Super Low-Fat Ranch Salad Dressing is easy to make and inexpensive. It uses ingredients most homes have and can be assembled in minutes. And it has only 30 calories per tablespoon--less than half the calories of a standard Ranch dressing. The secret? Instead of using a full cup of regular mayonnaise, it uses 1/2 cup of low fat mayo, and a higher proportion of low fat buttermilk. The extra thickness comes from Ultra Gel®.
1 T. dry parsley (or 2 T fresh, snipped finely) and
2 t. Ultra Gel®
1/4 t. dry mustard powder (optional but you might be surprised at the flavor boost)
1/2 c. high-quality low-fat mayonnaise
1 1/2 c. low-fat buttermilk
Combine the garlic and onion powder, pepper, salt, parsley, Ultra Gel, and mustard if desired into a small container. Measure 1 1/2 c. buttermilk into a two-cup measuring cup. Buttermilk may not be a product you purchase regularly, but it's great to have on hand for this salad dressing mix. It can be purchased in small containers, and any remainder will make some great pancakes!
Some brands of buttermilk are thicker than others. You can adjust the thickness of the salad dressing by adding more or less Ultra Gel®.
Now add the mayonnaise. Mixing the ingredients in measuring cup is really handy because you don't need to use an additional measuring cup for the mayonnaise--just add the mayo until the liquid measures 2 cups. Couldn't be easier!
Sprinkle the prepared salad dressing mix over the combined mayo and buttermilk and stir in with a fork or wire whisk until smooth. The salad dressing mix benefits from a couple of hours to develop the flavors. If you want it thicker, add another teaspoon or so of Ultra Gel.
To make RANCH DIP, simply substitute low fat sour cream for the low fat buttermilk. Totally guilt-free!
Now--think of the low-guilt possibilities: topping for baked potatoes, steamed or raw veggies, chicken salad, gringo tacos or burritos, etc.
Remember not to taste products made with Ultra Gel® and return the tasting implement to the product. Even tiny amounts of saliva enzymes will break down the thickness of the product. And it isn't very sanitary, anyway!
World's Best Meal Prep Chicken Breast!
Chicken breast--my son describes it as "A blank canvas". No matter what your cultural background is, chicken probably plays a prominent culinary role. Boneless, skinless chicken breast is enjoying unprecedented favor for its low-fat, high-quality protein at a very reasonable price. Chickens have been bred to meet the public's demand for large, meaty breasts and the efficiencies in the chicken raising business mean chickens can go from egg to slaughter in as little as six weeks, resulting in record low prices.
Consumer demand has also led to new techniques in chicken raising--from Organic, to No Antibiotics Ever (either veg fed or standard), to Cage Free to standard. Regardless of your personal leanings toward chicken husbandry, at some point the goal becomes preparing the chicken for consumption.
In my busy CPA and mom world, the goal is for dinner to be on the table in thirty minutes. Sometimes that means cutting a corner here or there (like every day . . ). The biggest time-saver for me is to prepare protein items ahead and freeze for those busy nights (which seem to be about every night!!) If you have high-quality cooked chicken breast in the freezer, the opportunities for quick meals are endless!
Too many of us have been disappointed by dry, freezer-burned chicken breast. It doesn't have to be that way, and I'm excited to share what I think is the very best and easiest method of taking advantage of good buys on chicken breast to make your life easier.
10 lb high-quality boneless, skinless chicken breast without added salt and water
2 t. seasoning salt (or combination of salt, pepper, onion power, and garlic powder)
1 large (turkey size) roasting bag
Aluminum half-sheet pan or large roasting pan
5 T. Ultra Gel®
Position the roasting bag on the sheet/roaster pan and add the chicken breast pieces. Ten pounds will fit on one layer. I have been known to do twenty pounds at a time (two layers) and it can be done in the large roaster bag, but make sure you have a pan with high sides, so the liquid in the bag is supported.
Sprinkle the chicken pieces with the seasoning salt or other seasonings.
Close the bag with the provided tie
Cllp a few holes in the top of the bag per the manufacturers' direction
Roast at 250 degrees until the temperature reaches 165 degrees in the thickest part of the largest breast piece. DON'T OVERCOOK IF YOU WANT MOIST CHICKEN!
Allow the chicken to rest in the juices, without opening the bag for one hour. Pour the accumulated juices into a heat-proof container (a 4 cup measuring cup works great).
Measure 2 1/2 cups of the juices, then stir in 5 T. Ultra Gel®. The juices will thicken slightly.
Remove the chicken from the roasting bag to a cutting board and cut into cubes or slices, using a sharp knife. Collect in a large bowl.
Pour the thickened chicken broth over the chicken pieces, tossing gently to avoid breaking the chicken pieces.
Package in ten bags. Each will have the equivalent of 1 lb of raw chicken. I like to use zipper-seal sandwich bags for portion control and gallon size freezer bags for protection. Each gallon bag will fit 4 sandwich bags.
Allow each gallon bag to freeze before stacking to ensure quick and safe freezing.
When ready to use, start with one minute at full power in the microwave. Add an additional minute if the product needs more thawing--each microwave will be different.
If you're adding the chicken to a soup, stew, casserole, etc, wait until close to the end of the cooking time to keep those beautiful pieces of chicken intact!
So first--start with high-quality chicken breast. The first thing to look at is the ingredient list. Some chicken has a salt and water brine added to it, theoretically for extra moistness. Few of us need extra salt, though, and the consumer ends up paying chicken prices for up to 15% added water. Just don't do it! Watch for quality brands to go on sale and watch for a label designation of "No Added Salt". It really isn't any more expensive!
Good quality breast meat shouldn't have a lot of fat on it. The little bit it has can be left on and trimmed off after cooking if it is objectional.
Place the breast pieces in a large turkey roasting bag. Season with seasoning salt or your own combination of salt, onion, and garlic. Paprika adds some nice color.
A meat thermometer is essential to cooking high-quality protein. You can get instant-read thermometers for as little as $6-7. The one displayed has a probe with a wire that connects to the monitor read-out. Its easy to watch, and some even have wireless so you can check them on an app. Makes watching tv in the other room much more do-able! Remember that the temperature on the chicken will continue to increase after it is removed from the oven, so don't hesitate to take it out at 163 or 164 degrees. I usually plan about 1 3/4 hours for roasting.
After removing the cooked chicken from the oven, let it rest in the juices for about an hour without opening the bag. then carefully pour the juices off . They will still be hot, so be careful. If you just clip off the corner of the cooking bag, it is fairly easy to control the juice as you pour it off.
Remove the cooked chicken breasts to a cutting board to slice or dice. The objective is to try to retain as much of the internal moisture as possible. The cooking bag limits the moisture loss due to evaporation and also makes cleanup a breeze!!
Chicken can be sliced or diced to be used at your convenience. (Click on any photo to see a carousel of images)
In order to keep the chicken moist and protect it from freezer burn, the juices that cooked out will be added back to the chicken. Adding 2 T. Ultra Gel® to each cup of the collected chicken drippings will add just enough thickness to allow it to adhere to the diced chicken, providing extra flavor, moisture, and protection. Stir it in gradually and let stand a few minutes to thicken.
Pour the thickened chicken broth over the diced/sliced chicken. You may not want to use all of the thickened juices--Start with half, then see how much the chicken absorbs.
Toss the chicken gently with the liquid. Remember, you're just adding back the juices that cooked out. If you were starting from raw chicken, these juices would be a part of your finished product!
Moist and juicy chicken!!
Divide the chicken into ten bags (or one bag for each pound of raw chicken you started with). Most recipes call for a multiple of one pound of raw boneless, skinless chicken breast, so if you start with ten pounds of chicken and divide the finished product into ten bags, each bag will be the equivalent of one pound of raw chicken. Make sense?
I use sandwich bags for portion control--Gallon freezer bags for protection. They are flat and stack nicely after freezing. Each bag will have about 2 cups of cooked chicken.
Here's an easy idea--prepare a boxed Fettucini Alfredo, add a package of chicken chunks and some bacon for garnish. Thirty minute wonder at our house! Nice, meaty chunks of chicken give extra crowd appeal!
Lots more great recipes using Meal Prep chicken coming--stay posted!
Easy Chicken or Pork Stir Fry
A stir-fry is one of the easiest dishes to prepare ahead for a quick trip to the finish line. All of the washing, peeling, and dicing can be done ahead and the prepped ingredients refrigerated, ready to be quickly cooked when the time is right.
There are four main pieces of most stir fry dishes: The meat, the firm veggies, the soft veggies, and the sauce. See the printable recipe here:
Add soy sauce, 2 T. Ultra Gel, ginger, red chile flakes, and minced garlic to meat and mix thoroughly. Set aside.
Combine chicken broth, 1/3 c. soy sauce, water, sesame oil, and sugar and mix well. Add Ultra Gel gradually while stirring with a wire whisk or fork. Set aside.
Pour 2 T. vegetable oil into a large wok or frying pan. Heat on a high heat until shimmering, then add the meat. Stir meat regularly until it is no longer pink in the center. Remove meat from pan and reserve.
Add another 2 T. oil to the pan and heat. Add the firm vegetables and stir fry until crisp-tender. Don’t hesitate to cover with a lid occasionally for more even cooking. Remove the firm vegetables and reserve.
Heat the pan until hot again and add the tender vegetables. Stir fry them only about 1 minute. Return all the vegetables and meat to the pan and toss with the sauce (which should be thick) until heated through. Serve with prepared rice..
For our Americanized stir fries, the meat is often boneless chicken or pork--easy to prepare for use--just cut the raw meat in 1" cubes.
The firm vegetables are the ones that "crunch" if you take a bite such as broccoli, carrots, celery, and bok choy.
The soft vegetables are usually very moist and include mushrooms, summer squash (ie zucchini), and small pieces of Asian cabbage. I see onions going either way, according to whether you like them soft or crunchy. If you like them soft, put them with the firm veggies. If you like them crunchy, put them with the soft veggies.
There are many different sauces--I'm including a very basic sauce but feel free to get creative!
Start with the meat. Add the Ultra Gel, soy sauce, ginger, red chile flakes and minced garlic to the meat and mix. The soy sauce will add a bit of salt, which will be absorbed into the meat, not only adding flavor, but also helping keep the protein moist. The Ultra Gel will also help keep the moisture in the meat, and will help it brown nicely. The ginger, chile flakes, and garlic will infuse the protein with the great flavors we expect in a good stir fry. But they need a little time to work, so prepare the protein element first and let the meat absorb the flavors while you prepare the other items.
Next, prepare the sauce by adding the chicken broth, 1/3 c. soy sauce, water, and sesame oil. Stir in the Ultra Gel with a fork or wire whip and set aside. The Ultra Gel will thicken the sauce--no cooking necessary!
Then prepare the vegetables by chopping into bite-sized pieces. Keep the firm veggies separate from the soft veggies as they will be cooked separately.
Don't discard the broccoli stems--if a knife will pierce stem pieces easily, they are totally usable. Pull the skin off if it is tough, then julienne the stem pieces and add to the other firm vegetables.
To cook the meal, start with a heavy frypan or wok. Add 2 tablespoons of oil and heat at a medium high heat until shimmering, then add the meat all at once and stir regularly while cooking until no pink remains. The meat will taste better if some browning is allowed to occur, so don't stir constantly--just regularly. When done, remove it to a bowl.
Add additional oil to the pan if necessary and heat again to shimmering and add the firm vegetables. Cook them until tender, stirring regularly. Add a lid for a few minutes if you wish to help the firm veggies cook more evenly, but for best color, make a lid infrequent and short-lived! The veggies should not be accumulating juices!! When the firm veggies are cooked to your liking, remove them from the pan. If more oil is necessary, add a little more and again heat to shimmering.
Add the soft veggies and cook quickly (only thirty seconds or so)-just enough for them to get a little searing on them. Remove the soft veggies from the pan.
Heat the pan back to a high heat, then add the reserved protein, crisp veggies, and soft veggies in that order to make sure everything is hot. Drizzle the sauce over and stir lightly, then serve immediately with rice. Yum!!