Dishes Under 400 Calories



Each of these dishes make a great lunch or dinner, and are 400 calories or less.

Delicata Squash with Mushrooms, Breadcrumbs and Hazelnuts

From Hello Gorgeous…




2013-10-11 18.49.48

Serves 2

  • 1 Delicata squash, halved lengthwise and cleaned of seeds and membranes
  • 2 TBSP roasted hazelnuts
  • ¼ cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1 ½ TBSP butter
  • 1 tsp olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 2-3 TBSP finely chopped shallot or onion
  • 2 ounces mushrooms, torn or chopped to bite-sized pieces. (Use what you have available – I used chanterelles, but creminis work beautifully too.)
  • 2 tsp aged good balsamic vinegar, or balsamic crema (this is available in most supermarkets now as ‘balsamic cream’)

Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with foil, then drizzle the cut side of squash half with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast cut-side down on the foil for 20 minutes until soft. Take squash out of oven, cover with foil to keep warm, and turn oven down to 350°F.

Chop the hazelnuts and add to a bowl. Melt 2 tsp butter in a pan and sauté the breadcrumbs until toasted and lightly browned. Add to the bowl with the hazelnuts. Wipe out sauté pan; add the remaining butter and teaspoon olive oil and sauté the chopped shallot or onion with a good pinch of salt until softened, about 3 minutes over medium-high h heat. Add in the mushrooms; turn heat down to medium-low and sauté until the mushrooms have given up most of their liquid. Add onion/mushroom mixture to bowl with breadcrumbs, hazelnuts.  Drizzle lightly with olive oil, add a few grinds of black pepper and toss well.

Stuff the squash with the mushroom mixture and bake at 350° for about 10-15 minutes until everything is heated through and the top is crunchy. (You could assemble these ahead, stow in fridge and bake them off right before dinner – just bring to room temperature before baking.)

Drizzle with balsamic or balsamic cream and serve. Calories: approximately 230 per serving.


Herbed Corn Gratin

From Speaking Swedish

Serves 4

  • 1 tsp soft butter
  • 3 ears corn
  • 1 tsp finely chopped herbs (I like a combination of thyme and sage, but basil would be great too)
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup cream
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 ½ TBSP fine corn meal
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • ½ cup shredded swiss, mild fontina or your favorite melting cheese
  • 1 TBSP grated parmesan

Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter a 2 quart casserole dish with the teaspoon butter. Shuck the corn and cut the kernels off. You’ll need about 1-½ cups kernels total. Measure out ½ cup kernels and set aside. Take the remaining cup and put into blender. Add all of the remaining ingredients except the cheeses to the blender, in the order they are listed. Blend until smooth and pour into buttered casserole. Sprinkle the ½ cup corn kernels over the casserole, then the swiss cheese, and finally the parmesan. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the middle is just set and top is golden brown. Serve immediately. Calories: about 245 per serving.


Tuscan Tuna and Cannellini Salad Makes about 2 ½ cups

From Three Tons of Stuff

I like to serve this the way I had it, atop thin slices of toasted baguette, but you could easily serve on a salad of arugula or baby greens and tomatoes.

  • 1 5oz. can of tuna in olive oil (I like Genova or Cento)
  • 1 can cannellini beans
  • 1/3 cup parsley, chopped
  • ½ cup finely chopped celery (about 2-3 stalks)
  • Zest and juice of a small lemon (you’ll need about 1 teaspoon zest, and 1 ½ to 2 tablespoons juice)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper

Drain and rinse the cannellini beans and put in medium bowl. Add the chopped parsley, chopped celery, lemon zest, 1 ½-2 tablespoons lemon juice, salt and pepper. Add the can of tuna, with oil, and toss well. Let the salad sit for an hour or so for the flavors to develop, then taste. Add additional salt, pepper, and lemon juice if needed. Calories: 540 total, or about 110 per ½ cup.

Farro Salad with Dried Cherries and Hazelnuts Makes about 2 cups

From Do They Have This, There?

Farro or emmer wheat is an ancient grain popular in Italy, and supposedly what sustained the Roman legions on their journeys. I’m not so sure about that, but I am sure it makes a wonderful salad, pilaf or addition to soups. Farro has a texture similar to barley, and is available in many markets, in Whole Foods, and on-line. If you can’t find it, barley would make a fine substitute.

For the salad:

  • ¾ cup farro, soaked overnight in enough water to cover (store in refrigerator overnight)
  • ¼ cup chopped roasted hazelnuts
  • ¼ cup chopped dried cherries
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh herbs –I used a combination of tarragon, basil and parsley), divided into two piles (you’ll use half in the recipe and add in the other half just before serving)
  • 1 scallion, finely chopped

For the dressing:

  • Zest from an orange (about a heaping teaspoon)
  • Juice from half an orange (about ¼ cup)
  • A few good grinds of pepper or more, to taste
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 TBSP + 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 TBSP water
  • ½ tsp honey
  • 2 heaping tsp honey mustard

To cook the farro:

Drain the farro, add to a medium saucepan, and cover with about an inch of water. Add in 1 tsp salt and mix well. Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer and cover. Cook 10-15 minutes. The farro should be chewy, not mushy. Drain and put in a bowl to cool.

Chop the herbs, hazelnuts, scallion and dried cherries and set aside. In a jar with a tight-fitting lid (or you’ll have dressing all over you and the kitchen), add the dressing ingredients and give a good shake to incorporate. Add 2 tablespoons of the chopped herbs and shake again. Pour the dressing over the farro, toss in the nuts and cherries and mix so everything is covered in dressing. Cover and let sit in refrigerator for a few hours. The longer it sits, the better it gets so this is the perfect make-ahead dish for your next barbecue or picnic. When you are ready to serve, toss in the remaining 2 tablespoons of chopped herbs. Calories: about 185 per half cup.

Pasta Fagioli Makes 10-11 cups, which is plenty for you, friends, lovers, AND the pizza boy.

From That’s Amore Too…

Makes 10-11 cups, which is plenty for you, friends, lovers, AND the pizza boy.

This recipe is a quick and easy version, and one of my go-to winter soup recipes when I need a little pick-me-up and some culinary amore.

  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cans cannellini beans
  • ½ TBSP olive oil
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 2 ribs celery, diced
  • ½ an onion, diced
  • 2 cups water
  • 6 oz. (1¼ cups) ditalini, small elbow macaroni or some other small pasta
  • 1 oz. piece of parmesan rind (optional, but great if you have it)
  • 2 TBSP chopped parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan for sprinkling

Sauté all the vegetables in the olive oil and a pinch of salt in a stockpot until they begin to soften but not brown, about 5 minutes. Drain one can of the beans. When the veggies are ready, add half of the stock, the water, beans (one drained, one not), and parmesan rind to the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover and cook 15 minutes. Uncover, add remaining stock and bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook until tender, about 9 minutes or however long the package says. Once the pasta is cooked, remove parmesan rind and stir in the chopped parsley. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Calories: about 145 per cup.

To serve, ladle into bowls and sprinkle with grated parmesan. Now That’s Amore!


Stewed Tomatoes with Black Eyed Peas

From Making Luck

The majority of the work in this recipe (and it’s not much) is in making the stewed tomatoes. Then you just ladle out as much as you need to cook up the amount of beans you’re making. The basic ratio is 2 cups of tomatoes to ½ cup beans. If you don’t want to use the black-eyed peas, any other dried bean would work too. You may have to adjust cooking time to when your beans are done.

Stewed Tomatoes

One recipe makes about 6 cups stewed tomatoes, which gives you plenty to make the beans and some to enjoy on its own.

  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 14 ½-oz. can of stewed tomatoes (you could probably leave this out, but I put it in and I wouldn’t want to jinx anything…)
  • 1 28-oz. can whole plum tomatoes
  • 1 small bay leaf
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 ribs of celery, diced
  • ½ a large onion or 1 small onion, diced
  • ½ a red pepper, diced
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • 1 TBSP balsamic vinegar
  • A wedge of lemon (for squeezing on at the end)

Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan. Add the onion, celery, red pepper and a pinch of salt and cook over medium heat until the vegetables start to soften, about 5-7 minutes.

While the vegetables are cooking, drain the plum tomatoes over a bowl, saving the juice. Slice the tomatoes into ½ inch slices. Add the sliced tomatoes and juices to the pot, along with the can of stewed tomatoes, thyme and bay leaf, salt, pepper, sugar and balsamic vinegar. Bring the pot to a boil, then cover and reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes.  Remove cover and simmer another 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add a good squeeze of lemon juice. Calories: about 95 per cup.

To make the Black-eyed Peas

Makes 3-3 ½ cups

  • 2 cups stewed tomatoes
  • ¾ cup water (depending on how thick the tomatoes are)
  • ½ cup dried black-eyed peas (or whatever dried bean you are using), soaked in cold water at least 4 hours and up to overnight

Add the stewed tomatoes, black-eyed peas and enough water to the pot. Bring back to a boil, cover and simmer about 45 min or until the beans are tender but not mushy. If you’d like a little thicker sauce, gently boil uncovered for about 5 minutes to reduce some of the liquid. I like it a little thinner to facilitate slurping and sopping with some good bread, but if I’m going to use it for a warm dip with chips, I’ll reduce it a little. Calories: about 150 calories per cup

Carrot Cumin soup Makes about 4 cups

From What’s Up Doc

  • 1 TBSP butter
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 lb carrots, peeled and chopped about the same size as the onion and celery
  • 1 ½ tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 ½ cups chicken stock (you could substitute vegetable stock)
  • 1/8 tsp ground allspice (or just a pinch)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Sour cream or yogurt for garnish

Toast the cumin seeds in a dry pan until they become fragrant – be careful not to burn them (they go fast so don’t walk away from the pan.) Set aside.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, celery and a pinch of salt and sauté about 2 minutes. Add the carrots, 1 teaspoon of the toasted cumin seeds (save the other ½ tsp for sprinkling over the top of the finished soup), and the pinch allspice. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer until the carrots are very soft, about 20-25 minutes.

When the carrots are done (take one out and if they squish easily they’re done) turn the heat off under the pot.  Puree the soup in a blender in batches, or with a hand blender in the pot until completely smooth and velvety. Add a teaspoon of lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt and a sprinkling of the reserved toasted cumin seeds. Calories: About 110 per cup.

Mushroom Barley Soup Makes 7-8 cups

From EGADS…where’d THAT come from?

This soup was inspired by some grilled marinated Portobello mushrooms I had leftover from dinner the night before. I had been making another mushroom barley soup recipe for years, but was always left a little bored by it. Basically, I wanted something meatier, and the grilled portabellas did the trick. If you happen to have some leftover roast, brisket or steak, you could use that in here and skip the first step of making the grilled mushrooms. Or add it all in together – it would bump up the calories a bit, but would sure be tasty.

For the marinated grilled portabellas

  • 2 Portobello Mushroom Caps
  • ½ tsp Herbs de Provence (or ¼ tsp dried thyme, ¼ tsp dried rosemary)
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 2 TBSP balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp balsamic crème (if you have), or 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp garlic oil (or 1 tsp olive oil and 1 tsp minced garlic)
  • A few grinds of black pepper

For the soup

  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 ¼ cups)
  • 2 medium celery ribs, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 10 oz. package sliced cremini mushrooms
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
  • ¼ cup medium-dry Sherry
  • ½ cup barley
  • 4 cups beef broth
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 3 carrots, sliced
  • ¼ tsp dried thyme
  • ¼ tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp dried parsley (or ¼ cup chopped fresh)
  • 2 tsp tomato paste
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Step 1 – The Portobellos:

Scrape the gills out of the portobello caps (a spoon works nicely here.) Place the caps in a dish deep enough to hold them and the marinade.  Wisk together the next 6 ingredients, pour over the mushrooms, and flip the mushrooms over so they coated on both sides. Let sit for 30 minutes to an hour.

Spray a grill pan with cooking spray (or fry pan or griddle if you don’t have a grill pan) and heat over medium-high. Remove the mushrooms from the marinade (save the marinade, you’ll need it again) and lay the mushrooms cap side up on the grill pan. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and a grind of pepper, and grill for 3-4 minutes. Turn and grill for another 2-3 minutes until just tender. Remove to a board, slice the mushrooms in half, and then each half into slices. Add sliced mushrooms back into the marinade and let sit.

Step 2 – The Soup:

Heat 2 TBSP olive oil in a medium sized stockpot and sauté the onions and celery with a pinch of salt until soft and just starting to brown. Add garlic and cook 1-2 minutes. Add sliced cremini mushrooms, a small pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper and sauté until most of the moisture from the mushrooms has evaporated. Off heat, add the Sherry, then return to heat, add in the marinade from the mushrooms and bring to a boil, cooking until the liquid is reduced by about one-third. Add in the beef broth, water, tomato paste, carrots, barley, dried thyme, rosemary and parsley and sliced grilled mushrooms. Return to a boil, then cover and simmer on low for 1 hour.  Taste for seasonings and add more salt and pepper if needed. Calories: about 85 calories per cup.

Cozy Lamb Shanks with While Beans and Vermouth

From It Ain’t Pretty But it Sure is Good

Serves 4

  • 1 ½ TBSP olive oil
  • 2 lamb shanks (about 2 lbs total), trimmed of some of the fat
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 2 fat garlic cloves, sliced thin
  • 1 cup chopped carrots (about 2 carrots)
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 2-3 sage leaves, finely chopped
  • 2-inch piece of rosemary
  • 3-4 branches of thyme
  • 1 14oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can cannellini beans (don’t drain)
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/3 cup dry vermouth
  • 1 TBSP white balsamic vinegar (you could substitute red)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper
  • Flour for dredging

Season the lamb shanks well with salt and pepper and dredge in the flour.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Brown the shanks well on all sides and remove to a plate. Add the onions, carrots and celery and a good pinch of salt and sauté 5 minutes over medium high heat. Add the garlic and herbs and sauté another 1-2 minutes (don’t brown).  Off the heat add the vermouth and scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Return the pan to heat and add tomatoes and stock and nestle the lamb shanks in (the liquid should be about half way up the lamb – add more stock if necessary.) Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer and cover. Simmer for 1-½ hours. After 90 minutes, add in the beans and half their liquid. Cover and simmer another 30 minutes.  When done, remove shanks to a board, shred the meat and add back into the stew. Remove the stems from the thyme and rosemary. Light the candles, fill the wine glasses, slice some crusty bread, and devour! Calories: approximately 400 calories per serving.

Mixed Mushroom Sauce

From The Italian Journal: MILANO

This sauce is great over pasta, but if I wanted to be truly authentic to the foods of Milan, I’d serve it over soft polenta. It also makes a terrific topping for toasted bread (which is how I ate it this morning!)

Serves 2 over pasta or polenta, more if a topping for bruschetta, and can be easily doubled or tripled

  • 2 TBSP butter, in two pieces
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp minced garlic
  • 1 TBSP minced shallots
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine or white vermouth
  • 8 oz mixed fresh mushrooms (I like a combination of cremini and chanterelles), sliced about ¼ inch thick
  • 1/4 oz. of about 1/3 cup dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 TBSP finely chopped parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Soak the dried mushrooms in 1/3 cup boiling water for 15 minutes until soft. (DON’T throw out the soaking liquid – you’ll need it for the sauce.)

Melt 1 tablespoon butter with 1 tsp olive oil in sauté pan. Add shallots, garlic and thyme and cook just until you can smell the garlic (about 1 minute). Add the sliced fresh mushrooms, and the soaked porcinis, giving them a quick squeeze to get some of the liquid out.  Don’t forget to saving the soaking liquid. Add in a few grinds of black pepper, a good pinch of salt and sauté over medium heat until the mushrooms have given up all their water and the pan is relatively dry (about 10 minutes).

Once the mushrooms are pretty dry, turn up the heat and add the wine. Carefully pour in the mushroom soaking liquid, making sure to leave the grit in the bottom of the dish behind. Bring the liquid to a boil, scraping up any browned bits from the pan, and add in the second tablespoon of butter and half the lemon zest. Turn down to low and simmer about 3 minutes. Taste for seasonings and add salt and pepper if necessary. Add in the remaining lemon zest and chopped parsley.  Serve over pasta, polenta or toasted crusty bread. Buon appetito! Calories: about 185 per serving (for 2 servings).

From An Ode to Dad, in Macaroni…

Chicken Thing 2012  Makes 3-4 servings

A new take on an old classic, sans the condensed cream of mushroom goo.

The chicken part:

  • 1 lb skinless boneless chicken thighs cut into bite-sized pieces
  • ½ TBSP butter
  • ½ TBSP olive oil
  • 1 cup sliced onions
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • ½ tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 TBSP dry white wine or dry white vermouth
  • 1-cup low sodium chicken broth (if you use regular, decrease the salt and pepper above by half)
  • 2 ounces herb garlic goat cheese
  • 2 TBSP heavy cream
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 TBSP lemon juice, plus another 2 tsp to add in at the end

The mushroom part:

  • 1 ½ cups sliced cremini mushrooms
  • 1 tsp butter
  • Pinch of salt and pepper

To thicken the sauce

  • 1 TBSP room temperature sour cream
  • 1 TBSP cornstarch
  • 2 TBSP cool/cold water

Heat the ½ TBSP butter and oil over medium high heat in a deep sauté pan. Mix the salt and pepper together and sprinkle over both sides of the chicken. Brown chicken thighs well on both sides and remove to a bowl. Drain all but 1 TBSP fat from the pan, set over medium-low heat and add the onions and a pinch of salt. Sauté until just soft, about 5 minutes. Add in rosemary and cook another 3 minutes over low heat, stirring occasionally.

Add vermouth or wine, turn up heat and scrape the browned bits up as the liquid boils for a minute (in other words, deglaze the pan.) Add back in the chicken and any accumulated juices, the chicken broth, lemon zest, a tablespoon lemon juice, goat cheese and cream, stirring until the cheese is melted and incorporated into the sauce. Bring liquid to a boil, turn down to a simmer, and cover.  Cook for about 25 minutes.

At about the 20-minute mark, melt a teaspoon of butter in a small nonstick pan. Add in the sliced mushrooms, a pinch of salt and sauté over medium high heat until the mushrooms are soft and a little browned, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms to chicken.

Mix together the cornstarch, sour cream and water. After the chicken has cooked 25 minutes, remove cover, add the sour cream mixture and bring chicken and sauce to a slow boil for 1-2 minutes, stirring well. The sauce will thicken quickly. Remove from heat; add in the remaining 2 teaspoons of lemon juice.

Serve over noodles, rice, or my favorite, steamed sugar snap peas or asparagus. Calories: about 385 per serving (3), 290 per serving (4).

Easy Chicken Cacciatore

From Accessing the Archives

Serves 4

  • 1 ½ lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • ½ large onion or 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 10 oz. (one box) cremini mushrooms, cut in half  (quarters if the mushrooms are large)
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • ½ tsp dried rosemary, crushed into small pieces
  • 1 28 oz. can or jar marinara sauce
  • 2-3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • Salt & pepper

Generously salt and pepper the chicken thighs and brown them in 1-2 TBSP olive oil. Once the chicken is browned, remove from pan and add in the onions, mushroom, dried thyme and rosemary and a pinch of salt. Add in a little more oil if needed. Sauté until the onions and mushrooms are soft and the liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated, about 5-7 minutes. Add in thinly sliced garlic and sauté another minute or two, just until the garlic softens but doesn’t brown.

Deglaze the pan with the balsamic vinegar and wine, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Return the chicken to the pan, add in the tomato sauce and bring to a boil. Turn down to simmer, cover and let cook about 35-40 minutes. Once done, taste for seasonings and add more salt and pepper if needed.  Serve with crusty bread or over polenta. This is great the first night, but even better the next day. Calories: approximately 375 per serving.

From Leftovers

Pumpkin, Turkey and Spinach Enchiladas

  • ½ cup pumpkin puree
  • 10 corn tortillas
  • 16oz. jar or 2 cups of your favorite enchilada sauce
  • 6 oz. shredded turkey or chicken (you could leave this out if you wanted a vegetarian version and just add in another cup of spinach and ¼ cup cheese)
  • 1 cup frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed mostly dry
  • 1 cup shredded cheese (I use ½ cup sharp cheddar and ½ cup of a lite Mexican mix. Jack, Pepper jack, or any cheese you like is fine as long as it melts well. Don’t use fat-free)
  • A good pinch of salt and pepper
  • 3-4 TBSP dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 400°F. Spread about ½ cup enchilada sauce in a 9 x 11” baking dish to cover the bottom. Wet some paper towels, wring them out and wrap around the corn tortillas. Microwave for 45 seconds to soften and make the tortillas are more pliable. Mix together the turkey, spinach, pumpkin, ½ cup shredded cheese and a good pinch of salt and pepper together in a bowl. Take a tortilla (keep the others wrapped until you use them), put about ¼ cup of the mixture down the center, top with a few cranberries. Roll the tortilla up and place seam-side down in the baking dish. Continue with the rest of the tortillas, fitting them all tightly in the baking dish. Pour the rest of the sauce over, making sure to cover all the tortillas. Sprinkle the remainder of the cheese on top. Bake for 20 minutes, until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbling.

Garnish with your favorite toppings. (I like just a little sour cream and some pomegranate seeds.) Calories: about 160 per enchilada.

Roast Chicken Breast with fennel, 2 ways Serves 2 for dinner, or one with leftovers for sandwiches and whatnot.

From Talking to strangers

This is my favorite way to make chicken breasts for dinner or to use in other recipes. Chicken roasted on the bone with the skin is juicier with far more flavor than the boneless, skinless kind, and you can always remove skin and bones before serving if you prefer. Or, nibble on the crispy chicken skin while removing the bones in the kitchen, then serve your oh so juicy and healthy chicken to your guests (shhh….it will be our secret.)

For the chicken and fennel, the first way:

  • 2 split chicken breasts, skin on bone in
  • 2 medium to large bulbs of fennel
  • 2 TBSP olive oil, or olive oil cooking spray
  • salt & pepper (if you have leftover rosemary salt from the roasted potato chips, it is great here too!)
  • Your favorite fresh herbs for chicken (in other words, 2 tender rosemary branches, about 4 inches long, or 6-8 small sprigs of thyme, or two large sage leaves)

Preheat over for 400°F. Line a sided cookie sheet or shallow baking pan with aluminum foil. Spray with cooking spray, or drizzle with a little olive oil.

Pat the chicken breasts dry, and make a pocket under the skin by loosening the skin from the meat with your fingers, leaving one side attached. Take sprig of rosemary, thyme or one sage leaf and tuck under the skin of the breast. Repeat with the other breast. Drizzle 2 TSP olive oil over the chicken and rub it over both the front and back of the breasts.  Liberally sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper (or rosemary salt if you have it).

Trim off the fronds/stalks off the fennel bulbs and remove any banged up parts of the outer leaves. Take one of the fennel bulbs and cut two one-inch thick slices crosswise at the widest part so you are making two cross-section rounds. These will be your roasting rack. Place the fennel on the baking pan and spray or sprinkle with 1 tsp olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Place each chicken breast on one of the fennel circles.

Bake for 35-45 minutes (if you are using a convection oven, it will probably be closer to 40, conventional oven, 45 ).The chicken is done when the internal temperature is 165 degrees. If you don’t have an instant read thermometer, you can cut into the chicken – if it is pink inside, it needs more baking, if it is not and the juices are clear, it’s done!

For the fennel, part deux:

  • Juice from ½ a lemon
  • 2 tsp good extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

While the chicken is roasting, Take the remaining fennel bulb and cut in half vertically through the core.  Cut out the core, and slice the fennel into thin strips (about ¼ inch). Toss with the juice from ½ a lemon and a two tsp. of good olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Chill until chicken is ready.

When the chicken is done, take it out of the oven and let it rest on the tray for 5-10 minutes. If you like the vegetable with a little more color, pop the fennel back in the oven for those 5 minutes to brown it a little. Serve the chicken with the roasted fennel, and the chilled fennel salad.

Calories: For the chicken, approximately 300 calories/breast, 250 without the skin. For the fennel, either way, 135/serving.

Variations:  There are a lot of ways you can adapt this recipe simply by changing up what you tuck under the skin of the breast. I’ve done this with goat cheese, tapenade (olive paste), fig jam, apricot, peach or apple slices, brie. You can also mix in things to the goat cheese like dried cranberries or finely chopped fresh herbs.  And you can use other vegetables instead or with the fennel. Root vegetables work best here. I like 1 inch cross slices of onion, or better yet, slice a potato into 1 inch rounds and add that too. The juices will absorb into the potatoes and you will have amazing roast potatoes.

Creamy Spinach Soup  Makes about 4 cups

From My Freezer is a Clown Car

I absolutely love the lemony fresh lightness of this soup. There’s usually a quart of it in my freezer towards the end of winter, especially when I need a little hit of early spring.

  • 1 ½ TBSP butter
  • ½ a small onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 slices day-old baguette or other white bread (don’t used sourdough, the flavor is too overpowering for this delicate soup)
  • 4 cups packed baby spinach (about 1 bag)
  • 1-2 TBSP goat cheese (whisked until smooth)
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Sauté the onion and a pinch of salt in butter and oil over medium heat for 3-4 minutes until translucent. Add minced garlic and sauté for another minute. Add the broth and bread slices, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add spinach and continue to simmer until the spinach is wilted and bright green, about 5 minutes. Turn off heat.

Puree the soup in batches in blender, or in pot with hand blender until smooth. Add cream and lemon zest; season to taste with salt and pepper.  Reheat to serving temperature. If you like, drizzle a little more cream on top. I’ve also added a tablespoon of whisked goat cheese (just whisk until it’s a little smooth) when serving as a first course to company. Calories: about 100-125 per cup

Creamy Tomato Soup  Makes about 9-10 cups

From My Freezer is a Clown Car

This is as close as I’ve ever gotten to the tomato soup I loved as a kid (without opening a red and white can and ‘reconstituting’ the contents.) And with a grilled cheese sandwich for dipping, is there anything better?

  • 2 TBSP butter
  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 TBSP minced garlic
  • 2 TBSP flour
  • 2 28-ounce cans of tomato puree
  • 2 TBSP tomato paste
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 TBSP cream cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter and oil in stockpot over low heat. Add onion and a pinch of salt and sweat for about 8-10 minutes or until soft. Add the garlic and cook another 1-2 minutes. Sprinkle over the flour and stir for another 3 minutes.

Add in the tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar and broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook over medium-low heat for 30 minutes.

Turn off the heat. Puree the soup in batches in a blender, or in the pot with a hand blender until smooth. Add in the ground cloves, cream cheese and stir until the cream cheese is melted. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Calories: about 100 per cup.

Potato Leek Soup Serves 4

From My Freezer is a Clown Car

This soup comes together in 45 minutes, and you will be shocked at how creamy it is without a drop of cream added. Perfect for a casual dinner,  just serve with a green salad, some nice cheese, crusty bread and a glass of wine and you’ll be in spud-heaven!

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • ½ lb leeks, well cleaned and finely chopped
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 ¼ lb yukon gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 1 quart chicken broth
  • 1-2 TBSP chopped fresh dill, or 1 tsp dried dill
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in large stockpot over medium heat. Add onion, leek, shallot and a good pinch of salt. Cover and sweat for about 10 minutes until soft, stirring occasionally.

Once the onion mix is soft, add the potatoes, dill and stock. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Turn off the heat and puree the soup in batches in the blender, or with a hand blender in the stockpot. Season with salt and pepper. Calories: about 100 per serving.

White bean, tomato and rosemary stew Serves 1-2

From The Virtue of Cheap and Easy

A can of beans and a can of tomatoes get classed up with a little fresh rosemary and some simmering. You could serve alongside roast chicken or a nice steak, under a lovely piece of fish, or on it’s own as a hearty vegetarian stew. Add some crusty bread, a salad and some wine and you have cheap and easy the classy way.

  • 1 can of cannellini beans with liquid (use the ready to serve kind, not salt-free )
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 small shallot, chopped
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • ¾ tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • Some good olive oil and balsamic vinegar for drizzling

Sweat the chopped shallot in olive oil over medium heat, 1-2 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté another minute. Add in the can of beans with their liquid, can of drained diced tomatoes, and chopped rosemary. Stir well, and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer, cover partially and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove cover and simmer another 8-10 minutes to evaporate some of the liquid. Taste for seasonings and add salt and pepper if needed. Serve with a drizzle of some good olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar. Calories: 275 per serving


French Onion Soup (from Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom, by Julia Child) Serves about 8

From Confessions of a cooking show addict

  • 2 quarts thinly sliced onions (I do this in my food processor with slicing disk – less weeping that way)
  • 3 TBSP butter
  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • 1 TBSP fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 TBSP flour
  • 2 cups hot beef stock, plus 2 quarts (I’ve used all beef, or a combo beef and chicken)
  • ¼ cup cognac or brandy (don’t leave this out – it really makes a difference)
  • 1 cup dry white wine or dry white vermouth
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a large saucepan, slowly sauté over medium low heat 2 quarts thinly sliced onions, ½ tsp salt and thyme leaves in 3 TBSP butter and 1 TBSP olive oil until softened, about 20 minutes (you don’t want to add color at this point, just soften). Stir in ½ tsp sugar and sauté another 15-20 minutes over medium heat, stirring frequently, until golden brown. Sprinkle 2 TBSP flour over onions and cook slowly, stirring for 2 minutes. Off heat, whisk in 2 cups hot beef stock and ¼ cup cognac or brandy. When well blended, stir in 2 quarts more stock and 1 cup wine or dry vermouth. Bring to a boil, then turn heat down, loosely cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To make Onion Soup Gratinee

Slice a baguette into ¼ inch slices, spray with cooking spray or drizzle with oil and toast until they are hard, about 25-30 minutes at 325°F.  Line the bottom of individual crocks with the toasts and cover with a thin slice of swiss or gruyere cheese. Ladle the hot soup on top, then float another slice of toast, and top with some more cheese (you could thin slices of parmesan here too). Bake in a 450°F for 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and browned. If you are serving this to a few people I’d use the oven as Julia recommends. If I’m making it just for myself, I put it under the broiler and keep a good eye on it – about 5 minutes should do. Calories: approximately 100/serving without the cheese and bread.

Slow cooker chicken chocolate chili 

Makes about 12 cups

From The unexpected upsides of unemployment

For the chili

  • 6 oz. dried black beans – soaked overnight
  • 6 oz. dried pinto beans – soaked overnight
  • 2 lbs skinless boneless chicken thighs
  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 28oz. can of diced fire-roasted tomatoes (you can use regular tomatoes if fire-roasted are not available)
  • 1 bottle of Guinness stout, extra stout or another stout beer (and if you can find chocolate stout terrific!)
  • ½ cup water
  • 3 fat cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 cup of chopped cilantro, divided in half
  • 1 large onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
  • A 1 lb butternut squash, peeled and chopped into bite-sized pieces (about 3 cups)
  • 1 oz. unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp grated orange zest
  • 2 TBSP masa harina or very finely ground cornmeal plus 3-4 TBSP hot water, mixed to make a slurry
  • 2 ½ TBSP Spice Mix (see below)

Spice Mix

People argue about their preference of chili powders and heat level as much as their politics. I like a little heat, but firmly believe that food should not hurt. Naturally my choices of ground chilies reflect that, and this recipe is on the mild side. I love ancho for its fruity nature, new mexico chilies for heat that won’t blow the back of your head off, and the smoky spiciness of smoked Spanish paprika pimenton. When I’m serving this to company, I’ll serve some roasted green chilies or some hot salsa on the side so those who like more heat can add it in themselves.

  • 1 TBSP  salt
  • 1 TBSP chili powder
  • 1 TBSP ground cumin
  • 1 TBSP ancho chili powder
  • 1 tsp New Mexico chili powder
  • 1 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • ½ tsp hot pimenton (smoked Spanish paprika)
  • ½ tsp ground coriander

Mix all of the spices together until fully blended. This makes more than you’ll need for the recipe, so just keep the extra in a jar for the next time, or when you want a little spice on chicken, meat, or fish.

Put the chicken in a sealable bag and add in a heaping TBSP of the spice mix. Knead the bag so all of the chicken is covered with the mix. Put in the fridge to sit for at least an hour.

When you are ready to make the chili, heat 1 TBSP olive oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat and brown the chicken. You may have to do this in two batches so the chicken isn’t crowded. Once the chicken is browned, remove it to a plate, turn heat to low and add ¼ cup of the beer to deglaze the pan, scraping up the browned bits stuck to bottom of pan. Turn off the heat and add back in the chicken and any juices. Let sit until you’re ready to add to the slow cooker.

Drain and rinse the soaked dry beans and put into the slow cooker. Add in the onion, garlic, squash, chicken, pan juices you just deglazed, the can of diced tomatoes and ¼ cup chopped cilantro. Mix everything together so all the ingredients are well distributed. Add in the remaining beer and ½ cup of water, then the chopped chocolate and 1 1/2 TBSP of the spice mix. Mix well again. The liquid should be up to the top of the ingredients but not covering. If you need more liquid, add a little more water.

Set the slow cooker to high for 6 hours. At 5-½ hours remove the chicken, shred it with 2 forks and add back into pot. Make a slurry from the masa and hot water, add to the pot and mix well. Let the chili cook another 30 minutes to thicken the sauce a little. Taste for seasonings and add salt and pepper if needed. Add in the other ¼ cup of chopped cilantro and stir. Calories: about 265 per cup.

As with any stew, chili is always better a day or two later, so this is the perfect recipe to do ahead, and it freezes beautifully. When I’m making it for a crowd, I keep it warm in the slow cooker and set it out with a stack of bowls, garnishes and honey sage cornbread and everyone can serve themselves.

Garnishes Here’s some that I like – feel free to add in your favorites.

  • Grated bittersweet chocolate
  • Finely chopped red onion, soaked in ice water about 15-30 minutes (takes some of the sharpness out of onion and makes them crispy)
  • Chopped avocados
  • Shredded sharp cheddar cheese (or a combination of a sharp cheddar and jack or muenster)
  • Chopped roasted green chilies
  • Sour cream
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Tortilla chips
  • Pepitas (roasted pumpkin seeds)
  • Lime wedges

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