Taco Shredded Chicken

If you listen to any Hollywood “body transformation” stories, one common theme you’ll hear is people being tired of eating “boiled chicken breast”.  The thing about chicken breast is that it’s very low fat and has no carbs in it, so it’s almost all protein.  The problem is that it doesn’t have much flavor has a tendency to dry out easily.  Even if you’re on a relatively “low” protein diet for a fitness person (0.82 – 1g per pound of bodyweight, at 175 pounds, you’re still eating between 150 to 165 grams of protein daily.

That’s a lot of protein, and chicken breast is one of the easiest ways to get that protein, even if it’s not the most fun.  This particular recipe makes boiled chicken delicious, moist, and easy to eat.  I first learned about it in this particular form Jack Spirko of The Survival Podcast, although the basic concept is quite common.  Basically you’re making crockpot chicken breast, and then shredding it.

Ingredients

  • 2 – 4 pounds chicken breast (if you use more, you’ll probably need more of the other ingredients)
  • One jar of salsa (I usually use Trader Joes green tomatillo salsa, but feel free to experiment)
  • Juice of 1-2 limes (if you want to up the ante, add the zest one of them)
  • 1-8 garlic cloves
  • Chili powder to taste (I usually do 2 tablespoons; Jack’s original recipe uses “taco seasoning”)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste (I usually don’t use salt here, and add it to whatever I use the chicken with)

Instructions:

  1. Turn the crockpot on high.
  2. Dump the jar of salsa, lime juice, garlic cloves, and chili powder into a large crockpot.  Stir together.
  3. Optional: Wait about 5-10 minutes until the mixture is hot
  4. Place your chicken breasts in the crockpot, and make sure they are coated with the mixture.  One easy way to do this is to put them in upside down, and then flip them over.
  5. Cover with lid (very important; crockpots don’t work right if you forget this step)
  6. Wait 4 hours.  Remove Lid.
  7. Remove the chicken from the crockpot and shred with two forks.
  8. Dump the rest of the liquid mixture on top of the chicken and mix until even.
  9. Done.  Use as is or refrigerate for future use.

So what are the macros on this thing?

95% of the calories come from the chicken breast, so I completely ignore the calories from the salsa.  A jar of Trader Joe’s Salsa Verde has about 110 calories in it, and you’re spreading it out over 3-4 pounds of chicken, but if you really want to track every calorie, knock yourself out.  To figure out the calories

  1. Weigh the raw chicken.  Let’s say it’s 1560 grams.
  2. Once the chicken is cooked, and you’ve added the liquid back in, weigh it again.  Let’s says it’s 1740 grams.
  3. Divide the raw weight by the cooked weight, and you’ll get a decimal.  In our case 1560/1740 = .8965 or round it to .9.
  4. WRITE DOWN THAT NUMBER!
  5. Now let’s say you want to use 400 grams of chicken breast for a recipe, just divide 400 by the number in step 3.  400/.9 = 444 grams.  That’s how much of our final prepared product you should weight out to get 400 grams.
  6. Log 400 grams of raw chicken breast in MyFitnessPal (or whatever you use.)

So how do I use this stuff?

Use it like chicken.  Eat it.  But in case you’re imagination deprived, here’s a couple quick meals:

Shredded Chicken Bowl

This kind of mimics the main ingredients of a Chipotle Burrito bowl (minus the sour cream and corn).  It has a huge amount of protein in it, and when you see this in the bowl, you’re going to think, “there’s no way I’m going to finish all that.”  It’s a great first meal, because it’s high in protein with moderate carbs, and relatively low fat.  It’ll provide a large proportion of your daily protein intake while leaving you tons of calories for the rest of your day.  To reduce the carbs and calories you can leave out either the rice or the tortillas.  If you want to up the fat a bit, use tortilla chips instead of tortillas.

Calories and Macros:

  • Calories: 937
  • Protein: 114 grams
  • Carbohydrates 82 grams
  • Fat 15 grams

Ingredients:

  • 400 grams of chicken breast (raw weight using the calculation technique above)
  • 3/4 cup of cooked rice
  • 1/2 cup of canned black beans
  • One ounce of sharp cheddar cheese
  • 3 small corn tortillas

Mix the first four ingredients together.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Eat along with the tortillas.

Shredded Chicken Omelet

This doesn’t really look like an omelet or taste like one, but it has egg in it, so…whatever.  This is kind of the opposite of the recipe above.  It’s got a relatively small amount of protein, almost no carb, and a decent amount of fat.  You could reduce the fat by leaving the butter out, but why would you want to.  It’s a great “small meal”.  You could also leave out the butter and egg and use the mixture to make chicken and cheese quesadillas.

Calories and Macros:

  • Calories: 456
  • Protein: 49 grams
  • Carbohydrates 2 grams
  • Fat 28 grams

Ingredients:

  • 100 grams of chicken breast (raw weight using the calculation technique above)
  • 10 grams of butter (I prefer Kerry Gold)
  • 2 slices of reduced fat cheese (44 grams; I use Finlandia variety pack from Costco.)
  • 2 eggs

Melt the butter in a pan over medium and cook the chicken until it begins to dry out a bit.  (Personally I hit the chicken with some extra chili powder for extra flavor.)  Place the 2 slices of cheese on top and wait until it melts.  Use a spatula to mix the melted cheese through the chicken.  Scramble two eggs in a glass along with some salt to taste.  Pour the eggs over the chicken and immediately begin stirring the egg throughout the chicken so that’s it’s evenly dispersed.  Turn the heat to low, and once the egg is mostly congealed, form a flat chicken/egg patty and allow to cook for about 30 seconds.  Flip and allow the other side to cook to desired doneness.  Serve.

Alton Brown’s Homemade Chili Powder

This recipe comes from the Good Eats episode “The Big Chili.”  It’s a phenomenally versatile seasoning that can be used for anything from scrambled eggs to tacos to chili.  It uses dried chiles.  In South Florida, Walmart now sells these in bulk.  So I just get six of each chile (double Alton’s original recipe).

Ingredients:

  • 6 Ancho Chiles
  • 6 Guajillo or Cascabel Chiles
  • 6 Arbol or Japones Chiles (these add a bit of heat, so you could use any dried hot chile, such as dried cayenne)
  • 4 tablespoons whole cumin seeds (you can use powder if you can’t find seeds)
  • 4 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoon smoked paprika (this can be hard to find at most stores; I found it at Whole Foods.)

Instructions

  1. Cut the stem end off each of the chiles, Cut a slit in the side and shake or rub the seeds into the trash.  (You might want to wear gloves if you’re processing a very hot chile.)
  2. Cut the chiles into small pieces and place in a heavy skillet over medium heat along with the cumin seeds.  Keep the cumin and chiles moving until they start to smell fragrant.
  3. Remove from the heat and place into a blender.  In my experience when working with this double recipe, it’s better to pulse it a few times, and don’t let it go too long.  Otherwise, the blender base will get hot, and the powder at the bottom will form a a cake that prevents the rest of the mixture from becoming blended.  If you have a Vitamix with the dry blade, that would be ideal.  Be very careful about opening the blender as you’re essentially making pepper spray (albeit a mild one).  Don’t put your face in it.
  4. Once the chiles and cumin are blended to a powder, add the garlic, oregano, and paprika and pulse to mix.

That’s it.  You’re done.  This stuff is amazing.  And since you’ve been such a good audience, I’m going to give you a couple recipes that use it:

 

Kale Detox Salad

This is Jen’s new go-to snack and meal course. There are tons of variations on this, but this one is ours. If eating the garnish doesn’t seem appealing, it didn’t to me either, but this salad really is quite good. It also holds up in the fridge very well.

Video of me prep chefing the veggies.

Dressing:

  • Zest of one lemon
  • Juice of one lemon (~50-60 mL)
  • 1tsp honey (we go heavy on the honey)
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar (optional)
  • 2tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Dressing Directions

Shake, whisk, or blend.

Salad

  • 1 bunch Kale (or half bag) finely chopped and dried
  • 3 medium carrots diced
  • 2 large celery stalks diced
  • 1/2 medium onion diced
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 pine nuts (toasted is awesome)

Directions

  1. Place kale in a large bowl and massage dressing into kale.
  2. Add rest of the ingredients and toss.
  3. Top with a few more pine nuts for a more appealing presentation.

Notes:
The lemon and honey go together amazingly well. I’m surprised that that particular combination is not more widely used…oh. Never mind.
You can substitute pistachios or almonds for pine nuts, as pine nuts seem to be worth their weight in gold. Costco has the cheapest ones we can find.
You really want to chop that kale finely, or else your jaw will get a superset workout.
You can add other stuff if you like, such as bell peppers or cheese, but we like it simple.

Lo-Carb, Gluten Free, Protein, Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies

We got this recipe from Jen’s mom who found it in a cookbook in her library, but has never been able to find it again. They are surprisingly good considering they have evil sucralose in them.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, unsalted, softened
  • 1 cup sucralose (only use 3/4 cup if using sweetened coconut
  • 1/2 cup Sucanat (“natural cane sugar” dehydrated)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups unsweetened shredded dried coconut
  • 1 cup vanilla whey protein powder (use 1 tsp vanilla extract if using unflavored)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 330° F
  2. In electric mixer, cream the butter until fluffy, then add sucralose and sugar and cream until smooth.
  3. Add eggs beating each one at a time
  4. Add vanilla (if using)
  5. In a second bowl, mix the coconut, protein powder, and baking soda, and salt. Slowly add to butter/sugar mixture in 3-4 doses making sure each addition is completely integrated before adding the next dose.
  6. Stir in chocolate chips
  7. Spray cookie sheets with non-stick spray or use a parchment paper (silicone) liner. Drop or scoop cookie dough (approx 2 tablespoon)
  8. Cook for 12-14 minutes until golden brown.
  9. Makes 32 cookies; with 167 calories each, 11g fat, 6g protein, 12g carbohydrate, 1g fiber.

Notes

  • Sucralose is the bulk granulated stuff, not little packets of Splenda. It comes in different concentrations. You should use the 1:1 (same sweetness as regular sugar)
  • Refrigerate the dough on the cookie sheet before cooking if it spreads too much. (It seems as though it spreads more when we use sweetened coconut.)
  • If they seem to moist or gooey, we dry them in a dehydrator, and they will get really crispy.
  • Coconut seems to pull water out of the air, so if they get too moist after a few days, put them back in the dehydrator to crisp them up.

Guacamole – How to make awesome guac

Many people are intimidated by guacamole. Here’s the Heymanator, sure-fire method of getting awesome guacamole every time.

  1. Start with good avocados, typically Haas, and they should be ripe (i.e., soft). We have had great luck with Costco avocados.
  2. Half the avocados, seed them, and scoop them into a bowl with a flat surface.
  3. Mash them up until they are relatively smooth. I like to use a potato masher (hence the flat bottom).
  4. Here’s the secret. Add lime juice, more than you think you’ll need; salt, more than you think you need, and freshly ground pepper. Mix well and taste. Your avocados should be seasoned to taste before you add any other ingredients.
  5. Add in minced onion and small diced tomatoes. (You can rinse the onions under water to deflame them and get rid of that hot raw onion taste.) For two avocados, I usually add half a medium onion and one medium tomato. You want the ripest, most flavorful tomato possible.
  6. Taste again and add more lime juice, salt, and pepper to taste.
  7. Eat.

Optional ingredients

  • Cilantro: some people love it
  • Mayonnaise: helps make it smoother, but it’s not necessary if you followed step 1 and 3.
  • Other spices: garlic, cumin, coriander, diced jalapeño, diced serranos, cayenne pepper, whatever

Oh, and please use fresh lime juice from real (small, thin-skinned) limes whenever possible.

Jen’s Green Thai-ish Curry

This little concoction is the product of Jen’s experimentation with Thai curry paste. It’s quite flavorful and with a light, fresh taste, and unusual vegetable composition.

Curry Sauce:

  • 1 can coconut milk (approx 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 tsp curry paste (available from most Asian food stores; we have used yellow and panang paste with good results
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 6 tbsp peanut butter (or 4 1/2 tbsp peanut butter powder plus 1 1/2 tbsp water)
  • 1 tbsp salt (more to taste if you like)
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1-2 tbsp fresh ginger (sliced or minced) or 1 tsp ginger powder
  • 3/4 bunch of cilantro (stalks included)
  • 1/4 tsp red or cayenne pepper

Place all ingredients in blender. Blend until smooth. Taste and add salt if necessary.

Stir fry:

  • 1 pound ground pork (we’ve tried chicken, turkey, and ground beef, but pork is the best tasting)
  • 1 onion diced
  • 1 sweet potato diced
  • 2 celery stalks diced
  • 2 carrots diced
  • 1 cup broccoli florets cut small
  • 1 bell pepper diced (we prefer red)
  • 1 squash or zucchni diced

Should be about five cups of vegetables total when diced.

Heat saute pan over medium heat. Place small amount of coconut oil in pan and brown pork with a pinch or two of salt. Dump meat in a bowl, and add a little more oil. Place harder vegetables in the pan (carrots and sweet potato) and add pinch of salt. Saute until they just begin to soften. Dump in bowl with meat. Repeat the process with broccoli and squash. Then repeat again with celery, onion, and peppers.

Place pork and all vegetables back in the pan and pour curry sauce over the meat/vegetable mixture. Stir occasionally until warmed through. Serve over jasmine rice.