Lightening Up the Menu in the Winter Months

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These easy, healthy recipes will keep your diet on track through the cold winter and holiday season!

During the chilly winter season, people generally tend to seek hearty, calorie-rich foods to keep them warm. But with all the holiday parties- notorious hotbeds of high fat foods and alcohol- not to mention decreased physical activity due to the cold weather, it’s no wonder that we tend to gain a few extra pounds during the winter months.

Fortunately, there are many lighter and healthier alternatives to those heavy, starchy, fatty meals that usually appear on dinner tables this time of year. These two recipes pack a powerful punch of flavour without making too great an impact on your waistline.

The first recipe I will be providing you today is inspired by Vietnamese street food. In Vietnam, vendors fill bundles of lettuce with sprouts, herbs, and meat to create little salad bundles that are eaten by hand in one or two bites. They are perfect for serving as an appetizer before a main course- sort of a reinvented salad course- or as a component of the main meal.

 

The nice thing about these salad bundles is that they are an excellent opportunity to mix and match ingredients; just as with any other salad, just about anything goes when it comes to choosing ingredients. This particular recipe uses poached salmon, green onions, sprouts, cilantro, mint, and basil sauce. Ground or finely shredded chicken work equally well, and the rest of the bundles’ components really depend on personal taste preferences.

The second recipe I will be focusing on today is a personal favourite of mine- grapefruit chicken. These citrus glazed chicken breasts are the perfect accompaniment to rice and vegetables, and also go well on top of a mixed green or spinach salad. Grapefruit is loaded with vitamin C and antioxidants, and has a strong aromatic citrus flavour that adds tang without adding fat or too many calories.

I hope you enjoy these two healthy dinner options. Enjoy!

Vietnamese Salad Bundles

You will need:

  • 1 head of lettuce- I recommend Bibb or Iceberg
  • 1 bunch green onions, finely sliced
  • ½ cup bean sprouts
  • 1 handful each- cilantro, mint; finely sliced
  • 1 bunch of basil- approximately half a cup
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 large salmon filet, cut into 12 to 16 small portions
  • ½ cup white wine
  • ½ cup chicken stock
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • ½ onion, sliced

Method:

  1. In a food processor or blender, combine basil with a small drizzle of olive oil. Pulse for a few seconds, until smooth, then add the remaining oil in a continuous motion while continuing to blend. Add the vinegar, and pulse until completely smooth. Taste, and add salt and pepper as needed.
  2. In a large pan over medium high heat, combine wine, chicken stock, lemon and onion. You don’t want your liquid to actually start boiling, but heat it just long enough to where bubbles start forming from the bottom of the pan and the liquid has begun to produce steam. At this point, reduce the heat down to low and place the fish inside. If all the fish doesn’t fit into the pan at once, poach half the fish first and then the second half of the portions after. After about 10 minutes (poaching salmon doesn’t take very long), remove from poaching liquid and set aside.
  3. Remove the leaves from the head of lettuce, making sure they are washed and dried. You want to have as many lettuce leaves as pieces of salmon- these will be your bundles.
  4. To assemble, place a few leaves of cilantro and mint in the center of a lettuce leaf. Do the same with a bit of green onion and sprouts, and add one of the pieces of salmon. Drizzle a small amount of basil sauce, and roll the lettuce leaf.
  5. Repeat this process until all the salmon has been tucked into the salad bundles. Yield 12-16 bundles.

Grapefruit Glazed Chicken Breasts

You will need:

  • 1 large skillet
  • 1 baking tray, lined with parchment paper
  • 1 medium sized mixing bowl, plus 1 smaller bowl
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 3 large grapefruits, juiced; plus the zest of one of your grapefruits
  • 2 shallots, very finely diced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Drizzle about half a tablespoon of olive oil into the skillet, and heat over high heat until the oil begins to look shiny (this is how you know the pan and oil are hot); turn down heat to med-high.
  3. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides, and place into the skillet immediately.
  4. Sear each side of the chicken for about one to two minutes per side, then remove and place on baking tray lined with parchment paper. Leave the skillet on the stove- you will be using it right away for the grapefruit sauce
  5. Place chicken in 375F oven for about 10 minutes- just enough time to assemble the grapefruit sauce.
  6. Add the remaining half tbsp of olive oil into the pan, and the finely chopped shallots and grapefruit zest. Sauté for a few minutes, until softened.
  7. Add the grapefruit juice. Stir continuously, until chicken is done. Reduce heat to medium. At this point, if you wish, add one or two chunks of butter to the sauce to add richness. While this is completely optional, it adds a beautiful shine and richness to the dish.
  8. On a cutting board, slice chicken into medallions. Place in skillet with grapefruit sauce, and continue to cook everything together, making sure all sides of the chicken medallions are well-coated. The glaze should continue to thicken over the chicken.
  9. After about 5 to 8 minutes, remove the chicken from the pan. Plate with rice and steamed vegetables. Pour the remaining sauce over top of the chicken and rice. Serve immediately.

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