Braised Chicken with Mushrooms and Pearl Onions

Diet. It’s the word you love to hate. We’ve all probably attempted one at some point in our life, whether it be calorie counting, extreme exercising, eating a grapefruit before every meal, drinking apple cider vinegar shots or maybe a combination of all this craziness! I’m pretty sure there was one month during college where I was living off of baby carrots and Lean Cuisines because I was adamant I was going to fit into a dress for a sorority formal from my freshman year of high school… and I did, but the weight didn’t stay off. I think I gained back all 10 lbs. in beer that night. We can all agree 97% of these ideas do not work.

Like the medical experts always say, the key to a healthy lifestyle (and losing weight) is eating a healthy, balanced diet with the “good” foods in moderation (a.k.a. carbs, alcohol and dessert) along with a daily exercise plan. That’s why when I told myself one of my New Year’s resolutions was going to be having a healthier lifestyle I was super excited to find the Mayo Clinic eating plan (I refuse to call it the Mayo Clinic Diet that they’ve now changed the book title to… I think the former “Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight for Everybody” was so much better!).

So what is the Mayo Clinic eating plan? It’s a healthy eating plan that uses the Mayo Clinic food pyramid to guide your food choices to help you maintain or lose weight combined with exercise. The book comes with sample menus for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for 7 days a week and for up to 12 weeks. The menus are great because they allow you to mix and match. If you’re trying to maintain your weight, it will guide you to how many calories you should be eating daily. If you’re trying to lose weight, it is designed to help you lose 6-10 lbs. within the first two weeks, and continue losing 1-2 lbs. per week. And you’re not limited to only the recipes available in the book. Mayo Clinic has several cookbooks also available that you can find through Amazon that use the same food pyramid.

This was finally something I could do realistically and Mayo Clinic is highly respected in the medical field. I initially lost 8 lbs. in the first month. You may be thinking, “Only 8 lbs?! I need to lose more.” Well, let’s also take into consideration I’m only 5’1″ and my BMI has never been “overweight” so 8 lbs. was a reasonable amount for me to lose in a month.

All of this better eating led me to buy the New Mayo Clinic Cookbook: Eating Well for Better Health. May I also add this book was the winner of the James Beard Award in 2005? I’ve since tried out several of the recipes, and some on my unsuspecting friends and family who don’t know they’re eating a “diet” recipe. When I’ve come clean after the meal, the reactions have been shock that the food was that tasty because that’s not what you usually get from low-calorie, low-fat recipes.

So if you’re still looking to shed a few pounds for your upcoming summer vacation or wedding, or maybe you’re still trying to fulfill your New Year’s resolution like me, try out this recipe and decide for yourself! The braised chicken is extremely tender and moist and I like to serve it with a 1/2 cup of steamed rice and a fresh steamed green vegetable like asparagus, broccoli or green beans. You can find the nutrition analysis here.

Braised Chicken with Mushrooms and Pearl Onions

Adapted from the New Mayo Clinic Cookbook

1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons EVOO or canola oil
1 shallot, chopped
1 lb. small white button mushrooms, sliced
1/2 lb. peeled pearl onions (frozen work well!)
3/4 cup vegetable stock, chicken stock or chicken broth
1/2 cup dry red wine
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped thyme

In a shallow dish, stir together the flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Dredge the chicken pieces in the seasoned flour.

In a large, heavy saucepan or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook, turning once, until browned on both sides, about 5 minutes total. Transfer to a platter.

Add the shallot to the pan and saute until softened, about 1 minute. Add the mushrooms and saute until lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes (Note: You may need to add an additional tablespoon of oil). Stir in the onions and saute until they begin to pick up some brown color, 2 to 3 minutes.

Stir in the stock and wine and deglaze the pan, stirring with a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits. Return the chicken pieces to the pan, and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the chicken and vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.

Stir in the vinegar, the chopped thyme, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Let simmer for an additional 5 to 10 minutes until liquid thickens to a gravy consistency.

To serve, divide the vegetables among warmed shallow individual bowls with rice, and divide chicken and vegetables evenly. Garnish with thyme sprigs. Serve immediately.

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Benihana Hibachi Chicken

Prep work is key for this recipe! I find this recipe easier to make if you read it a few times, and do all your prep work (i.e. chopping vegetables, meat) prior to starting to cook. You’ll be working with three different pans, and once you get the food cooking, it takes all of 20 minutes.

No, you don’t need a hibachi to cook it (although I’m sure it tastes even better cooked on an open grill, plus the entertainment of them lighting everything on fire!), but it does work best if you use at least one non-stick pan for the fried rice.

Benihana Hibachi Chicken & Fried Rice

1 lb. boneless chicken breasts, cubed
1 large onion, chopped
2 zucchini or yellow squash, chopped
2 cups sliced mushrooms
2 cups sugar snap peas
3 green onions, chopped
3 cups cooked white rice
1/2 cup cooked frozen peas
1/2 cup cooked frozen carrots
6 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons oil
4 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 package fried rice seasoning (found in international food aisle)
2 eggs
Salt and pepper

I start with the fried rice, and finish it at the very end. You’ll want to buy a package of fried rice seasoning, usually found in the international food aisle with oriental cuisine. The package has directions on the back as well. Cook your white rice, and frozen carrots and peas. Chop the carrots lightly. Add the rice, peas, carrots and chopped green onion to a non-stick pan to cool. When you get to the last step for the chicken hibachi, add 1 tablespoon of oil to the pan and fry the rice and vegetables on medium-high heat for 5 to 8 minutes. Add the fried rice seasoning package and 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, stirring for 2 minutes. Push the rice to one side of the pan, and scramble 2 eggs on the other. Mix the egg in with the rice and combine, cooking for another 3 to 5 minutes.

For the chicken hibachi, chop the zucchini or squash, onion and chicken prior to starting. I buy pre-sliced mushrooms and wash well before using. Snap the ends off of the fresh sugar snap peas as well if needed.

Spread 1 tablespoons of oil in a pan over medium-high heat, and 1 tablespoon of oil in another pan over medium-high heat (2 pans). Begin by sauteing the cubed chicken in one pan, and add 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon butter, and salt and pepper to the chicken. In the other pan, add the zucchini, onion, 2 tablespoons soy sauce and 1 tablespoon butter. Saute the vegetables as long as the chicken is cooking, remembering to stir both pans often.

When chicken appears white on all sides, push the chicken to one side of the pan. Add the mushrooms to the other side of the pan, and add 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon butter, and salt and pepper. Pour 2 teaspoons of lemon juice over the chicken.

Turn down the vegetables to medium-low heat heat and add the sugar snap peas. Continue to stir both pans. (Note: This is when you should finish cooking the fried rice).

After 6 to 8 minutes, or when the chicken is done, mix the chicken with the mushrooms. Pour the chicken and mushroom mixture and the vegetable mixture into a large bowl, stirring to combine.

Serve the hibachi chicken over the fried rice.