Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Chicken Tarragon with Lemon Kale, Roasted Parsnips, and Rice

 Chicken Tarragon is a classic. The first time I made it was in my parents' kitchen around age 16. I used the recipe in Delia Smith's cookbook, and it came out amazingly! Today, I came up with my own version, and I think it was up to snuff. I didn't incorporate a few things  from the original recipe, in keeping with my low carb diet, but I made rice (and ate a little bit) because you've got to have something with which to mop up that dazzling sauce.

Ingredients for parsnips:

-4 medium-sized parsnips
-olive oil

Preheat oven to 400F.
Peel your parsnips like you would carrots. Then, slice them in half longways and lay them on a pan covered with tin foil. Drizzle olive oil over them, and rub it all over. Sprinkle them with salt, and rub again, until evenly covered. Place in oven for 20-30 minutes, until deep golden brown. Turn halfway through the cooking time.

Ingredients for kale:

-2 bunches of kale
-1 lemon
-olive oil

Pull the kale leaves off of the thick stalk, Throw those stalks away! Next, chop up the kale in small pieces. This will improve the texture and make it entirely un-slimy. Add the kale to a salad spinner and wash it well. Next, toss it in a bowl with juice from the lemon, 2 tbsp. olive oil, and 1 tsp. salt. Put the kale in a pot and set aside.

Ingredients for chicken:

-2 chicken breasts
-2-3 tsp. dried tarragon (or 1 bunch fresh, leaves picked and chopped)
-2 large garlic cloves
-2 tbsp. butter
-2 tbsp. olive oil
-1/2 cup white wine (something not too sweet, like a Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio)
-1/3 cup heavy cream
-1/4 cup chicken stock

Preheat a pan to medium heat. Sprinkle salt over the top and bottom of each chicken breast. Be sure there is an even dusting--SALT IS FLAVOR!!! Next, add over a sprinkling of tarragon and of pepper on both sides. Peel your garlic cloves.

Add the butter and olive oil to the pan, once bubbling, place in the chicken and garlic. (If you are making rice, now is the time to turn it on).

Flip after about 5-7 minutes, once "half done," and you see white creeping up the sides of the chicken.

On the second side, let the chicken cook for about 4 minutes, then pour in the wine, put a lid on the pan, an turn the heat to low. Simmer for 10 minutes.

After the 10 minutes are up, test the chicken for doneness (prick and if the juices run clear, it's done. You can also use a cooking thermometer to check the temperature has reached 165F). Turn your kale's heat on to medium, and put the lid on.

Remove the chicken breasts from the pan and set aside. Next, mash up the garlic in the pan. It should be buttery and soft. Add in the cream, the rest of the tarragon, and chicken stock. Turn up the heat to a simmer. Taste. Add salt as needed. Simmer until thickened.

Your sauce should be a nice golden color.

Toss the kale after 3 minutes, and continue steaming until softened to your liking.

To plate (the way I did it in this photo), pour a spoon of sauce into the center of a plate. Make a little "nest" shape in the center of a plate out of the kale. Pour in a scoop of rice. lay over some parsnips length- and crosswise. Rest the chicken breast on top. Drizzle sauce over the meat.

To plate the second way, just put the parsnips on top of the chicken instead of under it, and drizzle the sauce around the plate instead of making a pool--I liked the pool better, though. I'm never a sissy with my sauce! Load it up babe!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Chicken, Bacon, Broccoli Alfredo w/ Zucchini Pasta (low carb, gluten free)

So I must be getting super experimental this week. I wasn't kidding when I told you about rethinking my food worldview (here). I wanted something creamy and rich, and I still was able to create something creamy and rich--without pasta!!

Check it out.

This was my first time making zucchini pasta. I was super skeptical about it, but I went ahead and tried it, as I had 2 zucchinis I needed to use up. It's a little different than pasta because it definitely has more of a fibrous "bite" to it, but the texture and flavor work out really well. Zucchini is amazing at absorbing flavor of surrounding sauces, and it's also soft yet firm, like good al dente pasta must be. I encourage you to give it a go!

This is the best recipe I've seen for zucchini pasta, so I will send you off to "He Speaks in Silence" where you must find the zucchini noodles recipe.

Once your noodles are ready, follow my recipe below:


-zucchini noodles made from 6-8 zucchini
-2 chicken breasts
-12 rashers bacon, cooked until crispy and crumbled
-1 crown of broccoli, chopped into bite-sized pieces
-2 cloves of garlic, chopped
-4 oz.(half a packet) cream cheese
-2 oz. (half a stick) butter
-1/2 cup milk
-1/2 cup chicken stock
-1/2 tsp. thyme
-1/3 cup fresh shredded Parmesan cheese

Preheat your pan to medium heat. Salt the chicken breasts, and once the pan is hot, add in a bit of olive oil and lay in the chicken. Cook for about 6-8 minutes per side (with thick chicken breasts). You can slice them in half longways or attack them with a hammer (aka meat tenderizer) if you want to speed up that cooking time. Remove them from the pan when finished.

Precook the broccoli by placing it in a pot and covering it with water. Bring to a boil, and simmer until tender. Strain and set aside.

Add the cream cheese and butter to the pan in which you cooked the chicken. Stir over medium heat. Add in the garlic and milk. Whisk until smooth. Pour in stock and thyme, then bring up to a simmer. Cook until the sauce begins to thicken, then add the cheese. Taste, and add salt as needed.

Add in your zucchini pasta, bacon, chicken (sliced), and broccoli. Bring heat down to low, and toss to combine. Put the lid on and let it sit for about 5-10 minutes, so all of the flavors can combine.


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Mexican Chocolate Pudding (Sugar-free, Lactose-free)

I've been on the hunt for desserts lately. I'm going on 2 full months of this low glycemic thing and it's time for some sweets. I came across a "paleo" recipe for pudding. But pudding is not interesting enough. As I was experimenting with a recipe, I thought I would add a little flair--I've had Mexican hot chocolate before, which was delicious, so I channeled that into the recipe below.


2 cups almond milk or coconut milk
1/4 cup packed cocoa powder (I used Hershey's Special Dark)
1/3 cup plus 3 tbs. Splenda or other sugar substitute
a pinch of salt
a pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3 egg yolks
2 tbsp. corn starch (or arrow root powder) mixed with 2 tbsp. water
2 tbsp. sugar-free chocolate or unsweetened baking chocolate

Combine milk, cocoa, Splenda, salt, cayenne, and cinnamon in a saucepan over medium high heat. Stir continually, until steaming (not bubbling). Whisk in 1 egg yolk at a time, then pour in corn starch mixture and continue whisking until mixture begins to thicken.

Take off heat. Sprinkle in the chocolate and whisk until all melted. Pour into 4 serving bowls, cover with plastic wrap (be sure to press the wrap down into the bowl so it is sticking to the top of the pudding, then a skin won't form). Or--you can eat it warm, too!

Serve with a sprinkle of cinnamon on top, or some whipped coconut cream.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Properly Grilled Brats with Sauteed Green Beans

This is a great summer recipe that's also low carb/low glycemic friendly. You may think that it doesn't sound very special or interesting, but I suppose the main reason I am posting this is the special method of cooking the sausages. I just learned today that I've been grilling them the wrong way!

Also, I thought I would share the green bean recipe, as I have been cooking them this way for years. It's hard to think of anything that will go well with sausages other than some form of potatoes or salad. I know so many people who eat mushy green beans from a can. These are really flavorful, with bite and personality. They also complement the beerish flavor of the sausage.

You will see in the pictures I also grilled corn (not very sausage-y). I buttered, salted, and peppered it and wrapped it in foil before putting it on the top rack of the grill for about 20 minutes, turning regularly. Simple.

Ingredients for brats:

-1 package bratwursts
-1 bottle beer

Preheat grill to medium-high heat for about 10 minutes.

Pierce each sausage with a fork.

First, we have to par-boil the sausages. This way they will cook evenly and have a firm, juicy texture. If you just toss sausages on a hot grill you run the risk of either burning them on the outside and making them under-done on the inside or making them all dried out and wrinkly. Neither of these make for a good meal. This technique is genius and (as you see in the photo below) results in a smooth inner texture that is not greasy or chunky, and a crisp outer skin.

Place the sausages in a pan and pour in the bottle of beer. Fill up with water until completely covered. Turn the heat to medium high and let simmer for about 6-8 minutes, until a thermometer inserted into a sausage reads 150F. Place sausages on a plate.

(Start the corn about 15 minutes before you put on the sausages). Turn the grill heat to high, and place the sausages on it. Let them cook about 2-3 minutes per side, enough to get some grill marks and crisp up the skin.


Ingredients for green beans:

-6 oz. fresh green beans
-1 clove garlic, chopped
-2 tbsp. butter
-1/4 tsp. dried thyme
-1/2 tsp. salt
-1/2 cup chicken stock

Top and tail the beans.

Preheat a pan to medium heat. Once the pan is hot, add the butter, garlic, and thyme. Saute until golden, then add in the beans and salt. Toss to combine. Pour in the stock and simmer until fully evaporated, 10-15 minutes.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Reconstructing My Food-Worldview

It's amazing how easy it is to gain weight. Many of you would know more about the struggle than I. I have not yet had children, I have not encountered any health problems, and I have not even hit age 22! However, hopefully you will find this advice helpful.

We all know that it's so easy to have dessert when we feel like it. It's pleasurable to fill ourselves with yummy bread, sweets, cakes, french fries, pasta, and all sorts of delicacies. I know that more than most, as I spend most of my life in the kitchen. I swore to myself, the day I learned to cook, that I would NEVER settle for boring food again. I still don't. But there is a reason I went from 135 to 173 pounds since I quit ballet, and along with that, lost all desire to be a careful eater.

I would to sit down to my computer, pull up Pinterest or a cooking show I missed, and say to myself, "And now....what enrapturing dishes shall I cook up this week? Why not start with some Moroccan recipes!" Every week my ritual gave me such release and such peace--like going into your quiet place to paint, to read, or to write. And I had so many different ideas that it took me hours and hours to schedule and plan the meals I would create. I drifted through the grocery store just eating everything with my eyes; I spent hours in Asian and Indian markets when I got the chance, just to stir the trade winds of my imagination. My parents thought it was so odd that I enjoyed going to the grocery store as much as some people enjoy going fishing or shopping or to a movie. I didn't care about calories or carbs at that point. I just wanted to be inspired and to create something new. 

Now I've changed. I can still be creative in my cooking, but I have rules to follow to guide me down the road. I can't eat lots of carbs and stay thin. This is something with which I must finally come to terms. So, instead of viewing my diet as shackles destroying my freedom to be creative, I view it as a guide rail for my passion for food. These guide rails will help me lead myself into the center of creative thinking about good food. Whereas before I stumbled all over the place and wanted to learn everything about making every single food (which I could never do in a lifetime), I now have a "map" to follow. In the grocery store I no longer wander to the dessert counter to gaze longingly at the chocolate cake I cannot eat. I follow the guard rails to what is healthy, and I create tasty food out of those options alone. I avert my eyes from what I know is bad for my body. It's actually more of an exciting challenge this way. Anyone can bake blueberry muffins...but not just anyone can make GOOD blueberry muffins without regular flour.

I can easily relate this to my faith in Christ. Yes, God gives us commands to follow, and some may see that as stifling, but it is really freeing! The Holy Spirit is our "guard rail" who guides us through the chaos and whispers to us to turn our head when we look towards the temptations. We keep our eyes on the goal. At the end of the trials of life, we will reap a great reward for our faith and our trust.

Now I recognize my responsibility to follow the straight and narrow path in all areas of my life, especially in nourishing my family. I won't lead myself and my family into obesity (or even pleasantly-plumphood), but will strive to make us healthy, happy, and full of energy--without the suffering I experienced as a struggling, dieting ballet dancer.

I still need to keep my promise that I will never cook boring, yucky food. I will never serve un-flavorful, mushy vegetables with plain 'ole chicken and call it a meal. I want my family to feel special, to eat like kings so they can share with me my joy of cooking. And I will do my best to strive toward that goal. Yes, some days there will still be rice. I may cook a cake for special occasions. But I will never again live like my body can take whatever I "feel like" giving it. That is not honoring my family, it's not honoring God's creation, and it's not honoring the transforming work of Christ in me.


8 Pounds Lost, and Counting

**Update 2/13/15: 29 pounds lost and counting!!