Cooking Tip Tuesday: Oven roasted bacon

Cooking bacon for more than 2 people can be a pain in the tush.  No one wants to stand over bubbling hot grease, flipping bacon for 20 minutes, to have just enough slices for even a family of 5.  And what if you’re making bacon for a crowd? Then you’re talking multiple skillets and/or 45 minutes of a bacon grease facial.

Fuhgeddaboutit!

YOUR OVEN is a place where bacon can spread it’s wings and sizzle like never before.  I first experienced the joy of oven roasted bacon while working in a prep kitchen at a local catering company.  They’d cook FULL sheet pan, upon sheet pan of bacon in like 20 minutes flat. And now, if I’m making any more than 3 or 4 slices at once, in the oven it goes.

Here’s how:

Preheat your oven to 400 degree F. Line it with parchment (or not), lay your bacon strips on the sheet pan, making sure to leave about an inch between each piece (very important not to overcrowd or it won’t get crispy). Let your beautiful strips cook for 15-20 minutes, depending on how many strips you’re cooking and how thick your bacon is.  Remove from the oven and transfer to a paper towel lined plate.  Eat.

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.

 

Don’t-Get-Too-Wild Card Wednesday: Strawberry Vodka

When I imbibe, I prefer to keep it vodka.  I mean…simple.  Yes, I sound like a total boozer but I promise, I’m not.  Seen that one too many times.  I’m a vodka girl because sadly, most wine gives me a headache and while I really enjoy beer, I don’t enjoy beer bloat, burps and the overall heaviness I get from drinking multiple beers.  So, when only an adult beverage will do, I go for vodka with club soda and real fruit flavor like a lime or lemon wedge (I’m not a fan of the “naturally fruit flavored” varieties).

This particular experiment was inspired by an adventure with my besties.  One of my most favorite humans was visiting, we had a babysitter on duty, so out we headed to a local bar here in San Diego. Upon arrival, I ordered a fancy drink that featured vodka infused with fresh strawberries.  Oh yum.

I definitely enjoyed my fancy mixed drink, but after 1, I was done. I asked the bartender if I could just have the strawberry vodka mixed with soda water and he very graciously obliged. I immediately thought to myself, “Self, when you are sober, make this at home”.  And so, 6 months later, it’s berrypalooza and thus, Strawberry Vodka was born.

Please be forewarned.  You have to plan ahead and be patient.  Brewing time is at least 3 days.  My strawberries swam for 7 days.  But, it’s TOTALLY worth the wait.  See above pic.

Also, PLEASE DRINK RESPONSIBLY.  It is vodka.

Wanna make some too?  Here’s how:

Step 1. Pour a 1 L bottle of vodka* into a 1 L glass jar or container that can be tightly sealed.

*Generally, lower quality vodka is recommended because you don’t need any special nuances (like floral notes, hints of fruit, etc.).  You want the strawberries to be the star of the show.  I opted for a slightly better than bottom of the barrel (no pun intended) because lets face it, low quality liquor=high quality headache.

2. Slice 1/2 a pound of strawberries, add them to the vodka and seal lid tightly.

3. Allow to infuse for 3-7 days.  The longer the better.  Give her a gentle shake once a day.

4. When ready to drink, strain over a fine mesh strainer.  Discard strawberries. Prepare glass (optional :))

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5. Pour your beautiful Strawberry Vodka back in the container (or another tightly seal-able glass container).

6. Enjoy over ice with club soda, add to your mimosa or try making a strawberry mule.  Oooo, you could even line the rim with sugar.  The possibilities are endless!

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)

 

Visit Skinnytaste.com for my guest post!

 

(photo credit: Sarah Fennel)

Good morning. I’ve got HUGE news! My recipe, Enchilada Chicken Roll-Ups (see above), is featured on the Skinnytaste blog TODAY! CHECK IT OUT!

For those of you who don’t know, I’ve had the absolute honor and privilege of working with Skinnytaste author Gina Homolka (and advising dietitian Heather K. Jones, RD) for the past few years.  I help with nutrition analysis, recipe proof reading and meal planning for the cookbooks and do some recipe development for the Skinnytaste blog.  Crazy, right?!?!

I absolutely love Gina and her blog.  For those who aren’t familiar, her motto is, “Delicious healthy recipes from my family to yours”.  And boy is she right.  Her recipes are healthy and delicious.  They appeal to kids and adults alike.  She has a magic touch when it comes to packing in flavor and nutrition without making you feel deprived or like you’re eating “diet” food.

Her recipes work because they are easy to follow, use easy-to-find ingredients and promote portion control (though if you need a higher calorie meal, you can double the recipes ;)).  She incorporates her culture, tradition and travels into her recipes all while keeping things familiar and family friendly.  Oh, and her photographs will leave you wiping drool off your face.

Don’t just take it from me.  Both cookbooks are NY Times Best Sellers and her most recent book, Fast and Slow, was nominated for a James Beard Award!

So add her to your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest feeds, email, etc. to get her latest recipes and updates.  I promise, you’ll love it.  And you may just see something that I helped create.

If you don’t have the Skinnytaste Cookbooks yet, you can get them on Amazon:

  • The original Skinnytaste Cookbook HERE.
  • Skinnytaste Fast and Slow HERE

She also has a Meal-Planner which you can get HERE

Cooking Tool Thursday: OXO Pineapple Corer

​I love pineapple.  It’s beautiful flesh provides the perfect balance of sweet and tart. It can be eaten straight up, grilled, in a salsa, in cake, muffins, and more.  Plus, it’s loaded with Vitamin C and (trace mineral) Manganese, both of which are potent antioxidants. It also contains an enzyme that may help reduce inflammation and aid in digestion. Wham. Bam. Thank you ma’am.

The one somewhat annoying thing about pineapple is it can be a pain in to cut.  Yes, I could buy it pre-cut but it costs more ($5 vs. $3 at my local Vons, for example), quality can be iffy and frankly, I’m just not a fan of pre-cut produce.  I could buy it canned but like all canned fruit, it’s mushy and tastes a bit tinny.

Enter the OXO Pineapple Corer.

It is the coolest thing since sliced bread.  Better yet, it has drastically increased the amount of pineapple we eat. It takes less than a minute to pry the luscious yellow flesh out of it’s spiky skin and even less time to get into your mouth.  Check out my amateur video to see how this baby works!  Then see my tip below on how to buy and store pineapple.

Blown away? Buy the OXO Pineapple Corer HERE!

How to buy and store pineapple: Pick one that is already ripe (fresh, sweet scent, bright green leaves and some yellowing of the skin) because it will not continue to ripen once picked.  If you aren’t planning on eating it for a couple days, put it in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.  Once cut, store in the refrigerator, in an airtight container.