Friday, May 24, 2013

Grilled Chicken Burgers

Happy Friday of Memorial Day weekend!  Not only does Memorial Day officially kick off summer but it marks the start of all the great things that come with it- grilling, swimming, traveling and finding any reason to spend more time outside.  As far as summer cooking goes, I love grilling! It makes for the most delicious meals and preparation couldn't be any easier.  However, I am always looking for red meat and sugar-ladened bun alternatives.  That doesn't mean I don't enjoy a good burger every now and then but every weekend for the next 3 months won't exactly qualify as moderation. I plan to share lots of grilling ideas but last night I tested out a recipe for chicken burgers and they rocked! They are so tasty you won't miss the red or processed meats filling up everyone else's grills this weekend.  Grilling up lots of veggies guarantees you get your daily intake while not waisting wasting calories on nutritionally empty sides like potato chips or macaroni salad.

We topped our burgers with a tangy horseradish cheddar and fresh avocado.  No need for ketchup or mustard!  We also grilled up some carrots and zucchini and heated spicy bok choy on a foil pan. Enjoy every bite :)

What makes this bite better?
The average cheeseburger can have over 300 calories and 20 grams of fat, 10 grams coming from saturated fat (that's not including the bun and toppings!).  Additionally, high red meat intake is linked to cardiovascular disease and finding healthy substitutions to reduce intake is ideal for optimal health.   Chicken burgers are around 150 calories and have less than 10 grams of fat, with only about 3 grams coming from saturated fat.  You can cut even more calories and fat if you choose 98% lean all white-meat ground chicken. 

Grilled Chicken Burgers 
1 pound ground chicken 
2 cloves garlic
1 spring onion or scallion (shallots or regular onions will also work in a pinch)
1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (depending on spice preference)
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon olive oil 
pepper to taste

Remove the roots from the bottom of the spring onion and finely chop 2-3 Tablespoons, including the white onion and the green stem.  Finely mince the garlic.  Add all the ingredients to the ground chicken and combine well. Form into burgers and cover in plastic until ready to grill.  Be sure not to allow other ingredients to come into contact with the raw chicken.  1 pound of ground meat will make 4 burgers. Grill on one side for about 5-8 minutes until nicely charred.  Flip and continue to cook until the juices run clear, about 5 more minutes.  Top with cheese, if desired.  

For the vegetables, clean, cut and gently brush with olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and grill until tender and charred.    

Monday, May 20, 2013

Basic Granola

I can gauge how good a recipe is based on the reactions of my friends and family. My first batch of granola is still sitting in a plastic bag on my boyfriend's kitchen counter, slowly being incorporated into yogurt.  The second batch, given to my parents, yielded the response "this is better than anything I could make!," a humble lie from my mom who is a very talented cook.  Anything already prepared is better than having to make it yourself; that doesn't mean it's good.  However, the last batch sealed the deal.  I finally figured out the timing so the granola cools at just the right temperature.  My parents and my sister requested some the last time I saw them, which means it finally passed the test.

Though it took a few drafts, the final version of this granola is amazing.  I eat nearly a cup while I'm making it and I snack on it like popcorn every time I pass through the kitchen.  The trick is to remove the granola from the oven just as it starts to turn golden brown.  The pan is hot and the granola will continue to cook a bit more as it cools outside the oven. You can add anything you like after the granola is cooked- dried cranberries, chocolate chips, walnuts, almonds, sesame seeds, flax seeds, pecans- to make your version even better! Enjoy every bite :)

What makes this bite better?
Finding quick, healthy breakfast options is always challenging.  Store bought granola can have tons of added sugar and fat (check the labels!), not to mention that it can be very expensive.  Making it at home is a great way to control what ingredients go into the granola and it is more economical.  This granola is  gluten-free (make sure you get certified gluten-free oats), high in omega-3s (from the addition of the flax meal), high in fiber and completely satisfying.  Make it ahead of time for breakfast all week.  Serve with yogurt and fruit or eat it like cereal with almond milk.

4 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups unsweetened dried shredded coconut 
1/2 cup flax meal
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup oil (any healthy oil will work well)
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

Pre-heat the oven to 300 degrees. Combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Heat the honey, oil and vanilla in a small pot on low heat to blend. Add the honey mixture to the dry ingredients and mix well.  Spread evenly onto a large baking sheet.  Bake for 10-15 minutes, tossing the oats as needed to allow for even cooking.  Remove the pan from the oven as soon as the oats turn golden brown.  They will continue to brown as the pan cools outside the oven.  After the granola has cooled, add additional ingredients such as dried cranberries, nuts, seeds or chocolate chips.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Oh, Hello.

I was beginning to write a post to share my granola recipe, which I have finally perfected, when I realized I probably owe you an explanation.  A Better Bite has been on hiatus for some time now and despite my efforts to capture and post my new favorite recipes, time has gotten the best of me.  Over the past year I made the transition from New York City, my home for almost ten years, to Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  One week ago today I completed my first year of a doctoral program in Nutrition at UNC. The move was tough at first and they really keep you busy in PhD School (at least that's what we call it!). While that sounds like more of an excuse than an explanation, I am very happy to let you know that I have learned TONS of new recipes and I can't wait to share them.

When I moved south, I thought I could cook.  Then I came to the stark realization that I pretty much only cooked for this blog and the occasional dinner party. While I have always considered myself someone who loves to cook and enjoys sharing food with those I love, I have learned the new art of cooking for the everyday. My favorite restaurants, coffee shops and gourmet grocers are no longer accessible. I was working in restaurants prior to moving but now when I come home from a long day, my favorite chef isn't asking for requests. The frustrations my friends have been sharing about menu planning and grocery shopping finally make real sense.  In New York City, grocery shopping and trips to the farmers' market are novel, as is cooking, for most people. I now know that loving to cook and having to cook are two very different things.  However, thanks to life in the south, I can now say, I do both.

Enjoy every upcoming bite :)