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Tasty, Healthy, Inexpensive, and Quick
Four Words to Kick off the New Year
By Kirk Leins
The New Year represents a fresh start. It's a perfect opportunity to set personal goals for the next twelve months while putting any failures from the previous year behind us. 2006 is now a part of our past, so it's time to get excited about the future, at least the next 52 weeks of it.
The hope we hold for the New Year can take on many forms. While a large number of individuals will focus on advancing their careers, many others will concentrate on improving their personal lives. But there is one topic which typically heads up everyone's list of resolutions... eating.
Most of us ended 2006 with a bang. If we didn't overeat in terms of sheer quantity, we definitely overindulged when it came to our sugar and fat intake. While it's easy to feel guilty about consuming all of those holiday goodies, it's actually more important to examine our eating habits during the prior 11 months. By properly managing our diet throughout the year, we can allow ourselves to have moments of true decadence, even periods of abject gluttony. And then, instead of beating ourselves up over that short-lived behavior, we can simply return to our normal lives.
Since this is YOU Magazine's first issue of 2007, I've designed three recipes to help you start the year off right. These dishes are tasty and healthy! And, as an added bonus, I've kept their cost and preparation time down to a minimum. I figured the more attractive I made these meals, the more likely you'll be to eat them all year long.
A Sensational Salad
Aside from being easy on the waste line, the salad is also easy on the wallet. Once you've purchased a few "bottled" ingredients, the fresh ingredients can be acquired for just a few bucks. This Thai salad can be served as a starter, a side dish, and an entrée. It can be thrown together in minutes, and the dressing portion can even be made a day in advance.
Thai Cabbage Salad (Serves 2 as an entrée, 4 as a starter)
For the salad:
For the dressing:
In a medium-sized bowl, combine all the ingredients for the salad dressing. Whisk well and set aside. In a large salad mixing bowl, combine all of the ingredients for the salad except the cilantro. Add salad dressing, and toss well. Garnish with cilantro leaves and serve immediately.
For starters, lentils are legumes, or beans which grow inside of pods. A bag of dried lentils will cost you around $1 and has the ability to feed a small army. Lentils are a great source of dietary fiber and are rich in protein, folic acid, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and Vitamin A. They are one of only a few dried beans which don't require soaking in water prior to cooking. This makes lentil soup a quick dinner which you can have on the table in about an hour. This meal also has a "stick-to-your-ribs" quality without requiring the use of large quantities of fat or cholesterol.
Smokey Lentil Soup (Serves a lot of folk)
In a large stock pot, heat olive oil until hot and shimmering. Add onion, carrots, celery, garlic, and potatoes. Season with salt and pepper, and sauté for 3 minutes. Add lentils and stir to incorporate. Add the broth and water, along with 1 tbsp of the vinegar. Allow mixture to come to a boil, and add ham hock, bay leaves, and thyme. Lower heat and allow soup to simmer (covered) for 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so. At the 45 minute mark, check the consistency of both the lentils and the soup. The lentils should be soft and creamy, and the soup should be thickened. If not, continue simmering until this is achieved. Remove bay leaves and ham bone to a plate, allowing the bone to cool slightly. Separate the meat from the bone and return meat to soup. Bring the soup up to the proper seasoning level by adding more kosher salt, pepper, and the remaining vinegar. Serve.
Note: Serve this soup with a dollop of either crème fraiche or sour cream on top and a little extra malt vinegar on the side. Also, vegetarians may omit the ham hock and substitute 1 teaspoon of liquid smoke instead.
Not Your Same Ol' Chicken Breasts
I'm talking about chicken breasts served in an orange-sage sauce, and I guarantee it will have your family asking for seconds. Orange and sage make a wonderful combination, one which also works well with fish and pork. Not only does this recipe fall under the parameters put forth in the title of this article, it also comes with an added bonus; kids love this dish! The sweetness of the orange creates a comfort zone that enables them to keep an open mind about the sage. I suggest serving this dish with steamed Jasmine rice and the vegetable of your choice.
Orange-Sage Chicken Breasts (Serves 4)
Liberally season chicken breasts on both sides with salt and pepper. Set aside on a plate. In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet, heat olive oil until quite hot and shimmering. Add chicken breasts and fry for four minutes (2 minutes per side). Remove chicken breasts to a plate. Drain half the olive oil from the pan, return it to the stove, and reduce the flame to medium. Add shallot and sauté for 1 minute, scraping up any brown bits stuck to the pan with a wooden spoon. Add orange juice, 1 1/2 tbsp of the sage, and season with salt and pepper. Once the orange juice begins to simmer, return the chicken to the pan and simmer for 5 minutes or until it's cooked through. Remove chicken to a plate and loosely tent with aluminum foil. If the orange juice hasn't reduced by half and thickened, allow it to simmer for an additional two minutes. Once thickening has occurred, reduce heat to low and swirl in the butter. Place chicken on plate, ladle with sauce, and garnish with remaining sage.
So, there you go. Three dishes all worthy of a place on your family's dinner table. Remember, it's easy to stick to making the same old, same old for supper. But change is good. Especially in January!
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