Light and Easy Meals for the New Year 

Chicken Stew. Photo Courtesy National Chicken Council
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I know, I know, THIS is the year that you’re going to eat healthy and get into shape! We’ve all made promises to ourselves that we probably won’t keep, but here’s a few healthy, tasty recipes that will help with your New Year’s resolution meal planning.  

Chicken Breasts 

It seems that every healthy eating guide recommends chicken breast. Chicken breast is high in lean protein: With 31 grams of protein per 3.5 ounces, chicken breast is an excellent source of lean protein to support muscle growth and repair.  

Chicken breast is also low in fat and calories: A 3.5 ounce serving contains just 165 calories and 3.6 grams of fat, making it a healthier choice than fattier cuts of meat. 

However, chicken breast is often dry and flavorless. What to do? 

Braising not only results in tender chicken, it also keeps it moist and makes it flavorful, because chicken absorbs the flavors in the braising liquid. 

I often braise chicken breasts with nothing more exotic than water, adding enough water to just cover the breasts. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes, or until the internal temperature reads 165F on a meat thermometer.  

I often shred the chicken for sandwiches, or break into chunks to add to a salad  

You can add your own flavor profile by braising in liquids such as wine, broth, coconut milk or beer.   

Depending on how I will use the chicken a few of my favorite braising liquids include dry white wine, dry sherry, broth, water and tomato juice.  

For a mild flavor, add a bay leaf. To increase the flavor profile, you can add in a few sprigs of fresh parsley, cilantro, basil, oregano, rosemary, etc. You can also add chopped vegetables, onion, garlic, carrot, celery, red peppers and create a braised chicken breast stew.  

One Pot Chicken Breast Stew 

Chicken soup can be boring, but chicken stew is comforting and feeds the soul. Here’s my go to chicken breast stew, designed to be low calorie, yet satisfying.  

2 tablespoons olive oil 

4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces (about 1 pound) 

4 medium carrots, thinly sliced (2 cups)2 stalks celery, thinly sliced (1 cup) 

2 medium leeks, thinly sliced (2/3 cup) 

3 cloves garlic, minced 

2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth 

1 or 2 sweet potatoes cubed (1 cup) 

1 cup cut green beans 

2 teaspoons snipped fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed 

1 bay leaf 

1 teaspoon Morton’s Nature Seasoning Blend 

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper 

1/2 cup fat-free milk 

1 tablespoon flour 

Cornstarch as needed to thicken stew.  

Add any other vegetables like peas, beets or onions that you fancy.  

In a 4-quart Dutch oven heat oil over medium heat.  

Add chicken and sear on all sides. Remove chicken to a plate, add chicken back into stew during last 20 minutes of cook time. 

Add carrots, celery, leeks and garlic. Cook and stir for 5 to 8 minutes or until vegetables are starting to soften.  

Stir in chicken broth, sweet potato, green beans, other veggies, rosemary and seasonings.  

Bring to a boil; reduce heat.  

Simmer, covered, for 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender. 

Add in seared chicken breast. 

In a small bowl whisk together milk and flour until smooth. Stir mixture into cooked stew. Return to boiling; reduce heat. Cook and stir for about 20 minutes or until mixture is thickened and chicken reaches 165F.  

If stew does not thicken make a cornstarch slurry by combining 1 tablespoon cornstarch with 1 1/2 tablespoons water, whisk until smooth. Add to stew. Stew should start to thicken within five minutes.  

Sprinkle each serving with cracked black pepper. 

Wild Caught Alaskan Salmon 

The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute wants you to eat more wild caught Alaskan salmon, and you should. Salmon is the dieter’s superfood. 

Regularly eating fatty fish reduces the inflammatory substances produced in the heart’s arteries, improving its function.  

There are five species of wild Alaska salmon to choose from. 

The rich flavor and firm texture of king, sockeye and coho salmon make them the preferred choice for any cooking method, from grilling and broiling to sautéing, roasting, poaching and steaming.  

The leaner keta and pink salmon are good choices for sautéing or baking in flavorful sauces and as a quick and healthy protein in salads or pastas. 

Cedar planks are found near meat and seafood counters in most grocery stores or can be ordered online. 

Fresh Alaska salmon is in season May through September. However, fresh, previously frozen wild caught salmon is available year-round. I have found Costco carries wild caught salmon frequently. 

Cedar Plank Grilled Alaska Salmon 

4 Wild caught salmon fillets (4 to 6 oz. each), fresh, thawed or frozen 

Olive oil spray 

1 tablespoon fresh (or 1 teaspoon dried) favorite herb for salmon (dill, thyme, rosemary, etc.) 

Salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste 

4 large sweet potatoes, sliced lengthwise into wedges 

1/2 tablespoon ground cumin 

Soak cedar planks for 1 to 2 hours (or overnight) submerged in water.  Remove and pat dry. 

Heat grill to medium heat (400F). Spray cedar planks and salmon with olive oil spray.  

Place salmon on planks; sprinkle with herbs, salt and pepper. Place sweet potatoes in a bowl; spray with cooking spray. Sprinkle with cumin, salt and pepper, to taste. Toss to coat. 

Place cedar planks and potato wedges onto grill. Cover and cook about 3 to 4 minutes; turn wedges over and continue cooking until potatoes are soft and cooked. Keep warm. Cook salmon 12 to 15 minutes, just until fish is opaque throughout. 

Serve with a side salad or braised spinach or other greens.

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