Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Italian Lite!

If your holiday season has been anything like mine then there was a lot of good food to be had and some pants to be let out. With that in mind, I wanted to bring in a low calorie, light lunch bento. Low cal does not have to mean low taste, so I set out to find a good blend of taste and technique to deliver just that kind of lunch.

We'll start with our entree: Chicken with lemon artichoke sauce. The key to lower calorie cooking is to remove your usual suspects for taste (butter, frying, fatter cuts of meat) and replace them with taste highlights (lemon zest, spices) and plenty of vegetables. The veggies of course are there for low calorie filler and provide a satisfying lunch. I took some chicken breast cutlets and lightly dusted them with a season flour mixture and finishing them in a pan coated with a bit of cooking spray. Slow cooking got the onions and artichokes nice and soft while the lemon zest and juice punched up the taste.

Next we have a polenta with mushroom ragu. I deleted the usual cream and butter used in making polenta, and relied on a decent chill in the fridge to keep them firm when I broiled them. So now that I have the texture component in, I put all the seasoning into the mushroom ragu (typical oregano and thyme) and put in a healthy dose of fresh chopped basil to bring aroma and flavor into the dish.

For a nice small side, I made a cannellini basil bean dip. It's basically an italian version of hummus. It's a bit thinner than hummus which relies on tahini to help bind it together, I probably could have added more beans to make it thicker. The dip can be served warm or cold, I personally prefer warm as it brings out the taste of the basil and garlic.


Finally for dessert, since I had a pretty good savings of calories on everything else, I splurged on a prosciutto wrapped Turkish figs glazed with honey and dusted with some Gorgonzola. Surprisingly it's not too bad weighing in at 90 calories.

If all my calculations were correct, this bountiful lunch came in just short of 420 calories not bad for a full meal. I learned a lot about how to cut corners on fat and calories by applying basic cooking tricks. I'll be using them more in the future in my continuing quest at providing yummy healthy bentos. Everyone seemed to really enjoy lunch and no one complained about the portioning so I must have done something right :) See you next time!

Box Contents:
  • Chicken with Lemon Artichoke sauce
  • Polenta with a mushroom Ragu
  • Cannellini Bean dip served with water crackers
  • Prosciutto wrapped Turkish figs glazed with honey and Gorganzola cheese

2 comments:

Julie said...

That chicken stuff looks awesome! Do you have a recipe for it?

Ironjack said...

Ask and you shall receive!
Lemon-artichoke Chicken
Serves 4

1/4 cu flour
1/2 tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp thyme
salt and black pepper
1 lb chicken cutlets/thin cut breast
cooking spray
1/2 tbsp Olive Oil
1 medium onion, sliced thin
1 clove garlic
1/4 cu chicken broth
1 14oz can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
1/4 cu fresh lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest

In a shallow bowl combine flour, oregano, thyme, pepper and salt. Dredge each chicken cutlet in flour mixture, shake off excess and place on a plate

Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat on med to med high so skillet is hot but not smoking. Add 1/2 the chicken cutlets and cook 3 to 5 mins per side, until lightly browned and cooked through. Transfer to clean serving plate and repeat.

Adjust temparture to med-low and heat oil. Place onion in pan and cook, stirring frequently until soft and golden, 5 to 6 mins. (I found it takes longer) Add garlic cooking for 1 min stirring constantly; then chicken broth, bring it to a simmer; followed by artichokes, and zest. Add lemon juice to taste I did not use a full quarter cup. If you over do it, add a bit of sugar to offset. Simmer 2 to 3 mins until heated through and slightly thickened. Salt and pepper to taste

Pour sauce over chicken. You can optionally garnish this with some chopped parsley, but I didn't have any on me.

4oz chicken 1/2 cu artichoke mixture 220 calories