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Sara's Chicken AKA Pollo al Horno

5/29/2013 *Sara-Marie* 9 Comments

I learned how to cook by watching my Mami. For as long as I can remember, I was always with her in the kitchen, standing on a stool or sitting on the counter, watching her every move. We would often pretend to be hosting a cooking show and would talk through the steps of the meal we were creating to our imaginary audience. We were pretty awesome, my Mami and me.

When I could finally reach the stove without the help of a stool, I was in charge of making dinner for our family about once or twice a week. The first official meal I was taught how to make was pollo al horno or simply, baked chicken. Now my mother NEVER cooked from a recipe. It was always a little bit of this and a little bit of that, a taste test here and there, and of course an extra dash of something - just in case. I did know the usual ingredients in her baked chicken, so I started experimenting with my own adaptations, until 15+ years later I've landed on my own version of pollo al horno, which is now just called "Sara's Chicken."

This is my go-to chicken recipe and I make it at least twice a week. I'm sure every Puerto Rican family has a version of this chicken as well, but it has always been a big hit with my non-Puerto Rican family and friends. I've been asked for the recipe for a very long time, but it's just always been so hard to put together. I still make this chicken without measuring and it comes out a little bit different every time. There are some nights when I'm a little off and some nights when my husband licks the plate clean. But I guarantee it's always yummy.

So today is your lucky day. The last couple of times that I've made this chicken, I've been trying to take note of how much of everything I use so that I could share at least a base recipe with all of you. I would like to disclose that this is still just a guess. I leave it up to you to tweak this recipe to fit your palate and to also use your own culinary instincts. If you think it would be delicious with a little extra of something else - be my guest. Go wherever the wind leads you!

Now, onto the recipe!

Sara's Chicken AKA Pollo al Horno

Recipe Ingredients:
  • 2-3 pounds of chicken (any cut, or even a whole chicken)
  • 5-6 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 2 capfuls of white vinegar
  • 1 TBSP of homemade adobo (or store-bought Goya)
  • 1/2 TBSP of homemade sazon (or 1 packet of store-bought Goya)
  • 1 TSP of dried oregano
  • 1/2 TSP of ground pepper
  • 1 handful of fresh Italian parsley
  • pinch of salt (if needed after taste test, see below)
Recipe Directions:
 
Step 1: Preheat the oven. (*See Step 5 below for temperature and cooking times depending on cut of chicken). Combine all ingredients, minus the chicken, into a food processor and process until a smooth marinade is created.

TIME OUT: Up until I got my efficient little Ninja processor, I used the old school pilรณn (mortar and pestle). The one pictured below was handmade in Puerto Rico and was given to me by my grandmother. I still use it when I have more time on my hands and I want to feel authentic :)

 

 TIME IN!

Step 2: Once combined, taste the marinade before you put it on the chicken. Does it need a little extra pinch of salt? Pepper? Sazon? Parsley? Add it! Don't be afraid.

 
Step 3: Pour marinade over chicken. Today, I used chicken tenderloins since my goal was to use these to make quick salads and wraps throughout the week.
 
Step 4: Using tongs, toss until well coated. Or if you don't mind dirty hands, rub it with your bare (clean) hands. That's the way I used to do it until I got engaged and I didn't want my ring to get dirty. Mami is convinced that it tastes better when you massage the chicken with a little bit of love.

Step 5: Cover with aluminum foil and bake until done.


*Temperature and Approximate Cooking Time:
Chicken Tenderloins - 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until done
Chicken wings, drumsticks, bone in thighs - 375 degrees for 1 hour or until done
Whole chicken - 375 degrees for 1 1/2 hours -2 hours or until done
 
Step 6: Uncover, flip (optional), and bake an additional 5-10 minutes or until golden brown. Since I didn't want the chicken breast tenderloins to get dry, I only cooked uncovered for 5 minutes. Typically, I let it go uncovered for 7-10 minutes so it gets a nice little crust, especially if you're cooking chicken with skin. Yum.
 
Step 7: ENJOY! After the chicken is nice and brown, remove from the oven, let rest for a few minutes and plate your meal!

As I mentioned earlier, this is a standard seasoning base that I use all the time, with many different types of chicken parts. Here are a few examples:
 
 Adding peeled, cut potatoes right at the beginning of the baking process is ALWAYS a good idea. The potatoes soak up all of the flavors of the marinade and will be amazingly delicious. I do this often.
Chicken wings are also pretty popular around here. This particular night I paired it with some roasted spaghetti squash and drizzled some of the chicken sauce from the pan over the squash. SO. GOOD.
And of course, the whole chicken. If you're making a whole chicken, I would probably double the recipe of the marinade and bake the chicken breast side down. This allows the breast to bake in the marinade and get REALLY juicy. Oh and if you didn't notice, the picture above is a raw whole chicken. It looked a little bit more appetizing after being in the oven for almost 2 hours. :)

So there you have it. Please try this recipe and leave your thoughts in the comments below. Hope you love it as much as we do!

Oh and this seasoning blend goes well with pork too!

XOXO,
SMP

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Pregnancy & Exercise: Why I want to be a Strong Mama!

5/21/2013 *Sara-Marie* 0 Comments

I believe I've mentioned this before, but I really, REALLY, want to be one of those pregnant ladies that still looks incredibly adorable in a workout outfit at the gym. I'm already 18 weeks along and I have not been as active as I thought I would be. In fact, I haven't been consistent at all. I could go into all of the reasons why I haven't been exercising as much, but I'm not going to do it. I'm just going to make a resolve to change today.

As I prepare for the most incredible journey of my life, I've been reading tons of books, articles, and blogs on the labor and delivery process. I am educating myself on my options and my goal is to be as strong as I can to put myself and our future child in the best situation as possible. I don't know what to expect, or how I will personally handle it, but what I do know is that millions of women have labored. Our bodies have been designed to go through this process. Our bodies know what to do, so I have to be confident in my innate ability to bring my little human safely into this world.

I wish I could remember where I read this, but someone compared labor and delivery to an athletic event and the 9 months of pregnancy to the training period. Now if I was signed up to run a marathon in October 2013 instead of welcoming our first child, I would not expect to be successful if I didn't prepare and train my body for that type of endurance event. I would have a training regimen and would definitely have to follow it! So I'm choosing to train my body so that I can give us all a good run for our money on that special day in October when "we" become a "family of three." 

Why it's important to exercise while pregnant:*

Women who exercise during pregnancy: 
      Have reduced weight gain and fat deposition during pregnancy 
      Have fewer pregnancy discomforts 
      Report a more rapid physical and emotional recovery from delivery 
      Tend to have easier, shorter and less complicated labors 
      Have less need for pain relief during labor 
      Have more stamina during labor 
      Increase their aerobic capacity 
      Decrease their susceptibility to illness 
      Increase their energy level
 
Babies of exercising moms: 
      Have significantly lower heart rates than babies of non-exercising moms 
      Are better able to cope with the stress of birth 
      Have a greater ability to adapt to life outside the uterus 
      Are more healthy at birth 
      Are leaner at birth and tend to stay lean as they grow 
      Sleep through the night sooner 
      Are better able to self-calm 
      Score higher on tests of general intelligence and oral language skills 
      Have decreased risks of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases later in life

*Excerpt from the Facts page of Crossfitmom.com

The plan:

3-4 times a week, I will do the beginner workout of the day (WOD) posted on the Crossfit Mom website. This website modifies the WOD that is posted on the main Crossfit website for pregnant women. It's an awesome resource. By doing these scaled Crossfit workouts, I know I will safely and quickly build up my strength.  Below was today's WOD. It seems simple, but I needed to take a little breather after round 2. Thrusters get your heart pumping!

In addition, 5-6 times a week, I will do a 30 minute prenatal yoga routine. I've been doing the following routine since the first trimester and I really love it. Not only is it free on YouTube, but I feel SO MUCH better after completing the session. You really don't realize how tight your muscles are until you fully stretch them out! Plus yoga is known to help with balance, circulation, and breathing techniques. All good stuff for the expectant mom!



I also plan to add in some walks at the nearby park's nature trail and some swimming now that it's getting warmer. I don't of course want to over do it, but I know I can definitely do more than what I'm doing now!

Today, I did successfully complete both the WOD and the yoga and I felt great. I had more focus during my working hours and just felt happy that I did something good for both me and baby. I do have to admit that my legs are already sore from all of the squats in the WOD and the yoga - but squats are such an important strength training exercise, so I'm going to keep doing them!

Any suggestions, comments, or thoughts from the experienced moms out there?

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