Taste of Franklin: To your health – Lighter recipes keep healthy eating delicious

FRANKLIN LIVING JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2024

Recipes by Amy McCollum

Happy New Year! It’s hard to believe 2024 is here; it seems like 2023 flew by.

The past year has been a busy one for me. I came out of retirement in the spring to teach at Phil Campbell High School, and this fall I took a temporary job at East Franklin Junior High School. On top of that, I have a teenager who is involved in everything from volleyball to cheerleading.

With all of that going on, I found it hard to find time for healthy home-cooked meals. The busy life led me to eating out and picking quick, unhealthy options.  The hustle and bustle lifestyle, along with middle age and genetic issues such as diabetes and high cholesterol, led me to being overweight.

This sent me on a search for quick, easy and healthy recipes. I had to get healthy! I know that my family counts on me!

So, during 2023, I lost about 35 pounds. I cut most sugar and high-fat foods from my diet. I still treat myself with that Southern glass of tea, but now it is half sweet and half unsweet.

The healthy lifestyle is not always easy, but it is best when trying to lose weight and get that dreaded blood work where it needs to be. I want to share some of my favorite healthier recipes with you. There is no time like the present to get healthy and make 2024 the best year ever!

VANILLA PUDDING FRUIT SALAD
When using canned fruit, select fruit that has no added sugar. You could also add 1 1/2 cups blueberries to the recipe if you choose.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups strawberries, sliced
  • 2 cans sliced peaches, 15 ounces each
  • 1 can mandarin orange segments, 11 ounces
  • 1 can pineapple chunks, 15 ounces
  • 2 bananas, sliced
  • 1 green apple, cored and diced
  • 1 1/2 cups grapes
  • 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons instant vanilla pudding mix (to make it lower in calories, use sugar-free Jell-O pudding)

Instructions

  1. Zest the lime.
  2. Drain one of the cans of peaches into a large bowl.
  3. Stir 2 tablespoons pudding mix into the juice.
  4. Drain remaining can of peaches, mandarin oranges and pineapple chunks. The juice is not needed for this recipe.
  5. Add all fruit and lime zest to the pudding mixture.
  6. Gently stir to combine.
  7. Chill at least 30 minutes before serving.

HEALTHY CABBAGE SOUP
This is also a great, healthy recipe to use in your slow cooker. Perfect for a cold, wintry day!

Ingredients

  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups cabbage, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 3 carrots, sliced
  • 3 stalks celery, sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 28 ounces diced tomatoes, undrained

Instructions

  1. In a large pot, stir together the broth, onion, garlic, cabbage, carrots, celery, salt, pepper, oregano, basil and diced tomatoes.
  2. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cook for 20 minutes until cabbage and carrots are tender.

CHICKEN DELICIOUS
You can omit the parmesan cheese to lessen the calories and fat content.

Ingredients

  • 4-6 chicken breasts
  • Lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper
  • Celery salt
  • Paprika
  • 1 can of condensed cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 can of cream of celery soup
  • 1/3 cup of cooking sherry
  • Grated parmesan cheese
  • Fluffy white rice or a healthier brown rice, for serving

Instructions

  1. Rinse chicken and pat dry.
  2. Season chicken with lemon juice, salt, pepper, celery, salt and paprika.
  3. Place chicken in slow cooker or 9×13 baking dish.
  4. Mix together the remaining ingredients and pour over the chicken breasts. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
  5. If using a slow cooker, cover and cook on low setting for 6-8 hours. Alternatively, in the oven, cook at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until tender. The larger the chicken breasts, the longer the cooking time.
  6. Serve chicken and sauce over rice.

LIGHTER JAMBALAYA
This recipe is from Bobby Deen, one of my favorite celebrity chefs. I had the opportunity to attend one of his cooking demonstrations and meet him in Nashville in 2006.

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 finely chopped Vidalia onion
  • 1 finely chopped green bell pepper
  • 2 finely chopped celery stalks
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 8 oz (about 2 links) sliced fully-cooked smoked andouille chicken sausage links
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 14 oz. can fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1/2 pound peeled and deveined medium shrimp
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil in a large, nonstick saucepan over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, over medium-low heat until the vegetables are very tender, about eight minutes.
  3. Add the sausage and cook until lightly browned, about five minutes.
  4. Add the rice and cook, stirring, until the rice is well coated.
  5. Add the broth, tomatoes and ground red pepper; bring to a boil.
  6. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the rice is tender, 35-40 minutes.
  7. Add the shrimp and thyme and cook, stirring, until the shrimp just begins to turn opaque, three to five minutes.

GREEK CHICKEN AND RICE BOWLS

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds of chicken breasts
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil or avocado oil
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 English cucumbers, chopped
  • 1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, halved
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice

For the marinade/dressing:

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • 3 fresh garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste, about 1/2 teaspoon each

Instructions

  1. Start by preparing the Greek dressing, as it will also be used as a chicken marinade as well. Combine all the dressing ingredients in a large canning jar, place the lid on and shake really well to emulsify. Alternatively, you can put dressing ingredients into a bowl and whisk really well.
  2. Pour exactly half of this dressing over the chicken in a medium glass bowl, Tupperware or Ziploc, then rub it in to get it coated on all sides.
  3. Allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes in the fridge.
  4. Discard this used part of the marinade before cooking your chicken.
  5. To cook the chicken, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Drizzle your pan with oil, then add in the chicken and cook for about four minutes per side, or until nicely browned and just cooked through.
  6. Set cooked chicken aside on a plate to rest for 10 minutes, then chop.
  7. In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, cucumber, olives, onion and feta cheese.
  8. Drizzle the remaining, untouched dressing over the top and gently toss veggies and feta to combine.
  9. To assemble your bowls, add a 1/2 cup cooked rice to four bowls or food prep containers, then top the rice equally with your Greek salad and chopped chicken.

Homemade Chocolate Cake with Strawberry Frosting
Everyone needs a sweet treat for Valentine’s Day. This picture is courtesy of my daughter, AnnaBeth Gunderman-Pressnell. She used a white chocolate drip over the cake and strawberries to add that special touch.

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • Vegetable shortening, for greasing pans
  • 4-ounce semisweet chocolate baking bar, chopped
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup salted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (about 8 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 cup whole buttermilk

For the frosting:

  • 1 cup salted butter, softened
  • 6 cups (about 1 1/2 pounds) powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Instructions

Prepare the cake layers:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour three 8-inch round cake pans and set aside.
  2. Place chopped chocolate in a small heatproof bowl; pour boiling water over chocolate. Whisk until chocolate is melted and smooth. Let stand until cooled to room temperature, about 20 minutes.
  3. Next, beat butter with a heavy-duty stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on medium speed until creamy, about one minute.
  4. Gradually add granulated sugar and brown sugar, beating until light and fluffy, three to four minutes.
  5. Add egg yolks one at a time, beating until just blended after each addition.
  6. Add vanilla and cooled melted chocolate, beating until blended.
  7. Whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl.
  8. Add flour mixture to butter mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture, beating on low speed until just blended after each addition.
  9. Beat egg whites in a separate bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form, about five minutes. Gently fold into chocolate batter.
  • Pour batter evenly into prepared pans.
  • Bake in preheated oven until a wooden pick inserted in centers of cake comes out clean, 20-30 minutes.
  • Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes.
  • Remove cakes from pans; let cool completely on wire racks, about 40 minutes.

Prepare the frosting:

  1. Beat butter with a heavy-duty stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on medium speed until creamy, about one minute.
  2. Gradually add powdered sugar, vanilla, salt and two tablespoons of the chopped strawberries, beating on medium speed until mixture is creamy with streaks of strawberries throughout.
  3. Increase speed to medium-high; beat until light and fluffy, about one minute.
  4. Gently fold in remaining strawberries.
  5. Place one cake layer on a platter; spread about 1/2 cup frosting over top of layer.
  6. Repeat process with one additional cake layer and 1/2 cup frosting.
  7. Top with remaining cake layer and spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake.
  8. Garnish with whole and halved strawberries.

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