In addition to figuring out how to eat, apparently I'm still figuring out how to cook.
Have you ever noticed that a chicken breast at a restaurant tastes like 1000 times better than a chicken breast at home?
I figured out why.
They abuse the chicken in restaurants.
I've been just rinsing off my boneless skinless chicken breasts (yes, I can cut up a whole chicken into the right pieces, I just don't always want to, thank you very much) and using them the way they come packaged. They're about as thick as they are wide, you know what I mean?
Well, folks, I am here to tell you that if you pound them with a mallet (or a rolling pin if you're nutty like me) until they're about 1/2 inch thick, it's a whole new world!
Here's what you do - put the chicken in a Ziplock bag and beat the stuffin' out of it. You want to start at the middle and kind of work your way to the edges, abusing firmly and yet not so much that you've got chips of chicken flying all over.
Don't worry. Chicken is very forgiving. Even if you gouge the top, it's not going to matter once it's cooked.
Oh, and you want to pound on the side where the skin was, not the side where the ribs were.
Although I occasionally flip mine over just to be thorough.
There really aren't any rules here.
When you use the chicken as packaged, it takes eons to cook through, resulting in chicken that's dry and half-burned on the outside and still pink on the inside, right? You end up having to nuke it while your husband is politely spitting half cooked chicken into his napkin and suggesting take out.
When you beat it (pause so you can all hum Michael Jackson........ ok, moving right along) before you cook it, several things happen:
1) the beating itself breaks down the tissue in such a way that it's much more tender and easy to chew.
2) it cooks more evenly (because it's a more uniform thickness), which leads to...
3) it stays juicy and doesn't dry out and taste like shoe leather.
And DIET BONUS - it looks like a huge portion. Do not underestimate the impact your eyes have on how hungry or full you feel. They've done experiments where people eat breakfast on one day without a blindfold, then they blindfold them the next day, and they inevitably eat more when they can see what's on the plate. Your eyes have a huge influence on your appetite ("eyes bigger than stomachs" etc.) so if the portion looks huge you'll feel fuller even though you've eaten the same amount less. (Incidentally, this is also why I eat my soup in these cute square serving dishes (mine are solid colors, not tiled, but anyway) that my Bonus Mom got me from Pampered Chef instead of from a big bowl - it looks like more soup in the cute square dish).
So tonight I got a package of 3 chicken breasts and I figured that each one was roughly 10 ounces (hello, Dolly!). Make sure you're weighing your chicken (or at least looking at the package weight and dividing by the number of pieces in there) because one chicken breast is not a serving. Remember, a serving of meat is 4 ounces. A ten ounce chicken breast is two and a half servings.
I rinsed off the chicken in cold water. I always do this. I don't know if it does any good, but I do. Then Claire and I got out our rolling pins and beat them down (inside a Ziplock bag) until they were about 1/2" thick. I put a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet and sprayed it with Pam. Then I sprinkled each breast with Lawry's Seasoned Salt and garlic powder. After that I measured a tablespoon of bread crumbs (Progresso) and sprinkled one tablespoon onto each of the 3 chicken breasts. Then I took out the butter and shaved off the thinnest slices I could manage with a sharp knife, and placed two extremely thin pats of butter on top of each breast... I'm estimating that it was a total of a tablespoon of butter, but it was probably less.
I baked 'em for about 20 minutes, maybe 25, in a 375 oven.
When they were done I let them "rest" for a minute (they'd been through a lot! Beaten, baked...). Then I sliced each one in half.
The kids each ate 1/4 of a breast, and BJ and I each had a half, which means that one package of chicken is now good for two meals in our house, not just one. Bonus!! (Makes six 5 ounce servings that weigh in at 208 calories each, and only 3.33 grams of fat. I've named this recipe "Abused Chicken," and you can find it on Livestrong.com)
You can absolutely lose weight on a budget. If this isn't a cheap, quick, healthy, tasty meal, I don't know what is! I served it with frozen broccoli/cauliflower/carrot blend (bought in bulk at Walmart for around $6 I think, and it's easily enough for 6 meals for the family) and Stove Top. Have I told you my trick for Stove Top yet?
You know how it says to boil 1-1/2 cups of water and 1/4 cup of butter, then add the package and wait, then "fluff." Well, I've been using 1-3/4 cups of water and 10 - 15 squirts of I Can't Believe It's Not Butter spray, and so far no one has noticed.
When you do this, you can count the "as packaged" calories (110) rather than the "as prepared" calories (160) per serving, plus it's lower fat. Serving size - 1/2 cup.
Also, I don't add butter to Kraft Mac & Cheese anymore. Just a splash of milk. No one has noticed.
What clever tricks have you figured out?