Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Lemon Ginger Grilled Chicken

The end of summer is creeping up more quickly than I'd prefer, and that means grilling recipes will eventually have to wait until next Spring in most parts of the U.S.  This grilling recipe, however, can also be prepared under the broiler, so, thankfully, we'll all be able to enjoy it year round. 

Normally, grilled chicken doesn't do much for me.  Whether it's coated in barbecue sauce or one of a million other marinades, it just typically doesn't stand out for me on the plate, no matter how seasoned the grill master.  That is, until we tried this recipe. 

Ever since trying this grilled chicken, I now happily put it in the regular rotation.  I should've known the CIOA wouldn't fail me!  The flavors in this marinade are beyond delicious and bright, which make it the perfect staple for an end of summer Labor Day weekend BBQ.  Serve it alongside an ear of corn or your favorite veggies roasted on the grill and you're well on your way to a perfect summer meal.  Even better, leftovers (if you have any) go perfectly chopped up and thrown in a salad for lunch the next day.  Easy, delicious, and serves double duty when it comes to menu planning?  That's a win in my book.  And since my toddler happily scarfed it down with us, that makes it a BIG win.  Can't wait to try it under the broiler when the weather turns colder!

Lemon Ginger Grilled Chicken

3 lbs. chicken breasts or thighs, boneless, skinless
4 tablespoons lemon zest
2/3 cup lemon juice
4 teaspoons fresh ginger, peeled and minced
4 teaspoons light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 tablespoon salt, or to taste
4 Szechuan chili peppers, dried seeds removed

1.    Combine lemon zest, lemon juice, ginger, brown sugar, oil, salt, and chili peppers in a large zip-locking plastic bag. 
2.    Add the chicken to the bag, squeeze out the air, and seal.  Toss it around a bit to make sure the marinade coats all of the chicken and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes (preferably an hour or so).  Flip the bag occasionally while marinating. 
3.    Spray the grill or broiler rack with nonstick spray.  Preheat the grill or broiler on high.  Position the rack about 5 inches from the heat source if broiling. 
4.    Remove chicken from zip-locking bag.  Discard remaining marinade.  Grill or broil the chicken until cooked through, about 6 minutes per side.

Serves 8

Note:  Don't be afraid of the dried chili peppers in this recipe (you could probably leave them out if you want), but it really was not a "spicy" dish.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Homemade Taco Seasoning

Never again will I buy pre-packaged taco seasoning from the store, and after you try this homemade version, I doubt you ever will either.  Not only is this beyond easy (the only steps are measure, dump, mix, and it will take you all of 3 minutes to make...if you're slow), but it's also so much healthier and cheaper.  Speaking of healthier, have you ever looked at the ingredients on a packet of store-bought taco seasoning? 

Well here is the list of ingredients from one popular brand (that shall remain nameless...but spelled backwards is Agetro) that I recently spotted: 

Yellow Corn Flour, Salt, Maltodextrin, Paprika, Spices, Modified Corn Starch, Sugar, Garlic Powder, Citric Acid, Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Natural Flavor, Caramel Color (sulfites).

I'm no registered dietitian, but I do know that I rarely find many of those ingredients in my pantry.  I do, on the other hand, have a spice rack already full of the stuff needed to make this homemade taco seasoning below!  And if you're anything like me, I would much prefer to eat what's already in my spice rack than what's on that ingredient list above.  It's pretty much a no-brainer. 

I mean, really, autolyzed yeast extract?  Did you know that's just a less expensive substitute for MSG  and raises similar concerns?  Thanks, but no thanks.  I'll stick to my spice rack.

Oh, and did I mention the best benefit?  This recipe costs a fraction of the store-bought variety and you can even make it ahead of time and store it in an air-tight container (or an empty spice jar as I did) so you will always have it on hand when you need it!  Need I say more?  Now go make it!

I recently did (for the second time), and I used it in this Crock Pot Chicken Taco Soup with excellent results.

Homemade Taco Seasoning
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2 Tablespoons chili powder
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon oregano


1.  Measure all spices into a small bowl and mix well.  Store in an air-tight container until ready to use. 

Yield:  4 Tablespoons (approx 2 oz.)

Notes:  Approximately 2.5 - 3 Tablespoons = one packet

Source: Slightly adapted from Allrecipes.
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