Crabtree, a UMASS Amherst dorm that my best college buddy lived in. We were both math majors, so it was a match made in BFF heaven. In the fall semester of 2001, we had a Wednesday night ritual that consisted of pretending to do Abstract Algebra homework, watching American Idol and inhaling chicken. We couldn't make it through an evening of homework and Idol without our weekly Wings Over Amherst order of a boneless Skymaster of honey barbecue. If you were lucky enough to attend a college or university with a Wings Over chain in the area, you likely understand. If not, allow me to explain. A Skymaster consisted of 1 1/2 pounds of deep-fried, crispy, crunchy, breaded chicken tenders, double coated in a honey barbecue sauce served with blue cheese dressing. The Skymaster paired well with any cold cheap beer that a college student might have lying around or, in our case, a couple of Twisted Teas. After ordering (I had memorized my credit card number from my repeat business), we would try to focus on homework for the 30-40 minutes that it took for the wings to be delivered from across town, but then it was a free for all. We finished each and every Skymaster that was delivered that semester. Then, my loyal friend became a vegetarian and the chicken only lived on in our memories.
Over the years, my palate has become more refined and my stomach can't handle the grease. So, I have included some of my healthier chicken recipes. While these recipes are a far cry from the chicken I ate in that dorm room in 2001, I fondly reminisce of the memories each time I sit at the table with chicken on my plate.
1. Panko Oven "Fried" Chicken: I nearly died the first time I made this recipe. I thought it would be impossible to get this kind of crunch and flavor without frying. It's not! The key is the buttermilk marinade. It sounds like it would be more calories, but buttermilk actually has fewer calories than regular milk!
Easy Cilantro Lime Chicken: I had this chicken for the first time while attending a barbecue at a friend's house (that's you, Jen Stahl). Not only was I impressed with the fresh crisp flavor, but I was also super excited about the ease factor. The marinade can be thrown together quickly with just three ingredients. This chicken has become a regular in our summer grilling rotation! In the winter, I often prepare it in a non-stick skillet with a teensy bit of olive oil.
Chicken Quesadillas: Anything that has cheese, chicken, avocado and cilantro is A-ok in my book! My family loves quesadillas, so I make them often. A couple of my favorites are included here.
Slow Cooker Honey Garlic Chicken: Pop it in before work in the morning and you won't believe how your house smells when you get home.
Asian Honey Chicken: With the astronomical sodium and sugar levels in take-out Chinese, I get a food hangover every time we order. So, I have been hunting for a healthier, low-sodium Asian chicken recipe that can be ready in under 30 minutes. Here it is!
Chicken and Dumplings, Spanish Style: Smoked paprika, chorizo, saffron and Tempranillo wine are just a couple of my favorite Spanish flavors. They are all included in this recipe, a twist on a classic comfort dish.
Waldorf Chicken Salad Lettuce Wraps: The sweetness and crisp crunch of the red grapes pairs so well with the pecans in this fancy without the fuss chicken salad. Serve this when Martha Stewart comes to lunch!
Chicken and Butternut Squash Stew with Farro: After many back and forth texts with my sister-in-law, Anna, she inspired me to do two things; eat more soup and cook with more whole grains. I have done both in this recipe! She suggested I try this recipe with farro. The chewy texture combined with the nutty flavor do wonders for this stew. Anna, aren't you proud?