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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Hypocrites Remorse

"Are you sure this is healthy? This is the most fried, unhealthy looking thing you have ever made", said my son last week. Typically this is not the statement a healthy chef wants to hear about their latest creation. But to me, It was music to my ears. This was a success story and here's why.

As I sat in my professional conference earlier this month and listened to panel discussions about the importance of fresh, local, organic, non-processed foods, a voice in my head kept chanting, "you are such a hypocrite!"  I heard this voice over and over for four days.  What makes me a hypocrite you ask?  It is the fact that I spend my days cooking healthy, fresh, local and organic meals for my clients.  I even get up on my soap box on a daily basis to these same people and preach about the virtues of eating healthy food, that you make yourself, and how a bit of careful preparation on the weekend can set you up for a week of homemade meals.  The problem is, I was not doing this at home for my family.

Like any temperamental chef/tired mom, I rebelled when my kids did not want to eat the sauteed kale over a bed garam masala scented quinoa.  What was wrong with them?  The adults in my class loved this dish at lunchtime today.  Each time my kids rejected one of my new healthy creations, I became more and more frustrated.  So much so, that over the past couple of months I basically stopped making dinner altogether.  Dinner time became a constant "fix it yourself" situation.  Each of us on our own to throw together what we wanted in the short span of time between arriving home from school or work and before heading out to the evenings sports activities.  Sandwiches, cereal and gasp, frozen waffles and biscuits became mainstays.

I resolved then and there as I sat listening to the farmers, chefs, authors and advocates of the fresh, local food movement, that there would be some big changes when I got home.  I considered coming home and emptying all of the boxed foods from my pantry.  I was going to make all my own bread and crackers.  No frozen chicken nuggets or waffles.  This was going to be radical!  Well, with five hours to kill on the plane ride home, I realized that radical was probably not the best way to go.  I needed to be subtle, weaving new things in, while gradually taking some of the bad things out.  Think like a kid.  Think about the things they liked the most and were the staples of our "fix it yourself" lifestyle.  Additionally, I needed to get over my own hurt feelings and start thinking about the kids.  I'm quite certain I would not have wanted to eat kale and quinoa as a ten or fourteen year old.  I would have to save my uber healthy greens and grains for work and soak up my accolades there.

Like all busy parents, I am tired at the end of the day and truly do not feel like cooking when I get home, especially when I have been cooking all day.  I really can sympathize with the average American family who chooses the convenience of the drive thru over preparing a meal at home.  I have all the tools and knowledge to do the right thing, yet fell right into the rut of doing what was easy instead.

So, I am three weeks in to my continuing effort to make an effort at dinner time.  Thus far, some of the highlights have been making sushi with my son, roasting a whole turkey breast which was dinner one night and sandwiches for the lunchbox for the rest of the week.  There has been more fruit and no frozen breakfast items.  So, I'll admit, there is still a box of cheese crackers in my pantry, because let's face it, I really just don't have time to make cracker dough and cut out goldfish shapes.  I am sharing today, one of the my kid's new favorites.  It has the appearance of being bad, but is in fact a much better option than a similar item at drive thru.  This is not rocket science, it is just putting my own ego aside and trying to think about things my children love and making them better.  As a result, of my new way of approaching dinnertime, I am happier, the family is happier and the nagging voice in the back of my head chanting "you are such a hypocrite" is fading away. 

I hope you will enjoy my easy and versatile chicken recipe and remember to make every plate something to be passionate about.

"Faux-ride" Chicken:
6 boneless, skinless organic chickenthighs
1 cup non-fat greek yogurt
1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
1/2 cup whole wheat panko
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Non-stick cooking spray

Serving Suggestion:
1 recipe of Honey Mustard Sauce*
2 cups shredded napa cabbage
Whole grain buns or wraps

Step One:
Cut the chicken into desired size.  See picture below for ideas.  Fingers work the best for wraps, patty's or slider cut for sandwiches on a whole grain roll and nuggets for straight up dipping.

Step Two:
Place chicken in a ziploc bag with the Greek yogurt and set aside while you make the coating.
Step Three:
Place the bread crumbs, panko, Parmesan and spices in a shallow dish or pie plate and stir to combine.  Remove chicken from Ziploc bag and dredge in breadcrumb mixture.

Step Four:
Place coated chicken on a foil-lined sheet tray, sprayed with non-stick spray.  At this point, I like to sprinkle a little more paprika on top of the chicken as it helps give the finished product a more "fried" appearance.  Spray top of chicken with non-stick spray before placing in the oven.

Step Five:Bake chicken at 400 degrees for about twenty minutes.  You want to make sure the internal temperature of the chicken is at 165 degrees.  I highly recommend investing in an instant read thermometer.  The good news is, that if you get caught up with the laundry, bills or homework, chicken thighs are very forgiving and will still be moist and tender, even if they are slightly overcooked.

The finished product is a moist, tender and flavorful "faux-ride" piece of chicken.  Serve as is or as a wrap or sandwich. Leftovers freeze well.

Honey Mustard:
As I have learned, making your own dressings is so easy and should be done on a weekly basis.  I promise, once you start to make your own dressings and vinaigrette, you will have a hard time going back to anything in a bottle.  This is one processed item, that was easily eliminated from my pantry. 

1/2 cup Light Olive Oil Mayonnaise
1/4 cup Yellow Mustard
1/4 cup Local Honey

Step One:
Place ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine.  This dressing will keep in your fridge for up to five days.

The end result is a great tasting wrap that kids and adults with enjoy and feel good about eating!

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