Monthly Archives: June 2013

Homemade Chicken Nuggets


My husband and I are both chefs. We dread the day when our kids start spending the night at friend’s houses.  We can just hear them now…  “What kind of hors d oeuvres will you be offering this evening?” “Frozen Pizza?  What is frozen pizza?” “You mean your mom didn’t make you a butterscotch cake with white chocolate buttercream frosting, covered in french macaroons for your birthday?”

In my quest to control the ingredients and the cost of the food I put on my family table, I have developed these chicken nuggets.  I used to buy the Applegate brand, but could no longer justify the suspect ingredients and $6.99/box price.  Besides, I’ve never been comfortable with chicken nuggets. Tell me, what part of the chicken does the nugget come from?

This recipe took some trial and error.  I tried many versions of cutting up chicken and marinating it, but I just couldn’t get the flavor and texture right.  Finally it dawned on me.  I had to grind the chicken meat and treat it like a meatball to get the proper texture and flavor.  This might seem like a lot of steps, but they are simple, and you can make a very large batch to freeze.  These nuggets freeze very well.  You can pull several out and place them right in a preheated oven.  It’s worth the time.  It will save you a lot of time later, and you will feel so good about making and serving these to your family.  How could you not want any less than the best for these two?

fun times 2012 007

Start with placing a large pot of water on the stove.  Bring the water to a low simmer, and add 1 Tablespoon of kosher salt.


You will need 2 pounds of ground chicken.  You can either grind it yourself or buy it ground.  I like to know what’s in my ground meat.  If I’m shopping at a large supermarket, I’ll buy the chicken and ask the butcher behind the counter to grind it for me.   I will also buy ground chicken and turkey from the counter at places like Earthfare, Whole Foods, or The Fresh Market where I know they grind it in house.  Place the meat in a stainless steel bowl and add the seasonings:  2 Tblsps tamari soy sauce, 1 tsp Diamond Krystal kosher salt, 1 tsp black pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon onion powder.


Mix well until all of the seasonings are evenly distributed throughout the meat. Form the meat into quarter sized balls.  I like to use a tablespoon for measuring.  Tip:  If your hands are wet, the meat won’t stick to your hands. Form the balls and gently drop them into the simmering water.

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Once you have all of the meatballs in the water, wait another couple of minutes until all of the meatballs are cooked.


Transfer the meatballs with a slotted spoon to a sheet pan lined with paper towels.  Allow the meatballs to cool completely.


In the meantime, you can prep the breading station.  I use three pyrex casserole dishes.    In the first dish, measure 1 1/2 cups of a-p flour.


In the second dish, whisk together 3 eggs and 1 cup buttermilk until well combined.

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In the third dish, measure 2 cups panko bread crumbs, 1 Tblsp Diamond Krystal kosher salt, 1 tsp onion powder, 1 tsp garlic powder, and 1 tsp black pepper. Stir mixture with a whisk to distribute the seasonings throughout the breadcrumbs.


Now the breading station is ready.


Once the meatballs are cooled.  First, coat them in the flour.20130601_190143

Then the egg mixture.


Lastly, coat the meatballs in the breadcrumb mixture.


Place the breaded meatballs on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper in a single layer.


Once all of the nuggets are breaded, place the sheet pan in the freezer. Once the nuggets are frozen, transfer them to a freezer bag.  Keep the nuggets in your freezer for up to two months.


Before dinner time, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Pull however many nuggets out of the freezer that you might need. Place on a parchment-lined sheet pan.  Cook for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.  Your kids will love them (and so will you)!



For the meatballs:

2 pounds ground chicken

2 Tablespoons tamari soy sauce

1 tsp Diamond Krystal kosher salt (use half the amount if using Morton’s)

1 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp onion powder

For the breading mixture:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3 eggs

1 cup buttermilk

2 cups panko breadcrumbs

1 Tablespoon Diamon Krystal kosher salt (use half the amount if using Morton’s)

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

1 tsp black pepper


1. Place a large pot of water on the stove.  Bring to a low simmer, and add 1 Tablespoon kosher salt.

2.  Place ground chicken in a stainless steel bowl.  Add soy sauce, 1 tsp kosher salt, 1 tsp black pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon onion powder.  Mix well until seasonings are evenly distributed throughout meat.

3. With wet hands, form the ground meat mixture into quarter-sized balls.  Measuring with a tablespoon helps to keep the size consistent.

4.  As you form each ball, gently drop it into the simmering water.

5.  Once all the balls are in the water.  Wait another two minutes until the balls are cooked.

6.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meatballs to a sheet pan lined with paper towels.  Allow the meatballs to cool completely.

7.  While the meatballs are cooling, set up the breading station.   Use three baking dishes or bowls. In the first dish, measure the a-p flour.

8.  In the second dish, whisk together the eggs and the buttermilk.

9.  Lastly, in the third dish, measure the panko bread crumbs, the garlic powder, and the remaining kosher salt, pepper, and onion powder.  Stir with a whisk to combine.

10.  Set up the dishes in a row.  Coat each meatball first with the flour, the egg, and lastly the bread crumb mixture.

11.  Place breaded meatballs on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper in a single layer.

12.  Place the sheet pan in the freezer.  Once the nuggets are frozen, transfer them to a freezer bag.  Store in the freezer for up to two months.

When you are ready to enjoy some chicken nuggets, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Pull out as many nuggets as you need.  Place them on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.  Cook in the oven for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.


Mexican Chicken and Roasted Veggie Dinner Salad


Yaaaay summer!  I love it.  I’m so glad it’s here.  The best thing about summer is the food. I love grilling, berries, melon, peaches, and the bounty of fresh vegetables.  I love being inspired to reinvent food like fresh salsas and slaw. I’m so excited to be back in the South and to reap the benefits of the long growing season.  No offense to my sweet yankee friends.  I really do miss you and all of your varieties of kale.

Seasonality is ingrained in me.  In the winter I tend to eat a lot of soups and stews, and I drink red wine.  In the summer I drink white wine and I love to eat salads.  I take the development and construction of my salads quite seriously.  Like a fine work of art, there must be a balance of salty, sour, creamy, and most importantly, crunch.  This Mexican Chicken and Roasted Veggie Salad has all of the above.  It’s tasty, satisfying, packed with veggies, and oh so good for you!  There is no need for dressing in this salad. The marinade for the chicken and veggies provide enough bold flavor without the added calories of dressing. This delicious and filling dinner is only 375 calories.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Make the marinade.  Squeeze the juice of one lime into a bowl.


Add two cloves of fresh garlic, finely chopped.


Add 1/2 cup of white wine vinegar, 2 tsps ground cumin, 2 tsps chili powder, 2 tsps black pepper,  2 tsps ground coriander, and stir to combine.  I usually don’t add salt to meat or vegetables until right before I cook them.  The salt tends to draw out the moisture.


Spoon half of the marinade over the boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  Reserve the remaining marinade for the vegetables. This recipe serves two.  Each salad gets half a chicken breast.  There are three pictured here.  I like to be efficient and cook extra chicken to have in the fridge for quick lunches and dinners.


Be sure that the chicken is covered evenly with the marinade. Set the chicken aside at room temperature for 20-30 minutes, turning the chicken over with a pair of tongs, halfway through.


In the meantime, prepare the vegetables.  Chef tip:  Heat the sheet pan in the oven so the vegetables sizzle when you pour them on the pan.  This will keep them from sticking to the pan.  It works really well with potatoes, too.  French cut the onion, and cut the zuchinni lengthwise, and then into half moons.  Trim the rough part off of the bottom of the asparagus.  Cut into two inch pieces, keeping the size similar to the other vegetables. Cut the bell pepper into strips, similar in size to the other vegetables as well. Clean the corn.


Add the vegetables (except for the corn) to a large bowl.


Pour the remaining marinade over the vegetables.  Add two tsps Diamond Krystal kosher salt (if using Morton’s add one tsp) and one Tblsp olive oil.  Toss well to combine.

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Remove the hot sheet pan from the oven.  Pour the vegetables onto the pan and spread evenly with a spatula. Return pan to the top rack of the oven.


Place the cleaned corn right on the lower rack.


Roast the corn for 10 minutes.  Roast the rest of the vegetables for 15-20 minutes, until tender and slightly browned.


Once the corn is cool enough to handle, cut the kernels off of the cob.  Set aside.

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While the vegetables are cooking, start cooking the chicken.  Get a cast iron skillet or heavy bottomed saute pan hot over medium high heat. Generously salt the top side of the chicken breasts.


Add the chicken breasts to the hot pan, salted side down. Generously salt the other side of the chicken breasts.


Cover the pan and cook for about 8 minutes. Remove the cover.  Using tongs, turn the chicken breasts over.  Replace the cover, and cook 5 to 8 minutes more, until the chicken is just cooked through.  If you are unsure, temp the chicken with a thermometer at 155 degrees.  Allow the chicken to rest for 8 to 10 minutes.

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While the chicken is resting, roast the pumpkin seeds.  Turn the oven down to 350 degrees.  Place 1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds on a sheet pan.  Toast in the oven for about 10 minutes, until just golden brown.


Now that you have all of the prep done, it’s time to build the salad.  Start with two cups of fresh greens per plate.   Here I’ve used arugula and spinach.


Top with about 1 1/2 to 2 cups of roasted vegetables.  This is the beauty of vegetables, you can add as many or as little as you like. Divide the corn kernels betweet the two salads.


Take one chicken breast.  Cut it in half lengthwise.  Place the cut side down and cut each half into bite sized pieces and place each half of pieces on each plate.  Divide the toasted pumpkin seeds between the two plates, and sprinkle on top.  Lastly, top with two Tblsps of goat cheese feta. If you’d rather substitute cow feta, that is fine.  I found a lovely goat cheese feta at my local farmer’s market. Fabulous!  This entree salad adds up to 375 calories. Oh, did I forget to mention that it’s gluten-free?



Serves Two


Juice of one lime

1/2 cup white wine vinegar

2 garlic cloves, diced very small

2 tsps ground cumin

2 tsps chili powder

2 tsps black pepper

2 tsps ground coriander


1 each boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I usually cook extra just to have around)

1 each yellow onion

1 bunch asparagus

1 red bell pepper

2 each medium zuchinni

2 tsps Diamond Krystal Kosher Salt (use 1 tsp if using Morton’s)

1 Tblsp olive oil

2 ears of sweet corn

1/4 cup pumpkin seeds

4 Tblsps goat cheese feta

4 cups fresh greens (arugula, spinach, lettuce mix, baby kale, or any combination of these)


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Make the marinade.  Place lime juice, garlic, cumin, chili powder, coriander, black pepper, and white wine vinegar in a bowl.  Mix to combine.

2. Spoon half of the marinade over chicken. Reserve the other half for the vegetables.  Set the chicken aside at room temperature for 20-30 minutes, turning halfway through.

3. Place a clean sheet pan in the oven.  Prepare vegetables.  French cut the onion, cut the zucchini horizontally, and then into half moons.  Cut the rough end off of the bottom of the asparagus.  Cut the asparagus stalks into 2 inch pieces.  Cut the red pepper into strips.  All of the vegetables should be similar in size.  Clean the corn.

4. Place all of the vegetables except for the corn into a large bowl.  Add remaining marinade, kosher salt, and olive oil.  Toss well to combine. Remove sheet pan from oven and pour the vegetables on the pan, spreading evenly with a spatula.  Be careful not to burn yourself on the hot pan.  Return pan to the oven on the top rack.  Place the corn directly on the bottom rack. Roast corn for about 10 minutes.  Roast the other vegetables for 15-20 minutes until tender and starting to brown. Remove from oven and set aside. Once the corn is cool enough to handle cut the corn off of the cob and set aside.

5.  Heat a cast iron or heavy bottomed skilled over medium high heat.   Generously salt the chicken on the side facing up.  Spray pan quickly with olive oil pan spray and place the chicken salted side down in the pan.  Generously salt the other side of the chicken.  Cover the pan and cook for about 8 minutes.   Remove cover and turn the chicken over with a pair of tongs.  Replace cover and cook another 5-8 minutes until chicken is just cooked or a thermometer reads 155.   Rest chicken for 8-10 minutes.

6. Reduce oven to 350 degrees.  Place raw pumpkin seeds on a sheet pan and toast in the oven until golden brown, about 10 minutes.

7.  Build the salad.  Divide greens between two plates.  Top with 1 1/2 to 2 cups of the roasted vegetables.  Place half of the corn on each salad. Cut the chicken into bite sized pieces and divide between the two plates.  Sprinkle each plate with half of the pumpkin seeds and 2 Tblsps of goat feta.

Enjoy!  375 calories and gluten free!

Spicy Chicken Lettuce Wraps


I just love Asian food.  The combination of bold flavors of spicy, salty, sweet, and sour are so satisfying.  My favorite go to dinners involve throwing all sorts of veggies, chicken or tofu, and maybe some rice noodles or brown rice into a rich chicken stock; or wrapping them up in some rice paper or a large lettuce leaf.  My favorite summer go to potluck item is some delightful summer vegetable and herb spring rolls with a pungent dipping sauce.

These spicy chicken lettuce wraps were inspired by those, and by a need to use up some leftover cooked chicken in my fridge. Aside from chopping some veggies, they are simple and easy to prepare and require no cooking.  The only calories I count in these come from the chicken and the soy/vinegar dipping sauce.  The calorie count comes in at 43 per roll!!!   If the chicken and veggies aren’t enough for you, feel free to slip some cooked rice noodles or rice into your rolls.  Enjoy this low calorie, gluten-free, delicious, warm weather dinner!

Start by preparing your chicken.  You could use a supermarket rotisserie chicken.  Pick the chicken off of the bone and shred, being careful to remove all tendons and fat.


Once you have your chicken prepared, set aside.


Next, prep your veggies.  I like to start with some nice fresh greens.  Here, I’ve used arugula and baby spinach.  Lettuce mixes work well, too. Be sure that your greens are thoroughly washed and dried.


Mix the greens with three cups finely shredded cabbage. My favorite is savoy cabbage, but any kind will do.  Just make sure you chop it very finely.


Next, cut some peppers into a matchstick size or julienne.  To get a nice small matchstick size, it helps to remove the membrane of the pepper.  I like to do this so I don’t have big honking pieces of pepper, but I slice the membrane into matchsticks and add it into my mix, so I don’t waste.



Next peel and cut about 4 small carrots into the same matchstick size.  I find these “T” style peelers essential to prepping vegetables.  They work way better than the straight kind.


Once your vegetables are cut, set aside.


Herbs are essential to the flavor profile of this dish.  Be sure to was your herbs, spin them in a lettuce crisper, and drain on paper towels.  I use two parts cilantro to one part basil to one part fresh mint.

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Finely chop the herbs.  If you gather the herbs into a tight ball or cigar shape, it makes it a lot easier to chop them fine.


Add the herbs to the bowl with the greens and toss well to combine, set aside.


Now you are ready to make the sauce.  Start with soy sauce.  I like to use a nice tamari because it’s gluten free. Pour 1/4 cup into a bowl.


Pour half a cup of rice wine vinegar into the same bowl with the soy sauce.  Be sure to use the kind that is unseasoned.


Finely chop two teaspoons of fresh ginger and add to the bowl.


Finely chop a large garlic clove and add to the bowl.


Lastly, add either 2 tsps hot chili paste or a finely chopped fresh serrano or jalapeno chili, and the juice of one lime to the sauce. Stir to mix well.


Now, gather some fresh, somewhat large lettuce leaves.  I recommend Boston lettuce because it is the most tender, but green leaf or romaine will work too.  Gather all of the ingredients or mis en plas together.


Isn’t it beautiful?  Now you are ready to eat.  Have your guests assemble each roll and dip as they go along.  It’s a fun  and interactive dinner. To assemble each roll, start with a lettuce leaf.  Add about 1/2 cup of the greens and herb mixture.  Next, add two or three each of the carrot and pepper sticks.  Lastly, add about 1/8 cup of the prepared chicken.  Roll it up and dip away.  Delicious!


Easy, simple, tasty, gluten-free, and only 43 calories/roll = excellent summer dining!



makes 12 wraps

For the wraps:

1 1/2 cups cooked chicken, picked and shredded

4 cups fresh greens (lettuce mix, arugula, baby spinach, sprouts, etc.)

3 cups finely shredded cabbage

1 red bell pepper, cut into matchsticks

4 small carrots, cut into matchsticks

1 bunch cilantro, washed, dried, and chopped fine

1/2 bunch fresh basil, washed, dried, and chopped fine

1/2 bunch fresh mint, washed, dried, and chopped fine

12 each clean boston, romaine, or green leaf lettuce leaves

For the dipping sauce:

1/4 cup tamari soy sauce

1/2 cup unseasoned rice wine vinegar

2 tsps fresh ginger, chopped fine

1 large garlic clove, chopped fine

2 tsps asian chili paste or 1 jalapeno or serrano chili, chopped fine

juice of one lime


1.  Place the greens and the shredded cabbage in a large bowl, mix to combine, set aside.

2. Place the matchsticks of red pepper and carrot on a small plate, set aside.

3.  Add the chopped herbs to the bowl with the greens and cabbage and toss well to combine, set aside.

4.  Make the sauce.  Add the soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, ginger, garlic, chili paste or chilis, and lime juice to a small bowl and mix to combine.

5.  Set out the prepped vegetables, bowl of greens, cabbage and herbs, prepared chicken, and lettuce leaves with the dipping sauce on your dining table.

6.  Assemble the wraps as you eat.  To assemble: take a lettuce leaf, top with about 1/2 cup of the greens and herbs mixture, about three each of the red pepper and carrot matchsticks, and lastly, about 1/8 cup prepared chicken.  Roll up into a big cigar, and dip into the sauce.

Yield: 12 wraps