Thursday, May 17, 2012

Recipe of The Week (with pictures!)

I don't have time for 3 Things Thursday but I will share my "recipe" (by which I mean "bunch of ingredients thrown together with a small prayer to the heavens that it tastes OK") for some yummy sauteed chicken with pasta and veggies.

First, let's talk produce. If you've been following health news and trends, you'll know that eating a variety of colors of fruits and vegetables can help you add variety while losing weight and getting tons of vital nutrients. There are many artciles you can do a Google search for to find more information about which foods in particular pack the healthiest punch but generally speaking, the brighter the color, the better it is for you.

So my dish starts with some nice, vibrant bell peppers, yellow squash, and red onion:

"Vitamin C, lutein and lycopene, Oh My!"
Note to busy parents: I'll often slice and dice everything during nap time so that it's easier to throw my meal together in the evening instead of trying to tackle it all at once.

Next, I coat my sliced vegetables in some lovely, spicy, aromatic arugula pesto and sprinkle with a dash of salt. Depending on my mood, I might use either raw or roasted garlic in my pesto (raw = spicy, roasted = sweet) and trade sharp asiago for peppery aged parm, or even a blend of cheeses. I always add toasted pine nuts, though. And you can do the same thing with traditional, basil pesto or just buy a jar of your favorite if you don't have a food processor. I love the arugula because it has so much flavor and is cheap (a bag is just $1.99 at Trader Joe's).

Everything goes in the oven at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes, or until veggies are tender and onion is mostly translucent.

Line your baking sheet with foil for easy clean-up.
While the veggies roast, it's time to talk chicken.

If you're like me, the thought of chicken as a staple protein in anyone's diet has me thinking of dried, boring chunks of chicken breast on a plain salad. But trust me, your chicken does not need to be tired and tasteless! It just needs a little love.

For starters, if you can handle a little bit of labor and trust your skills with a knife, buy whole breasts (ribs, bone and skin). It will be cheaper, and although I'm probably imagining this, I think the chicken retains more moisture the less it's handled and process beforehand. Also - and again, this is just a mental thing - I think the less the chicken is handled between the time your poultry meets its Maker and the time it hits your plate, the better it is for you. You can, of course, buy a whole chicken and save even more money, reserving whatever cuts you don't use for your next meal.

For tips on poultry dissection, watch this, or or thisor this.

Note to busy parents: do this ahead of time, too! Maybe while you let Curious George babysit for half an hour (Don't lie and tell me you don't do that from time to time.)

I like using the whole, bone-in breast because once I filet it I get two breasts for my hubby and me and two tenders for the Little Miss.

"Don't look at me, I'm naked!"
If you cut your chicken ahead of time, great. Pat it dry with a paper towel then leave on a plate, uncovered in the fridge until ready. Of course, keep it separate from other food items to avoid cross contamination, but I suggest to leave it uncovered because this will actually yield a much juicier chicken. Trust me.

When ready, pat chicken down one more time to remove excess moisture from the surface and season with lemon pepper salt. That's it. Heat your non-stick skillet on medium with a few tablespoons of olive oil. Once hot, place the chicken in (breasts first, tenders more toward the end). You may wish to use a splatter screen. Cook for 5-7 minutes each side, covering with a lid and turning off the heat for the last couple minutes of cooking time to really seal in all the juices.

If you're going Paleo, you can skip pasta all together and simply serve your chicken over your pesto-roasted veggies and call it a day. Otherwise, you can bring water up to a boil and prepare your favorite pasta according to package directions while everything else cooks. For a yummy twist that will compound the breath you'll have after eating all that pesto, I suggest you try Trader Joe's garlic basil linguine.

Plate and serve. If you have left over pine nuts and cheese, garnish as you please. For me, that means generously!

Bon (Healthy) Apetite!

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