Never trust a skinny cook? Au contraire, my friend.

I’ve sung the praises of Cooking Light magazine to enough people that the company should either hire me or give me a free subscription.  I wonder who else out there is as avid a fan about this (probably often overlooked) magazine…?  To keep it short and sweet – I have yet to try out a recipe that I didn’t enjoy.

My standards for diet food are simple: it’s gotta taste good.

The easiest way to maintain a diet is to be on one where you are eating foods that you enjoy.  Where it doesn’t walk, talk, taste, or smell like diet food, and yet every scrumptious meal is another accomplishment in establishing your new, healthier lifestyle.

That being said, here’s one of my favorite recipes:

Arroz con Pollo (Cooking Light version)

Ingredients

  • 6 chicken drumsticks (about 1 1/2 pounds), skinned
  • 6 chicken thighs (about 1 1/2 pounds), skinned
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano, divided
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup diced ham (*I’ve always omitted the ham. No special reason.)
  • 2 1/4 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth (*If I’m being completely honest, I sub regular chicken broth for this.  One of the biggest lessons I learned in culinary school is the magic of salt.  It makes a world of difference in how your food tastes.  I had the lower sodium broth version of this dish the first time I made it.  It was good – but it lacked the flavor that the regular broth brings.  I rationalize this deviation in my mind by reminding myself that I don’t use the olives or the diced ham, which both contain sodium.  So it “all evens out in the wash”, as they say.)
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1/2 cup frozen petite green peas, thawed
  • 1/2 cup chopped pimiento-stuffed green olives (*I also leave these out. I don’t care much for green olives.)

Preparation

  1. Sprinkle chicken with salt, black pepper, and 1 teaspoon oregano. Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook 8 minutes, browning on all sides. Remove chicken from pan; drizzle with lime juice. Cover; keep warm.
  2. Add onion, bell pepper, and garlic to pan. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook 10 minutes or until tender. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon oregano, turmeric, and cumin, and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in rice and ham; cook 1 minute. Increase heat to medium. Add broth and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Add chicken, nestling into the rice mixture. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 18 minutes or until liquid is almost absorbed. Stir in peas; cover and cook 3 minutes. Remove from heat; let stand, uncovered, 5 minutes. Sprinkle with olives.
I’ve served this meal to family and friends and no one ever had a clue that it was a “light” meal.  It’s tasty, tasty, tasty.
In keeping with my fiery, burning passion for food – one of my life’s joys is collecting cookbooks.  For Christmas, I received the “America’s Test Kitchen – Light & Healthy” cookbook from my better half. I LOVE it.
I’ve made quite a few recipes from this book since December. My favorite so far might have to be the “Turkey Cutlets with Cranberries and Red Wine.”  I could NOT believe that this was a “healthy” meal!  The cranberry and red wine sauce was so tasty that I had to restrain myself from licking the plate.  I could have poured the sauce in a cup and gulped it down. It was incredible.  I should have taken a picture (the book doesn’t have one) but I’ve got to share the recipe either way.  Feel free to substitute chicken or fish for the turkey in this meal. It’s the sauce that is the magic.
Turkey Cutlets with Cranberries and Red Wine
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 6 (4-0z) turkey cutlets, pounded 1/4 in. thick (*my local grocery store sold “turkey scallopini cutlets so I skipped this pounding part since the cutlets were already nice and thin)
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 2 shallots, sliced thin (*or just some onion if you don’t feel like bothering with shallots)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced (*or 2 or 3 cloves if you’re me…)
  • 1 tsp minced fresh thyme (*or a little more… cooking is not an exact science, people.)
  • 1 tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup dry red wine
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth (*again, I always use regular chicken broth. I’m sorry. I can’t help it.)
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 tsp honey
  • salt and pepper (for general seasoning purposes)

Preparation

  1. For the cutlets: Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 200 degrees.  Spread the flour in a shallow dish.  Pat the turkey cutlets dry with paper towels and season with the salt and pepper.  Dredge the cutlets in the flour to coat and shake off any excess flour.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon or the oil in a 12-in. skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking.  Add half of the cutlets to the pan and cook until light golden brown on both sides, about 4 minutes, flipping them halfway through.  Transfer the cutlets to a plate and keep warm in the oven.  Repeat with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and remaining cutlets.  Do not wipe out the skillet.
  3. For the sauce: Add the shallots to the skillet and cook over medium heat until softened, about 2 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Stir in the tablespoon of flour and cook for 30 seconds.  Whisk in the wine, broth, cranberries, and honey, scraping up any browned bits.
  4. Bring it to a simmer and cook until the sauce has reduced by 1 cup, about 3 minutes.  Stir in any accumulated turkey juice, season with the salt and pepper to taste and serve with (over) the cutlets.
This makes 4 servings total, at 370 calories per serving.  If you do it right, this sauce is going to blow your mind.  Also, one technique I learned in culinary school is called “monte au beurre” which basically just means to finish a sauce with butter.  Once your sauce is done cooking and you’ve removed it from the heat, while it’s still hot, drop about a tablespoon of butter in there and stir it around to finish the sauce.  It will add a little shine and a little extra flavor to your sauce.  And, quite frankly, I think one tablespoon of butter divided by 4 servings is not a hefty caloric addition to the meal.
Culinary tip #2: Letting your sauce reduce is important.  The more a sauce reduces, the more water evaporates from the sauce and the more concentrated the flavor becomes.  So the more you allow your sauce to reduce, the more powerful the flavor will be.
“Never trust a skinny cook,” eh?  Au contraire, my friend.  The skinny cook has clearly mastered the art of preparing a healthy, well-balanced meal with the love of delicious food.
Please let me know if you try either of these recipes and what you thought about them!  Also feel free to share any of your favorite light and healthy recipes.  I’ll continue to blog about my health-conscious culinary adventures.  Up next: Healthy Penne Rosa with Shrimp.  (I can’t wait to try this recipe.)
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2 thoughts on “Never trust a skinny cook? Au contraire, my friend.

  1. I LOVE Cooking Light! I had a subscription last year but just recently cancelled it cause I couldn’t keep up with how many magazines I refused to get rid of! Great great dishes!!!

    • I hear ya. I started tearing out the recipes that I knew for sure that I’d be making. Right now they are laying around in a pile on my bookshelf but I have every intention of incorporating them into some sort of binder… one of these days…

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