The Best Lemon Chicken Recipe

Backstory:

I used to love to make lemon chicken. I find the sweet tangy fruit flavor mixed with chicken to be super delicious. But somewhere along the way, I experimented with one too many different recipe ideas. Maybe it was the longer cooking time resulting in dry meat, or the fact that I should have known there was entirely too much pepper in the recipe; whatever it was, the end result was so unappetizing that I had avoided cooking with lemons almost exclusively. That is, until yesterday.

A Breakthrough:

I had bought a couple bags of lemons from Trader Joe’s to preserve (here’s one way to do it) but I noticed that unfortunately mold was starting to take over a couple in the corner. I quickly threw away the moldy ones, and let the others sit pretty in a dish on my counter. I walked past those lemons all day wondering “how am I going to use them?”. I know that I only need one or two to make the lemon-poppyseed muffins I’m baking for the base bake sale so I needed to use them up.  Chicken was on the menu last night but I hadn’t decided how I was going to cook it. None of my usual ways of cooking chicken (usually different combinations or individual use of garlic, cinnamon, sage, various italian seasonings, BBQ. I promise to post some of those recipes here soon, too) sounded good. I looked at the lemons and then back at my frozen chicken breasts… And finally summoned up the courage to try it again!

Ingredients:

– Four servings (4-6oz per serving) chicken breasts

– 1 organic lemon (zest, additional juice, and rind)

– 1/4 cup lemon juice (or simply juice more lemons to get this separate amount)

– 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

– 2 T of Earth Balance Buttery Spread (or butter if you can tolerate dairy)

– 1 tsp maple syrup

– 1/4 tsp black pepper (more if desired)

– salt to taste

– pinch of italian seasoning (or any combination of individual italian herbs)

Instructions:

– Combine lemon zest, lemon juice (both fresh-squeezed and other), 2 T of olive oil, 1 tsp maple syrup, and black pepper in a small bowl.

– Preferably, marinate the chicken in this mixture for at least 20 minutes.

– After preparing the chicken, put at least another 1 T of olive oil along with the butter in a pan over very low heat. Cut the rind so the the remaining flesh is pan-side down. Let sauté while waiting for the chicken to be done marinating. The rind will need to be flipped occasionally and moved around. It will also look like it’s blackening a bit; that’s okay because it’s just the sugar caramelizing and will make your chicken taste amazing.

– Turn up the heat to medium. Place chicken and marinade in the pan. Sprinkle italian herbs across the chicken.  Depending on the thickness of the cuts, cook thoroughly until chicken has an interior temperature of 165° and is no longer pink in the middle. While cooking, be sure to flip the chicken and also to spoon the juice (which will thicken a bit) over the chicken periodically.

– Serves 2-4 people, depending on what you serve with it.

Side-dish Ideas:

I paired the chicken with a mix of sautéed garlic veggies: sugar snap peas, pepper strips, and peas. This combination compliments the dish by balancing the meal. Rice could be served in addition, if wanted.

Comments:

– This dish is wonderful for summer! It’s on the lighter side and very refreshing. Plus, it would be easy enough to scale the recipe to feed a group of people. It’s a great alternative to barbecuing.

– It’s a budget-friendly dish. Especially if you buy a a large amount of chicken breast at a time, like I do. Buying in bulk saves you money (not to mention if it goes on sale) and guarantees you always have enough on hand, no matter who decides to show up! I buy a big package of 6-8 huge chicken breast and cut them in halves or thirds to get a single portion. I then freeze two servings in small freezer bags and defrost as necessary. I highly recommend it.

Oh-So-Delicious Vegan Chili

Tonight was one of those nights when I was hungry but couldn’t quite seem to gather the energy or inspiration to make a multi-dish meal. After flipping through a cookbook for ideas (*see below*) I happily realized I had everything to make chili. Even better, I had the opportunity to experiment and make my own recipe. This chili turned out to be so good, I had to go back for seconds (and let’s be real, thirds, too!).

INGREDIENTS:

– 1 T Italian Dressing (I used an organic one)
– 1 T extra-virgin cold-pressed olive oil
– 1 small onion, finely chopped.
– 1 large clove garlic, finely chopped (or 2 smaller cloves)
– 1 small zucchini, diced.
– 1 jar or 24 oz of tomato sauce
– 1 can or 15 oz diced tomatos
– 1 can or 15 oz garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed.
– 1/2 can or 8 oz black beans, drained and rinsed.
– 1 cup corn, frozen or fresh (use more if desired).
– 1 cup sliced bell pepper, frozen or fresh (use more if desired).

ADDED SPICES:

– 1 tsp cinnamon
– 1/4 tsp black pepper
– 1/8 tsp crushed red pepper
– 1-3 tsp chili powder, depending on preference.
– dash of parsley
– salt as desired

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Over medium heat, sauté onion and garlic in olive oil and italian dressing until translucent.
2. Add the zucchini and pour half the jar of tomato sauce over the vegetables. Let this simmer for a couple of minutes.
2. During those few minutes, drain and rinse the black beans and garbanzo beans. Add diced tomatos, both beans, corn, and peppers.
3. Pour remaining sauce over the entire mixture. Turn the heat up to high and let mixture boil for a couple of minutes. Reduce heat to low and let simmer for at least 15-20 minutes, or longer. Be sure to check to make sure that chili is not burning to the bottom of the saucepan occasionally.

COMMENTS:

– Very versatile. Virtually any of the ingredients can be substituted, or new ones can be added, without any difficulty depending on your preferences.
– At a total of about $7.00 and considering it makes at least enough for 6 bowls (more sauce or diced tomatoes could be added to stretch the rest of the ingredients, to bring down the price per serving), this recipe is cost effective.
– The cinnamon is a touch that I prefer, because it adds depth to the flavor of the dish. It makes the chili taste warmer, but in a sweet spicy way, not hot.
– If I had other types of canned beans (kidney beans, for example) I would have added those as well. Feel free to use whatever beans you have at home.

*INSPIRATION*:

This recipe is loosely based off of Allyson Kramer’s book,  Great Gluten-Free Vegan Eats. Her Pumpkin Chickpea Chili recipe reminded me that I indeed had a long-forgotten can of chickpeas in the cupboard. I was delighted when I realized that I had open cans of diced tomatoes and black beans sitting my refrigerator just waiting to be used up. Her recipe looks delicious and I can’t wait to try it out sometime. I just didn’t have everything necessary this time around. But thanks for the inspiration, Allyson! For those interested in learning more about her, this is her website: http://allysonkramer.com/.