Finding the secret sauce
Devin Alexander, author of The Most Decadent Diet Ever!, likes the versatility of low-fat buttermilk, which works with a wide variety of spices and rubs, because it doesn't add a lot of flavor. "But it works wonders as a natural tenderizer." Alexander, also the host of "Healthy Decadence with Devin Alexander," which airs on Discovery Health and Fit TV, offers these tips for convenient and cost-effective meals:
- Spicy London Broil: Soak a lean meat, such as London broil, in buttermilk overnight. Just before dinner, remove the meat from the marinade and coat it in your choice of spices-for instance, onion powder, cayenne pepper, garlic powder and paprika-or your favorite store-bought rub, and let it stand for about 15 minutes. Then throw it on the grill or under the broiler. After it's cooked, make a loose tent of tin foil and let it set a few minutes to let the flavors redistribute, slice and serve.
- Faux Fried Chicken: Marinate chicken breast overnight in buttermilk, then coat it in a mixture of spices and crushed baked (not fried) potato chips and stick it in the oven. When it's no longer pink, it's done. As long as you don't overcook it, your chicken will come out as tender as if it was deep fried.
- Tandoori to the Rescue: Combine nonfat, plain yogurt with store-bought tandoori or curry paste for an effortless coating for chicken or seafood. Add a hint of fresh lime juice to the mix to make it taste "from scratch."
- Dressing Up: When you are in a rush, marinate meat in store-bought light balsamic vinaigrette. For a flavor boost, add extra balsamic vinegar and fresh herbs to the vinaigrette before using it as a marinade.
"Heck, when I'm really in a pinch," Alexander confesses, "I sometimes sprinkle Extra Spicy Mrs. Dash and Lawry's Seasoned Salt on turkey breast cutlets and throw them on the grill for a minute or two per side. " In other words, in the time it takes to set the table, dinner's ready.
Rules of thumb
For the tastiest recipes, made with safe food-handling practices, the Association for Dressings and Sauces recommends the following:
- For each 1 to 2 pounds of meat, poultry, seafood, fish or vegetables, figure 1/4 to 1/2 cup of marinade. Marinades soak about 1/4 inch into the surface of the food.
- Use heavy plastic food-storage bags or nonmetal containers for marinating. Glass and plastic won't react with acidic liquids in the marinade (such as vinegar, wine or lemon juice).
- Marinate food, covered, in the refrigerator (not at room temperature) for 15 minutes to 2 hours or longer, and turn food occasionally to evenly distribute the marinade.
- To tenderize meat, marinate it for up to 24 hours (after 24 hours, the texture of the meat may become mushy). Marinate fish only 15 to 30 minutes to prevent mushiness.
- Don't use the same marinade used on raw food as a sauce while cooking 0.75always use a fresh batch to keep contamination at a minimum.
With a little creativity and a well-stocked pantry, you can build a repertoire of go-to recipes that will satisfy your family with flavorful meals night after night.