Light and Healthy Chicken Parmesan

 

20141124_195238

 

Chicken parm and eggplant parm (have you tried them as a layered “lasagna”??? OMG, it’s a savory heaven!) are among my favorite dishes. If I could indulge in them several times a week, I am almost certain I would! What do you expect, it is breaded CHEESY! I only wish the real version was healthier!

20141124_192544  20141124_192550

That is….just until I tried experimenting with this recipe last week! I figured if I could crisp up the chicken without deep frying and replace the regular cheese with a reduced fat version, I will be half way there! So, that’s what I did!

20141124_192554  20141124_194330

I used a light coating of breadcrumbs to crisp up the chicken. After pan frying them in a coating of extra virgin olive oil, I topped them with little bit of good quality pasta sauce and reduced fat mozzarella cheese and voila, I couldn’t feel better eating it or serving it to my family!

So, grab a few pieces of boneless, skinless thighs (excess fat removed as best as you could) or breasts and few basic ingredients and start whipping up these babies! You will be glad you did!

20141124_195303

[Recipe title=”Light and Healthy Chicken Parmesan” Servings=”4″ Prep time=”45 minutes”]

Ingredients
8 small boneless, skinless chicken thighs, fat trimmed off
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 – 3/4 cup Italian-style bread crumbs
1/8 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian herbs, crushed
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 egg, lightly beaten with a tablespoon of water
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2-3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup reduced fat grated mozzarella cheese
1 cup good quality pasta sauce

Preparation
1. In a shallow dish, combine bread crumbs, 1/8 cup parmesan, garlic powder, Italian herbs and black pepper.
2. In another shallow dish, whisk together the egg, crushed red pepper and black pepper.
3. Dip chicken thighs in egg mixture and coat with bread crumbs.
4. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Lightly coat with olive oil.
5. Add chicken pieces in a single layer and cook for 5-6 minutes on each side till the chicken is completely cooked through. Depending on the thickness of each piece, cooking time may vary a little.
6. While the chicken pieces get cooked, heat the pasta sauce in a small pan and keep warm.
8. As soon as all the chicken pieces are cooked, serve immediately over some pasta. Top the chicken with pasta sauce and cheeses and serve hot.

TIP: As an alternative, you can also assemble the chicken as a chicken parm sandwich.

[/recipe]

Advertisements

South-East Asian Style Vegetable Fried Rice

20141202_175013

There are myriads of recipes for fried rice. I personally love fried rice of any type or ethnic origin. This particular recipe is a blend of Indian and Sri Lankan flavors and textures.

Sri Lankan recipes typically will call for pandan (rampe) leaf which is not easily found in grocery stores in the US (although you can find them quite easily in Ontario, Canada). They impart a very distinct flavor to the rice and meat dishes. In the absence of pandan, I used mint leaves in this recipe, making it more Indian. In addition, Sri Lankan version is sometimes topped with bread cubes sautéed in clarified butter (aka ghee). They add a nice chewy texture and a unique flavor to the rice! When I was a child, I remember hunting for these bread cubes in my rice!

20141202_180331  20141202_175240  20141202_181219

This is a wholesome vegetarian dish that could be served with Indian/Sri Lankan curries or a simple yogurt/cucumber relish or just plain yogurt. It is pretty straightforward to prepare – the most involved step is making the spice mixture. If you are crunched for time, you can easily use frozen vegetables in place of fresh (like I did in this recipe) without sacrificing the flavor.

20141202_182122  20141202_183806

I hope you give this a try!

20141202_192033

South-East Asian Style Vegetable Fried Rice

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Print

Ingredients
2 cups Basmati rice, rinsed and soaked in cold water for 15 minutes
1 teaspoon oil
1/2 onion, sliced thick
2 Thai green chili pepper
3 cloves of garlic, cut up
1/2 inch piece of ginger, cut up
2 large tomatoes, cut up
1/2 cup loosely packed mint leaves
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 onion, sliced thin
2″ long cinnamon stick
3 cloves
2-3 cardamom pods, lightly bruised (if available)
1/2 bag (8 oz) frozen mixed vegetables (carrot, green beans and peas or something similar)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 tablespoon Madras-style curry powder, optional
Salt to taste
1/4 cup mint leaves, chopped up
2 slices of bread, cut in cubes and pan toasted in butter

Preparation
1. Begin by cooking the rice according to directions.
2. While the rice is cooking, heat a teaspoon of oil in a shallow frying pan and saute thickly sliced onion, chili, garlic and ginger. When the onion begins to get golden, add the tomatoes and mint leaves. Saute for few more minutes and remove from heat.
3. Using a hand blender or food processor, grind the above till smooth. Set aside.
4. Heat a skillet over medium high heat and add butter and tablespoon of oil.
5. Add the thinly sliced onions and saute till golden. Add cinnamon, cardamom and clove.
6. After a few seconds, add the frozen vegetables and turmeric powder and saute till the vegetable are cooked through and the carrot looks slightly caramelized.
7. Stir in the curry powder, ground spice mixture and salt to taste.
8. Continue to cook for another 5 minutes or so till the mixture is cooked through and the oil starts to separate along the edges.
9. Mix in the cooked rice along with fresh mint.
10. Top with bread cubes and serve with a curry of your choice, boiled egg or yogurt (or a combination of all!).

Almost Perfect Macarons

 

20141126_182239

Have you noticed that macarons and delicately frosted cupcakes are more or less mainstays on a dessert tables nowadays??

My quest for making a perfect French macaron started 3 years ago, after a visit to Paris. I tried a few “home-style” versions at a local farmer’s market and fell in love! They were “cakey”, delicately flavored and more interestingly, came in infinite array of vivid colors. Piles and piles of them, arranged in conical pyramids, with various fillings! Ahh…

20141126_165520  20141126_170408

So, after we returned home, I started dreaming, researching and dreaming some more to the point of a macaron obsession! I tried countless recipes, ruined tons of batches, fretted over perfect “feet” and that characteristic texture – fragile and crispy outside leading to a chewy and cakey inside. And after numerous trial attempts, I can say I have a recipe that I will likely stick to – at least until I get a personal training by someone at Pierre Homme (what wishful thinking, I know!). 🙂 OK, you guys, look at my pictures, feel free to try them at home, and let me know if they are quite worth it! I debated whether to share this recipe, but decided it is worth sharing the love with the readers of this blog! After all, macarons can’t be perfected by following a recipe – they really need love, patience, passion and lots of and lots of practice!

20141126_170704

TIPS BEFORE YOU ATTEMPT:
1. Precise measurement is a MUST (if you don’t have a digital scale, I highly recommend getting one. I bought one just so I can make macarons)!
2. Oven-temperatures can uplift or totally ruin a perfect macaron!
3. Folding in the dry ingredients is an art and takes lots of practice! If you under/over mix, your batch is ruined, and you may not even know it till they start cracking while baking and push you into a meltdown!
5. You absolutely need parchment paper or silicone baking mat. Without it, you will have a sticky, gooey mess!
4. Lastly, make sure your mixer and bowl are grease free and you only use either gel or powder colors as macs don’t like grease or water!

20141126_174458

To sum it all up, MACARONS ARE HIGH-MAINTENANCE! But, once you perfect your skill and see those beautiful things emerge out of the oven, I can guarantee you will be floating with pride! I did!

20141205_232801       20141205_232317

Fool-proof French Macarons

  • Servings: 15-20 sandwiches
  • Print

Ingredients
35g egg white
0.5g meringue powder
0.5g salt
20g granulated sugar
60g powdered sugar
45g almond meal/ground almonds
Fillings of your choice: Chocolate ganache, nutella, buttercream, salted caramel, jelly etc.
optional: gel or powder colors

Preparation
1. Begin with carefully measuring out your ingredients.
2. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat.
3. Grind together (in a spice/coffee grinder) the almond meal and powdered sugar for few seconds till the mixture is fine. Set aside.
4. In a large stainless bowl, whip together the egg white, meringue powder and salt till frothy.
5. Slowly add in granulated sugar till soft, shiny peaks form.
6. If using color, add at this point.
7. Carefully fold in the almond meal/powdered sugar mixture in two batches. A rubber spatula is immensely helpful with this process.
8. STOP mixing when the dry mixture is incorporated and the macaron mix falls in a ribbon and slowly disappears into the mix. This part is extremely critical to the perfect mac.
9. Pipe the mix in 1″ circles on parchment or baking mat, leaving about an inch between circles. Try to keep the size consistent so it is easy to sandwich them with fillings.
7. Tap the tray a few times to pop out any air bubbles. Again, air bubbles, if not removed, will pop in the oven and crack your macarons. Sad, but true!
8. Let the macarons rest for 10-15 minutes.
9. Place the tray in the oven and immediately lower the temperature to 290F.
10. Bake for 15 minutes, rotate tray and bake another 5 minutes. The times given are general guidelines. Keep an eye on those babies – I have ruined a few batches just because they decided the same temperature setting used for the previous batch was too hot for the next one! Weird and I am still scratching my head for reasons, but for now, just keep an eye on them.
11. At the end of the baking time, remove the tray from the oven, let the macs sit on the tray for 5 minutes and move them to a cooling rack.
12. Pair the macs of similar size and sandwich them with fillings of your choice.
13. Sandwiched macs must be kept refrigerated for at least 24 hours to let the flavors and texture meld.

Warning: Once you make your first perfect batch, it becomes a near obsession to make more! 🙂

Weeknight Eggplant-Ricotta Rollups

20141125_202914

Eggplant is by far one of my favorite vegetables. Until recently, I preferred the Asian kinds, Italian white kind and Indian kinds, but not so much the chunky American type – you know which ones I am talking about, right? The huge blackish purple giants that you see commonly at supermarkets. One of the main reasons is because I simply didn’t like their texture. To me, they had too much water in them. And their skin was too tough and they tasted rubbery most of the time! That is until recently, when I figured out how to make them less chewy, more delicate and better tasting!

20141125_200200

This recipe utilizes few of the tips I incorporate whenever I work with this particular type of eggplant. Peeling the eggplant first and slicing them thin lengthwise helps in making them softer and more flavorful during the cooking process. This recipe seriously is definitely a keeper for wholesome weeknight dinners, provided you have the main ingredients – eggplant and ricotta.

20141125_200156  20141125_200150

Steps are simple – slice and precook the eggplant, spread cheese mixture on each slice and roll it up, place them in a skillet with a good quality pasta sauce, top with any remaining cheese and grated mozzarella and let simmer. Voila! In less than 10 minutes, you will be able to open the lid and scoop out the cheesy, hearty eggplant-ricotta rollups onto your plate to devour!

20141125_200838  20141125_202002

Enjoy!

TIME SAVING TIP: You can pre-cook the eggplant slices ahead of time to save precious minutes!

Weeknight Eggplant-Ricotta Rollups

  • Servings: 4
  • Print

Ingredients
1 large eggplant, cut into 1/4″ thick slices lengthwise
2 – 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan
3 tablespoons chopped parsley, basil and oregano (or 1 tablespoon dried Italian herbs)
1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup reduced fat grated mozzarella
1 cup good quality pasta sauce
Any remaining cheese mixture
1/4 cup reduced fat grated mozzarella

Preparation:
1. Preheat a frying pan over medium high heat and coat with olive oil.
2. Cook eggplant slices in single layer till they are soft and golden. Set aside.
3. In a small bowl, mix together the ricotta, parmesan, herbs, garlic, salt/pepper and 1/4 cup mozzarella.
4. Spread about a heaping tablespoon of cheese mixture on the eggplant slices and roll them up.
5. Heat a skillet over medium high heat and add the pasta sauce.
6. Place the rolled eggplant slices in a single layer and top with any remaining cheese mixture. Top mix remaining 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese and cover.
7. Reduce heat to medium and let simmer for about 10 minutes till it gets hot and bubbly.
8. Serve immediately with a side salad or another dish of your choice.