A Hearty Healthy Fall Dinner

Braised Chicken with Fig Balsamic Vinegar Glaze

This past week, I was trying to come up with a healthy dinner menu for my friend, who has breast cancer, when I came upon Tiffin Tale’s menu for a Fall Harvest Dinner that she entered for a food blog challenge. What perfect timing! Tiffin Tales has amazing pictures and recipes, so I knew I couldn’t go wrong.  My goal was to come up with a menu for the cooler weather that was hearty but healthy.  I used organic ingredients where ever possible.

I decided to make a Farmer’s Market Corn Chowder, Braised Chicken with Fig Balsamic Glaze, and Sauteed Rainbow Chard. From Tiffin Tales' menu, I chose the Wild Mushroom Bolognese Polenta Gratin, and Artichokes Braised in Olive Oil and White Wine. For dessert, I turned to my trusty Cancer-Fighting Kitchen cookbook by Rebecca Katz, and decided on fresh Strawberries with Mango Coconut “Sabayon.”

Here are the recipes for this healthy dinner menu:

Farmer’s Market Corn Chowder

Adapted from Deborah Madison’s Vegetable Soups cookbook.  All the vegetables came from the local farmer's market.

2 ears sweet corn, shucked and cooked for 5 minutes (about 2 cups of kernels)

4 cups chicken broth

1 bay leaf

1 sprig fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 celery stalk, diced

1 onion, finely diced

2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced into ½ inch cubes

½ red pepper, diced into ½ inch cubes

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika

1 tablespoon flour

1 cup low-fat milk

2 ears sweet corn, shucked and cooked for 5 minutes (about 2 cups of kernels)

salt and pepper, to taste

Cut corn kernels off the cobs; reserve cobs. Heat chicken broth, reserved corn cobs, bay leaf and thyme in a large saucepan. Simmer while preparing the rest of the ingredients. Remove cobs before using broth.

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the celery, onion, potatoes, red pepper, garlic, and smoked paprika. Saute until vegetables are just soft. Stir in flour and cook 2-3 minutes.

Add ½ cup of broth to vegetables, loosening any vegetables from bottom of the pot. Gradually add remaining hot broth to vegetables; stir in milk and corn kernels. Remove thyme sprig. Season with salt and pepper.

Braised Chicken with Fig Balsamic Vinegar Glaze

Adapted from Food and Wine’s Chicken in Red Wine Vinegar recipe (October 2006); here, I’ve made the dish lighter by using olive oil and boneless chicken breast, and omitting the crème fraiche. The fig balsamic vinegar gives this dish a fruity, tangy flavor and a rich dark color.

14 tablespoons fig balsamic vinegar

½ cup low-sodium chicken broth

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon tomato paste

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

salt and pepper

4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

3 large shallots, thinly sliced

¾ cup dry white wine

chopped parsley, garnish

In a medium saucepan, bring the vinegar, broth, honey and tomato paste to a boil, stirring well. Simmer the vinegar sauce until reduced to ½ cup, about 8 minutes.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large, heavy skillet. Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper; add half of them to the skillet. Cook over moderate heat, turning once, until browned. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with remaining breasts.

Add remaining tablespoon of olive oil to skillet. Add garlic and shallots, and cook over low heat for 5 minutes. Add the wine; boil until reduced to ¼ cup. Add the vinegar sauce and bring to a simmer.

Return the chicken to the skillet. Cover and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes; turn over and cook another 10 minutes. Transfer to serving plates and spoon sauce over.

Wild Mushroom Porcini Bolognese Polenta Gratin

Wild Mushroom Porcini Bolognese Polenta Gratin

Adapted from Tom Colicchio’s recipe as found on MarthaStewart.com. To add deeper flavor, I used some dried porcini mushrooms, along with the soaking liquid, as well as tamari, red wine and balsamic vinegar.

2 tablespoons dried porcini mushrooms

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 onion, peeled and chopped

1 carrot, peeled and chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

salt and pepper, to taste

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 pound mixed wild mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed and sliced

2 sprigs fresh thyme

1 tomato, diced

1 tablespoon tamari

¾ cup porcini soaking liquid

¼ cup red wine

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

For Polenta:

4 cups water

1 cup polenta (not instant)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

To rehydrate porcini mushrooms, place in a small bowl and add 3/4 cup boiling water. Soak for 30 minutes. Strain and reserve soaking liquid.

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, and celery; season with salt and pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes.

Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add fresh mushrooms, rehydrated porcini mushrooms, and thyme sprigs; cook, stirring frequently, until mushrooms are almost tender, about 3 minutes. Add tomato and tamari, and cook, about 2 minutes more.

Add reserved porcini mushroom soaking liquid and wine. Simmer until thickened, about 20-25 minutes. Add balsamic vinegar and reduce another 2-3 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and set Mushroom Bolognese aside to cool. 

Wild Mushroom and Porcini Bolognese

To make polenta, bring 4 cups water to boil in a medium saucepan over high heat.  Add a pinch of salt to boiling water and slowly stir in polenta. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, and immediately reduce to a simmer. Cook polenta, stirring occasionally, until no longer grainy, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in olive oil and season with salt.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spoon half of the polenta into an 8” square pan or deep pie dish. Cover with half of mushroom Bolognese. Top with remaining polenta and another layer of mushroom Bolognese. Sprinkle top with cheese.

Bake until top is golden, about 25-30 minutes.

Sauteed Rainbow Chard

Sauteed Rainbow Chard

You can substitute any leafy green vegetable. Try kale or collard greens.

1 bunch rainbow chard
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 leek, washed thoroughly, white part minced
2-3 tablespoons water or vegetable broth
splash of vinegar (I like Ume Plum vinegar)

Wash rainbow chard thoroughly.  Drain and chop into bite size pieces.  Heat olive oil in pan and saute leek 3-4 minutes. Toss in chard.  Add a few tablespoons of water or vegetable broth and cover the pan.  Cook until just tender, but still bright colored, about 4-5 minutes. Do not overcook. Add splash of vinegar and serve.

Artichokes Braised in Olive Oil and White Wine


Artichokes Braised in Olive Oil and White Wine

Adapted from Tom Colicchio’s recipe as seen in Food & Wine, June 1999. To lighten the dish, I reduced the amount of olive oil. To simplify the recipe, I used frozen artichoke hearts. I also decided to braise the fennel along with the artichokes.

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 medium leeks, white and tender green, quartered lengthwise and cut into 2” lengths

2 celery stalks, thinly sliced

1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced

1 large carrot, thinly sliced

4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

One 12-ounce package frozen artichoke hearts 

1 small fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced

fresh lemon juice from 1 lemon

4 thyme sprigs

4 tarragon sprigs

2 bay leaves

salt and pepper

¼ cup dry white wine

2 cups chicken or vegetable broth

½ cup frozen peas

half a bunch of pencil-thin asparagus

1 handful mixed green and wax beans, trimmed

2 medium tomatoes, finely diced

½ cup mixed fresh herbs, such as parsley, chives or basil, coarsely chopped

Heat olive oil in a large deep skillet. Add the leeks, celery, onion and carrot and cook over low heat, stirring often, until softened but not browned, about 20 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add the frozen artichokes, sliced fennel bulb, lemon juice, thyme, tarragon and bay leaves; season with salt and pepper. Add the wine and broth, cover partially and braise over moderately low heat until tender, about 15-20 minutes. Stir in peas and cook 2 more minutes. Discard the herbs.

Meanwhile, blanch the asparagus and beans separately in boiling salted water until crisp tender, about 3-4 minutes. Transfer vegetables to a bowl of ice water to stop cooking and retain bright colors.

Mound the asparagus and beans in soup plates and spoon braised artichokes and fennel on top. Scatter chopped tomatoes and fresh herbs on top.

Fresh Strawberries with Mango Coconut "Sabayon"

Strawberries with Mango Coconut “Sabayon”

Adapted from Rebecca Katz’s Cancer Fighting Kitchen cookbook

1 14-ounce can coconut milk

1 ½ cups chopped fresh mango

pinch of sea salt

¼ teaspoon agave nectar

½ teaspoon freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice

3 cups organic strawberries, hulled and halved

fresh mint, for garnish (optional)

Put coconut milk in a saucepan and stir until homogeneous. Stir in the mango and salt and simmer, covered, over medium-low heat until the mango is soft, 15-20 minutes.

Pour the mixture into a blender or food processor. Add agave nectar and lime juice, and blend until smooth. Spoon over fresh organic strawberries and serve garnished with mint if desired.

More Braised Chicken Recipes:

Food Floozie's Cider Braised Chicken

Trade Recipe's East African Braised Chicken 

Eye for a Recipe's Roman Style Chicken

Anticancer Ingredients: Mushrooms, Tomatoes, Swiss Chard, Carrots, Celery, Artichoke Hearts, Fennel, Asparagus, Garlic, Onion, Leek, Mango

Jeanette also blogs at JeanettesHealthyLiving where she writes about healthy, healing foods. She has a special interest in helping people eat healthily in the hopes of preventing cancer and other diseases.



In order to comment on BlogHer.com, you'll need to be logged in. You'll be given the option to log in or create an account when you publish your comment. If you do not log in or create an account, your comment will not be displayed.