Saturday, March 28, 2015

Creamy Chicken with Mushrooms

When craving a hearty comfort food casserole think beyond the can of cream of mushroom soup. This dish pairs meaty mushrooms with juicy chicken breast, and a light and creamy sauce. Making your own sauce is easy, tastes better, and eliminates the preservatives and much of the sodium. Serve over brown rice, quinoa, or whole grain egg noodles and extra veggies and dinner is ready!

Did you know that mushrooms are one of the few foods that naturally contain vitamin D? Content varies on the type of mushroom with wild varieties conatining more than portabella or white mushrooms. Don't be fooled by mushrooms bland color, they are also packed with B vitamins, copper, and selenium and are often touted for their benefits in immune support, thanks to their phytonutrient profile. Cooking Tip: Mushrooms absorb water quickly and is best not to rinse or soak mushrooms. Simply wipe them down with a damp towel before use.

Creamy Chicken with Mushrooms
Makes 6 servings
  • 2 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breast (trimmed and cut into tender-sized pieces)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • ½ cup all purpose flour
  • 1 pound (16 oz) of fresh baby bella mushrooms (thinly sliced)
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1.5 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup half and half or evaporated milk
  1. Season chicken with salt and pepper and dedge both sides in flour. Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large frying pan (or better yet, if you one, a have a Dutch oven). Once the oil is hot add chicken and sauté until golden. You will need to work in batches so you don’t crowd the pan. Set aside on a plate if using a Dutch oven or place in a 9x13 casserole dish otherwise.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Add remaining olive oil, mushrooms and onions and sauté 5-8 minutes, until soft. Add garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes. Set aside on plate or casserole dish.
  4. Melt the butter in the same pan, whisk in the 2 Tbsp flour and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the chicken broth, and half and half and bring to a simmer.
  5. Add the chicken and the mushroom mixture to the Dutch oven (or pour the mixture into the casserole dish). Cover and bake for 45 minutes.
  6. Serve over your preference of starch (I went with a brown/wild rice mix, but could be potato or whole wheat egg noodles as well). Pair with your favorite vegetable.
Nutrition Facts: 4 oz chicken w/ mushrooms and sauce
380 calories, 19 g fat (3 g saturated), 16 g carbohydrates, 36 g protein, 300 mg sodium

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Southwestern Chicken Soup

It has been a heat wave in Vermont over the past 2 days, a whopping 50 degrees! Even though the weather is warming I am still making up batches of soup. I love that I can cook on Sunday and have lunches for the week with little prep, perfect for those busy days. When I get sick of eating it I just freeze the rest into individual portions. This southwestern chicken soup packed with vegetables, beans, and plenty of flavor. Because it is packed with chicken and beans it can be a meal on its own. I made the stock from scratch, but low sodium chicken broth would work as well. Short on time? Use leftover chicken or a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken.

I have listed some optional toppings at the end of the ingredients list that I think would be great
accompainments. Certainly you don’t need to pick all of them, but they can make the soup a little extra special. I like it with a pinch of cheese, avocado, and tsp of sour cream!

Southwestern Chicken Soup


1 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
1 cup carrots, diced
2 fresh jalepenos, seeded and diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
8 cups homemade chicken stock or low sodium chicken broth
1 pound cooked chicken breast and/or dark meat, diced or shredded
1 can low sodium diced tomatoes
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp cumin
14 oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen corn

Toppings: (optional)
Low fat shredded cheese (cheddar or Mexican blend)
Diced red onion
Sour cream
Diced avocado
Tortilla Strips

  1. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add onion, celery, carrots, jalapeños and red pepper and cook for 3 minutes.
  2. Add remaining ingredients and simmer over low-medium heat for 45 minutes. Serve hot.
Nutrition Facts:
1 1/3 cups: 175 calories, 3 g fat (1 g saturated), 19 g carbohydrates, 4 g fiber, 20 g protein, 341 mg sodium

Monday, February 2, 2015

Buffalo Chicken Salad

As many of you may know, I LOVE buffalo sauce. I put it on eggs, sandwiches, salads and pretty much everything else in between. Sadly, I had never made a buffalo chicken pasta salad. Boy, was I missing out! This dish has a little bit of crunch (thanks to the carrots and celery) and is perfect for a lighter meal during these winter months. It will stand apart from the more traditional pasta salads at the next party or dinner table. The spiciness can be adjusted based on your taste preferences. Best of all it is quick and easy to make and can be made the day before. If you are super short on time you can use a rotisserie chicken instead of grilling or baking your own. 

Most pasta salads are laden with mayonnaise or dressings and end up being a high fat choice. I lightened this one up by using a small amount of light mayo and some olive oil, and relying mostly on buffalo sauce for the flavor. Sprinkling blue cheese crumbles on top gives it a lot of flavor without adding a heavy blue cheese dressing. Using whole wheat or high fiber white pasta gives this dish the fiber power to keep you feeling full.

Buffalo Chicken Pasta Salad
Makes 12 servings

1 pound whole wheat pasta (some favorites: elbows, penne, spirals)
½ cup Frank’s Buffalo Sauce
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup canola or light mayonnaise
1 cup diced carrots
3 stalks celery, diced
3 cups cooked and diced chicken breast
¼ cup blue cheese crumbles
Black pepper, to taste


  1. Cook pasta as directed. Drain and run under cold water.
  2. Mix in a small bowl: the hot sauce, garlic and onion powder, olive oil, and light mayonnaise and set aside.
  3. Combine the pasta, carrots, celery and chicken in a large bowl. Pour hot sauce mixture over the top and stir well.
  4. Sprinkle blue cheese on top and chill for at least 20 minutes. Serve cold.
Nutrition Facts: 1 serving (~1 cup)

260 calories, 8 g total fat (2 g saturated), 31 g carbohydrate, 4 g fiber, 17 g protein, 450 mg sodium




Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Moroccan Tagine

Over the holidays I had some homemade Lebanese food that was to die for. The combination of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavors was well balanced and extremely healthy. I realized that even though I love most spices and foods, that I really haven’t tried many classic dishes from around the world and that was something I wanted to change.

The first on my list was to make a Moroccan dish. Tagine is a popular dish, so I decided to give it a shot. Traditionally this dish is slowly cooked over coals and is served as a stew with meats, vegetables, olives, and dried fruits with a wonderfully rich and spicy sauce. I made a large batch for a company party and I was surprised how easy and delicious it was. I will definitely be making this again!


Moroccan Beef Tagine

Makes 6 servings



  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1.5 pounds beef tenderloin, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 large carrot, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups low sodium beef broth
  • 1/2 cup halved pitted Kalamata olives
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, drained
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon lemon peel, grated

Garlic Couscous

  • 2 cups couscous
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle beef with salt and pepper. Brown on all sides of the meat (you may need to do in a few batches), about 3 minutes per batch. Transfer to plate and set aside.
  2. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil, onion, carrot, and garlic to pan. Cook until vegetables are soft, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add spices; stir 1 minute. Add broth, olives, raisins, garbanzo beans, and half of the cilantro; bring to boil. Simmer until juices thicken, about 5 minutes. Add beef and any accumulated juices and lemon peel to pan. Stir to warm through and serve.
  4. Cook couscous as directed (bring 2 cups water to a boil with olive oil then turn off heat add couscous and give a quick stir, cover and let sit 5-10 minutes). Add garlic powder, salt/pepper and fluff with fork before serving. 
  5. Top couscous with beef stew mixture and sprinkle with remaining cilantro


Nutrition Facts: ¾ cup couscous with 1 1/3 cups stew

540 calories, 21 g fat (3 g saturated), 56 g carbohydrates, 6 g fiber, 32 g protein, 640 mg sodium

Monday, December 29, 2014

Turtle Cheesecake

I served this cheesecake on Christmas and it was quite the hit. It starts with a chocolate crust, then a creamy cheesecake filling and topped with a caramel sauce and ganache drizzle. It is a decadent dessert, perfect for entertaining, but is super easy to make! Using a springform pan will make your cheesecake easy to cook and serve. 


If you are short on time, or prefer not to make the caramel or ganache, sundae caramel sauce and hot fudge will do the trick as well! I had extra of both sauce, but use as liberally as you feel necessary! 


Turtle cheesecake



1 cup chopped pecans



1.5 sleeves of chocolate graham crackers

6 Tbsp butter, melted



4 packages of cream cheese, softened

1 cup granulated sugar

4 eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract



8 oz good quality semi-sweet chocolate (I used chips)

1/2 cup heavy cream 


Caramel sauce:

1 cup packed dark brown sugar

1/2 cup heavy cream

4 Tbsp butter 

1 Tbsp vanilla extract



1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place pecans on a baking sheet and toast for 4-5 minutes, until aromatic
2. Break chocolate graham crackers into small pieces and toss in food processor (1 package at a time). Pulse until they are small, uniform crumbs
3. In a large bowl, add the melted butter to the graham crumbs and mix well. 
4. Pat mixture into the bottom of a 9-10” springform pan and bake for 8 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove crust from oven and decrease heat to 325 degrees
5. Meanwhile, in a large pan, beat the cream cheese with an electric mixer until smooth, add the sugar and continue to beat. 
6. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well between each addition, mix in the vanilla extract.
7. Sprinkle ½ cup of the toasted pecans on top of the pre-baked crust and drizzle caramel over the nuts. 
8. Pour the cheesecake batter into the crust and bake for 55 minutes at 325degrees. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then release spring in pan to continue cooling. 
9. For the ganache: It can be done on the stove or microwave. For the stove you need to make a double boiler (with a heat resistant bowl over a boiling saucepan of water) and combine the cream and chocolate and mix well. For the microwave: Place heavy cream in a microwave-safe bowl and cook for 2 minutes, add choc chips and stir until combined.
10. For the caramel sauce: Mix the sugar, cream, and butter in a small saucepan and cook over medium-low heat for 5-6 minutes, whisking regularly. Add the vanilla, cook an additional minute. 
11. To decorate: Allow both sauces to slightly cool and pour into pastry bags or sandwich bags with the corner snipped off (about ½” from the corner).  Drizzle sauces over the top of the cheesecake and sprinkle remaining pecans on top. 
12. Chill in the refrigerator, covered for at least 4 hours.