Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Coming down off a sugar high

1/06/10 Cook’s Corner
Betty Kaiser

Well, here we are again at the beginning of a new year and it’s time to renew our healthy eating habits. As usual, the holidays filled me up with way too many family favorites that are heavy on butter, cream and sugar. I feel like a slug! So it’s time to slim down my daily menus.

It would be wise, of course, to follow the advice of dietary gurus and throw away all of the sugar laden junk food in the house and begin anew. But I’m weak. I just don't want to do it. So, during a snack attack, the leftover rich, creamy fudge with chopped pecans and the delicious cranberry and lemon bars call my name from the frig.

Honestly, what’s a girl to do? Well, here’s my three-point plan. Phase one consists of tossing the store bought candies and cookies. I have already gathered them up into a paper bag and trashed them in the dumpster. ‘Out-of-sight, out-of-my-mouth,’ is my motto.

Phase two of my plan is rationing the coveted homemade sweet stuff. This week, I began allotting myself a dessert treat at the noon meal only — eating sweets between meals or after dinner is verboten. The operative word here is “No!” I’ll let you know how (or if!)  that works out.

Phase three is to plan a month of healthy, low calorie dinners that are tasty and satisfying with an emphasis on vegetables. My personal game plan is to fill up half of my plate with vegetables and divide the other half between the meat/protein and a starch. For dessert, I substitute fresh or home-canned fruit for the peppermint ice cream still lurking in the freezer.

I find that low calorie chicken dishes are especially tasty and satisfying when I’m coming down off a season of rich meals and a sugar high. You can prepare a family meal from boneless chicken that will make everyone happy in less time than it takes to order a fast food meal. Because protein sources like chicken and tofu are compatible with a variety of spices, fruits and vegetables you can also have Mexican one night and Chinese the next.

The following recipes are two of my favorites that I have adapted and used for years. You may need to add a little more oil for browning the meat but do so sparingly. Also, you will need to read the recipes entirely through before cooking. The ingredient lists are a bit lengthy but I have tried to simplify the preparation process.

Finally, the green salad recipe goes with almost anything and is perfect for this time of year when avocadoes and navel oranges are in season. Enjoy lighter meals and have a happy and healthy 2010!

Chicken with Southwestern Salsa

Chicken preparation
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper

Heat canola oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Combine spices and sprinkle mixture evenly over chicken. Add chicken to pan; cook 7 minutes on each side or until done.

Salsa ingredients & preparation
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon coriander
1 plum tomato, finely diced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime or lemon juice
1 (15 1/2-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (8 3/4-ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained

While chicken cooks, heat oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion to pan; sauté 1 minute. Add garlic to pan; sauté 30 seconds more. Turn off heat and add remaining ingredients to onion mixture, tossing well. Garnish each serving of chicken with salsa.

Quick Skillet Pineapple Chicken

6 chicken breast halves, boned, skinned
2 tablespoons canola oil or margarine
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup onion, sliced diagonally
1 cup celery, sliced diagonally
1/2 green bell pepper, cut into strips
1/2 red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 cup pineapple chunks
1/2 cup chicken broth, low-fat
2 teaspoons soy sauce, low-sodium
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2-3 tablespoons cold water

Cut each of the chicken breast halves into 10-12 cross-wise strips.

Heat oil in large skillet, add salted chicken strips; cook over high heat 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add onion, celery and peppers; continue cooking, 3 minutes or so. Add pineapple to mixture and set aside.

Mix chicken broth, soy sauce and cinnamon in small bowl. Stir into skillet with meat and vegetables. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, cover and simmer 4 minutes.

Blend cornstarch and water until smooth in small bowl; stir into skillet with wooden spoon. Cook, stirring rapidly until thickened. Serve over white or brown rice. Garnish with sliced black olives or green onions. Serve extra soy sauce on the side. Serves 6.

Note: If sauce is too dry, add more liquid.

Romaine Salad
with avocado and oranges

6 cups torn romaine lettuce
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/2 cup diced avocado
1 navel orange, peeled and diced

Put salad greens in large bowl and layer with onion, avocado and oranges. Refrigerate and prepare dressing.

1/4 cup fresh lime or lemon juice
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon cumin (optional)

Whisk together all ingredients and set aside until serving time. Toss gently to combine with salad ingredients.

Keep it simple and keep it seasonal! 
Betty Kaiser’s Cook’s Corner is dedicated to sharing a variety of recipes 
that are delicious, family oriented and easy to prepare. 
Read her weekly columns in the Cottage Grove Sentinel

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