Thursday, November 4, 2010

Here Chicken, Chicken, Chicken

Here's my October column from the Petaluma Post:
As October arrives the kids are back in school, soccer, dance and football are going on and you find yourself running from practices and games with dance shoes and sporting equipment. Knowing that the holidays are coming we try to eat a bit more at home (gotta be healthy before we splurge). Do you have the time to get dinner on the table too? Yes 30 minutes meals are great, but really who has 30 minutes when you are that busy? I tend aim for 15 minute or less meal (I know my way around the kitchen and can do them in 10 minutes). My secret ingredient is the oven roasted chicken from the grocery store. At $6.00 from the grocery store or $5.00 from Costco it’s a good deal, and I can make 2 to 3 meals for my husband and I. Chicken is the most popular protein in catering, these are selections that are creative and refreshing to me.
For the hotter Indian summer days I love to do Lettuce Wraps. A traditional Vietnamese item with a California twist. It is cool, refreshing and a great healthy vegetable laden meal. All of the ingredients can easily be had at the supermarket, most already prepared.

Vietnamese Lettuce Wraps
2 cups Shredded Roasted Chicken or Grilled Tofu
2 heads Butter Lettuce (cleaned and leafed out)
½ cup Grated Carrots
½ cup Red Pepper Strips
¼ cup Chopped Cilantro and Basil
½ cup Sliced Cucumbers
½ cup Any other Asian style veggies you like

Peanut Sauce
½ cup Peanut Butter
½ cup Soy Sauce
½ cup Rice Wine Vinegar
1 cup Vegetable Oil
½ cup Brown Sugar
1 tsp Red Pepper Flakes

This peanut sauce is a great addition to the fridge, it stores very well, if it thickens too much just warm in a water bath or in the microwave for 15 to 20 seconds. I can get the husband to eat anything with this sauce on it!

Lay out all of the veggies on a platter, then take a lettuce leaf and fill with your favorite items. Drizzle with the peanut sauce.

For a wonderful homey dinner a classic chicken pot pie is perfect. Use the dark meat off the legs and thigh (it has the most flavor), chop and add any fresh vegetables that you have in the fridge. If you are really short on time, a bag of frozen vegetables can be substituted. I often make just a top crust so it bakes quickly.

Chicken Pot Pie
2 cup Chicken (chopped)
2 cup Vegetables (chopped)
2 cup Chicken Broth
2 Tbl Butter
2 Tbl Flour

Melt the butter in a sauce pot, add the flour and cook for approximately 2 minutes; this is a basic roux in French cooking. Then whisk in the chicken broth till thickened, by adding the broth/stock you have now turned the roux in to a veloute, one of the French classic mother sauces. Fold in the vegetables and chopped chicken and place in a deep pie pan.

Top Crust
1 stick Butter
1 cup Flour
¼ tsp Salt
2 Tbl Ice Water (approx)

Put the butter, salt and flour in the food processor, pulse 30 to 45 seconds till crumbly, add cold water until it just comes together.

This is a ready to go crust and does not need time to rest, just roll it out and place over the top of the pie filling. Bake at 350 degree for about 30 minutes, till golden and bubbly. You can also make them in Ramekins for personal pies for when you eat a different times. Don’t have time for the pie crust recipe? Just grab a package of puff pastry from the freezer aisle, cover and bake. The puff pastry comes out light and airy and will make a wow presentation.

Another great use is for lunch. We recently worked with a client that wanted strict health requirements for their staff. I created a yogurt chicken salad that was a hit and healthy too! I chose to use non-fat Greek yogurt (they double strain for a thicker creamier yogurt) in stead of mayonnaise and it was a huge hit.

Apple Yogurt Chicken Salad
2 Chicken Breasts from Roasted Chicken
4 Stalks of Celery
1 Apple
½ cup Low Fat Yogurt
1 Tbl Dijon
2 Tbl Honey
1 Lemon (juice of)
1 bunch Green Onions
½ bunch Parsley

Chop and combine. This is two portions. Per portion this is only about 315 calories,16.5 grams of fat, and 53.7 grams of carbs. Enjoy. Try serving in a whole wheat pita or on a bed of greens for a beautiful presentation.


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