Category Archives: hi ho the dairy-o

Chicken Salad with a Crunchy Punch

My husband loves chicken salad.

He loves tuna salad.

They do not love him.  At least not the way they are traditionally made.  Conventional meat salad recipes call for eggs, onions, mayonnaise or a combination of all three, none of which my sweet baboo can eat without terrible digestive side effects, whose details I will spare you.  Over the weekend, he had mentioned having a hankering for chicken salad, and he wondered aloud if it could be made with Greek yogurt.  I assured him that it could be, and promised to make him a batch to eat for lunch a few days this week.  He too is attempting to eat more healthily, so I tried to make a version that was full of flavor, texture and nutrients.  To wit:

A healthier version of traditional chicken salad, this version packs a one-two protein punch from chicken breast and lowfat Greek yogurt and crunch from celery and slivered almonds.

This was exceptionally easy to whip up, and took very little time and effort.  Here’s how I did it.

You will need:

  • 1 whole boneless, skinless chicken breast, poached and diced into bite-size pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups Greek yogurt, like Fage (I used the 2% milkfat version)
  • 1/2 cup celery, cut into small dice
  • 1/2 cup seedless red grapes, halved
  • 1/4 cup blanched slivered almonds
  • salt and white pepper to taste

In a large sized mixing bowl, place the diced chicken, almonds, celery and grape halves.   Pour the yogurt on top and stir everything together to combine, taking care to coat the meat, veggies, fruit and nuts with the yogurt.  Store in the refrigerator, covered.

This recipe made 3 cups of chicken salad, which my husband is looking forward to eating on for the rest of the week at lunchtime.


Savory Breakfast Strata

It’s a snowy day here in the Metroplex, which is an event that is truly a rarity for us here in North Texas.  It began snowing this morning around 11, and hasn’t stopped yet.  The weathermen here are predicting we’ll get around 3 or 4 inches, but I’ll believe it when I see it.  When they cancel school tomorrow, THEN I’ll believe that we’ve had a real winter storm.  Until then…

The cold weather was a good excuse to whip up something warm and stick to your ribs delicious, so I decided to make a breakfast strata.  Strata are casseroles typically made with chunks of bread, an egg custard base, cheese and vegetables or meat (or both).  I decided to convert a series of recipes I’d seen for strata that used full-fat ingredients into one that was more on the healthy side, and that was egg allergy-friendly.  Here was the result:

Chock full o' whole grains, dairy and vegetables...can't go wrong with this one! And it's really easy to make too.

Here’s how I did it.  You will need:

  • 1 cup Egg Beaters (or your favorite egg substitute)
  • 2 cups 2% milk
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1 cup frozen broccoli
  • 4-5 slices whole wheat bread (I used 2 large store-made whole wheat hamburger buns, which I think would equal this much bread)
  • 10 ounces cooked Jimmy Dean reduced fat pork sausage, crumbled
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • cooking spray
  • optional:  paprika

In a skillet, cook the sausage and crumble it as you cook it.  You will notice that since it is super lean, it will render very little fat.  Also, cook your broccoli in a microwave-safe bowl covered with plastic wrap for 2 minutes.  When the broccoli has finished cooking, remove it from the microwave and remove the plastic wrap so that it cools quickly.

Slice your bread into smaller pieces and layer them in a 2-quart baking dish which you have sprayed with cooking spray.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the Egg  Beaters, milk, pepper and 1/4 cup of the cheddar cheese.  Once these items have been thoroughly combined, pour them over the bread in the baking dish.  Distribute the cooled broccoli over the bread-egg base and allow this to sit for 20 minutes.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Once the casserole has had an opportunity to rest a bit, sprinkle the sausage over top of the base, and then sprinkle the rest of the shredded cheese over this.  Cover the pan with foil and bake for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes have passed, remove the foil and let the strata cook for 30 more minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.  Allow the strata to sit for 10 minutes to firm up a bit before cutting into it and serving.

This recipe makes 6 pretty good sized servings.  We had enough for leftovers for tomorrow’s breakfast…hopefully we’ll be able to sleep in tomorrow if the roads are icy and school is cancelled!

Bacon Thyme Risotto

Happy 2011 everyone!  I thought I’d get us started by sharing one of the things I cooked for our New Year’s Eve dinner in.  Since my husband and I have been together, we have always spent New Year’s Eve at home and nearly every year, I’ve fixed a special dinner.  Tonight’s dinner was no exception, as I fixed Alton Brown’s 40 Cloves and a Chicken, wilted spinach (a family favorite here) and a bacon thyme risotto.

I am of the firm belief that bacon improves the flavor of most every dish, grains included.  Risotto is no exception, as many traditional recipes for this dish begin with rendering the fat from pancetta cut into lardons, removing the lardons and then returning them to the finished dish for added flavor.  I did the same with bacon, as I was unable to get any pancetta today while I was out and about.  I figured bacon would be a good substitute.  After all, it is bacon, which is meat candy.

Risotto is a dish that until about 5 years ago, I was clueless about.  I learned how to cook it at a mini cooking class sponsored by my alma mater during an alumni leadership weekend, and have made it several times since then because it is so stinkin’ easy to fix.  I’d always been under the misconception that it was a dish that took forever, but really, it’s one that just requires some babysitting and some patience.  Also, adding the stock while it is hot is key, and testing the toothiness of the rice grains as the cooking process happens is important.

The result of all this?  So. Totally. Worth it.

Bacon makes everything better, especially risotto!

This particular risotto uses a very rich chicken stock (hence the yellowy coloring of the rice), fresh thyme, some Parmesan cheese and of course, bacon.  Here’s how I did it.

You will need:

  • 1/2 cup Arborio rice (this is the gold standard for risotto.  Other rice types can be used, but Arborio yields a very creamy texture in the finished product due to all the starch released during the cooking process)
  • 3 cups HOT chicken stock (I kept mine in a saucepan on medium heat next to my risotto pan)
  • 4 slices bacon, cut into lardons, rendered of their fat (use the fat for another purpose.  I used it to wilt the spinach we ate)
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmigiano Reggiano (for the love of all that is holy, do NOT use that junk in the green shaker can)
  • 3 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves stripped
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh minced garlic (you can also add a bit of minced onion, I omit it due to food allergy issues)

In a large skillet, heat your olive oil on medium-high heat.  Add the minced garlic (and onion, if you choose to add it here) and let saute for a minute or two.  Next, add the rice and stir so that all the grains get a nice coating of oil.  Allow the rice to brown slightly, about 3 minutes or so.

Add the stock, a ladle at a time, stirring constantly to incorporate the stock fully into the rice.  Turn the heat down to medium and continue stirring the rice and stock until you see that the rice has absorbed nearly all the liquid.  When you see that this has happened, add another ladle of hot stock to the pan and repeat two more times.  Remember to keep stirring.  Constant stirring of the rice-stock mixture is critical as it helps the rice to release its starches, giving it that creamy texture characteristic of risottos.  You will notice that while you stir, you will see the rice start to take on a creamy appearance.  It is a good idea toward the end of the cooking to sneak a grain of rice from the pan and test its doneness by biting into it.  The grain should not be completely mushy, but should feel a bit sticky when biting into it.  This whole process took me about 20-25 minutes.

Once the rice has absorbed the stock, you will notice it has increased in volume 3 or 4 fold.  At this point, stir in the lardons of bacon, the Parmesan and the fresh thyme.  Stir until the cheese is completely incorporated into the rice and serve hot.

This recipe served two as a side dish with no leftovers.  It can be doubled to feed more, or to have leftovers, but I am pretty sure there won’t be any.