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Posted on May 9, 2012 in Food, Recipes | 15 comments

Baked Chick-Fil-A Nuggets

Something bad is looming on the horizon.

A Chick-Fil-A is about to open a mile from my house.

I know. I KNOW.

Soon I will have unfettered access to the world’s most delectable little nuggets of chicken-y goodness… and waffle fries.

This does not bode well for me. We had a Chick-Fil-A on campus at JMU and… well, you already know how I ended up my senior year, haha. Since moving up here, though, the closest restaurant location is still quite a ways from where I live and work, so there hasn’t been too much of an issue with OD’ing on the chicken. Well, apparently that will be changing come June.

I just love those nuggets so much! And while yes, there are far worse things that I could be eating in the realm of fast food, I still don’t really NEED an extra 400 calories and 18 grams of fat for the nugs, PLUS an additional 390 calories and 20 grams of fat from the fries (and that’s without dipping sauce!) in my daily diet. (Chick-Fil-A nutrition info can be found here.)

So, in the interest of saving myself the agony of prolonging my weight loss efforts any longer than necessary, I decided that I had better be proactive about this.

Enter Iowa Girl Eats’ recipe for homemade Chick-Fil-A nuggets. Sean and I made these a month or so ago, and they are really delicious. The key? Marinating your nugs in pickle juice! They really do give them that same juicy flavor you get from the restaurant. Apparently the word is that Chick-Fil-A actually injects their chicken with pickle juice? Go figure.

Of course, while her recipe doesn’t call for deep-frying in peanut oil, like the professionals at Chick-Fil-A do, it does still call for not a small amount of oil. So this time around, with the craving for Chick-Fil-A bright in my mind, I decided to try baking them instead. Y’know, save myself a couple hundred calories so that I can shovel down MOAR CHIKEN instead. ;)

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I still coated them with flour to give them a little bit of a crispness to the outside, and I also adapted the marinade just a little bit from the original recipe. You guys might not agree, but for me, True Lover of Pickles, I just didn’t find the pickle flavor to be enough last time, hehe.

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I’m not going to lie to you and say that these are JUST as good as the original. I mean, c’mon, baked-something never really compares with fried-something on the flavor spectrum. But that said, these are still pretty damn good! They’re moist, fun to eat, and full of flavor. Oh, and super easy, too! This method is far less labor-intensive than pan-frying was, where I had to stand over the sizzling oil and fry them in batches. This is really closer to a set-it-and-forget-it kind of deal.

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Baked Chick-Fil-A Nuggets (adapted from Iowa Girl Eats)
Print this recipe!

These juicy little nuggets are so much fun to eat! Baked instead of deep-fried, they retain all the flavor of the nuggets you love without the extra fat and calories. You could also forgo the flour coating entirely and grill them up instead. Either way, pop them into whatever dipping sauce you like, and enjoy them guilt-free!

Ingredients:

1 package boneless, skinless chicken breasts or chicken tenders
2 cups skim milk
2 cups pickle juice
1 egg
1 1/2 cups all-purpose of whole wheat flour
Salt, pepper, and garlic powder

Instructions:

1. In a sealable bowl or large ziplock bag, combine milk, pickle juice and egg. Season with a little pepper and garlic powder if you like. Cut chicken into small, bite-sized chunks and add to marinade. Allow to marinate for at least 1 hour in the refrigerator.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drain chicken from marinade, and in a separate bowl or large ziplock bag, combine flour with more salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Drop the chicken in, seal up the bowl or bag, and shake it until chicken pieces are thoroughly covered.

3. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray. Spread out chicken nuggets on baking sheet (you may need more than one, or to cook in batches), and bake for 18 – 20 minutes, flipping them over once.

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Nutritional info per 4 oz. serving: 219 calories, 2.8 g fat, 14 g carbs, 31 g protein.

You can really make the marinade for whatever amount you want. I used up an entire package of chicken breast tenders and ended up with a ton (I like having leftovers!), but you can easily just do a single breast’s worth. Since the ratio of milk to pickle juice is 1:1, just adjust accordingly! I served these puppies alongside a salad (romaine, strawberries, and raspberry vinaigrette) and some leftover coleslaw I had that I mixed with a little chopped tomato. Noms!

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I also whipped up a fakey version of Chick-Fil-A sauce (which is basically just honey mustard dressing + barbeque sauce) for some delicious dipping action. Just make sure you don’t go too overboard on the dipping sauces, since that will obviously tack on a lot of extra calories. Bon Appetit!

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Posted on Sep 29, 2011 in Food, Recipes | 43 comments

Roasted Garlic Kale Chips

Oh you guys. You really know how to lift a gal’s spirits. I’m doing my very best not to let yesterday’s weigh-in continue to get me down. So I’m taking a few steps backwards and reverting to the denial stage of my weight gain grieving. Must be water weight, right? ;)

Crisp

I figured that there was no better time to get back on the health horse than with a new recipe to satisfy an old craving. Snacking has always been my downfall. As you guys are probably well aware by now, bad day therapy for the Gretchen of Old included salt, oil, and carrrrbs. Chips, pretzels, fries, Triscuits, Cheez-its… if I had it around, I would eat it. I could demolish an entire canister of Pringles without a second thought (after all, once you pop, you just can’t stop!).

Kale

So I decided to once again try my hand at a tried-and-true bloggers’ favorite: kale chips!

ClovesMashed

Roasted garlic kale chips, to be precise.

Infusion

Well, my fakey version of roasted garlic that is. It might not be oven-roasted, but you kill two birds with one stone this way: you’re not only left with the garlic, but the garlic-infused olive oil too!

Lettuce begin!

I got a huge head (?) of kale at the farmer’s market this past weekend, and couldn’t wait to bust into it. The picture above is of less than half of what I got!

Laid out

This “recipe” (if you can really call it that, seeing as it has 3 ingredients, haha) churned out more kale chips than I knew what to do with. So instead of taking the time to actually figure out how to properly store (refrigerator? Tupperware on counter?) the extras, I just ate it. All of it. Duh.

Pre-baked

Roasted Garlic Kale Chips
Print this recipe!

So easy, and SO simple, these robustly flavored “chips” taste are salty and crisp, but have less than a tablespoon of olive oil for the entire batch!

Ingredients:

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
5 – 8 cloves garlic
4 cups torn kale leaves, rinsed and dried
Kosher salt, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat the olive oil in a small, shallow pan to medium-low heat.

1. Add garlic cloves to oil. Simmer cloves on low until they are soft and translucent, at least 15 minutes.

2. Remove garlic from oil and smash (with mortar & pestle if available, otherwise with the back of a wooden spoon like I did.) Then add 1 tablespoon of the garlic-infused oil and mix. Save the rest of the garlic-infused oil in a container for later use.

3. In a large bowl, coat the kale leaves with the garlic & oil mixture (use your hands!) Ensure that each leaf is lightly but thoroughly covered, adding more oil if necessary. Lay out in a single layer on a baking sheet (it may take 2 – 3 baking sheets or batches), and bake for 5 – 8 minutes, checking frequently as they go from perfect to burnt very quickly.

4. Sprinkle a little salt, let cool, and enjoy!

Kale Chips

Bring it on, snack attacks!

These nutrition stats are if you ate the entire thing yourself (er, not that I know anyone who would do that, of course…) FOUR CUPS OF KALE, and less than 300 calories. Of course, this recipe doesn’t yield four full cups of kale CHIPS due to the whole dehydration-shrinkage thing (hehe… “shrinkage“) but still. I know the fat content is on the high side from the olive oil, but again, most normal people probably know how to share. Keke.

I know I ask variations of this question all the time, but what can I say? I only have so much originality in me. Do you have a particular go-to healthy snack substitution? Kale chips aren’t quite as convenient as my beloved Popchips, but I know every single thing that’s in ‘em which is pretty neat. And they’re still crisp and, of course, delicious, so they definitely hit the spot!

PS: I’ve made a few changes to the sidebar! I’ve changed up the picture at the top, and created buttons for my Amazon store and T-shirt shop. Let me know what you think!

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Posted on Sep 23, 2011 in Food, Recipes | 17 comments

Roasted Red Pepper Pasta

Yesterday was just one of those days. You know, the kind of day where nothing’s in particular is wrong, but nothing’s really right either. But then again, with sushi the day before, the bar was set pretty high.

I woke up thinking it was Friday, the weather was decidedly dreary, and I was generally in just a hum-drum mood. So after trying (and failing) to lift my spirits with far too much caffeine throughout the day, I came home and knew I had to take action. Time for some kitchen therapy!

Chop chop

Chopping soothes the soul.

Aromatics

As does mincing. And dicing. Gotta keep those knife skills “sharp”! (Badoom-ching!)

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I also roasted my first peppers! After only ever buying the pre-roasted kind that comes in a jar, it turns out it is pretty much the easiest thing ever: turn oven onto broil. Put peppers on baking sheet. Broil for 10 minutes, turning twice, until charred.

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Let cool (or, if you’re feeling masochistic, make the same mistake I did and don’t, haha), then peel off the skin. Typing out those words may make me feel creepy, but it’s oddly therapeutic!

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Slice, dice, and done! Meanwhile…

'Shrooms
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Let’s make some magic. The result?

Roasted Red Pepper Pasta 2

A pasta dish that ended up being simultaneously hearty and light, and totally hit the spot! Funny how my idea of “kitchen therapy” has evolved from eating my way through an entire box of Thin Mints in one sitting, eh? I think I may be an even better emotional cooker than emotional eater, haha. The only thing I thought was missing was a touch of fresh basil… which I would have gladly added had my basil plant not been vanquished by my black thumb. Oops.

Black Thumb
R.I.P.

Regardless, it still turned out great! Just the thing to lift my melancholia (well, finally getting to watch the season premiere of Modern Family might also have been a factor.) Behold:

Roasted Red Pepper Pasta

Roasted Red Pepper Pasta
Print this recipe!

This easy pasta is robust and creamy, tasting far guiltier than it is! I like a little zest, but you can make this as spicy as you like. Pair with shrimp or chicken, or enjoy on its own!

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

3 cups whole wheat fusilli (or pasta of your choice)
2 cups diced or sliced roasted red peppers, diced or sliced (or both!)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 small white onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup sliced mushrooms (I used baby bella)
1 can stewed tomatoes
1 cup milk or cream of choice (I used unsweetened almond milk)
1 teaspoon dried basil
Sriracha, optional
Salt & pepper to taste

1. Set pasta water to boil. Broil peppers if necessary. Cook pasta to preference/according to instructions on the box.

2. Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan to medium heat. Sauté garlic and onions with seasonings (basil, salt, pepper) until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook for an additional 3 minutes, or until mushrooms are soft.

3. Add the roasted red peppers, stewed tomatoes, and sriracha (if using.) Add almond milk and bring sauce to a simmer. Reduce sauce until it is of desired thickness, about 5 – 7 minutes.

4. Combine with pasta, and enjoy!

Take a bite!
Bon appetit!

Have a fantastic weekend!

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