For years, my go-to speedy lunch has been a cup of yogurt, a piece of fruit, and a handful or two of a crunchy nut mix. It’s a filling meal that covers a lot of bases—protein, calcium, something sweet, something salty. And it tastes great.
But as much as yogurt can be convenient, grab-and-go ammunition in the everyday battle to eat well when time is tight, it can be a secret weapon in a vast array of recipes. In baking, for example, yogurt can stand in for butter, oil or sour cream, all while adding moisture and replacing fat with protein.
On the savory side, yogurt also pulls its weight in marinades. Because yogurt is mildly acidic and contains enzymes, it carries flavor and tenderizes meat at the same time. In the first recipe that follows, yogurt is swapped with the traditional oil in a wet rub that lends extraordinary flavor to chicken. It’s a versatile recipe, too, perfect on its own and in a variety of south-of-the-border or Asian dishes. Enjoy the chicken hot off the grill the first night, but make extra for burrito bowls, fajitas, and easy stir-fries later in the week.
The spicy crema recipe—which happens to be delicious spooned over the chili lime grilled chicken—trades sour cream for non-fat Greek yogurt for a creamy sauce you can feel good about. It makes a delightful dipping sauce for sweet potato fries, too.
And since the grill will be hot, why not toss a few pieces of pound cake on the grates—just long enough to make golden grill marks—and make the ending extra sweet with seasonal fruit and an easy yogurt sauce?
Chili Lime Chicken
Yield: 4 servings
Enjoy this spice-rubbed chicken on its own or with a dollop of Chipotle Lime Crema. For evenly cooked, juicy chicken, you may wish to pound the breasts to an even thickness.
In a bowl that is large enough to fit the chicken or in a zipper-top bag, mix the dry spices (chili powder through cayenne pepper), and then stir in the oil, lime juice, zest, and honey. Add the chicken breasts, and flip them a few times to evenly coat in the spice rub. Time permitting, allow the chicken to marinate all day or overnight. The chicken will still taste delicious if marinated for a shorter time–aim for at least an hour or two–but the flavor will improve with time. Let the chicken sit at room temperature for 30 minutes prior to grilling.
Preheat the grill and remove the chicken from the marinade. If there is any excess liquid, allow it to drip off. Cook the chicken over medium heat for 7-8 minutes per side, depending on thickness, or until the chicken is just cooked through (internal temperature should read 160 degrees F with a quick-read thermometer). Conversely, lightly coat a large skillet with oil, and place over medium to medium-high heat. Cook the chicken breast halves for 5 minutes per side, or until the meat is no longer pink in the center. Remove from the heat and allow the chicken to rest for 5 minutes before cutting.
Garnish with lime slices if desired.
*Boneless, skin-on chicken is a great option for grilling, if available. Even if you prefer not to eat the skin, it will help the chicken retain moisture while cooking. Boneless, skinless breasts are a fine option, too.
Chipotle Lime Crema
Yield: 1 cup
The lime will be easier to zest when cold but easier to juice when room temperatured. Once zested, you may warm the lime in the microwave for 20 seconds if you have trouble squeezing a full two tablespoons of juice from the cold lime.
Blend all of the ingredients in a jar using an immersion blender or in a regular blender or food processor. Scrape down the sides, as needed, blending until the mixture is smooth. (If you’d like to cut this recipe in half, I recommend not using a regular blender or food processor because the smaller portion is almost not enough to catch in the blending mechanism and fully blend. As an option, mince the garlic and chipotle by hand, being careful to wash your hands immediately after.)
The crema may be prepared in advance and refrigerated, where it will keep for 5 to 7 days.
Notes: In terms of spiciness, one chipotle pepper puts this sauce in the medium-hot range. If you think that may be too spicy, start with half a pepper. Once the mixture is fully blended, taste and adjust to preference, adding sauce and/or additional pepper as desired. (Most of the heat is in the actual pepper as that is where the seeds are.) If you prefer more spice than the one pepper called for, feel free to add another chipotle pepper and/or more sauce. For more lime flavor, add more zest. For more tang from the lime, add an extra squeeze of juice, and so on.
Recently, I swapped the chipotle pepper in adobo sauce with chipotle chili powder. In this case, I recommend starting with 1/2 teaspoon and adding more to taste.
Grilled Pound Cake with Maple Yogurt and Berries
Yield: 6-8 servings
2/3 cup (or one 5.3-ounce single serve cup) Stonyfield Nonfat Plain Greek yogurt
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
6-8 slices pound cake (homemade or store-bought)
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1-2 cups fresh berries (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, or a mix of your favorite)
Optional: cinnamon or cinnamon sugar
Preheat the grill. In a small bowl, mix together the yogurt and maple syrup. Set aside.
Brush both sides of the pound cake slices with the melted butter. Grill, uncovered, over medium heat for 1-2 minutes per side or until there are golden brown grill marks.
Serve each piece of pound cake with a dollop of the maple yogurt sauce and a sprinkling of fresh berries. Dust with cinnamon or cinnamon sugar, if desired.