A Week in the lab

Lab. Anyone who’s brushed elbows with the sciences knows what that word means. Goofy protective eyewear. Pipetting. Titrating over and over and over. So imagine my glee to discover that for nutrition nerds, lab also means this:

Recipe modification lab - crispy chicken fingers & sweet potato wedges

Food! Cooking! Dessert, even! All this comes courtesy of the Food, Culture & Society class at Framingham State. In lab, we’ve worked on healthy modifications to salty, high-calorie, sat-fat-heavy recipes; prepared menus based on quick and healthy recipes; and tried out no-meat entrees and desserts. I get to spend a couple hours chopping, blending, broiling and sampling every week, and often leave campus with enough leftovers for dinner. Best use of tuition dollars evar.

Granted, we also do a lot of more conventionally academic stuff that requires me to remember which plant-based foods are typically low in lysine (grains, nuts, seeds) and which are low in methionine (legumes). But exploring the practical applications of nutrition knowledge in lab is a great way to see how the rubber (vegetable pasta bake) hits the road (my mouth).

I’ve been sampling my way through this educational smorgasbord for a couple months now, and though it was time to share some of the recipes with ETW readers. Up to you whether you don the lab coat for these:

  • Artichoke arugula crostini, from My Recipes (here)
  • Crispy buttermilk chicken fingers (recipe follows below)
  • Crunchy pumpkin pie, from the NIH (here) – the NIH? Really? Nonetheless, the pie’s pretty good.
  • Double-tomato bruschetta, from All Recipes (here)
  • Edamame dip with pita chips, from About.com (here)
  • Honey-roasted carrots and parsnips, from CD Kitchen (here)
  • Spiced baked sweet potato wedges (recipe follows below)

The following two recipes are the brain-children of my lab partners and I. We were given a calorie-bomb, salt-laden menu and asked to modify it into something more healthy.

Crispy chicken fingers (text file here)

Adapted from original recipe by Ellie Krieger, Food Network, 2005: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ellie-krieger/crispy-chicken-fingers-recipe/index.html

3 servings, 200 calories each

¾ pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut across into 1/2-inch pieces

½ cup lowfat buttermilk

Cooking spray

2 cups flake cereal, such as Corn Flakes

2 cups whole-wheat panko crumbs

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Combine the chicken and buttermilk in a shallow dish. Cover and chill for 10-15 minutes.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Place a wire cooking rack on top, and spray it with cooking spray.

Put the cereal, panko, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a food processor and pulse for 1-2 minutes (alternatively, put the ingredients in a sealed plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin. Transfer the crumbs to a shallow dish

Dip each piece of chicken in the breading mix to fully coat and arrange on the baking rack. Bake until cooked through, about 10-11 minutes. Leave the chicken on the baking rack for a few minutes to cool slightly.

Sweet Potato Wedges (text file here)

Adapted from http://vegetarian.about.com/od/potatoesandsweetpotatoes/r/sweetfries.htm

3 servings, 105 calories each

2 medium sweet potatoes

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 egg white

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon paprika

½ teaspoon cumin

1/8 teaspoon salt


Preheat oven to 400 degree F.

Wash and slice sweet potatoes into wedges.  Add to a clean plastic bag.

In a bowl, mix egg white with olive oil until frothy.  Pour into the bag with potatoes, shake until wedges are coated.

Mix together spices and add to the bag.  Shake well until evenly coated.

Place potatoes in a single layer on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and bake for 30-35 minutes.

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