Monday, September 21, 2009

Oven-Fried Chicken

I've tried numerous recipes for Oven-Fried Chicken, which tells you right away that I haven't found the perfect recipe. Until now. This Oven-Fried Chicken was hailed as "the best chicken you've ever made," by TS (Teenage Son). High praise indeed from the sullen teen as he helped himself to seconds.

If you know me, you know I like to put a healthy spin on the foods I make. Oven-Fried Chicken is by definition healthier than regular old "Fried Chicken" because it's not cooked in a vat of boiling fat. I make it healthier by removing the chicken skin, and then locking in the juiciness and flavor with a moist wet coating followed by a judicious layer of highly seasoned crispy ingredients. The chicken is baked on a wire rack, which lets all the surfaces crisp up evenly.

Oven Fried Chicken
Serves 4

1 1/3 cups Crispex cereal
2 1/4 cups broken Sea Salt flavor melba toast
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
pinch cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup light mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
4 bone-in chicken pieces, skin removed (use legs, thighs or breasts, about 6 ounces each - cut large breasts in half crosswise to make two pieces)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Set a rack on a foil-lined baking sheet. Spray the rack generously with cooking spray.

Finely grind the cereal and toasts together in a food processor. Transfer crumbs to a large gallon size plastic bag. Add the oil, salt, cayenne, paprika, and ground pepper and toss to mix thoroughly. Whisk the light mayonnaise and Dijon mustard together in a medium shallow bowl. Add chicken to mayonnaise and turn to coat all the pieces evenly. Drop the chicken into the plastic bag, seal and shake until each piece is evenly coated. Place coated pieces on the prepared rack. Spray the chicken pieces evenly with cooking spray, and bake until the coating crisps and browns and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the pieces registers 160 degrees F, 35 to 40 minutes.

Transfer to a platter and serve hot or at room temperature.

Adapted from a recipe on

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Tofu-Pumpkin Custard - a dairy-free delight

I developed this recipe for a client who asked me for flavorful, protein-packed, low-calorie breakfasts. Her ideal breakfast would be a one-dish affair she could heat up quickly before heading out the door for work. Her dietary restrictions include no dairy (except eggs), no gluten, very few (peeled and cooked) fruits, and no nuts or seeds.

Judging from the contents of her refrigerator and some things she's told me about what she likes to eat for breakfast, I thought sweet breakfast items (rather than savory) would appeal to her. This custard is one of my creations, and I have to say, it's delicious! The first time I made it, I did not include the egg or egg white, and it was a bit dense. If you cannot eat eggs, by all means, leave them out. You'll still love this custard.

Tofu-Pumpkin Custard

Yield: 4 cups

12 ounces silken tofu -- drained and pressed between paper towels
1 can pumpkin
1/2 cup real maple syrup
1 large egg -- beaten
1 large egg white
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
4 8-ounce oven-proof ramekins or custard cups

Press tofu to remove excess water. Place in bowl of food processor and process until smooth and creamy, using spatula to wipe down sides of bowl once. Add remaining filling ingredients and process until smooth and combined. Pour into greased 8-ounce ramekins. Place ramekins in an oven-proof 9x13 dish that has about 1" of water in in. Place dish in 350 degree oven and bake for 25 - 35 minutes, until custards are set and beginning to brown on top.

Let cool. Top with a dollop of vanilla yogurt or whipped cream if desired. May be eaten cold or hot.

Source: adapted from Clean Food by Terry Walters

Per Serving: 212 Calories; 6g Fat; 10g Protein; 28g Carbohydrate

Friday, September 11, 2009

Presto Pasta Pie

Boy, this was easy AND delicious: just what we needed on a very busy Friday. With just a few ingredients from the fridge, I had dinner in the oven moments after walking in the door after a very late school pickup.

I used leftover cooked pasta, which made the dish come together that much more quickly. Not too spicy, not too weird, the dish won high marks from my diners (OK, the kids), who were especially appreciative that "there's no white cheese" (ricotta), which they don't care for. I served it with a spinach salad.

Pasta Pie
Serves 4 - 6

2 cups uncooked penne pasta (or 4 cups leftover cooked pasta)
2 cups marinara sauce -- Trader Joe's is good
6 ounces shredded monterey jack cheese -- or mozzarella
salt and pepper
2 ounces grated parmesan cheese
6 eggs -- beaten

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9" deep dish pie pan.

Cook pasta for 7-8 minutes, or until not quite cooked through. Drain and place in a large bowl. Pour scant 2 cups sauce over and mix well. Add 4 oz. of shredded monterey jack cheese and mix again. Season with salt and pepper.

Pour the pasta mixture into the greased deep dish pie pan. Pour the beaten eggs on top, trying to make sure the eggs trickle down into the pasta mixture. They add flavor and serve to bind the pie together. Cover the top with the Parmesan cheese and remaining shredded jack cheese.

Bake the pie for 35 - 40 minutes, or until the top is browned and the pie is set in the middle. Let sit at least 10 minutes before slicing into 6 wedges.

Source: adapted from a recipe in the Boston Globe.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Sweet Orange Salmon and Spinach Salad

School has started, and dinners (and blog posts) have suffered. I've been using the crockpot a fair amount, and while the meals have been good (did you know you can make Turkey Burgers in the crockpot?) they have been a bit unphotogenic. With the last days of summer here (must use the grill!), and the kids asking for their favorites (tacos and pasta), there hasn't been a whole lot of culinary excitement around here lately.

I knew it was time to put my "SuperMom" cape on, so tonight I prepared an old favorite (Spinach Salad with Strawberries) along with a new one (Sweet Orange Salmon). Not only did they taste great together, I'm pretty sure I gave the family more nutrition in one meal than they've had in the last week.

Sweet Orange Salmon

2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
salt and pepper
4 6 ounce salmon fillets
olive oil spray

Adjust oven rack to 5 inches below broiler.

Combine brown sugar, chili powder, orange zest, cumin, paprika, cinnamon, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Rub spice mixture over salmon fillets. Place salmon on a broiler pan coated with olive oil spray. Let salmon sit in the rub for 30 minutes.

Preheat broiler. Broil salmon for 6-8 minutes or until cooked.

Adapted from a Cooking Light recipe.