Breathe new life into chicken breasts

Chicken breasts are easy cook, easy to freeze, and often on sale – qualities that make them a staple in almost any pantry. But over time, the same old recipes can get boring. To avoid this, try something new and flavorful with your next package of breasts.

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White Chicken Chili

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 4-ounce can diced jalapeno peppers
1 4-ounce can chopped green chili peppers
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
2 14.5-ounce cans chicken broth
3 cups chopped cooked chicken breast
3 15-ounce cans white beans
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, heat the oil. Add onion; slowly cook and stir onion until tender, about 3 to 5 minutes. Mix in the garlic, jalapeno, green chili peppers, cumin, oregano, and cayenne. Continue to cook and stir the mixture until tender, about 3 minutes. Mix in the chicken broth, chicken and white beans. Simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the mixture from heat. Slowly stir in the cheese until melted. Serve warm. Makes 4 servings.

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Salsa Chicken

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
4 teaspoons taco seasoning mix
1 cup salsa
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons sour cream, optional

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place chicken breasts in a lightly greased 9×13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle taco seasoning on both sides of chicken breasts, and pour salsa over all. Bake until chicken is tender and juicy and its juices run clear, about 25 to 35 minutes. Sprinkle chicken evenly with cheese, and continue baking for an additional 3 to 5 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Top with sour cream if desired, and serve. Makes 4 servings.

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Garlic Chicken

Garlic Chicken
2 teaspoons crushed garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Warm the garlic and olive oil to blend the flavors. In a separate dish, combine the bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese. Dip the chicken breasts in the olive oil and garlic mixture, then into the bread crumb mixture. Place in a shallow baking dish. Bake until chicken is tender and juicy and its juices run clear, about 30 to 35 minutes. Makes 4 servings.

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Pantry Pointers

A food thermometer is the most reliable way to check any meat. For chicken breasts, the desired internal temperature is 165 degrees. As with all meats, personal preference may dictate a longer cooking time to reach the desired taste, appearance, and texture.

Wrap up any meal

Burrito recipes let you roll up your meal – breakfast, lunch, or dinner – into a tasty, easy-to-eat meal.

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Breakfast Burritos

1 pound bacon
10 eggs
1 16-ounce can refried beans
8 ounces shredded Cheddar cheese
10 10-inch flour tortillas

Place bacon in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium high heat until evenly brown. Drain, and set aside. Wrap tortillas in foil and place in oven heated to 350 degrees. Bake until heated through, about 10 to 15 minutes. Over medium heat in a lightly greased skillet, cook eggs until firm. In a small saucepan over medium heat, heat the refried beans. Top each tortilla with refried beans, 2 strips of bacon, 1 egg and a little cheese. Roll tortillas into burritos and serve. Makes 10 servings.

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Black Bean Burritos

2 10-inch flour tortillas
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon minced jalapeno peppers
3 ounces cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Wrap tortillas in foil and place in oven heated to 350 degrees. Bake until heated through, about 10 to 15 minutes. Heat oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Place onion, bell pepper, garlic, and jalapenos in skillet; cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour beans into skillet, cook 3 minutes while stirring. Cut cream cheese into cubes and add to skillet with salt. Cook for 2 minutes stirring occasionally. Stir cilantro into mixture. Spoon mixture evenly down center of warmed tortilla and roll tortillas up. Serve immediately. Makes 2 servings.

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Roast Beef Burritos

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
4 tomatoes, chopped
2 cups chopped cooked roast beef
1 8-ounce jar prepared taco sauce
1 4-ounce can diced green chilies
1/2 teaspoon cumin
6 7-inch flour tortillas, warmed
1-1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
2 cups shredded lettuce

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in the onion and garlic, and cook until tender and transparent, about 5 minutes. Mix in the tomatoes, roast beef, taco sauce, chilies, and cumin. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer, uncovered, for 25 minutes, or until thickened.

Arrange tortillas on a clean, flat work surface. Spread about 2/3 cup of beef mixture in the center of each warm tortilla. Sprinkle evenly with cheese and lettuce. Fold over ends and sides to make a package. Makes 6 servings.

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Pantry Pointers

For the best results rolling burritos, start with warm tortillas. A large tortilla should be warm enough after 15 seconds in the microwave oven.

Make low-fat treats in the new year

While it is nice to splurge on a decadent dessert occasionally, it is also nice to have a sweet ending to a meal that doesn’t undo a healthy diet.

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Serve these berries as is or use to top pound cake, angel food cake, or vanilla ice cream.

Strawberries with Balsamic Vinegar

16 ounces fresh strawberries, hulled
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

Cut any large berries in half. Place all strawberries in a bowl. Drizzle vinegar over strawberries; sprinkle with sugar. Stir gently to combine. Cover, and let sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour but not more than 4 hours. Just before serving, grind pepper over berries. Makes 6 servings.

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Double Chocolate Mousse

2 ounces semisweet baking chocolate
1-1/2 cups fat-free milk, divided
1 1.4-ounce package fat-free, sugar-free instant chocolate pudding mix
2 cups thawed nondairy whipped topping, divided
1/2 cup fresh raspberries

In a large microwaveable bowl, heat chocolate and 1 cup milk on High power for 2 minutes; whisk until chocolate is melted. Add remaining milk and dry pudding mix; beat for 2 minutes. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Whisk in 1-1/2 cups nondairy whipped topping; spoon into 6 dessert dishes. Top with remaining whipped topping and berries; serve. Makes 6 servings.

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Make sure that all your bowl, beaters, and pan are clean and very dry. Otherwise the egg whites could deflate.

Angel Food Cake

1 cup cake flour
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
12 egg whites
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Sift together the flour and 3/4 cup of the sugar; set aside. In a large bowl, whip the egg whites along with the vanilla, cream of tartar, and salt to medium stiff peaks. Gradually add the remaining sugar while continuing to whip to stiff peaks. When the egg white mixture has reached its maximum volume, fold in the sifted ingredients gradually, one third at a time. Do not overmix. Put the batter into the tube pan. Bake until the cake springs back when touched, about 40 to 45 minutes. Balance the tube pan upside down on the top of a bottle, to prevent decompression while cooling. When cool, run a knife around the edge of the pan and invert onto a plate. Makes 14 servings.

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Pantry Pointers

For a healthy dessert, mix low-fat yogurt with low-fat whipped topping and spoon this mixture over sliced fresh fruit.

Try traditional favorites with ground turkey

Ground turkey is a tasty and healthy alternative to ground beef, and perfect for flavorful recipes like chili and meatloaf.

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Simple Turkey Chili

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 pound ground turkey
1 onion, chopped
2 cups water
1 28-ounce can canned crushed tomatoes
1 16-ounce can canned kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt

In a large pot over medium heat, heat the oil. Place turkey in the pot; cook until evenly brown. Stir in onion; cook until tender. Pour water into the pot. Mix in tomatoes, kidney beans, and garlic. Add chili powder, paprika, oregano, cayenne pepper, cumin, pepper, and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 30 minutes. Makes 8 servings.

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Turkey Cheeseburger Meatloaf

1 teaspoon canola oil
6 to 8 slices turkey bacon
1 pound extra lean ground turkey
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1 egg
1/2 small onion, diced
1 slice French bread, crumbled, or 1/4 cup bread crumbs
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
1-1/2 tablespoons lightly packed brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking dish; set aside. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat oil. Add turkey bacon and cook until browned and crisp, about 5 minutes per side. Drain bacon on paper towels; crumble when cool. Mix cooked bacon with ground turkey, Cheddar cheese, egg, onion, crumbled French bread, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, and black pepper; turn the turkey meatloaf mixture into prepared baking dish and form into a loaf shape in the middle of the dish.
In a medium bowl, mix ketchup, yellow mustard, and brown sugar, stirring to dissolve brown sugar. Spread the mixture over the turkey loaf. Bake the turkey loaf in the preheated oven until the juices run clear, loaf is no longer pink in the middle, and an instant-read meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the loaf reads at least 160 degrees, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Makes 6 servings.

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Pantry Pointers

To make ground turkey crumbles, place a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add ground turkey and separate into crumbles. Cook until no longer pink, about 5 to 8 minutes.

Published the week of February 25, 2013

Little bacon bits bring big flavor

While bacon bits may have a permanent home on salad bars everywhere, their use doesn’t stop there. They are a tasty addition to everything from scrambled eggs to spinach to pizza.

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Cheddar Ranch Dip

1 16-ounce container sour cream
1 1-ounce package dry Ranch-style dressing mix
1 3-ounce can bacon bits
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

In a medium bowl, thoroughly blend the sour cream and ranch-style dressing mix. Mix in the bacon bits and Cheddar cheese. Chill in the refrigerator until flavors blend, at least 20 minutes. Makes 24 servings.

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Potato Skins

6 potatoes
8 ounces shredded Cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons bacon bits
1 16-ounce container sour cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking pan. Pierce potatoes with a fork. Microwave the potatoes on high until they are soft; approximately 10 to 12 minutes. Cut the potatoes in half vertically. Scoop the inside out of the potatoes, until 1/4 inch of the potato shell remains. Arrange shells in the prepared baking pan. Bake until crispy, about 45 minutes. Fill the shells with cheese and bacon bits; bake until cheese melts, about 5 additional minutes. Serve hot with sour cream. Makes 6 servings.

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Bacon Cheeseburger Meatloaf

1-1/2 pounds lean ground beef
1/2 cup barbeque sauce
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1/2 4.3-ounce package real bacon bits
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs, or as needed
4 ounces sliced processed cheese food, such as Velveeta
2 tablespoons barbeque sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 5×9-inch loaf pan. Mix ground beef, 1/2 cup barbeque sauce, milk, egg, bacon bits, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and black pepper in a bowl; stir in bread crumbs to desired consistency. Place half the ground beef mixture into the prepared loaf pan and press an indentation into the meat mixture, leaving a 1-inch rim of meat all around the indentation. Fill the indentation with processed cheese and top with remaining meat mixture. Press lightly to seal. Brush 2 tablespoons barbeque sauce over the meatloaf. Bake until juices run clear and a meat thermometer inserted into the center of the loaf reads at least 160 degrees, about 60 to 80 minutes. Makes 6 servings.

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Pantry Pointers

To make your own bacon bits, partially freeze bacon to make it easier to slice. Cut it into 1/4-inch squares and fry over medium-high heat until done. Store leftovers in the freezer.