Flavoring with lemon instead of salt: chicken pasta with a caramelized onion, roasted garlic, thyme-parsley-lemon cream sauce

Flavoring with lemon instead of salt: chicken pasta with a caramelized onion, roasted garlic, thyme-parsley-lemon cream sauce

This post is sponsored by Sunkist lemons. I have been compensated as part of an ad campaign for Sunkist. Posts by others around the Internet will be identified by the hashtags #tablethesalt.

chicken pasta with caramelized onion roasted garlic thyme parsley lemon cream sauce

I think I set a record for the longest title for a blog post ever, but it’s only because I wanted to be able to include every amazing ingredient in this dinner. Let’s list them again. Sweet caramelized onions. Perfectly roasted garlic. Parsley and thyme. Tart lemon. Rich cream. Over pasta, green beans and chicken.

When Sunkist contacted me to participate in their S’alternative — that is a campaign to encourage home food providers to use lemons instead of salt in dishes for the same type of flavor — I tried to think about ways I might overuse salt in our home.

It’s no secret that consuming excess amounts of salt is not healthy. For the vast majority of Americans, the bulk of daily sodium intake comes from heavily processed foods, not from salt added during cooking or at the table. In addition, the Dietary Guidelines for Healthy Americans note that virtually all Americans consume more sodium than needed, at an estimated average intake of 3,400 milligrams per day, when the recommended amount is between 1,500-2,300 milligrams per day, for the average person.

Sunkist lemons are grown in California and Arizona and available all year round. In addition to helping boost flavor and reducing sodium intake, lemons can be used in a number of ways – from household cleaning to healthy living.

lemons instead of salt

The good news is lemons play on your taste buds the same way as salt, so by using more lemon juice and zest, you can reduce the amount of salt added during the cooking process.

So I use a lot of salt when I’m trying to cut through something dense and heavy, such as potatoes or cream. That’s why I thought making pasta would be a great way to experiment with using more lemon and less salt. And what a grand experiment it was. It couldn’t have turned out more delicious.

chicken pasta with caramelized onion roasted garlic thyme parsley lemon cream sauce

To make this dish, I used Sunkist’s cooking recommendation ratio of salt, lemon and zest. (See the infographic below, for more on that.) [Read more…]

Chicken in lemon-garlic-sage browned butter

Chicken in lemon-garlic-sage browned butter

lemon garlic sage butter chicken

I’ve been saving this little number for a few weeks now. I was waiting until it’s memory faded a little bit because I didn’t want to gush. But as I’m typing these words, I realize that I’m probably going to gush anyway. This. Chicken. Is. So. Good. I mean, like,  best-chicken-I’ve-ever-had good. It’s succulent and absolutely bursting with flavor. Garlic and sage are amazing together, and just really brighten the flavor of the chicken. And, like, I knew it was good as I was eating it. But then my cousin, Elisha, texted me the next day and also said that she made it for her family and it was amazing too. So it’s not just me. Based on my scientific survey of two people, it’s unarguably out of this world.

lemon garlic sage butter chicken

[Read more…]

Salsa verde chicken

Salsa verde chicken


We went shopping on Memorial Day at the Grove City Outlets, which is halfway between Pittsburgh and Erie. I had painted my nails the night before, and on the way to shopping,  I wondered out loud if the polish was too flashy. (It’s a neon pink.)

“This nail polish might have been a bad decision,” I said.

A.J.’s mom responded: “I don’t think there are any bad decisions when it comes to nail polish.”

Man, she’s totally right.

Unrelated, if I could be any kind of chef, I would most definitely be a saucier. Sauciers are in charge of all the sauces in a restaurant kitchen, as well as soups and stews. I think sauces are the most fun, because your creations — which capture the essence of all these ingredients — can completely transform a dish.

Last night I made a wonderful sauce with a little melted butter, sauteed garlic, lemon thyme (which I later removed — see, essence) and lemon juice. It took all of five minutes to create the sauce and spoon it over the chicken, but it made pan-fried chicken absolutely wonderful.

So this post is about plain chicken. Boring chicken breasts seasoned with a little salt and pepper and pan-fried in some olive oil. But then there’s this glorious, spicy, Latin sauce. And suddenly the chicken isn’t so boring. It’s bright and flavorful and spicy and wonderful. Just with a little sauce.

I started by seasoning the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides and heating some olive oil in a medium-sized pot. When the oil was shimmering, I added the chicken and cooked it three minutes on each side, to get it golden brown, but not cooked through. (That comes later.) Then I set the chicken aside.

salsa-verde-chicken1 [Read more…]

Chicken in mushroom sauce

Chicken in mushroom sauce

chicken with mushroom sauce

We love mushrooms. Mushrooms are one of the ingredients in life that adds to dishes the flavor of umami,or  “pleasant savory taste,” that that comes from glutamate. (Remember umami is considered one of the five elements of tastes, the others being sweet, salty, bitter and sour, and that the best dishes in the world combine all five in perfect harmony.)

Some of the ingredients that add umami can seem sort of … scary for a beginner home food provider. Things like fish sauce and cured meats or fermented products. (Umami is also in cheese, which is why we all love cheese but don’t know why.)

This dish is easy — you just cook up some chicken and then create a really simple pan sauce from the mushrooms. Pan sauces are a really easy way to dress up your meat. They’re relatively quick to make and just require some substance (in our case the mushrooms) and some liquid (red wine and chicken broth, here.)

I started by pounding the chicken thin between two sheets of plastic wrap and then seasoning both sides with salt and pepper.

chicken with mushroom sauce

I melted some butter in a saucepan and dredged the chicken in flour. (If you want this ultra-low carb and/or gluten free you can use rice flour.) Then I added the chicken to the pot. You really want the chicken to be sitting in a single layer on the bottom of the pan, unlike mine which overlapped a bit. I cooked the chicken for maybe three minutes on both sides. It doesn’t take long when it’s pounded thin. Then I used tongs to pull the chicken out and rested them on a plate. [Read more…]

Salsa verde turkey burger

Salsa verde turkey burger

salsa verde turkey burger

When I was growing up and my mom made tacos there were always two types of hot sauce on the table amid the little bowls of taco toppings. The red salsa we all know and love and green salsa for my mom. She was the sole salsa verde lover in the house.  As a kid, I didn’t like it. It tasted too green to me, which I think was saying that it was too tart or acidic or vinegary or something.  However, recently I’ve become obsessed. I cooked chicken two nights ago in a salsa verde sauce I made AND I made these turkey burgers for the third time a few weeks ago.

After deciding we were going to eat red meat more sparingly, I’ve been using more and more ground turkey to replace ground meat in recipes. The problem is ground turkey doesn’t have as much flavor as ground beef. There’s a meatiness that comes from ground beef that adds another dimension to meals, that I just can’t replicate with ground turkey. There are several ways to overcome this. Using ground pork instead of ground beef is a good option because it has that meaty flavor, but sometimes that can create its own flavor. The other option is to bring in a lot of spices and seasonings and flavors from other sources just so the bland turkey doesn’t overpower the rest of the meal. Enter: salsa verde.

This recipe uses salsa verde and cilantro in the burger patties. It also calls for a lovely guacomole-esque spread on top of the burgers and a delicious use of pepper jack cheese that combines into one of the best burgers ever. I never thought I would say that about ground turkey burgers ever.

And you all know that I never try to make the same meal twice, but this meal has nearly become a weekly staple because it’s so good and so easy and so cheap and it just tastes so good.

Man, I love a good burger.

I started by making the burger patties. In a bowl we have ground turkey, fresh cilantro and salsa verde. It creates a very wet mixture that is a little prone to falling apart so be gentle. I mixed up the ingredients with my hands and then formed four patties. [Read more…]

Chicken with pine nut, raisin and parsley gremolata

Chicken with pine nut, raisin and parsley gremolata


So the other day at the gym, I was listening to a podcast about pizza while I was on the elliptical machine. At one point, one person got on the machine on my right at the same time another person got on the machine on my left, and I had a little brain freak-out, where I thought they might be able to hear the podcast also? My thought process went a little like this:

Oh, god, can they hear what is happening? Are they judging me? I don’t always listen to food-related podcasts. No, I totally do. Well Joy the Baker doesn’t always talk about food. Maybe I should find other podcasts not about food for strictly listening to at the gym? They can’t hear this. What if they tell others and I become the laughing-stock of the gym? I have headphones on. They can’t hear what’s going on. Can they? Are they judging me? It’s pizza! They can’t judge me for this. I’m not eating the pizza, I’m just listening about it. So what, if they can hear? It’s cool. It’s pizza. This is who I am. They shouldn’t be so judg-y anyway.

I eventually ascertained that they couldn’t hear what was happening inside my headphones anyway. I swear if there’s no stress to be had, I just create it in my head.

This dinner is no stress. Don’t create your own stress in your head. It’s a little chopping. A little toasting. A little zesting. And some cooking. That’s it. And I totally won’t judge you if you listen to a podcast about pizza while you make it. Or when you’re at the gym. Everyone should be listening to podcasts about pizza always, is the situation.

Panfrying chicken can get a little tricky — especially thick cuts. You want your temperature to be at the high-end of medium, try to use a ceramic Dutch oven if you have it, because that tempers the heat a little, if not that stainless steel. Always cover it, and try not to uncover it to look at it too much.

So this dish is just chicken. Just chicken covered in this delicious, buttery, crunchy, chewy parsley gremolata — which is an Italian word for an herb-heavy, chunky condiment — made from toasted pine nuts, chopped parsley, lemon zest and raisins.

I started by placing my chicken in a pot in some olive oil. I covered it and let it cook for seven minutes on the first side. [Read more…]

Maple-bourbon glazed salmon

Maple-bourbon glazed salmon


If there’s one thing I love, it’s bourbon. Sorry I’m not sorry. On the rocks. In cocktails. In desserts. On fish?

Totally on fish. With sticky maple syrup and toasted pecans. This dish is warm. I mean, obviously warm in temperature. But also warm in flavor.

The best part about drinking bourbon is the way your whole mouth and throat warms after the first few sips. You can feel the blush rise up in your throat and burst in your mouth and it’s just lovely after a hard day, or a mediocre day, or a good day. Any kind of day.

Obviously the alcohol mostly cooks out of this dish, so it doesn’t create that same blush as when you drink bourbon. But it creates a flavor that’s warm and rich and lovely. Also, this dish is quick and easy, but doesn’t taste like it. Those are my favorite kinds of dishes.

I started by preparing my sauce: some bourbon, some maple syrup, a little water in a sauce pot over high heat. [Read more…]

Chicken breasts with lemon-butter sauce

Chicken breasts with lemon-butter sauce

letter butter chicken

There’s this specialty espresso shot at Starbucks that I really want to try, but haven’t felt bold enough to order it.

It’s sometimes called an Undertow, but I think the general Internet consensus is to not call “secret” Starbucks drinks by their made-up names and just order the drink the way you want. It’s a layered drink with vanilla syrup, milk and espresso. You take it all at once and taste the hot, bitter espresso first, then the creamy, cool milk, followed by the sweet syrup.

Sometimes you just want flavor to hit you in the face.

This dish has no vanilla syrup or creamy milk or bitter espresso, but it does hit you in the face.

Sometimes you just want to take a bite of chicken and taste every single ingredient you put into it in a perfect harmony of, well, POW.

There’s not so many ingredients here — some lemon, some lemon pepper, some butter and some breaded chicken. But it’s enough.

(Today is the last day to take the readers’ survey so if you haven’t yet, would you please? I have had 39 responses, and wouldn’t it be nice to get to a nice round 50?)

I started by pounding my chicken thin (doing this is really essential, and it really makes pan-frying a breeze). Then I breaded the chicken with a little flour, mixed with some salt and lemon pepper. [Read more…]

Slow cooker ranch pesto chicken and pasta

Slow cooker ranch pesto chicken and pasta


You guys already know that I love pesto. I LOVE pesto. It’s like the best sauce ever. I also love Ranch dressing. Sometimes we order take out from a local restaurant, and when I ask for Ranch, they know it’s me calling, which sounds sort of pathetic now that I type that out. So this recipe inspired by Picky Palate’s combines two things I love, and then I took that and ran with it and thew some pasta and broccoli in there as well, and it was f-ing incredible.

To start, I combined pesto, chicken broth and Ranch dressing powder in a slow cooker with six chicken thighs. I let this cook for seven hours, removed it from the slow cooker and chopped it into bite-sized pieces. Then I boiled the pasta and broccoli (together in the same water for efficiency!), drained that, and threw that in the slow cooker, along with some Parmesan, to get it all mixed up in the sauce. Easy peasy, and so good!


Slow cooker ranch pesto chicken and pasta

Total Time: 8 hours

Slow cooker ranch pesto chicken and pasta

6 boneless chicken thighs
6 ounces pesto
1 package Ranch seasoning mix (3 tablespoons)
1/2 cup chicken broth
16 ounces rotini (or other pasta)
10 ounces frozen broccoli florets
4 ounces Parmesan

Combine chicken, pesto, Ranch and chicken broth in a slow cooker, and cook on high for 4-5 hours or low for 7-8 hours. In the last hour, remove chicken from slow cooker and cut into bite-sized pieces. Return to slow cooker and boil pasta and broccoli until done (about 10 minutes). Drain and add to slow cooker, along with Parmesan, stirring to distribute evenly.


Adapted from Picky Palate.

Understanding Marinades: Pollo Delicioso

Everyone loves chicken. It’s a staple on many a menu, and with good reason. Chicken is plentiful, cheap, healthy and, when cooked right, absolutely delicious. If you read my last article on red meat marinades, you already know that whipping up a fresh marinade for your meat can take it to the next level. Chicken is no different, but the marinade process is.

In review, remember that a marinade consists of three elements: an acidic element, oil and flavoring. With chicken, citrus is a fantastic choice that will actually combine the acidic and flavoring components. Take it easy though. A little bit goes a long way.

The important thing to remember with chicken is that it is a rather fragile meat when compared with something like steak. Instead of a marinade process lasting 12 to 24 hours, you should really never marinate chicken for more than 3 hours.

A unique option to consider for chicken is soaking the meat in a brine solution. This can be used in addition to the marinade, or it can be used as a substitute. A brine is a simple salt water solution used to enhance the “juiciness” of the meat. A single chicken breast should be soaked in the solution for about an hour.

This recipe is about as simple as it gets, but I absolutely love it. It’s a brine/marinade combination that I think you’ll find makes for some absolutely delicious chicken! [Read more…]