Parmesan Chicken with Zoodles and Marinara Sauce

 
My husband’s new favorite thing since we had to cut out pasta, is zoodles. I was pretty surprised considering he doesn’t like zucchini… but I’ll take it! I LOOOOVE pasta- with marinara, alfredo, vodka sauce, or vinaigrette in pasta salad- just yum. So I’ve been trying a few different thing to fill the pasta-sized hole in my heart, and zoodles have worked pretty darn well.

The first recipe I found for zoodles was from OnceAMonthMeals, which is an amazing resource as someone who likes to make freezer meals. I had a membership back in 2012 as way to cut down on eating out when I was tired after school and work, and I love the menus they have and the overall sticker/prep guide/shopping list is amazing if you have no idea how to start cooking multiple meals in a couple days. But why I went to OAMM first is because I figured if I’m going to spiralize some zoodles, I’ll do a big batch and freeze them down. Since it’s a water-laden veggie, I knew this may require some preparation so it wouldn’t turn to mush when it was thawed.

I definitely suggest salting the noodles thoroughly and placing it in a mesh strainer over a bowl to get rid of some of the excess water even if you aren’t freezing them. First off, once the noodles are a bit dehydrated, they can absorb some of the sauce they go into which help give them flavor. Two, you avoid the potential mushy mess they’ll become if you put them into a sauce without dehydrating them. Three, said mushy mess can be disastrous in a cream based sauce like alfredo, so just trust me and take the time to do it! If you need to speed up the process, you can lay them in a single layer on paper towels, salt them, then place another layer of paper towels on top, replacing as they soak through with the moisture.

You may also notice the shirataki noodles here! I didn’t use them in this recipe (make a chicken noodle soup at the same time as this). They’re also very good for ‘noodle’ texture and absorb-ability, however you have to rinse them to remove the ‘fishy’ smell, then cook in a plain skillet with no oil/water to remove their water content. You can find these in the tofu aisle of places like Star Market and Whole Foods!

Now that you’ve gotten your salted zoodles, you can freeze any extra by putting parchment paper on a metal baking tray/cookie sheet, and placing zoodles in a single layer across the paper. Flash freeze them by placing the tray in the freezer for 30+ minutes until they’ve frozen. You can then place them in a tubberware or freezer bag, limiting any empty space or air in the bag to avoid freezer burn.

In this recipe, we’ll directly put the zoodles in the marinara to cook, but if you are doing a recipe without a sauce, I suggest boiling some chicken stock and cooking the noodles in that for 2-3min. Any longer and again, you may wind up with mush. I also don’t add any salt to my sauces when adding zoodles, and would suggest using low sodium bacon if you want to add bacon to a zoodles recipe.

As for the chicken, this is literally just butter, parmesan, and a couple tablespoons of panko for crunch. If you want to go full keto and increase the fiber content, you can use flax seed instead in a 1:1 ratio to the parmesan. Considering the overall carb count, I kept the panko in.

Finally, I tend to play with my marinara every time I make it, so this is what I decided to throw in this time to make it a bit spicy.

Zoodles:

3-4 medium sized zucchinis
2 tbsp  salt

Parmesan Chicken:

2 large chicken breasts, sliced in half
3 tbsp melted or softened butter
1 cup parmesan cheese
2 tbsp panko crumbs
1/4 tsp pepper or to taste

Marinara Sauce:

1 14oz can of tomato sauce
1 6oz can of tomato paste
1 cup water
1 tbsp Worchestershire sauce
3 tbsp Italian seasoning
1 tbsp garlic, crushed
2 tbsp onion powder
2 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp cumin
2 tsp crushed red pepper (or to taste)
1/4 tsp black pepper (or to taste)

Directions:

  1. Set your oven to 375C
  2. Make noodle shapes from your zucchinis using a spiralizer or a cheese grater.
  3. Place zoodles into fine mesh strainer or lay flat in a single layer on paper towels.
  4. Salt zoodles liberally, turning them by hand in the mesh strainer to ensure the zoodles are coated. If using paper towels, cover the zoodles with another layer of paper towels.
  5. Let water drain from the zoodles for ~30min in the strainer, or ~15-20min using the paper towel method. You can speed the process by gently pushing the noodles against the strainer/paper towels. The zoodles should look thinner at this point and feel like al dente pasta when you bit one.
  6. Next, combine the parmesan, panko, and pepper into a bowl and mix so each component is well distributed in the mix.
  7. Cut your chicken breasts in half so your have two thinner filets per breast.
  8. Coat the chicken in the melted or softened butter.
  9. Roll your chicken in the parmesan/panko mix and place on a parchment lined baking tray
  10. Bake the chicken for 20min, flip the pieces and cook for another 15-20min depending on the thickness. The coating should be deep brown at the edges when they’re ready.
  11. While the chicken cooks and the zoodles dehydrate, mix all the marinara ingredients together in a pot and set to a low-medium heat while stirring occasionally.
  12. When the chicken is ready, add zoodles to the marinara and stir. let zoodles warm through for 2-5min, then serve.Viola! This took me about 45min to make and it’s SUPER satisfying!


    Troubleshooting:
    My zoodles are mushy!

You should salt the zoodles thoroughly to dehydrate them, to the point they no longer feel wet or slimy but more like a damp cardboard. This just tastes time, so don’t rush it! Also, the leftover will be a bit more mushy but they do take on more of the marinara flavor, so it’s a give and take.

My chicken wasn’t cooked through!

Obviously everyone’s ovens will be different, so you may need to increase the temperature 25-50C if you do not see the coating on the chicken turning a light golden color after 20min. Also, my chicken breasts were 0.5-1in thick after cutting them in half, so anything thicker will take more time and you risk bruning the coating. Make sure your chicken is no bigger than 1inch high from the pan for optimal cooking.

Surprise Chocolate Truffles


The first recipe had to be my Surprise Chocolate Truffles. The surprise is there’s only 5 ingredients and none of them are butter.. You read that right- so these are healthy lower-fat, fiber-containing truffles that are still silky smooth and chocolatey heaven. How so, what do they use?

Avocados.

Not gonna lie, I was raised in NorCal and LOOOOVE avocados. In salad, on sandwiches, on top of chili, or just cut open and with a drizzle of Sriracha and mashed in the skin. They’re soooo good.

Also I’ve been diagnosed with hypokalemia (low potassium) and these puppies have a whopping ~25% if you daily value of potassium AND magnesium!! Amazing. And yet- Sean hates them. His whole family does in fact, which just brings a tear to my eye.

While it’s awesome that I get all the avocados to myself, I reeeeally wanted a way to open Sean’s eyes to the wonderful world of avocado. When I found this recipe by Nutrition to Fit, I knew I had to try it!

So first off, you’re going to need a good food processor and some avocados. I prefer using ones that are a day or so away from browning, so if you hold them and squeeze, they feel like a stress ball that doesn’t bounce back. This is also a great way to use them up even if there’s some browning, just avoid those parts! Not like I’ve totally left like 3 avocados on a counter for a few days and been like ‘crap… what to do with these..’

I use my awesome 6 cup food processor, and those over-ripe avocados form a paste in like 3 seconds flat. Then, take your dark chocolate, melt it in a suitable container (not plastic) in the microwave for a minute, stir and repeat for 30sec until melted. Or over a double boiler if the mood strikes, it’ll take ~5-8min over medium heat.

**Any time you microwave a viscous liquid, especially caramel, honey, etc, ALWAYS scoop around the container edges BEFORE scraping across the bottom!! When you microwave anything viscous, a heat pocket forms in the bottom middle part of the container, it can burst and throw the stuff everywhere and burn your face!!**

Okay, now you know what NOT to do, mix the chocolate as it melts, making sure you go across the bottom last to ensure the chocolate won’t burn. I like using silicon spatulas for this, but a spoon works fine.

Once it’s melted to and doesn’t hurt to grab the container, add the chocolate to the avocado in the processor. Then while you’re at it, add the honey and maple syrup, and mix again until the consistency is uniform. If it looks a bit soup-y for any reason (more sugar, any additional flavors in liquid form, etc), add a tablespoon of cocoa powder and mix. If your kitchen is just boiling hot and it’s making the mixture a bit more liquefy, don’t worry, it’ll firm up in the freezer.

(Here you can also add peppermint/raspberry/orange/vanilla extract/etc for any sort of extra flavor or holiday mood!)

Then still that processor container into the freezer for 30+ min to firm up. Once it’s solid, you’ll want to wash your hands for the next bit! Use a spoon or a melon baller to scoop out bits at a time, roll it between your palms to round it out and then roll in cocoa powder. Ta-da!!! Surprise truffles! Even your avocado-hating husband will love em!

Surprise Avocado Truffles

Course Dessert
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 24
Calories 50 kcal

Ingredients

  • 2 avocados
  • 4 oz dark chocolate
  • 2 tbsp sugar free maple syrup
  • 0.5 tbsp honey
  • 0.5 cup cocoa powder for rolling
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract or other flavors as desired

Instructions

  1. Melt the dark chocolate in a microwave for 30 seconds at a time, stirring in between, until melted (~1.5min)

  2. Puree the avocado in a food processor until smooth consistency is reached

  3. Add melted chocolate, maple syrup, and any extract to the food processor and puree again until smooth an equal consistency is reached. If it looks more like pudding than puree, add 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder.

  4. Transfer mixture to the freeze for ~30 minutes until the mix firms.

  5. Place cocoa powder in a bowl.

  6. Take one tablespoon of truffle mixture at a time and roll it into a ball between your hands.

  7. Place the truffles into the cocoa powder and roll the ball to coat evenly.

  8. Serve immediately.

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1
Servings Per Container 24

Amount Per Serving
Calories 50 Calories from Fat 27
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 3g 5%
Saturated Fat 1g 5%
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 5mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate 6g 2%
Dietary Fiber 2g 8%
Sugars 3g
Protein 1g 2%

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Troubleshooting Guide:

The truffles don’t melt in my mouth!
Using green or JUST ripe avocados means the fiber hasn’t broken down as much, so it’s more stringy. Good for increasing fiber intake, less good for melt-in-your-mouth-ness.
They’re okay but not very sweet

Using only sugar-free maple syrup won’t increase the sweetness as much since the sugar alcohols are more liquidy and become harder to taste when mixed with fat. Good for flavor, not as good for actual ‘sweetness’ but it only takes up to tablespoon of honey for 2-3 cups of mixture to really play up the sugar sensation.

The truffles are hard to roll
Keep your work space cool- I roll them in my living room as the kitchen gets too warm. Also, try to keep your hands cool by washing them in cold water every 15-20 truffles or so. You can also coat your hand in cocoa as you go so they won’t stick as much. If the mix warms up too much, just stick it back in the freezer for 5-10min. You can also always store the container in the fridge and eat the rest with a spoon when nobody is watching :p

Hello!

So the first thing you probably need to know about me is I work in biology research, which means I love a good protocol. The one thing I’ve always loooved in a protocol, is the troubleshooting section. Running the same damn experiment 20 times with 20 new problems is probably the most frustrating aspect of research and is obviously a necessity at times with new protocols. But when you run a protocol with someone who’s been-there-done-that that can explain where you’ll probably make a mistake unknowingly or found a faster way of doing a step? WAY more fun!

That’s the first thing I’m going to bring to this blog, because I’m only going to write tried-and-true good food. Second thing is trying to limit the sugar, white flour, processed food, etc. Sean, my husband who gets to be my number one guinea pig, was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2017 so we’ve been conscious of removing foods that can spike his sugar levels. Plus, it’s more of a challenge, which is way more fun.

Other things to know: I work in the tiniest Boston kitchen possible, with a fridge/freezer that is literally the next step up from a dorm sized one, and I like to shop monthly and prep/cook weekly. Did I mention I like a challenge?

This leads to some ‘weird’ foods that can include some weird ingredients that I’ll try to let you know where they can be found (damn Shirataki noodles took AGES!!). Some things will be sugar-free or ‘low-carb’ and not always natural food, though I generally try and stick to whole foods and only use honey for a sweetener. Course, if you’re curious or have questions, you can always comment or email and I’ll try to respond in a timely manner. Thanks!!