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Last-Minute “Healthy” Super Bowl Option

We weren’t really a sports-watching family growing up.  Dad liked baseball, I didn’t.  I latched on to the NY Giants as a 13 year old during the 1986 Super Bowl season and remain a fan today.  I don’t remember any Super Bowl parties in my house, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t happen.  In those days, we awaited the appearance of onion dip and potato chips with the usual pretzels–that meant it was a party.  It was not until college in Upstate New York that I tasted my first Buffalo wing.

The Super Bowl Staple--Buffalo Wings

Wings in college were more like a side dish to the pizza you ordered for the late night snack:  Wings were just a couple bucks more.  Being from the part of New York where you just called it New York and assumed everyone knew you weren’t talking about the entire state, I always focused on the pizza part.  The wings tasted good, but they were too much work for too little meat.  And it was just plain rude to hoard all the drumsticks, especially when you might need to borrow the notes of your snack-mate later.

But as I joined the ranks of those legally old enough to drink, I spent more time in bars.  With bars came bar food and wings took center stage at many of them, often overshadowing potato skins (always greasy) and nachos (a wildcard without insider information).  While I knew what I liked–hot over mild–I didn’t specifically seek wings out.  I wasn’t about to become a wing connoisseur, but I greatly enjoyed the perfect wing: a little crispy from the fryer, moist on the inside, saucy but never drippy, accompanied by the cooling balance of a good blue cheese dressing and enough carrots and celery to cleanse the palate after each wing.  Again, I’m hesitant to call it the more-accurate “bleu” cheese because that just sounds hoity-toity. Perhaps it’s not the highest expression of etiquette (we are talking about sloppy bar food), but the bed of lettuce garnish that gets kind of wilty with the sauce and dressing is just nirvana when there’s some crunch left.

Many years later, my autumn football routine matches my affectation for wings.  It’s a short season, my life doesn’t revolve around it.  I like it when I can get it, but I love it when it’s really good.

Unfortunately, years later, I also find myself with a slower metabolism and I’m more likely to make spin class than kickoff.  But I do love all of the flavors and textures of the wing experience.  I realized it is possible to recreate it with lower fat and calories, all in-land, each typical Buffalo wing has 3 points.  And you haven’t even had a beer to wash it down!   I’m in the club where I’d rather have a lot of something that’s close to the real thing than just a taste of the real, high fat version.  I’m not the person who would prefers a spoonful of Haagen-Dazs over a tub of Tasty-D-Lite.  If you’re with me, then enjoy!

This dish just came to me as I was trying to change up my usual “big salad” dinner.  I recommend using mostly romaine and/or iceberg lettuces because they don’t overpower other elements. There’s really no room for arugula in a dish like this.  Too fancy.  For the dressing, I prefer low-fat for the taste, but the fat-free for the calorie saving. It really depends what your supermarket stocks.  The last several times I’ve made it, I could only find fat-free.  Adding extra crumbles cheese intensifies the flavor that’s missing in the dressing and using reduced-fat keeps the calories down.  You can use any wing sauce you like, but read the labels–some add oil as an emulsifier.  May the best team win!

A "Healthy" Version

“HEALTHY” BUFFALO CHICKEN SALAD

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

1pkg    Purdue® baked breaded chicken tenderloins or breasts
1           bag of pre-washed salad mix (Romaine and/or Iceberg)
1 C       shredded carrots
1/2       bag of celery hearts washed and cut into 1″ slices
1/2C    low-fat or fat free blue cheese dressing
1/4C    Treasure Cave® Reduced Fat crumbled bleu cheese.
1/2C    Franks® Sweet bbq wing sauce or other fat free wing sauce.

1. Preheat oven to 425.
2. Bake chicken 10 mins.  (If you have a convection oven, this takes 5 mins)
3. In a large bowl, combine salad mix, carrots, celery, dressing & crumbled cheese and toss until mixed.  Set aside
4. Cut chicken into bite sized pieces.  In a small bowl, toss chicken with wing sauce.
5. To serve, put salad on plates and make a small well in center of each.  Spoon a mound of sauce-covered chicken in each well.

Nutritional Information Per Serving (with fat-free dressing): 318 calories, 10g fat (3.5 sat fat), 48mg cholesterol, 1718mg sodium, 34g carbohydrate, 17g protein

Compared to serving of “average” bar wings: (per dozen of medium sized wings with 2 Tbsp blue cheese dressing and celery/carrot sticks) 801 calories, 52g fat (14 sat fat), 400mg cholesterol, 3073mg sodium, 22g carbohydrate, 61g protein

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