In the Advent Kitchen -- December 7
Let’s start with a healthy salad made with fresh kale, a winter season vegetable that in December usually can be found in the markets for much less than lettuce greens. Chicken curry incorporates boneless chicken thighs, red bell pepper, and cauliflower for an extra dose of vitamins. The dish braises in the slow cooker for an easy weeknight meal. Serve the curry over brown rice to catch all the subtly spiced juices. If you like heat, feel free to add red pepper to your taste. The coconut pie gets its richness from the eggs and coconut—not from lots of cream and butter. It has no crust and takes only a few minutes to make, but start it baking before you make the salad, as the pie needs about an hour in the oven. You can, of course, bake the pie ahead and serve it at room temperature. Topping each piece of pie with a small dollop of non- or low-fat plain or vanilla Greek yogurt and a dusting of cinnamon would cut the sweetness and look lovely.
Cranberry-Kale Salad – 6+
Kale has become incredibly popular lately as a “super food.” It’s been around for years, just perhaps not noticed. Your grandmother probably served kale, but I doubt that she presented it as a salad. Try this version, which is simple and is best made early in the day and refrigerated until dinnertime.
6 cups of fresh kale, preferably “baby,” washed, dried, and chopped into bite-sized pieces
3 tablespoons of olive oil
3 tablespoons of lemon juice
Zest of a lemon
¼ teaspoon of salt
¼ teaspoon of pepper
2 tablespoons of feta cheese
1/3 cup of dried cranberries
1/3 cup of toasted walnuts
Place the kale in a large salad bowl and drizzle it with oil and lemon juice. Sprinkle in the lemon zest, salt, and pepper. Using your hands (do wash them well, first), squeeze the kale and squish (or massage) the oil and lemon juice into the leaves to soften them. Sprinkle the kale with the feta, cranberries, and walnuts and mix again. Refrigerate the salad for at least an hour, if possible.
Chicken Curry – Serves 4+
In a hurry? Try a curry. Okay, although not cooked the traditional (and more time consuming) way, the dish is very easy to prepare using a slow cooker. It includes a variety of nutritious vegetables and is quite good, even if you’ve skipped a lot of steps. You can vary the heat of the dish with your choice of curry powder. Some curry powders are spicy hot, and others are sweeter and mild. Use whichever curry powder you prefer. For a great dinner, just cook some basmati rice (preferably brown) to soak up all the broth from the curry and, if you don’t have time to make a salad, slice some tomatoes to serve alongside the rice and curry. No time to make a pie? Some sweet sliced mangoes—alone or atop some low fat frozen yogurt—would be a fantastic dessert following the curry.
16-24 ounces of boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into chunks
1 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 cups of cauliflower, cut into florets of 1-2 inches (frozen is fine)
1 can (15 ounces) of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons of curry powder
½ teaspoon of salt
¼ teaspoon of pepper
1 cup of light coconut milk*
1 cup of reduced sodium chicken broth
1 cup of frozen peas
¼ cup of chopped cilantro
¼ cup of chopped peanuts
Coat the inside of a slow cooker with non-stick spray. Put in the chicken, onion, red bell pepper, cauliflower, chickpeas, curry powder, salt, pepper, coconut milk, and chicken broth and stir to mix all the ingredients. Cover the slow cooker and cook the mixture on low for 5-6 hours or on high for about 4. Stir in the peas and let the curry sit for a minute. Sprinkle the chicken with the cilantro and peanuts and serve it with rice.
*Instead of light coconut milk, you can use ½ cup of regular coconut milk mixed with half a cup of water.
Coconut Pie – Serves 8
Piecrusts, in my view, exist primarily to hold tasty fillings, which are the main purpose of pies, aren’t they? Plus, crusts require time to make, and, in order to taste reasonably good, need substantial amounts of “bad for you” fat. This pie skips the fatty crust and moves on to the main event—lots of creamy, orange-infused coconut filling. You won’t miss the crust or the time it takes to make it. The pie bakes up firm enough without a crust to serve “as is.” Serve slices of the rich, sweet pie warm from the oven with coffee or tea, or make the pie ahead and serve it cold with little clouds of low-fat yogurt or whipped topping perched atop.
2 cups of low-fat milk
2/3 cup of sugar
1 tablespoon of butter, melted
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of butter flavoring
1/3 cup of flour
¼ cup of salt
½ teaspoon of nutmeg
1 teaspoon of grated orange zest
1½ cups of shredded coconut
¼ teaspoon of cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and coat a 9-inch, deep-dish pie plate with nonstick cooking spray. Whisk the milk, sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, butter, and butter flavoring until smooth. Whisk in the flour, salt, nutmeg, and orange zest. Stir in the coconut until well combined. Pour the mixture into the prepared pie plate, sprinkle the top with cinnamon, and bake the pie for 50-60 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve the pie warm or cool.