Healthier Version of Smothered Chicken

Healthy eating can still resemble good, Southern comfort food despite its low-calorie count. Take for instance this recipe from EatingWell, the health-focused food blog; their recipe guide for cooking, preparing, and serving “Smothered Chicken Breasts in Onion Gravy” focuses on a gravy-heavy meal that doesn’t stack up the calories because a minimum amount of oil is used to make the roux base for the dish.

This recipe was penned for EatingWell Magazine by James Beard Award-winning cookbook author Virginia Willis. Willis commented on the misconception that gravy automatically categorizes a meal as unhealthy by saying, “I love gravy; in my mind, there are rivers of it in heaven! Using a minimum amount of oil to make the roux reduces calories. The result is good, country-style cooking—always welcome on my weight-loss plan.”

Ingredients for the Smothered Chicken:

Directions for the Smothered Chicken:

  1. You’ll want to start this recipe by preheating your convection oven to 350°F. Then, in a nearby shallow mixing bowl, stir together your flout, onion powder, paprika, cayenne, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and ⅛ teaspoon pepper.
  2. Pat your boneless, skinless chicken breasts down with a paper towel to remove the excess moisture, and then dredge the chicken breasts into the flour mixture so that both sides of the breasts are coated evenly. Shave off the excess flour after you dredge each chicken piece, and save the remainder of your flour mixture to use later on.
  3. Next, heat 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil in a large oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil is properly spread throughout the skillet and heated, add your chicken breasts and cook them for about 1 to 2 minutes per side. Wait until one side of the chicken is browned, and then flip for the remaining side; you’ll only flip once. Afterwards transfer the chicken to a plate.
  4. Now, you’ll add in your onions, the remaining 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil, ½ teaspoon of salt, and ⅛ teaspoon of pepper to the pan and reduce the overall heat to medium. Cook the contents of the pan while stirring occasionally. Continue cooking just until the onions are a golden brown color, which normally takes approximately 5 to 7 minutes total. Once they’re browned, add in your minced garlic and cook until the pan’s contents are quite fragrant, which usually takes approximately 45 to 60 seconds.
  5. At this point, you’ll take the remaining flour mixture that you used to dredge the chicken breasts earlier, and you’ll tip the remaining mixture into the onions while stirring to coat them in the flour. Add the chicken broth to the pan and increase your heat to medium-high, bringing it to a complete boil while stirring often.
  6. After the pan is boiling, adjust the heat so that you’re maintaining a simmer. At which point you’ll add in your reserved chicken, any and all juices that have accumulated, thyme, and your bay leaf. Position your chicken so that they’re nestled into the onions, and turn them to fully coat them.
  7. Lastly, transfer your pan to the oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes. You’re going to keep the chicken in the oven until an instant-read thermometer that’s placed into the thickest part of the chicken registers at 165°F. Once it does, you can discard your bay leaf and serve!

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Pralines – The South’s Best Treat

One of the most delicious ways to literally treat yourself in the American South is to enjoy a homemade pecan praline, and with this authentic, heartfelt recipe from House of Nash Eats, it’s never been easier to enjoy the melt-in-your-mouth candy in the comfort of your own home!

Though pecan pralines are found in countless corner stores, gas stations, and kitchen counters across the Southern United States, the tradition of cooking (and enjoying) pecan pralines originated from France in the 17th century and came to the United States by way of French chefs in Louisiana, specifically being associated with New Orleans.

Despite their origins, the southern pecan praline is a sweet candy mixture that is often described as being somewhere between a candy confection and a cookie that’s loaded with a delicious brown sugar flavor amid texture-rich pecans. One of the keys to the praline’s hyper-specific, languid texture is the use of heavy cream or milk in its creation. As with any true southern recipe, the list of ingredients varies, and when it comes to the dairy element of pralines, they can be made with milk, creme, half-and-half, heavy whipping cream,evaporated milk, or buttermilk.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • ½ cup of evaporated milk, heavy whipping cream, or buttermilk
  • 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter, set at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 2 cups of chopped pecans and halves
  • ⅛ teaspoon of salt

Directions

  1. You’ll begin this recipe by lining a baking sheet tray with parchment paper and setting it aside. In a heavy pot, combine your granulated sugar, salt, evaporated milk, and butter over medium heat. Cook this mixture and stir it with a wooden spoon until both the sugars dissolve and the mixture comes to a boil.
  2. Continue to cook until the temperature reaches a key temperature between 235°F and 240°F. Most southern praline makers quote 236°F as the literal “sweet spot.” The best cooking instrument to use for this task would be a candy thermometer. As soon as your mixture is within that temperature range, you’ll want to remove the pot from the heat and allow your praline mixture to cool for about 5 minutes.
  3. At this point, once the contents of the pot have cooled, you will stir in your vanilla extract and (fresh if possible) pecans.  Beat the mixture vigorously by hand with a wooden spoon just until the candy begins to lose its glossiness and starts to thicken slightly, which should take just about 2 minutes. If you beat the candy longer than that, the candy pieces will start to seize and crumble. However, if you don’t beat the mixture long enough, then the pralines won’t set properly and will remain soft and sticky. It’s a delicate process, so be sure to only beat the candy by hand until it thickens ever slightly and not longer than two minutes.
  4. After your two minutes, work quickly and efficiently to drop medium to large-sized heaping teaspoons of pecan praline mixture onto your parchment-paper-lined baking sheet. Consider using a cookie dough scoop for easier distribution. If the mixture begins to harden before you have a chance to scoop all of the pralines from the pot, simply add in a teaspoon of hot water at a time to be able to scoop again.
  5. Once the pralines are set on the parchment paper-lined baking sheet, allow them to cool completely until they are set and firm. You can then store them in an airtight container, where they’ll last up to two weeks, or freeze them for up to 2 months.

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Savory Dinner Recipes Perfect for Your Cast Iron Skillet

Cooking your favorite dishes in the reliable instrument that is the cast-iron skillet has certainly garnered more and more support over the past few years, and it’s for good reason. Because if the tool is preserved, seasoned, and cleaned correctly, countless meals can be enjoyed by way of its superior cooking practices. So, take out your trusty cast-iron cookware instrument, and test out its celebrated benefits with Country Living’s curated list of delicious dinner recipes you can cook right in the cast-iron pan!

Every cook’’s cast-iron story is different, as you might have inherited your skillet from a previous generation of accomplished family chefs. Alternatively, you might find yourself to be breaking in your cast-iron skillet for the very first time. Either way, it cannot be overstated that the cooking instrument is among the more versatile cooking tools found in the modern-day kitchen, but this is only true if it’s properly taken care of.

A well-seasoned cast-iron pan can last decades or even entire generations if you take careful attention to properly clean it after each use so that you preserve the seasoning on the surface of the pan, making it relatively non-stick. Though, if you are unlucky in preserving that “surface seasoning” and your pan needs to be re-treated, that is also possible, and since the average non-stick pan only lasts for a maximum of a few years, the cast iron skillet might just be one of the more reliable and long-lasting cooking dishes on the market today. So survey the following cast-iron recipes from Country Living’s archives for the next time you need your steak dinner perfectly seared or the heat of your cornbread skillet perfectly contained.

Fig and Rosemary Glazed Skillet Chicken

This recipe comes from Julie Chiou’s food blog “Table for Two,” and it aims to highlight the heat-trapping benefits of the cast iron skillet by roasting rosemary, garlic, and butter-seasoned chicken drumsticks and thighs in a 425°F oven. Throughout the cooking process, you’ll take the skillet out of the direct heat to brush a savory, balsamic rosemary and fig preserve glaze atop the dark chicken pieces until it’s thoroughly cooked. This recipe blends together the sublime flavors of sweet fig preserves and herb-apparent rosemary to give you an unforgettable chicken dinner recipe that’s easy to prepare and bring out whenever you need it.

Skillet Scalloped Potatoes

This recipe, which originated from the “kitchen kapers blog” known as “Host the Toast,” can be served as a hearty dinner side dish or as a hefty breakfast staple due to its abundance of cheese and potatoes. Always a welcome paining at most dinner tables, the golden-brown potato and cheese combination is widely considered to be a family favorite, and this recipe is no exception as this dish can be served up alongside a simple-to-prepare mac and cheese plate or a platter of mozzarella-melted bread for expectedly celebrated results. Layers of thinly-sliced and herb-seasoned Yukon Gold potatoes evenly line the bottom of a 9-inch cast-iron skillet in this recipe in an overlapping spiral pattern. This is done so that each piece of potato can be properly dressed by the butter, milk, and cheese mixture that is poured atop the vegetable before it’s all wrapped in foil and baked to golden-brown heaven.

Outside of the above two standouts from Country Living Magazine’s 72 cast-iron recipe collection, the following are also notable dishes you should consider testing out in your own kitchen.

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