive.  They have it all: sweet, spicy and savory and are seriously satisfying (woahhhh tongue twister).  With only 120 calories and 5 grams of protein (per ounce), these chickpeas are a great grab-and-go snack sure to keep those hunger pangs at bay.

Bonus: While they are slightly spicy, they are kid-friendly (both my kids are fans).

Where to buy: Traditional grocery and natural food stores.  Or as an “add-on” item on Amazon HERE.

Supermarket Saturday: Trader Joe’s Frozen Rice and Quinoa

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Trader Joe’s (frozen) Organic Brown Rice, Rice Medley and Organic Quinoa are rice, I mean life, savers.  I ALWAYS have a box of one or all of the above varieties in my freezer.  I love them because they are all 100% whole grain (fiber√, antioxidants√, vitamins/minerals√), they come in a convenient little microwaveable pouch AND they each cook in about 3 minutes. (Alternatively, if you are not a fan of microwaving in plastic, you can transfer them to a microwave safe dish or heat them up on the stove). And say goodbye to mushy rice because these babies cook up perfectly fluffy every. Single. Time.

You know what else is awesome about these humble beauties? All 3 varieties are  unseasoned which means you can add your own seasoning, mix in a little salted butter or use them to sop up your main-dish sauce. And speaking of main dishes…with Trader Joe’s rice just a freezer away, you can focus your attention on your main dish, which saves you time and energy. Hallelujah!

Where to buy: Trader Joe’s.

Note: Not sure where your closest Trader Joe’s is?  Click here to check their store locator. If you don’t have Trader Joe’s nearby, I have seen other brands like Vons/Safeway O Organics and PF Changs that make similar products.  I personally haven’t tried them but they are worth a try if it’s all you’ve got.

Supermarket Saturday: Nielsen-Massey Vanilla Bean Paste

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One of the most important things I’ve learned over the years is how much the quality of ingredients affect a finished dish. High quality ingredients create tastier food and elevate dishes from good to great with no extra effort.

Nielsen Massey’s Vanilla Bean Paste is like vanilla extract with a touch of magic.  It has a pure, concentrated, sweet vanilla flavor and because it contains actual vanilla beans it also provides visual appeal and sophistication to any dish it touches.  It costs roughly the same as a high quality extract but trust me, it’s infinitely better.  (And no worries if you don’t regularly bake…it can stay on your shelf for up to 3 years.) Expecto delicioso!

Where to buy: Get it on Amazon here. It’s also available at high-end cooking stores like Sur la Table or William Sonoma.