Guest Author: Monda Rosenberg
For a detailed explanation of how chicken stacks up against other proteins, go to the Health section of chicken.ca, click on Nutritional Comparison and, with a few more clicks, you’ll see how well it stacks up against other popular choices.
When your dinner hour is time crunched, as is the case for many of us, ground chicken is a smart choice. A 400 gram package can be cooked in about 10 minutes. And don’t forget, it works beautifully in place of the ground meat that you may have traditionally used as the base for top-rated family favourites including tacos, chili, spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna and enchiladas.
Since ground chicken is both tender and shy on fat, it should be treated kindly. Instead of beginning by browning over high heat —as is often called for with ground meat—start with heating the chicken in a little oil over medium-low. Work chicken with a fork to keep it crumbly. Once the pink hue has disappeared, you can cover, lower the heat and simmer the chicken in its own juices, or add a sauce such as a flavour-bursting curry, tomato or salsa — and let it simmer away.
There is nothing complicated about making burgers with ground chicken. You don’t have to add anything beyond the seasonings you usually put in your burgers. (Check below for more spicing ideas.) But to ensure they are moist, since ground chicken has less fat than lean ground beef, tear up a slice of bread and soak it in a whisked egg (a dollop or two of yogurt or sour cream also helps). Let this sit 15 minutes so the bread soaks up the liquid. Then work it into the ground chicken. This goes a long way for keeping them together, as well as moist and juicy. Another trick: Add shreds or crumbles of cheese or grated butter to the chicken, then form into patties (wet hands make it easier). While soft, they’re easy to slip into a pan. Lightly brown over medium, about 2 minutes a side. Then cover, lower the heat and cook about 4 minutes a side.
Seasonings to choose from: tarragon, poultry seasoning, curry powder, cumin, smoked paprika
If you want to turn up the heat try: dried chili flakes, cayenne, ancho chili powder, Montreal chicken spice, finely-chopped jalapenos, jerk seasoning, Cajun seasoning, mashed-up chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, Sriracha sauce or dashes of other hot sauce.
Lively Add-ins: crumbles of feta, chèvre or blue cheese; shredded Asiago or cheddar; finely-chopped olives or sun-dried tomatoes, crumbed crisp bacon, dashes of teriyaki or tamari sauce
Sauté In: garlic butter, sesame oil, flavoured olive oil.
Now let’s roll on to meatballs, they’re just as easy to make (especially when you use wet hands to shape) and you can sauté and simmer in a sauce or bake them. The easiest route: Form them into balls and, as each is shaped, toss into a simmering pasta sauce. They’re ready about 10 minutes later, without a lot of pot watching. Or bake at 375°F (190°C) about 15 minutes and they won’t even need to be turned. Check out Korean Meatballs in Barbeque Sauce for an Asian dinner and Mini Mexican Meatballs for a comforting, casual appetizer.
Never underestimate the potential of ground chicken for entertaining. You can feed a crowd at a fraction of the price of a big roast.
With the party season fast approaching, keep ground chicken in mind to jump-start easy make-ahead casseroles such as Chicken Lasagna Roll Ups (a lighter healthier version than most, which uses whole-wheat lasagna noodles) and Roasted Red Pepper & Chicken Lasagna layered with roasted red peppers, spinach and cottage cheese.
For your Christmas Eve open house this year, why not switch it up: instead of serving a traditional tourtière pie, go healthier with our Modern Light Tourtière. It cuts calories by using chicken instead of the classic three different ground meats. And instead of encasing the savoury filling in a fussy crust, you have the option of wrapping the flavourful mixture in buttery lettuce leaves, then dabbing with hoisin or Asian chili sauce.
But no need to wait until party time! The mixture benefits from being made a day or two ahead, so plan on a Light Tourtière meal to welcome you home after holiday shopping. Cook it up on the weekend or make way ahead and freeze. All you’ll have to do is heat it up. And since it includes diced carrot and uses oatmeal for thickening, it’s definitely a contender for the super-healthy club, delivering a jolly amount of protein and only 314 calories. Happily, that leaves room for a little Christmas cookie munching.
Want to go elegant? Then present Persian Phyllo Tarts with Pistashios, or Crispy Samosa Rolls , which can both be made ahead. If you’re throwing a cocktail soiree and want substantial offerings, consider our saucy Chili Cranberry Fusion Meatballs or Fab Fajita Sliders.
For every day, you can also feel good about making either the meatballs or sliders into a complete meal. Top the sliders with sliced tomatoes or roasted peppers, and tuck into whole-grain rolls. Our Mexican Meatball recipe includes directions for making them main-course size. Since they’re plumped up with grated cheese and simmered in tomato sauce fired with low-cal salsa, you get a whooping amount of protein along with calcium, iron and essential vitamins—and all this rolls in at under 400 calories. Whether you’re noshing on the petite appetizer size or delving into the entrée version, you don’t have to feel any pangs of guilt. Toss with whole-wheat pasta, spoon over brown rice, quinoa or roll in a whole grain tortilla and you can feel even better.
And remember what a treat it is to come home to comforting chili bubbling away. Among the easy express versions on chicken.ca are Speedy Eight Ingredient Chicken Chili and Chicken & White Bean Chili. Also, check out the sloppy Joes and shepherd’s pie recipes for satisfying substantial weekday dinners.