I have to admit that I love cookbooks – I have way too many and I’ve been known to read them like novels . . . am I the only crazy one out there? I sure hope not!!! I also have to admit I’m not very good at following recipes – I tend to estimate versus measure and I’m always substituting, adding extra ingredients, etc. One thing I will often do is change things up a bit to make a recipe a little bit healthier. If I find something that looks delicious, I always think about what I could change to add nutrition, remove fat and calories or boost flavor. Then I mark up my cookbook pages with the changes.
Interested in learning how to do that? It takes a little practice to figure out what works and doesn’t work, but here is the basic process:
Example – How to make a recipe healthier: 1. Find a recipe. For this example I’m going to use the Parmesan Chicken recipe from The Barefoot Contessa Family Style Cookbook. It’s actually a pretty decent (health-wise) recipe, but we’ll bump it up a bit!
6 boneless, skinless organic chicken breasts
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 t. sea salt (Real Salt is my favorite brand)
1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper
1 extra-large organic, pasture-raised egg
1 cup dry bread crumbs (here you can really bump up the nutrition and cut down the cost – instead of buying pre-made bread crumbs, save the heels from your healthier bread (I buy a 5 ingredient bread from the local bakery) – give it a quick whirl in the food processor and store it in the freezer until needed)
1/3 cup freshly grated organic parmesan cheese
extra virgin olive oil
3 cups massaged and chopped organic kale, 2 cups organic spinach, 1 cup organic romaine – all washed and spun dry
Lemon vinaigrette (see recipe below)
- Pound the chicken breasts until they are 1/4 inch thick.
- Combine the flour, salt, and pepper on a dinner plate. On a second plate, beat the egg with 1 T. water. On a third plate, combine the bread crumbs and parmesan. Coat the chicken with flour, then dredge in egg and finally in bread crumbs.
- Heat 1 T butter and a drizzle of olive oil in a large saute (or cast iron is even better) pan and cook chicken on medium low for 3-4 minutes on each side until cooked through. You’ll probably have to do this in two batches.
- Toss the greens with the vinaigrette. Place a mound of salad on each chicken breast (or beside it if you have picky eaters).
Vinaigrette – 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice; 1/3 cup good extra virgin olive oil; 1/2 t. sea salt; few turns of freshly cracked black pepper.
This recipe would also be great with chicken tenders (instead of frozen chicken nuggets for your kids), or even with pork tenderloin – yum! Got a super picky eater? Cut one of the chicken breasts into nugget size and serve that eater chicken nuggets with organic ketchup on the side while the rest of you enjoy the full meal. I’d also have to substitute ranch dressing for the vinaigrette for one of my eaters – still a pretty easy substitution.
See how simple that was? I didn’t change much, just pulled out anything processed (bread crumbs, salt and all-purpose flour) and replaced it with a healthier version. I also reduced the quantities of fats (butter and olive oil), and used a better version of the protein (organic chicken and eggs).
Assignment: Find a recipe you’d like to try. Review the recipe and make it as healthy as you can. I’d love for you to come back and share what you did or what you plan on trying in the comments. This can be a very fun and creative way to improve your eating habits!
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