Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Chicken Meatballs and Zucchini "Fries"

As I learned during a game at my bridal shower, these meatballs are my (now) husband's favorite dish. We've served them many ways: meatball sammies on whole wheat sub rolls, with marinara sauce over pasta, cut up on salad & alone as appetizers. They're quick, easy, fairly healthy and full of flavor.

Musclin' Up Chicken Meatballs
(modified from The Biggest Loser cookbook)

3/4 cup plain, dry breadcrumbs
1/3 cup fat-free skim milk
1 pound lean ground chicken
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
3 large egg whites
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon parmesan cheese (I use reduced-fat.)
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly spray a medium baking sheet with non-stick spray.

2. In a large bowl, combine the bread crumbs and the milk. Let stand until the milk softens the crumbs, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the chicken, egg whites, parsley, cheese, garlic powder, onion powder and salt. With your hands, mix well. Split the mixture into 16 equal pieces and roll each piece into a ball.

3. Place the meatballs at least 1/4 inch apart on the baking sheet. Bake until no longer pink inside, about 12 to 15 minutes.

I got really lucky when I planned these two dishes for the same day. Turns out, they have the same cooking temperatures so they can share time in the oven. The zucchini called for a little more time so I popped them in the oven first and then went to work preparing the meatballs. I popped those in when their cook time matched the time remaining on the zucchini.

These have an interesting texture and great flavor. They're fancy enough for more formal entrees, but simple enough to suit even the most basic burger. I did a little tweaking. 3 zucchini was way too much for our two-person household. The original recipe called for 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs. I left those out to compensate for using less zucchini, but added a few of my favorite seasonings for extra flavor. Feel free to sub your own spices if you're missing any of those listed. I think they'd also be good with a little cayenne pepper for an added zip.

Parmesan Zucchini Fries
(modified from a recipe from Cooking Light, July 2008)

2 large zucchini
1 cup plain, dry breadcrumbs
1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated Parmesan cheese (I used reduced-fat.)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon Cavender's Greek seasoning
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/3 cup egg substitute

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a large baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.

2. Cut zucchini in half crosswise, cut each half lengthwise into 8 wedges. Repeat with remaining zucchini.

3. Combine breadcrumbs, cheese, salt, pepper & other seasonings in a shallow dish.

4. Dip zucchini in egg substitute, roll in breadcrumb mixture until coated and place on the baking sheet.

5. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.

The magazine gave a recipe for a fancy dipping sauce. We served ours with good ol' ketchup and mustard.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Cheesy Chicken, Veggies & Noodles

It's been so hot around here lately that neither my husband nor I are hungry enough in the evenings for a big meal. This dish, my lightened up version of the KraftFoods recipe found here, was the perfect alternative. It's filling, but not heavy. My husband kept commenting about all the different flavors and how well they blended together. There's just enough cheese to give it taste without being gloppy or taking away from the other ingredients. The veggies give it great color which my macho-man husband described as "pretty." :)

4 cups egg noodles, dry (I used whole wheat)
1 pound boneless/skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
1/4 cup Italian dressing (I used light)
1 large red bell pepper, cut into strips
3 cups fresh broccoli florets
1 yellow summer squash, sliced
4 oz 2% milk Velveeta Cheese, cut into cubes
1 Tablespoon milk (I used skim)

1. Cook the egg noodles according to package directions. Drain.

2. Cook chicken and Italian dressing together in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat 5-7 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Stir occasionally.

3. Add all veggies & stir. Reduce heat and simmer about 5 minutes, or until veggies are crisp-tender.

4. While that cooks, place your chunks of Velveeta in a microwavable container and add the milk. Microwave on high 1 minute. Stir. Microwave 1 minute longer or until cheese is very creamy. NOTE: Make sure your container is large enough that it doesn't bubble over

5. Add cheese to chicken mixture and toss lightly to coat. Serve over the noodles.

Don't forget that summer is the perfect time to check out your local Farmer's Market. You can find one in your area by visiting www.localharvest.org and searching by city and state, zip code or the specific item you're looking for. I make a weekly trip and that's where I found the great yellow squash for this dish. Many people believe that it's more expensive to buy local. In most cases, I've found it to cost roughly the same or a little less at these markets when it comes to produce. Occasionally I'll stumble across something that costs a little more. It's usually not by much, though. By shopping the market, you're supporting local growers and getting quality produce or other goods.

The USDA's "Certified Organic" label isn't something you'll see very often at the Farmer's Market. That doesn't mean these standards aren't followed by the grower. Said certification is very expensive and someone difficult to obtain so it's not feasible for many independents. If you're concerned about how things or grown or what chemicals are used, talk to the vendor. They can tell you, start to finish, exactly how something has been grown. They're usually very proud of their work (as they should be) and eager to share the process. You can also learn new ways to use the fresh ingredients or get great recipes. All you have to do is ask!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Buffalo Chicken Bites

What's yummy and spicy and quick to prepare? That'd be these buffalo chicken bites! Start to finish, they took about 15 minutes. We served them over a mixed green salad topped with fat free shredded cheddar cheese, organic grape tomatoes and light ranch dressing. Two thumbs up from my "meat and potatoes" husband.

Buffalo Chicken Bites

1/4 cup Louisiana-style hot sauce
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 Tablespoons butter
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast (cut into 1-inch chunks)

1. Combine the hot sauce, pepper sauce and Worcestershire sauce in a small saucepan over medium heat; bring to a boil and cook 1 minute. Remove from the heat and add 5 teaspoons of the butter, stirring until melted.

2. Melt the remaining 1 teaspoon of the butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook, stirring frequently until well browned, about 8-10 minutes. Add the pepper sauce mixture and cook for about 1 minute longer, tossing the chicken to coat.

Servings: 4

Source: Weight Watchers Make it in Minutes cookbook