With the start of the new school year, now is the time to revamp lunches…
Chicken is a great and affordable source of protein. One 3.5-ounce chicken breast packs as many as 23 grams of protein and 120 calories. How much protein should you eat in a day? According to the National Institutes of Health, the recommended dietary allowance of protein is 0.80 grams of good quality protein per kilogram of body weight (or about 0.36 grams per pound).
Unfortunately, bland chicken is not the most appetizing meal. Try these flavor tricks from SilverSneakers to upgrade your chicken recipe while still keeping health a priority.
Marinate for 30 to 90 Minutes Before Cooking
Marinating your chicken is an easy way to add flavor and tenderize the meat. You will need enough marinade to fully coat your meat without drowning it. After marinating, you can either pat your chicken dry or leave it coated in a little bit of marinade.
The following recipes yield about one cup of marinade, which will cover about one pound of chicken (or about two to three chicken breasts).
- Lemon-Garlic Marinade: ¾ cup olive oil, ¼ cup lemon juice, 4 cloves crushed garlic, 1 teaspoon paprika and a pinch of salt
- Balsamic Marinade: ¾ cup olive oil, ¼ cup balsamic vinegar, 2 teaspoons fresh oregano and a pinch of salt
- Peanut-Soy Marinade: ⅔ cup peanut oil, ¼ cup rice vinegar and 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- Sweet and Tangy Marinade: ¾ cup canola oil, ¼ cup apple cider vinegar, 3 tablespoons maple syrup and a pinch of salt
- Lazy Chef’s Marinade: Simply use Sriracha or barbecue sauce as your marinade. With salt, acid and rich flavor, these condiments are a great shortcut. Since there is minimal fat in either sauce, only marinate chicken breasts for 30 minutes to keep them from drying out.
Add a Spice Rub
Sometimes you do not have time to marinate and just need to get cooking. Try a spice rub to quickly give your chicken a much-needed upgrade without the messy cleanup.
The following recipes yield enough rub for about one pound of chicken. You can store any extra rub in a Tupperware container.
- Chili-Lime Rub: 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon paprika, 1 teaspoon salt and the zest of 1 lime
- Fall Flavors Rub: 1 tablespoon cumin, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon ground pepper
- Mole Rub: 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1 tablespoon paprika, 2 teaspoons cumin, 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano, 2 teaspoons brown sugar, 1 teaspoon cocoa powder and 1 teaspoon salt
- Classic Poultry Seasoning Rub: 1 teaspoon dried basil, 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon garlic powder, ½ teaspoon mustard powder and ½ teaspoon black pepper
An easy shortcut to add flavor to your chicken is to coat it in pesto before roasting at 350 F for 35 to 40 minutes. You can buy pesto at the store or you can make your own.
To make your own pesto, combine the following ingredients in a food processor:
- 2 packages (around 2 ounces) basil leaves, chopped
- ¼ cup whole almonds
- Juice of ½ lemon
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 to 4 cloves garlic
Slow Cook and Shred
If you ever tire of eating whole or sliced chicken breasts, try shredded chicken to switch it up. Adding salsa will bring extra flavor to this simple meal. You can then use the meat on your salads, in tacos or a casserole.
Add the following ingredients to a slow cooker and cook on high for three to four hours. Once done, remove the chicken and shred using a pair of forks. You can store the shredded chicken in a Tupperware dish and keep in your refrigerator for up to four days. If you want an extra kick, try adding ½ cup of hot sauce.
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- ½ cup chicken broth
- ½ cup salsa or salsa verde
- Salt and pepper to taste
Stuff Your Chicken with Vegetables, Herbs and Cheese
While it may sound hard, stuffing chicken breasts is surprisingly easy. Slice the chicken breasts crosswise so that each one opens like a book, and then add a mixture of chopped vegetables, herbs and cheese before folding each chicken breast closed. Season with salt and pepper, and then roast at 350 F for 30 to 35 minutes.
Coronation Chicken Salad
While traditionally made with a lot of mayonnaise, this recipe substitutes a combination of mayonnaise and Greek yogurt to lower the fat count and add protein.
Mix the following ingredients and then serve over a salad or on sandwiches.
- 1-pound chicken breast, cooked and cut into small cubes
- ⅓ cup mayonnaise
- ⅓ cup plain Greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons chopped white onion
- 1 tablespoon chopped dried apricots or raisins
- 1 tablespoon chopped almonds
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
- 2 teaspoons curry powder
- ½ teaspoon mustard powder