Diet Hacks: Citrus-Herb Marinade

When I cook my chicken for the week’s snacking and lunching, I often use this easy marinade.  It’s got enough flavor to really perk up the chicken, but the flavors are neutral enough to use any leftover chicken for other dishes or for lettuce wraps with various toppings.  This will work well with pork tenderloin as well.  Just about any fresh herb will work here (great use of leftover herbs), but my favorite combo is fresh basil and oregano.

Citrus-Herb Marinade

1 cup orange juice (bottled is fine)
2 limes, juiced
fresh herbs, few sprigs, leaves chopped
glug of olive oil
kosher salt (3/4 tsp per pound of meat)
black pepper or red chile flakes, to taste

Mix in a large freezer-duty Ziploc, add chicken, squeeze air out of bag, place on a dish, and refrigerate overnight. Lift chicken out of marinade before cooking. Discard remainder of marinade.

Diet Hack: Chicken Tenders for Protein Snacks

Chicken tenders make quick, lean protein snacks. No trimming and dirty cutting board needed (may depend on brand; Buddy’s from HEB need no help), marinate or season, roast on a foil-lined baking sheet (makes dish-washing  easy) at 375 for 10 minutes or until done (165F internal).  I eat these cold out of the fridge with my fingers and even take them on the go in a wee cooler and eat them while I drive. Can do the same with breasts, which are cheaper, but the tenders stay really moist and tender, are very forgiving if overcooked, and don’t require slicing or even a fork — they go straight from oven to storage container to mouth.  If you do go for chicken breasts, slice them before putting in the fridge so that they are still grab-n-go.

Diet Hack: Emergency Protein

Protein snacks and very quick meals are hard to come by.  Instead of constantly grabbing quick carbs,  I make an “emergency protein” that gets me through the week. Any veggies banging around the bin (today it’s small diced butternut, onion, garlic, jalapeno, red bell, some end-of-its-life kale), saute till soft, add ground meat of choice, tons of (Penzey’s or good quality) curry powder, dried basil, salt. I wrap it in lettuce leaves or pile on a bed of baby spinach. Great way to use up lingering produce as the curry works with almost everything and ties random flavors together nicely. Not elegant, but tasty, easy, economical, and healthy.

Chili Roasted Chicken

Some say a roasted chicken, done plainly and simply, is hard to improve upon. I say there’s nothing that chilies can’t make better.

If you’re a chile freak, make this chicken now. Once dubbed “Scary Chicken” by a customer with a more timid palate, it requires cold beer and a love of the lip tingle. Is it for serving guests? No. Is it the equivalent of wearing a hair shirt? Maybe. Salvation through pain. More specifically, capsaicin, which I contend is addictive. The more you eat chilies, the more you want them.


I know I’m not alone in this chile fetish of mine; I sold a lot of this chicken over the years and plenty of other spicy food. There are people who never ordered from me again, but there were others, like Daphne, who literally did a dance in front of her coworkers when I delivered her Shrimp Sauce Piquant and told her I had made it extra spicy. That’s what a cook lives for.  I will never forget it.

This is a stupidly easy recipe. It’s hard to even call it a recipe.  You mince ginger, rub the chicken, and bake it. If you can barely nuke your Easy Mac you can still handle this.


With a mini food processor for mincing the ginger, this chicken takes about 10 minutes to get into the oven. Put on a pot of jasmine rice while it cooks and stir-fry some greens (bok choy, mustard greens, etc.) in sesame oil at the last minute. If you like mushrooms, toss some shiitakes into your greens.

And make sure you’ve got your beer chilled!

Chile-Roasted Chicken
A rub of chile-garlic paste caramelizes in the oven for deeply golden and crispy skin while fresh ginger adds its aromatic heat to the chicken. Not for the timid, this is seriously spicy. 

Serves 2

2 chicken leg quarters
2 thumb-sized pieces of ginger, peeled and minced
Huy Fong chile-garlic paste, see Note
kosher salt
disposable latex gloves (optional, but recommended)

Peel ginger by scraping with the side of a spoon. (See picture.) Mince in a food processor until pulverized.

Line a baking sheet with heavy duty foil. Place chicken on foil and pat dry with a paper towel.

Run a finger under the skin to loosen the skin from the meat. Do not detach the skin.

Wearing gloves to protect your hands from the chile paste, rub the meat (under the skin) with salt, ginger, and a generous amount of chile paste. Be sure to stuff some seasoning down the length of the drumstick.

Replace the skin and rub the exterior of the meat with more chile paste. Your chicken should be entirely coated with the paste, top and bottom.

Roast at 425F for 25-30 minutes or until done. If you have any doubts, an instant-read thermometer should read 165F when inserted into the thickest part of the thigh.

Note about chile paste:
Don’t confuse chili garlic paste with sriracha, the smoother “rooster sauce” that comes in a squeeze bottle. You want the chunkier version. You can also use sambal oelek, but add a couple cloves of fresh garlic to the ginger when you process it.