Monday, May 19, 2014

Simple Sautéed Chicken Breasts

Sautéed chicken breasts are perfect for a quick weeknight meal, or make a great addition to salads. I love turning a side salad into an entree salad by adding chicken.  I have a fool-proof method for sautéing chicken breasts.  Maybe it's not completely fool-proof because anything can be overcooked, and it is especially easy to over cook boneless skinless chicken breasts. I do have a little trick which does make it a little more difficult to overcook them. It involves water, or chicken broth, and a lid.

Simple Sautéed Chicken Breasts
boneless skinless chicken breasts or tenders (pictures below show both)
flour (optional - skip the flour to keep this South Beach phase 1 or The New Atkins friendly)
olive oil

1. Remove chicken from packaging. Trim any fat off the chicken and pat dry with a paper towel. You can rinse the chicken before you pat it dry if you want to; it's not necessary. Sprinkle both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper.

2. Here is the optional step of dredging in some flour. It adds a wonderful crust to the chicken just like it adds a wonderful crust on these Greek meatballs.

3. Heat olive oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add chicken and sauté on side one for 5 to 7 minutes (5 minutes for tenders and 7 for breasts).

4. Here's the trick. Most recipes will tell you to flip the chicken and cook for a few more minutes on the other side. That's true but my chicken is markedly more tender when I flip and add 1/4 cup of water or chicken broth for a 10" pan or 1/2 cup for a 14" inch pan and cover for 2 minutes. Remove cover and cook for an additional minute or two until the internal temperature is 165 degrees or the juices are clear.

5. Overcooked chicken ends up being dry and stringy. Look at how juicy this chicken is when it's cut up.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Cantaloupe Sorbet

My mother-in-law is in town for Mother's Day. She loves Caesar salad so I decided to make my special grilled version for lunch on Mother's Day. Like me, my mother-in-law is not a big dessert person. She makes delicious desserts, but she doesn't eat them very often. Deciding on a light dessert to enjoy after lunch was a bit of a challenge. I just got a brand new food processor. I hadn't even pulled it out of the box yet, and one of the things I was looking forward to was pureeing fruit for sorbets.  When I remembered that my mother-in-law loves melon, I knew that cantaloupe sorbet was going to be dessert.

Cantaloupe Sorbet (adapted from Alton Brown's Melon Sorbet)
2 cantaloupes
2 limes, juiced
1 cup of sugar or Xylitol (I used Xylitol which has 1/3 fewer calories)
4 tablespoons of vodka

1. Cut cantaloupe in half (stem to stem), and cut in half again in the same direction.

2. Scoop out the seeds.

3. Cut the skin off and cut the melon wedge into cubes. Puree the melon in batches (I have a nine cup processor so it only took two batches).

4. In the last batch add lime juice, sugar, and vodka. Process mixture for another 30 seconds.

5. Store the melon mixture in a large measuring cup and place in the refrigerator or freezer until it is about 40 degrees.

6. Pour the melon mixture into your ice cream maker. I had exactly 6 cups which is the maximum my machine holds. I let the machine churn for 25 - 30 minutes.

7. Pour mixture in a freezer safe storage and container and freeze until you are ready to serve (at least 3 hours).

You might also like:
Melon Sorbet - Simply Recipes
Easy Melon Sorbet (doesn't require an ice cream machine)

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Grilled Lime-Chicken with Black Bean Sauce and Squash

Back in 2009 in my search for tasty low carb meals, I came across this dish from Simply Recipes, and it is simply delicious!  Fast forward to 2014 and its time to update and republish this recipe. This is a perfect Phase 1 South Beach recipe.  Add roasted butternut squash for a delicious and colorful Phase 2 South Beach recipe. I changed the original cooking method using my cast iron grill pan instead of the oven or outdoor grill. I wanted to make everything on the stove top (although now that we actually bought a gas grill last summer I can try the original recipe).  The marinating makes the chicken nice and tender.  The recipe calls for simmering the beans for 1 1/2 hours and "blending" the beans.  I did think that adding a quart of plain water to the beans was a bit odd at first.  Why not chicken broth?  However, I stuck to the recipe.  I think with the bay leaves and cilantro stems steeping together in the beans you don't really need anything else.   If for some reason you don't like those spices (mom, I'm talking to you) you will probably need to use the chicken broth.  To the folks, like my mom, who don't really like those spices, you should know I hardly tasted them. It is not overpowering AT ALL.  So try it, you just might like it!

Finally, I thought about cutting the recipe in half since it is just my husband and I, but then I decided that the leftover chicken might be nice for a salad.  (I forgot about the leftover bean sauce).  So, a couple of days later I made quesadillas with the leftovers using low carb flour tortillas, and adding cheese to thinly sliced chicken and bean sauce.  I grilled them in a regular frying pan with a little olive oil.  Yum!  Both dinners were fantastic. 

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Grilled Lime Chicken with Black Bean Sauce and Squash

Juice of 4 - 5 limes (I used 4)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup, or more to taste, chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon of coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
4 chicken breast halves, skinless
1 red onion, halved then sliced in 1/4 inch strips (I accidently omitted) 

(For the sauce)
1 (15 ounce) can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 quart of water
2 bay leaves
2 cloves of garlic
Stems from the afore mentioned bunch of cilantro, chopped into 1/4" bits
Salt and pepper

(For the squash - optional)
butternut squash
olive oil

1)  Combine chicken, lime juice, olive oil cilantro leaves, oregano, salt and pepper in a large zip lock bag.  Toss ingredients in the bag to make sure ingredients are evenly distributed.  Let chicken marinate for 2 hours at room temperature or over night in the fridge.  Toss the bag to mix the contents periodically.

2) While chicken is marinating place beans in a large saucepan and add the remaining ingredients except the oil.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer , uncovered for about 1 1/2 hours.  Remove from heat and remove the bay leaves.  Using an immersion blender (or food processor) blend the beans to make a smooth sauce, adding chicken broth if a thinner consistency is desired.  Cover, and keep warm. Add water or chicken broth to thin the bean sauce if necessary.

3) If you are making squash cut the top and bottom off of a butternut squash. Cut the squash in half so that you have the skinny neck piece and the bottom round piece. Cut off the skin and cut in half. Scoop the seeds out with a spoon.

4) Cut the squash in slices and then into cubes.

5) Place the squash on a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Sprinkle with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

6)  30 minutes before the chicken is scheduled to be done place the squash in a 375 degree oven for 30 minutes (350 if you are using a toaster oven) . Flip with a spatula half after 15 minutes.

7)  Heat cast iron grill pan with 2 T of grape seed or olive oil.  Arrange chicken on pan and cook on one side for 9 minutes.  Flip chicken over (had I remembered I would have added the red onions to the pan at this point for a crisp tender consistency).

8) Cook chicken for another 9 minutes on the second side or until the temperature is 165 degrees. When the chicken is cooked through remove it from the pan and cover with tin foil as the onions cook to your desired consistency.

9) Serve chicken drizzled with bean sauce and garnish with all or any of the following:  sour cream, avocado slices, diced tomato, fresh cilantro.  Serve with a leafy green salad for the perfect Phase 1 South Beach meal.


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