Saturday, March 31, 2012

Tandoori Chicken with Homemade Mango Chutney

Some might consider "light Indian cooking" an oxymoron, but this Tandoori Chicken with Homemade Mango Chutney recipe proves that theory wrong! A refreshing blend of nonfat Greek yogurt, minced ginger and spices -trip to a specialty food store to track down obscure authentic Indian spices: not required- make up the classic tandoori rub, which coats the chicken, cooking into a light crust bursting with flavor. While this dish typically usually dark meat chicken thighs to keep it moist; I opted to use the leaner white meat chicken breast. Tandoori chicken is derived from the tandoor clay oven this dish is usually prepared in, but baking in a regular oven or on a grill works too. A light coat from an olive oil spritzer is all you need in the baking pan, eliminating excessive oil and butter heaviness you might find at a restaurant.
 A note on the color: tandoori chicken's bright red hue originates from a combination of cayenne pepper and paprika, but some restaurants actually just use food coloring to create the fiery color and skimp on the spice! Tumeric, a yellow spice, can make the rub more orange. Although the bright red coloring is really beautiful, be mindful that the taste will be extremely hot. Balance according to your threshold for spiciness. This tandoori marinade is versatile, so feel free to apply to shrimp, lamb, or tofu too.
I was so excited to find a mango chutney recipe to accompany the chicken, as I usually buy the bottled kind which is both expensive and pretty calorie heavy due the massive amounts of added sugar.  A time-saving tip: buy frozen mango chunks at Trader Joe's at less than $3 a bag to skip the mango peeling and dicing process.
I am going to jump over the canning process for the chutney, because it was confusing and involved extra time and effort. I was content that this one-pot recipe had a five minute prep time and 20 minute cook time; you can make the whole thing while the chicken is baking.

Tandoori Chicken (from Prevention Magazine)
Yield: 4 Servings
Prep time: 5 minutes       Cook time: 25 minutes

1 sm onion, quartered (I didn't use the onion in the marinade, the amount seemed a little excessive to me. Instead, I chopped and roasted them along with the chicken for a crunchy bite to accompany it.)
5 cloves garlic
1/2" piece ginger, peeled
1/2 cup low fat plain greek style yogurt (I used 0% fat Fage)
3/4 tsp ground corinader
3/4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground allspice (optional)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground tumeric*
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp ground red pepper*
8 skinless, bone in chicken thighs (about 3lbs) (Or 8 skinless chicken breast tenders/4 chicken breast fillets)
1/2 tsp salt
*use more (plus paprika) to enhance coloring.

1. Combine onion (optional), garlic, ginger, yogurt, coriander, cumin, allspice, cinnamon, turmeric, black pepper, and red pepper in food processor and blend until smooth.
2. Place chicken in shallow dish. Add marinade, turning to coat chicken completely. Cover and chill overnight or up to 24 hours (for optimal flavor. Feel free to let marinade sit for less; even a few hours is sufficient)
3. Cook chicken.
To grill: Coat grill rack with cooking spray and preheat grill to high.

Remove chicken from marinade (discard marinade). Season chicken with salt and grill 12 minutes, turning once. Reduce heat to medium and grill 12 to 15 minutes longer, flipping once, until thighs are no longer pink inside and thermometer inserted into thickest part reads 170°F.

To bake: Heat the oven to 350°F. Bake for 15-18 minutes, turning once, until chicken is cooked through (checking frequently to make sure chicken does not overcook).

Mango Chutney (from Epicurious)
 Yield: 5 cups

3 medium apples, peeled, cored, and chopped (I didn't use these and increased the mango accordingly)
2 large mangoes, peeled and chopped
1/2 medium sweet red pepper, chopped
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) granulated sugar I only used 1/2 cup and it was perfect!!
1 cup (250 mL) finely chopped onion
1/2 cup (125 mL) golden raisins
1/2 cup (125 mL) white vinegar
1/4 cup (50 mL) finely chopped peeled gingerroot
1 tablespoon (15 mL) lemon juice
2 teaspoons (10 mL) curry powder
1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) each: ground nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt

1. Combine apples (optional), mangoes, red pepper, sugar, onion, raisins, vinegar, and gingerroot in a large stainless steel or enamel saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat, and boil gently, uncovered, for 20 minutes or until fruit is tender and mixture is thickened, stirring occasionally. Add lemon juice, curry powder, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt; boil gently for 5 minutes.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Whole Wheat Sweet Potato Pancakes

Sometimes I just wake up nostalgic for college brunch. Since I went to school in the South, this encompasses their signature breakfast delicacies of biscuits, shrimp & grits, and today's post: Whole Wheat Sweet Potato Pancakes. Not the savory latke kind, these breakfast pancakes are perfectly sweet from a combination of sweet potato, nutmeg and cinnamon. Fluffy but filling, you will never guess that there is no butter in this recipe thanks to the organic richness of the sweet potato.  Also, the natural sweetness of its beta-carotene rich flesh eliminates the need to add tons of sugar to the batter- another health benefit; as Nutrition Action just linked increased sugar intake to out-of-control belly fat in their April 2012 cover story, "Sugar Belly."

The original recipe called for half white and half wheat flour, and I substituted ground oats and flax seed for the nutrient-lacking former ingredient. The effect was perfect: I could taste earthy whole grain and nutty undertones in the satisfyingly sweet pancake. I also added a dollop of nonfat Greek yogurt because I prefer a heavier pancake; if you like a very light fluffy batter; I would skip this step. The pancake will be plenty hearty on its own from the sweet potatoes.

How Much Sugar is Too Much?
Nutrition Action Health Letter dives into the topic of sugar this month, revealing that the average American now consumes 22 to 28 teaspoons of added sugar a day. That ads up to 350-440 empty calories. The good news is that with change comes fast results: cutting back to 100 calories (6 1/2 teaspoons) a day for women and 150 calories (9 1/2 teaspoons) a day for men can contribute to a slimmer waistline and lower risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, and diabetes.

Whole Wheat Sweet Potato Pancakes (derived from Eat Live Run)
Yield: 3-4 servings

1/2 large sweet potato, peeled and baked/boiled then mashed with a fork
1/2 cup rolled oats, ground finely in a food processor
1 tablespoon ground flax seed (optional)
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tablespoons brown sugar
3/4 cup skim milk + 1 tbsp nonfat greek yogurt (if not using yogurt, 1 cup milk)
1 egg, slightly beaten
generous sprinkle of cinnamon & nutmeg
butter or oil to grease skillet
maple syrup for serving

1. Grease a large skillet with butter or oil and heat over medium high heat.
2. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, mixing just until combined and drop by quarter cups onto hot skillet. Cook for about two minutes on each side; serve hot with maple syrup.

Liebman, Bonnie. "Sugar Belly." Nutrition Action Health Letter 39.3 (2012): 3-7. Print

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Cappuccino Chocolate Chunk Biscotti

Biscotti originates from the Latin word biscotus, meaning "twice baked." I thought this was cool when I first learned that the crunchy biscuits date back to the Roman Empire, where their dry consistency facilitated long term storage for lengthy journeys and wars.  I did not think this fact was so cool while I stood drooling over the oven, my hot tea in hand, waiting for the cookies to cook once, cool, and then again...and then again. But they were definitely worth the wait.

Amongst tons of biscotti recipes featuring various combinations of dried fruits and nuts, this Cappuccino Chocolate Chunk Biscotti stood out. I loved the idea of adding a coffee and cocoa base to the traditional flour and sugar core, and a generous sprinkle of cinnamon and vanilla sealed the deal for me.  Chopped walnuts provide the signature nutty flavor to the biscotti, and I added chocolate chunks to the original recipe from Cooking Light because in my book, you can never have too much chocolate!

Biscotti can be made without butter or oil and still retain its signature crunch and flavor, making it a healthier dessert option than a traditional cookie or brownie. If you are a big fan of nuts, try adding ground flax seed to the batter for a nuttiness boost and dose of fiber.

I used half whole wheat flour and half regular for my batch, as well as amaretto flavored coffee to go along with the nut theme. This recipe is versatile so feel free to substitute walnuts for almonds or add dried cherries or chopped figs to your batter.
Cappuccino Chocolate Chunk Biscotti (derived from Cooking Light)
Yield: 2 1/2 dozen cookies
Prep Time: 15 minutes       Total time: 1 hr 15 minutes


2 cups all-purpose flour (I used 1 cup whole-wheat, 1 cup all-purpose)
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons instant coffee granules*
2 teaspoons hot water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 egg white
Vegetable cooking spray
1/4 cup chopped dark chocolate bar or dark chocolate chunks
Optional: 1/4 cup dried cherries, dried cranberries, chopped figs, chopped dates; 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed

*You can use regular coffee to create the cappuccino flavor too. Just pour 1 tablespoon of coffee into the coffee pot and fill water level with two tablespoons. The result will be an extremely concentrated coffee that you can add the vanilla too and pour straight into the batter; no additional water needed.

1. Combine first 8 ingredients in a large bowl (plus flaxseed if desired.) Combine coffee granules and hot water in a small bowl if using instant coffee. (Refer to note above if using regular.) Stir in vanilla and next 2 ingredients, and add to flour mixture, stirring until well-blended. Add chocolate bits and optional dried fruits and stir.
2. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead lightly 7 or 8 times. Shape dough into a 16-inch-long roll. Place roll on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray, and flatten roll to 1-inch thickness.
3. Bake at 325° for 30 minutes. Remove the roll from the baking sheet to a wire rack, and let cool for 10
minutes. Cut the roll diagonally into 30 (1/2-inch) slices, and place, cut sides down, on baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Turn cookies over, and bake an additional 10 minutes (cookies will be slightly soft in center but will harden as they cool). Remove cookies from the baking sheet, and let cool completely on wire rack.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Tomato and Bocconcini Mozzarella Salad

Yesterday's burst of warm weather triggered this craving for the classic summer combination of heirloom tomatoes, mozzarella and fresh basil.  A huge fan of anything mini (Baked by Melissa, cake pops, mac and cheese cups, you name it), this Tomato and Bocconcini Mozzarella Salad uses grape tomatoes and mozzarella balls as a fun miniature take on the traditional pairing. In fact, bocconcini means "small mouthfuls" in Italian!

Tossed simply with a good olive oil and balsamic vinegar and a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper, this salad wins across all audiences from the pickiest eater to the true gourmand.  Multicolored heirloom grape tomatoes spruce up the salad visually and add a slight variety in taste.  Bocconcini mozzarella can be found at any specialty cheese shop plus Whole Foods or Trader Joes, but if you have trouble locating it, another aesthetically pleasing presentation would be to stack thinly sliced rounds of  regular mozzarella and tomatoes. If you can find both yellow and red tomatoes, alternate them between layers of cheese and fresh basil, and finish by drizzling the olive oil and balsamic on top of the stack and around the plate.

Tomato and Bocconcini Mozzarella Salad (derived from Balducci's)
Prep time: 5 minutes
Yield: 4-6 servings

1 1/2 pints grape tomatoes
3/4 lb fresh bocconcini mozzarella
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon quality balsamic vinegar
6-8 fresh basil leaves
salt and pepper to taste

1. Toss together grape tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
2. Season to taste with salt and freshly cracked black pepper
3. Tear the basil into large pieces and toss into the salad (alternatively, chop leaves horizontally to create thin strips) 
4. Serve chilled or at room temperature