Baked Chicken Fingers

baked chicken fingers

Right now, my son is going through a bit of a non-eating phase.  All he ever wants is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, despite our best efforts.  (P.S- that is because all I ate/craved while pregnant with him were peanut butter and jelly sandwiches!)  The rule in our household is, you eat what is put in front of you, or go hungry until the next meal.  No special, separate meals here!  Once in a while, I will gear a dinner toward the kids just to be fun and knowing that they will clean their plates.  It’s a win-win!

baked chicken fingers

This recipe is definitely for those chicken finger lover/picky kids.  I don’t usually like chicken fingers, although my kids definitely will devour them anytime.  But, when I tried these chicken fingers, I was converted.  They lack the sinking gut feeling of heavy grease, thanks to baking them instead.  The panko makes a wonderful crunchy exterior, but still holds in the moisture in the chicken to make it nice and tender.  Serve alongside a salad and your favorite dipping sauce, and any picky eater will be happy!  (Or non-picky too!)

Baked Chicken Fingers

Yield: 4-5 servings

  • 2 cups panko
  • 2 Tablespoons grapeseed oil, or canola or vegetable
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 1 Tablespoon water
  • 1 Tablespoon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into 3/4-inch strips
  • salt and pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 475ºF.

In a large skillet, combine the panko and oil over medium heat.  Cook until golden brown, stirring often, about 8-10 minutes.  Transfer to a shallow dish.  In another shallow dish, combine the flour, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.  In a third shallow dish, whisk together the egg whites, water, mustard and thyme.

Spray a wire rack with vegetable spray and place over a rimmed baking sheet.  Season the chicken lightly with salt and pepper.  Dredge a piece or two of chicken in the flour until coated, then dip into the egg whites, then, press in the breadcrumbs to adhere to all sides.  Place on the greased wire rack.  Repeat with remaining chicken strips.

Spray the tops of the chicken lightly with vegetable spray, then place in the oven.  Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until cooked through.  Serve with desired dipping sauces.

Source: Barely adapted from America’s Test Kitchen, Healthy Family Cookbook

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Lentils and Couscous with Zucchini and Carrots

Lentils and Couscous with Zucchini and Carrots

This recipe is something I saw and couldn’t wait for the chance to make it. I’m always on the lookout for healthy, filling recipes. It’s a kind of killing-two-birds-with-one stone type of deal. I made it for myself for lunch because everyone has been on a sort of grumpy dinner track lately. My son doesn’t want to touch dinner at all lately, even if he really likes the dish. The days are cold, long, dark and tiring. In other words, everyone is getting tired of winter. Even my daughter is talking about summer all the time and wishing it was warm. On the upside of the never ending winter, there is more sunlight! Waking up at 6 am to get everything ready in time for the bust at 7:05, I am actually waking up to sunlight! Not pitch black anymore. That always makes waking up much easier. And, it’s still light out at 4:30! Woot woot! Perhaps there is an end in sight? (Actually, I kind of like the snow. But not the cold.)

Back to this dish. It is full of great flavor. And I finally found a use for the pearled couscous I have had stashed away in the pantry for longer than I’d like to think. The lentils are a great filler. And the addition of my all-time favorite spice; ground cumin, makes it all that much better. Yeah, I am kind of obsessed with it. This dish makes a great lunch or dinner!

Lentils and Couscous with Zucchini and Carrots

Yield: 4-6 servings

  • 1-2 cups dried lentils (If you like a lot of lentils, use 2 cups)
  • 2 Tablespoons grapeseed or vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and shredded
  • 2 zucchini, shredded
  • 1 cup pearl (Israeli) couscous
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • dash of garlic powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 2-3 Tablespoons fresh chopped parsley or cilantro

Directions

In a small saucepan, cover the lentils with 2 inches of water. Bring to boil over high heat. Partially cover, and lower the heat to a simmer. Simmer until the lentils are cooked through and tender, 15-20 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, prepare the rest of the ingredients. Place the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once shimmering, stir in the onion. Cook the onion until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the minced garlic, cumin, turmeric and garlic powder just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the broth and couscous. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and partially cover. Gently simmer until the wanter is mostly absorbed, about 8-10 minutes. Just before all the water is absorbed, add the shredded carrots, zucchini, cooked lentils and parsley. Stir until completely combined. Let cook for a few more minutes until everything is heated through. Season generously with salt and pepper and serve.

Source: Adapted from Three Many Cooks

Chicken Taco Salad

Taco Salad

For some strange reason, I have never been big into the taco salads. Perhaps the idea of eating greasy hamburger in a salad isn’t very appealing. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some taco meat, but in a taco. All I can imagine is the lettuce getting wilted, warm and greasy. But maybe that’s what makes them so appealing? I don’t know.

A few weeks ago, I had an “aha!” moment. Why not use seasoned chicken in place of the hamburger! I know that I am way behind on the taco salad wagon. But, when I menu planned, I was SO excited to make taco salad. I de-boned a couple of chicken breasts that I have stored in our freezer, seasoned them, and cooked them up. The chicken mixed in with loads of veggies, served with corn chips, was the perfect meal in my books. It was exactly what I was looking for. I mixed up a little tomato and lime dressing to drizzle over. Delicious! I couldn’t wait to have it again for lunch the next day.

The chicken makes this meal that much healthier. But, if you want even healthier, bake the chicken instead of pan frying.

Chicken Taco Salad

Yield: about 6 servings

For the chicken

  • 2-3 boneless chicken breasts
  • 1/4 cup grapeseed or vegetable oil
  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • about 1/2 teaspoon each ground cumin, chili powder, garlic powder
  • salt and pepper

For the dressing

  • 1 large tomato, cored, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lime juice
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon parsley
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin

For the salad

  • 9 oz. romaine lettuce, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn, cooked and cooled
  • 1 tomato, cored, seeded and diced
  • 2 avocados, diced
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and shredded
  • 1/2 large cucumber, peeled (if not organic), and diced
  • 4 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • corn chips for serving, or broken taco shells

Directions

Season each side of the chicken breasts with the all spices and salt and pepper (I just do a healthy sprinkling of each). In a large pan over medium-high heat, melt the butter in the oil. Once the butter is melted, place the chicken breasts in the pan. Cook the chicken until golden brown on both sides and completely cooked through, about 8-10 minutes per side. If the chicken starts to burn, turn the heat down and cover. Place the chicken on a cutting board and let cool slightly before dicing.

To make the dressing, place all of the ingredients in a food processor. Process until smooth. Pour the dressing into a small pitcher or jar, cover, and place in the refrigerator until ready to use.

To assemble the salad, spread the chopped lettuce on a large platter or bowl. Gently mix in the corn, tomato, avocado, carrots, cucumber, and diced chicken. Sprinkle the shredded cheese over the top. Scoop the salad into individual bowls. Crush chips over the salad and drizzle dressing over the top. Serve.

Island Bakes Original

Thai Vegetable Green Curry

Curry

When I was pregnant with my third, I had wicked cravings for curry almost the entire time. For some reason, I never actually got to indulge in those cravings. Partly because my picky-self couldn’t find a recipe online that looked tasty enough. I combed google and many websites looking for the “perfect” recipe. Sigh, no results. That is, until my aunt gave me a cookbook for christmas. (My family knows the way to my heart.) Since it was a cookbook by the wonderful America’s Test Kitchen, I couldn’t wait to read through it. I came upon a curry recipe, and immediately put it on the menu for the week. I couldn’t wait to make it, even if everyone else was less than enthused as I was.

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This recipe did not disappoint. In fact, it was delicious! I couldn’t wait to have left overs for lunch the next day. And maybe the day after that. It was the perfect way to belatedly indulge in those cravings. It was well worth the wait! I made up a batch of flatbread to go along with the meal. Topped with jasmine rice, and we are in business!

Thai Vegetable Green Curry

Yield: About 4-5 servings

  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable, coconut or grapeseed oil
  • 12 ounces cauliflower florets, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 3 Tablespoons green Thai curry paste
  • 1 14 oz. can coconut milk
  • 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 zucchini, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 1 red bell pepper, stemmed seeded and cut into matchsticks
  • 8 ounces sugar snap peas (fresh or frozen and thawed), strings removed and chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons lime juice
  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 4 cups cooked jasmine rice
  • salt and pepper

Directions

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a Dutch oven, or a heavy-bottomed pan, over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the cauliflower, and curry paste and cook until the cauliflower begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in the coconut milk and brown sugar and bring to a simmer. Stir in the zucchini, bell pepper and snap peas, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are just tender, 4-8 minutes. Uncover and cook until sauce is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and lime juice, and salt and pepper to taste.  Serve over warmed jasmine rice.

Source: Adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Quick Family Cookbook

Pasta with Roasted Broccoli, Garlic and Almonds

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When I was a senior in high school, I did a trimester abroad. 10 of us went to Segovia, Spain to live with separate host families for a couple of months. It was freaking awesome. We had two group teachers that lead us around the country, on top of doing daily classes. We went from the top to the bottom and all around Spain. Pretty darn cool in my opinion! I stayed with a well-to-do host mom that didn’t speak any english (well, maybe she did, be she wouldn’t to me!), and her kids were grown and gone. So I got the coolest room with a balcony. I became pretty good friends with two other kids from the group, so in the evening, when we had free time to do what we wanted, the three of us would go to the local stores and see what cool foods we could find to eat. Then we’d grab all of our goodies (including hitting up the penny candy store) and go hang out on my balcony looking over part of the city. One thing that we always got, was Manchego cheese. We would all fight over who got the last piece. That stuff is beyond amazing. Something about it is so addicting.  And it was so cheap there. Those were some awesome times.

Pasta with Roasted Broccoli, Garlic and Almonds

Now, Manchego cheese is a luxury. It’s pretty expensive locally. My mom, a few years back, knew of my love for the cheese and put it in my stocking for Christmas. Best present ever! My favorite way to devour it is by itself. But, when I was flipping through a cookbook and saw a pasta dish that used Manchego cheese, I just knew that I had to make it. I couldn’t pass it up!

Pasta with Roasted Broccoli, Garlic and Almonds

This is a great, flavorful and simple pasta dish. It makes an easy one dish meal. The roasted broccoli and garlic make a wonderful addition. And who doesn’t love almonds with pasta? Any excuse to add nuts is fine with me! The Manchego cheese adds a wonderful twist of flavor to the dish. I just wish I had had some left over to eat for myself!

Pasta with Roasted Broccoli, Garlic and Almonds

Yield: 4-6 servings

  • 2 garlic heads, top sliced off to expose cloves
  • 6 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 pounds broccoli
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 pound pasta
  • 1 ounce Manchego cheese, grated, plus extra for serving
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, or 2-3 Tablespoons dried
  • 1/4 cup slivered or chopped almonds, toasted

Directions

Preheat the oven to 500ºF. Drizzle the exposed garlic cloves with 1/2 teaspoon oil each and wrap tightly in tinfoil. Place in the preheated oven directly on a rack, and roast until the the garlic is tender, about 40-45 minutes. Let cool before unwrapping. Carefully squeeze the cloves from their skins into a small bowl. Mash with a fork. Stir in the lemon juice and red pepper flakes. Slowly whisk in 1/4 cup olive oil. Set aside.

Meanwhile, cut the broccoli into bite-sized florets. Toss with remaining 2 Tablespoons oil, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and sugar in a bowl. Place on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer and put in the oven. Roast until the broccoli is well browned and tender, 20-30 minutes.

Bring 4 quarts of water to boil in a large pot. Cook pasta according to directions until al dente. Reserve 1 cup pasta water, then drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Add broccoli, garlic sauce, 1/2 cup Manchego, basil and 1/4 cup reserved cooking water and toss to combine. Season with salt, pepper and extra lemon juice to taste. Add more reserved cooking water as needed to adjust consistency. Serve into bowls and sprinkle with almonds and remaining Manchego cheese. Serve warm.

Source: Barely Adapted from The Pasta Revolution by America’s Test Kitchen

Black Bean, Corn and Avocado Salad

black bean, corn and avocado salad

I know, this is more like a summer dish, but I couldn’t resist. With all this crazy sweet consumption happening, I have been trying to make dinners particularly healthy. I have had this recipe bookmarked for ages, and it fit the bill for one meatless option for the weeks menu.  Even though vegetables are not in season right now, this was still bursting with flavor and so addicting. I may have sat down with the bowl for lunch the following two days and eaten it all by myself. With my favorite blue corn chips, of course.

black bean, corn and avocado salad

My husband is not a huge avocado fan, but he still really liked this. I served this over grilled chicken (yes, I still grill in the winter. Especially since there is no snow on the ground right now), and it was killer! I would definitely recommend doing that! Then of course, you can eat any leftovers with chips. This is a wonderful, healthy and quick option for any meal or snack!

Black Bean, Corn and Avocado Salad

Yield: about 8 servings

  • 1 (15 oz. can) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 2 avocados, pitted and cubed
  • 2 cups fresh corn kernels, or frozen and thawed corn
  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 3/4-1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the beans, red onion, avocado, corn, and tomatoes.  Add in the lime juice, olive oil, and salt, and gently toss to blend.  Gently mix in the parsley.  Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Source: Adapted from Annie’s Eats

Lentil and Black Bean Soup

Lentil and Black Bean Soup This winter has been really weird this year. The temperature can’t seem to make up its mind! Two days ago it was 9º when I woke up in the morning. Yesterday it was 46º. Weird. Up north has been getting a lot of snow, while we just get dismal rain. I am keeping my fingers crossed for a white Christmas! Speaking of which, we still need to get our tree. The nice thing about living in the middle of nowhere, is the fact that there are plenty of Christmas trees in our back yard we can just go out and chop down. Buying a tree is totally foreign to me. Even though the temperatures are flip-flopping, I am still digging the comfort food. And the holiday sweets. (I have many up-coming treats to share with you.) Soup is my go-to comfort. I love this soup because it is healthy and filling. Black beans are becoming a big favorite of mine. My kids wouldn’t necessarily agree with me, but I try to sneak them in things all the time. This soup would be great to make a big batch and freeze a bunch for later. And most of the ingredients are things you most likely have on hand to whip up a quick dinner last minute. Win! Lentil and Black Bean Soup

  • 1 Tablespoon olive or grapeseed oil
  • 1 medium size onion, chopped
  • 3-4 large stalks celery, diced
  • 3-4 large carrots, diced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 can (14 oz.) diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup dried brown or green lentils, picked through and rinsed
  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable, or chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup white wine, water or broth
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 can (14 oz.) black beans, rinsed and drained, divided
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the onion, celery, and carrots and cook until the vegetables begin to soften, 6-7 minutes. Add the minced garlic, garlic powder, paprika and bay leaves and cook for about 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add the diced tomatoes, lentils, half of the black beans, the chicken broth and the water. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are just tender, about 35 minutes Remove from heat and discard the bay leaves. Using an immersion blender, blend the soup until mostly puréed. Or, transfer half of the soup to a food processor and process until mostly puréed. Add mixture back to pot, along with remaining black beans. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Bring the soup back to a simmer over medium heat for another 10-15 minutes until the lentils are fully cooked through. Stir in parsley and serve.   Source: Adapted from Smells Like Home, originally from Cookin’ Canuck