A common question today is : “What should I eat to be healthy?”

Here are some “tried-and-true” meal planning tips:

  • Entree. Here’s where you can put the dietary guidelines to work for you. Plan on fish twice a week and at least one meatless meal. You’re almost half-way done. For the remaining meals, plan one that’s fast and easy to cook, one big family-type meal and one meal based on leftovers. Remember that a serving of meat is only about the size of a deck of cards. The rest of the plate will be filled with other good things.
  • Vegetables. Begin to fill in vegetables according to the entree. Look for colorful ones and plan some variety throughout the week. Get out of the rut of the too familiar rotation of cooked peas, corn and green beans. How about sugar snap peas, broccoli or beets? Instead of the same old iceberg lettuce, how about spinach, tomato slices or shredded carrots?
  • Whole grains. Think of all the options: brown rice, barley, whole-wheat pasta, whole-grain bread or rolls, couscous, barley, and kasha You can cook whole grains ahead and use leftovers the next day — especially in soups and salads.
  • Fruit. It’s not just for dessert anymore. Fruit can be a topping, a salad, a sauce, stuffed into chicken, and grilled or broiled on skewers. Think frozen bananas, grapes or berries for those hot nights.
  • Beverage. Water is perfect. Other good choices include low-fat milk, unsweetened tea, 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice and a glass of wine or beer.
The following menus are formed around stuffed chicken breasts because chicken is a good dinner choice due to its versatility and popularity. The menus show you how to build a meal around this delicious entree.  I would, however, encourage you, if at all possible, to buy organic chickenChicken is one of the best places to spend your organic dollars, according to a 2006 “Consumer Reports” study. If you’re resolved to eat a healthier diet, consider the benefits of organic chicken and add it to your shopping list.
Yesterday’s health news is another reason to look for organic chicken in your supermarket. A growing number of medical researchers say more than 8 million women are at risk of difficult-to-treat bladder infections because superbugs – resistant to antibiotics and growing in chickens – are being transmitted to humans in the form of E. coli.  The Food and Drug Administration says 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the United States are fed to livestock and even healthy chicken to protect them from disease in cramped quarters. It also helps the chickens grow bigger and faster. http://gma.yahoo.com/blogs/abc-blogs/superbug-dangers-chicken-linked-8-million-risk-women-122809803–abc-news-health.html.
While health news recommendations can be confusing from report to report, it is standard industry practice to regularly use antibiotics in livestock production.  It is important for consumers to be aware of what goes into the production of their foods, so they can make wise purchase decisions.
Look for this label to be certain you are purchasing organic chicken:

Menu 1

Two-Cheese Stuffed Chicken

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup diced plum tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 6 ounces baby spinach
  • 1 cup part-skim, shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 4 boneless, skinless medium chicken breast halves (about 1.5 lbs)
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning 
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
Directions:
1. Heat oil over medium heat in a nonstick skillet. Add onion and cook, stirring until onions are tender, about 5 minutes.
2. Stir in tomatoes and garlic. Add spinach, cover, and cook for about 3 minutes until spinach is soft. Remove from heat.
3. Let mixture cool slightly; stir in Mozzarella and Parmesan.
4. Heat oven to 375°F.
5. Beginning in the center of the thicker end of the breast, insert a small knife horizontally, stopping about 1 inch from the opposite end. Open incision to create a wide pocket and pack 1/4 of the filling mixture into each breast.
6. Season chicken with Italian seasoning blend and place in 13″x 9″x 2″ baking dish.
7. Pour broth over chicken. Cover loosely with foil and bake for 40 minutes.
8. Keep warm until served.

Brown Rice Pilaf With Hazelnuts                                                                                                                               

4 Servings

Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 large mushrooms, coarsely chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup brown rice
  • 3 tablespoons (2 ounces) coarsely chopped hazelnuts
  • 1 1/4 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel

Alternate: Replace the hazelnuts with walnuts, pine nuts, or pecans.

Directions:

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the mushrooms and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushroom liquid evaporates, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the rice and nuts and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes. Stir in the broth, thyme, and lemon peel. Bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook until the rice is tender, about 45 minutes. For best results, avoid stirring the rice while it cooks. Fluff the rice with a fork before serving.

Radicchio Salad

Serves: 6

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup dried cherries or cranberries
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 pounds radicchio, cut in 1-inch shreds
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions:

Put the fruit in a small bowl and pour the vinegar over them. Let soak for 15 minutes. Pour the fruit and vinegar over the shredded radicchio in a large serving bowl. Drizzle with the olive oil and season with the salt. Toss well to coat the salad with the dressing.

Menu 2

Chicken Breasts With Lemon and Basil Couscous

Stuffed Chicken Breast:

Ingredients:

  • 4  (about 1 1/4 pounds) medium skinless, boneless chicken-breast halves
  • 1/4 cup (about half 4.4-ounce package) light garlic-and-herb spreadable cheese
  • 1/4 cup jarred roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
  • 8  whole fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, extra-virgin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

Lemon and Basil Couscous:                                                                                                                                                                                                     

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, extra-virgin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, coarse

Directions:

  1. Prepare Stuffed Breasts: With tip of knife, cut each chicken breast from a long side, keeping knife parallel to surface of breast, to form a deep pocket with as small an opening as possible.
  2. In small bowl, combine cheese, peppers, and basil. Spread 1/4 cheese mixture in each chicken pocket. Rub outside of chicken with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. Prepare Lemon & Basil Couscous: In 2-quart saucepan, add oil, salt, pepper, and 1 1/3 cups water and bring to boiling over high heat; stir in couscous. Cover saucepan; remove from heat and let stand at least 5 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, place chicken on grill over medium heat and cook 12 to 15 minutes or until juices run clear when thickest part of the breast is pierced with tip of knife, turning over once.
  5. To serve, add basil and lemon juice to couscous, and fluff with fork to mix well. Spoon couscous onto 4 dinner plates and arrange chicken on top.

Cherry Tomato Cucumber Salad


Ingredients:

  • 3 cups of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1 cup of chopped cucumber, peeled and seeded 
  • 1 teaspoon fresh, chopped oregano
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots or green onions
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions:

Gently toss the tomatoes, cucumber, onions and oregano together. Mix lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste and drizzle over vegetables.
Serves 4.

Menu 3

Chicken Roll-Ups

   

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 11/4 lb chicken cutlets
  • 4 slices lean ham
  • 4 slices Swiss cheese
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup of Progresso Italian Panko crumbs  

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lay cutlets on plastic wrap, pound until thin. Fold ham and cheese and half and lay over the chicken. You can add basil, rosemary  or any herb of choice.

Start at the narrowest end of cutlet and the roll up. Secure with a toothpick or be sure to lay them seam side down once breaded.

Dip pastry brush in extra virgin olive oil and brush on chicken rolls. Quickly put the entire chicken roll into bowl of Panko crumbs and use your hand or a spoon to press crumbs firmly onto chicken roll.

Transfer the rolled cutlets to a  greased baking dish. Then, using a teaspoon, drizzle some extra virgin olive oil over each chicken roll.

Bake for 15 – 20 minutes in the middle of the oven. In the last few minutes switch your oven to “broil” and move your baking dish to the rack closest to heating element. In 1-2 minutes, the high heat will brown up the crumbs.

Broccoli with Orecchiette                                                                                                                                                                         

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces orecchiette (ear-shaped pasta) or small shells, whole grain
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 bunch (about 1 1/2 pounds) broccoli stalks, peeled and trimmed, stalks and florets, roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon each coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Directions:

Bring a large stockpot of water to a boil. Add pasta, and cook until al dente, stirring occasionally to keep the pasta from sticking, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a colander to drain, reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid. Set pasta aside.
Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic; saute until golden, stirring to avoid burning, about 2 minutes. Add broccoli and reserved cooking liquid; cook, stirring, until broccoli is tender and bright green, about 3 minutes. Add the salt and pepper. Remove from heat.
Add reserved pasta to pan, and toss well to coat. Transfer to four serving bowls; drizzle each with 1/2 teaspoon olive oil, and garnish each serving with 1 1/2 teaspoons grated Pecorino Romano cheese.

Menu 4

Mushroom Stuffed Chicken Breast

Ingredients:

  • 4 boneless chicken breasts, pounded thin
  • 6 oz low fat softened cream cheese
  • 12 sliced mushrooms
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 slices Proscuitto

Directions:

In a skillet, saute mushrooms in oil until browned on medium heat stirring often to avoid burning. Add shallots and cook for an additional minute. Mix with cream cheese.

Divide the filling so that you have enough for 4 breasts. Put filling in the middle and roll tucking in the side ends so that you will not have the filling spill out later.

Do the same with the rest of the chicken pieces.

At this point wrap with prosciutto ham to encase the roll. Place in a greased baking dish and bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes.

Spaghetti with Roasted Zucchini

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz spaghetti, whole grain
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 4 small zucchini (about 1 lb total), sliced 1/4 in. thick
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese 
  • 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

Directions:

Heat oven to 425°F.

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Toss the pasta with 1 tablespoon of the oil.

In a large bowl toss the zucchini, garlic, red pepper, remaining 2 tablespoons oil and ½ teaspoon salt. Add the Parmesan cheese toss to combine. Spread the zucchini mixture on a rimmed baking sheet and roast until the zucchini is tender and golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes.

Toss the pasta with the zucchini mixture, parsley and lemon zest.

Menu 5

Chicken Roulade with Olives and Preserved Lemons

Preserved Lemons


Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup dry breadcrumbs
  • 6 tablespoons capers, rinsed, drained, and divided
  • 1 tablespoon chopped Preserved Lemon or lemon zest
  • 12 pitted Kalamata ripe olives, drained and divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped onion (about 1 medium)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
Directions:

1. Combine breadcrumbs, 4 tablespoons capers, 1 tablespoon Preserved Lemons, 6 olives, and garlic in a food processor or blender, and pulse 10 times or until the mixture is coarsely chopped.

2. Place each breast half between 2 sheets of plastic wrap; pound to 1/4-inch thickness using a meat mallet or small heavy skillet. Divide breadcrumb mixture into 4 equal portions; spread 1 portion on each breast half, leaving a 1/4-inch border around the outside edges. Roll up each breast half, jelly-roll fashion, starting with short side. Secure with wooden picks or twine.

3. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken to pan; cook 6 minutes, browning on all sides. Remove chicken from pan; keep warm. Add onion to pan; sauté 2 minutes or until browned. Add wine; cook until reduced to 1/4 cup (about 1 minute), stirring often. Add remaining 2 tablespoons capers, 1 cup water, broth, juice, raisins, and turmeric. Quarter the remaining 6 olives. Add to pan; bring to a boil. Add chicken to pan; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes, turning chicken after 10 minutes. Serve chicken with sauce.

Roasted Red Potatoes

Ingredients:

  • 12 small red potatoes cut in half
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Mrs. Dash® Garlic and Herb Blend, divided
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan Cheese

Directions:

Toss potatoes with olive oil and 1 tablespoon Mrs. Dash Blend in a bowl. Turn into a greased baking dish.

Roast in a preheated 400°F (200°C) oven for 30 minutes.

Increase heat to 450°F. Sprinkle with remaining Mrs. Dash Blend and continue to roast for 5 – 10 minutes or until tender and browned. Sprinkle with cheese just before serving.


Sauteed Fresh Green Beans 

In skillet with cover, add 1 small shallot sliced, 1 small garlic clove, minced, 1 cup low sodium chicken broth and 1 lb. trimmed fresh green beans.  Sprinkle with a little salt & pepper. Bring to boiling, lower heat to simmer, cover pan and cook until beans are tender.
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