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The lighter side of Rollatini

My husband and I love Italian food. As a matter of fact, my husband would eat Italian every night if you would let him. So I struggle at times to figure out how to satisfy our Italian cravings while still keeping it on the healthful side. Instead of being heavy on pasta I try to think of lighter ways to incorporate the flavors of Italian cooking. That way we can have the comfort of the food, but without the guilt.

After spending some time catching up on the past two months worth of cooking magazines that I hadn’t gotten around to, I had a spark of inspiration. I’ll be honest, I am still a bit green when it comes to designing my own recipes. I get a tad anxious in the kitchen when I don’t have the safety net of a tried and true recipe. I am learning to experiment though and I am getting more comfortable with it each time. My biggest motivation to do this is the fact that I want to make more healthful dishes, but I don’t want them to be bland and I want to base them off of the more indulgent flavors we love so much. So I took a stab at it and below is what I got. A tasteful and healthful combination of eggplant, chicken, green beans, sun-dried tomatoes and homemade San Marzano marinara (I’ll get that recipe to you soon); along with the flavors of Italian spices and a bit of indulgence with Italian cheese.

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Eggplant and Chicken Rollatini

1 medium eggplant
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
garlic powder
Italian seasoning
about 25 fresh green beans
2 cloves of garlic, minced
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons water
5 sun-dried tomato halves, chopped (dry or packed in oil)
2 cups of your favorite marinara sauce
12 thin slices of mozzarella cheese

Slice the eggplant thin, cutting length-wise (you should get about 12 slices). Soak the eggplant in cold water for 20-30 minutes. Remove from water and pat dry.

If you are using dry sun-dried tomatoes, place the halves in hot water and let soak until ready for use (about 20 minutes).

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F, and heat your grill to medium-high heat.

Using an oil sprayer, spray each piece of eggplant on both sides, as well as season with salt and pepper. Set aside. Take chicken breasts and season both sides with salt, pepper, garlic powder and Italian seasoning. Place chicken on grill and cook about 6 minutes on each side. In the meantime, place the eggplant on the grill as well and cook about 3-minutes on each side.

Heat a small pan, sprayed with olive oil, over medium-low heat. Add the green beans, garlic, salt & pepper, and crushed red pepper. Saute (continuing on medium-low) about 5 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons water, cover and increase heat to medium-high; let steam for an additional 2-3 minutes. When tender, remove from heat.

Assembly:

Cut each chicken breast into thin slices. Take a piece of eggplant and lay it flat, place two chicken slices on the bottom end, top with two green beans. Then place a couple of pieces of sun-dried tomato over the chicken and green beans. Carefully roll the ingredients into the eggplant and place in a 9×13 inch casserole dish. Continue assembling and lining in the dish until all of the eggplant, chicken and green beans are used.

Spoon the marina sauce over the rolled eggplant. Place a slice of mozzarella over the top of each roll. Place in the oven and bake 20-30 minutes, or until heated through.

*I served this with a small side of whole wheat pasta tossed with garlic and a bit of extra virgin olive oil.

Servings: about 3

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Spice up your night.

I subscribe to quite a few cooking magazines, as I am always looking for new ideas and forms of inspiration. One of my favorites is Cooking Light. I know some people out there don’t like the magazine as much as they used to and I do admit I was getting a little tired of it myself while reading the past few issues. Well, I received my September issue a week or two ago and I was surprised to see that they have given the magazine somewhat of a face lift. I have to say, I am really liking it. The last few issues prior to this one seemed to be lacking in the recipe and food department. I really hope they keep up this new format because it has so much information on ingredients, nutrition and a huge variety of recipes.

Okay, so why did I give that shout out to Cooking Light? No, I am not getting paid to endorse the magazine. Like I mentioned, this issue had a great variety of recipes. So, of course I made one. I love one pot dishes, so anytime I come across a great one pot dish, I am all over it. This particular recipe was for a Creole Shrimp and Sausage Stew. This dish was really tasty and will be perfect for the cool days to come. Well, the cool days to come for my friends to the north. I most likely won’t be seeing a cool day at least until December or January. This recipe is also a great base recipe for switching things up. You can pretty much use it to clean out your refrigerator if you have some veggies to use up. You can also make it as spicy or tame as you like; I used the spicy Rotel and it gave it quite a kick.  We ate it over brown rice and it made for the perfect meal.

newest-stew

Creole Shrimp and Sausage Stew

Adapted from Cooking Light

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/4 cup celery, chopped
1/4 cup carrots, chopped
1 cup thinly sliced turkey or chicken sausage (about 6 ounces)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3/4 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 (10-ounce) can diced tomatoes and green chiles, undrained (such as Rotel)
8 ounces peeled and deveined medium shrimp
1 (15-ounce) can of white beans, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add bell pepper, onion, carrot and celery to pan; saute on medium-high heat about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sausage to the pan; sauté 3 minutes or until the veggies are tender, stirring occasionally. Add broth and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Stir in shrimp and beans; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 6 minutes or until shrimp are done. Sprinkle with parsley.

Yields 4 servings

Approximate Nutrition Facts (according to Spark Recipe)
Serving size: about 1 cup
Calories: 298.2
Total Fat: 6.3 g
Saturated Fat: 1.7 g
Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.9 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 2.1 g
Cholesterol: 117.1 mg
Sodium: 863.8 mg
Carbohydrates: 32.2 g
Dietary Fiber: 6.9 g
Protein: 27.2 g
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Finger Lickin Good

Like most people, I am always looking for new chicken recipes. I mean it is just that go-to meat that you always have in your house that is healthy and versatile. You honestly can do a million and one things with it, but of course when you are trying to think of something new, you draw a blank. Well, at least I do. Therefore, any time I come across a new chicken recipe I am sure to put it in safe keeping for those, “I don’t know what I want for dinner,” nights.

I love chicken, but I tend to steer away from dishes that call for chicken on the bone unless it is a whole chicken or it’s being cooked on the grill and eaten with your hands. I don’t like to have to pick chicken off the bone when it is in some type of mixed dish (i.e. chicken cacciatore). Let’s be honest, you can only get so much meat off of the bone with a fork and knife.  Ironically, when I saw a recipe in Cooking Light for Braised Chicken with Vegetables, I just couldn’t resist it. The picture just made the dish look so appetizing and it made me forget about my dislike of picking through chicken that was surrounded by a gravy like substance.

It was a very tasty dish and I must say that I enjoyed it, even though I had to pick through my food.  Unfortunately my version is missing the peas sine Greg told me there were peas in the freezer when really they were lima beans (yuck). I did add some sliced mushrooms to the mix though.

braised chicken

Braised Chicken with Baby Vegetables and Peas

Courtesy of Cooking Light

2 tbs. butter, divided
2 bone-in chicken breast halves, skinned
2 bone-in chicken thighs, skinned
2 chicken drumsticks, skinned
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 (14-ounce) cans fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
12 baby turnips, peeled (about 8 ounces) (I cut up a large turnip)
12 baby carrots, peeled (about 8 ounces)
12 pearl onions, peeled (about 8 ounces) (I used frozen)
6 white mushrooms, sliced
6 fresh flat-leaf parsley sprigs
2 bay leaves
2 tbs. all-purpose flour
3/4 cup fresh green peas
2 tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken evenly with salt and pepper. Add chicken to pan; sauté 5 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove from pan.

Add broth to pan; cook 1 minute, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Add wine and next 7 ingredients (through bay leaves); stir. Add chicken to pan, nestling into vegetable mixture; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until chicken is done. Discard bay leaves and parsley sprigs. Remove chicken and vegetables from the pan.

Place a zip-top plastic bag inside a 2-cup glass measure. Pour cooking liquid into bag; let stand 10 minutes (fat will rise to the top). Seal bag; carefully snip off 1 bottom corner of bag. Drain drippings back into pan, stopping before fat layer reaches opening; discard fat. Return liquid to pan. Bring liquid to a boil; cook until reduced to 1 1/2 cups (about 5 minutes).

Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter in a small skillet. Add flour, stirring until smooth. Add flour mixture to cooking liquid; cook 2 minutes or until slightly thick, stirring constantly. Return chicken and vegetable mixture to pan; stir in peas. Cook 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Garnish with chopped parsley.

Yields 4 servings

Nutrition Facts (according to Cooking Light)
Calories: 324
Total Fat: 11.4 g
Cholesterol: 100 mg
Sodium: 818 mg
Carbohydrates: 22.1 g
Dietary Fiber: 5.2 g
Protein: 32.6 g
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Oh So Good Pasta Ponza

Have you ever come across a recipe or saw one being made on TV and decided that you had to make that for dinner that same night? This was exactly what went through my mind while watching an episode of Everyday Italian. While Giada was cooking away on my television, I was trying to keep myself from drooling. Normally this dish would have had to go on the back burner for a while because although Greg loves Italian food, I didn’t really think it would be something he would like. Well, wasn’t I lucky, because Greg just so happened to have to work at Dolphin Stadium that night which meant I was on my own for dinner. Pasta Ponza it was!

I was short some of the ingredients so I had to make a few substitutions, but the dish was still amazing! I am sure it would be even better following the exact recipe, but I was quite pleased with my version as well.

The dish is just so rich but yet light at the same time and is one of those things that just comforts you. I actually made it for myself again the next time Greg worked a game. He saw a picture of it on my computer (waiting to be blogged about) and he was like, “What is that?!” I told him and he seemed pretty disappointed that I made it while he was working. Go figure! I told him that I didn’t think he would like it and promised him I would make it again while he was home. Well, I haven’t made it for him yet, but it will definitely be in the repertoire again in the near future.

Pasta

Pasta Ponza

Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

Butter for greasing
2 cups (12 ounces) red cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
2 cups (12 ounces) yellow cherry or grape tomatoes, halved (I only used red)
1/4 cup capers, rinsed and drained (I didn’t have any on hand so I diced up Spanish olives)
1 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1/2 tsp. kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for seasoning
1/2 cup Italian-style seasoned breadcrumbs
1 pound ziti or other short tube-shaped pasta
1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 ounces) Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (I substituted Parmigiano Reggiano)
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (I used fresh basil)

*I also added some grilled chicken on top for a more balanced meal.

Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter an 8 by 8-inch glass baking dish. Set aside.

Place the tomatoes, capers (or olives), 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in the prepared baking dish. Toss to coat. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the tomato mixture. Drizzle the top with olive oil and bake for 30 to 35 minutes until the top is golden. Cool for 5 minutes.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water.

Place the pasta in a large serving bowl. Spoon the tomato mixture onto the pasta. Add the cheese and toss well. Thin out the sauce with a little pasta water, if needed. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Sprinkle with the chopped parsley (or basil) and serve immediately.

Yields 4-6 servings

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Chicken and Herbs…you can’t go wrong!

As someone who loves to cook, I enjoy using fresh herbs. Unfortunately they are quite pricey at the grocery store and when we do buy them, half usually goes to waste. We have tried growing herbs before, but didn’t have much luck, as they would eventually be taken over by bugs. Since we are now living in a townhouse that has a balcony, we decided to give it a shot again. We are hoping that the elevation will help keep some of the bugs away. We went out and purchased flat leaf parsley, basil, thyme and chives. So far they have been very good.

While searching through the blog, Elly Says Opa, I found many wonderful recipes that I am dying to try. One of which was Chicken with Herbed Pan Sauce. I thought this would be a great recipe to use some of our fresh herbs in. It’s also a new chicken recipe, which you can never have too many of. I knew that Greg would probably be a big fan of this as well. So with all of the arrows pointing to “make it,” I quickly added it to our weekly menu.

Although I adapted it a bit to fit with the ingredients I had on hand, the outcome was excellent. This will definitely be a repeat on our menus to come.

herb-chicken

Chicken with Herbed Pan Sauce

adapted from Elly Says Opa

1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 chicken breast halves, pounded to about 1/3-inch thick
1 small shallot, diced (I used onion since that is what I had)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme, rosemary & chive (I substituted the original spices with what I had, feel free to do the same)
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil to pan. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, and then cook in the oil, about 4 minutes per side or until done. Remove the chicken and keep warm.

Add the shallots (or onion) to the pan and sauté until tender. Add the garlic and herbs and cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Pour in the white wine and reduce down by half. Add the chicken broth and do the same. Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Serve sauce over chicken.

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Filling the need for Greek!

While living in the Clearwater area of Florida, Greg and I were spoiled by having some wonderful Greek restaurants around. This is due to the huge Greek population in the Tarpon Springs area. Unfortunately, since moving back to south Florida, we haven’t found a place to fulfill our need of great Greek food. So after having a craving for it, probably after seeing it on TV, we decided to take the matter into our own hands. If we can’t get it out, then we will have to make it in. So we decided on Greek style chicken and veggie kabobs with a side of orzo.

This was an incredibly delicious meal. It was light but satisfying and I highly recommend it to everyone!

greek

Marinated Greek Chicken Kabobs

adapted from AllRecipes.com

1 cup fat-free plain yogurt (or Greek yogurt)
½ tsp. lemon zest
2 tbs. fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. dried oregano
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. ground black pepper
¼ tsp. crushed dried rosemary
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
Marinated veggies (recipe below)

In a medium bowl, mix the yogurt, lemon zest, lemon juice, oregano, salt, pepper, and rosemary. Place the chicken in a large freezer bag and pour marinade over it. Turn to coat. Place in the refrigerator and let marinate for 3 hours.

Preheat an outdoor grill at high heat.

Thread the chicken and veggie pieces alternately onto skewers. Discard the remaining yogurt mixture.

Grill the skewers on the prepared grill until the chicken is no longer pink and juices run clear.

Marinated Veggies

adapted from AllRecipes.com

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/8 cup white wine vinegar
2 tbs. dried oregano
4 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
6 cloves garlic
1-2 zucchinis, cut into 1 inch chunks
1 red onion, cut into wedges
cherry tomatoes

In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, vinegar, oregano, oil and garlic. Place the prepared veggies into a large freezer bag and pour marinade over the top. Make sure all of the veggies are well coated. Refrigerate until ready to gill.

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Pollo Arrosto al Balsamico

I decided to take my laptop and make a trip over to Borders the other day since ours has a nice outdoor patio that overlooks the waterway. I figured it would be some nice scenery while I searched for jobs and worked on my blog. When I go to Borders I always check out their clearance section for cookbooks because you can score some great finds for really cheap at times. Well sure enough I found a lovely book by William-Sonoma called Savoring Italy. It was a large book and had beautiful photography of Italy all through it. It also gave a lot of background into Italian ingredients and cooking. Of course I found this intriguing since I am obsessed with Italy and Italian cooking. I figured it would be a lovely coffee table book even if the recipes weren’t that great. After flipping through it for a few minutes I soon discovered that it also had some amazing looking recipes. How in the world could I turn this book down, especially on clearance for $6.95! Needless to say, I have a new cookbook and the cookbook has a new home. :o)

I definitely wanted to use a recipe from the book this week, so when I found the Pollo Arrosto al Balsamico or Roast Chicken with Balsamic Vinegar and Sage, I thought that would be a great weeknight meal. It was fairly easy to make, although we had a little discrepancy with the cook time. In the end, the chicken was moist, flavorful and oh so delicious! I served it with a nice side salad and cheese polenta. Greg and I thoroughly enjoyed it and I look forward to using the leftovers this week.

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~I know the roasting pan looks so elegant. It was getting late, I will have to take a better photo next time.

Roast Chicken with Balsamic Vinegar and Sage

courtesy of William-Sonoma Savoring Italy
1 large roasting chicken (about 5 pounds)
12 fresh sage leaves
2 large cloves of garlic, chopped (I used about 4 large cloves)
2 tbs. olive oil
2 tbs. balsamic vinegar
½ tsp. sugar
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Rinse the chicken and pat dry. Tuck the chicken wings behind the back. Using your fingers, gently loosen the skin on the breast and legs, being careful not to tear the skin. Insert a few of the sage leaves and some of the garlic under the skin, distributing them evenly. Pat the skin firmly back in place. Tuck the remaining sage leaves and garlic into the cavity.

In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper. Rub some of the mixture over the chicken and pour the remainder inside the cavity. Cross the drumsticks and, using kitchen string, tie the legs together. Place the chicken, breast side up, on a rack in a roasting pan.

Roast the chicken, basting occasionally with the pan drippings, until an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh away from the bone registers 175 degrees or the juices run clear when a thigh is pierced, about 1 ½ hours.

Transfer the chicken to a carving board. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and keep warm.

Pour the pan juices through a fine-mesh sieve into a small saucepan. Skim off the fat. Reheat to serving temperature, if necessary.

Carve the chicken and arrange on a platter. Pour the juices over the chicken and serve immediately.

Note: Our electric thermometer read a little over 175 degrees, but when we first cut into the chicken to carve it, it was still a bit undercooked. You may want to test more than once for accuracy.

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Green Pizza

Greg and I love pizza, but we have had a very hard time finding a good pizza place in our area. While wanting to use some things from around the house and having a craving for pizza, I decided to make one homemade. We could have it exactly the way we wanted and we could enjoy it fresh out of the oven.

Not really feeling like the typical tomato sauce and cheese pizza I rummaged through the refrigerator and pantry and came across some pesto, which I thought would be a great replacement for the tomato sauce. I also found onion and chicken, which are two of our favorite pizza toppings anyway. I knew I had flour and yeast, so the dough wouldn’t be a problem either, so I got to work.

The outcome was delicious! It wasn’t too heavy but it was very filling and the flavors were light and tasty.

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Chicken and Pesto Pizza

pizza dough (I used this Emeril recipe)
store bought pesto
½ cup fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
1 ¾ cups grated mozzarella cheese
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 boneless skinless chicken breast, sliced and cooked

Prepare your pizza dough and roll it out onto a prepared pizza pan or stone.

Spread your desired amount of pesto on top of the dough, being sure to leave the edges clean for the crust. Add the grated Parmigianino Reggiano cheese, mozzarella cheese, onion and chicken.

Place in a 425 degree oven for about 18-20 minutes.

Yields: (1) 16 inch pizza

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When in Rome.

I love recipes that can be made with things that are generally kept stocked in the kitchen. These are always great go to dishes that don’t require a last minute run to the grocery store. These are also dishes that have ingredients that can be subbed in and out if you are missing something or have something in the refrigerator that needs to be used up.

While watching the Food Network the other day, I found one of “those” dishes. It is Giada’s Roman-Style Chicken. The dish is jam packed with a tasty combination of fresh ingredients. This will definitely stay on my list of “go to” meals. It was delicious to say the least!

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Roman-style Chicken

adapted from Giada De Laurentiis and Food Network
4 skinless chicken breast halves (I used boneless skinless chicken breast)
2 skinless chicken thighs, with bones (I omitted these)
1/2 tsp. salt, plus 1 tsp.
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, plus 1 tsp.
1/4 cup olive oil
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
3 ounces prosciutto, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup white wine
1 tbs. fresh thyme leaves (I used dried)
1 tsp. fresh oregano leaves (I used dried)
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Season the chicken with 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper. In a heavy, large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, cook the chicken until browned on both sides. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Keeping the same pan over medium heat, add the peppers, prosciutto and cook until the peppers have browned and the prosciutto is crisp, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, wine, and herbs. Using a wooden spoon, scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Return chicken to the pan, add the stock, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the chicken is cooked through, about 20 to 30 minutes.

Add parsley and stir to combine.

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Chicken and Dumpling Yumminess

I want to begin by saying that the October issue of Cooking Light was a real winner. There were tons of great recipes!

On that note, while browsing through my magazine, I found a recipe for Herbed Chicken and Dumplings. The dish was very easy to make and tasted great. Greg and I both loved it and and were completely satisfied from it. It doesn’t seem like a lot when you cook it, but it is actually very filling. I highly recommend this dish to anyone (up north) suffering with the winter blues.

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Herbed Chicken and Dumplings

courtesy of Cooking Light, October 2008
cooking spray
8 ounces skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite sized pieces (I used chicken breast)
3/4 cup (1/4 in) diagonally cut celery
1/2 cup (1/4 in) diagonally cut carrot
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/8 tsp. dried thyme
3 parsley sprigs
1 bay leaf
3 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
2.25 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1/2 cup)
1 tbs. chopped fresh parsley
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup 1% low-fat milk (I used skim)

Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Coast pan with cooking spray. Add chicken to pan; cook 4 minutes, browning all sides. Remove chicken from pan; keep warm. Add celery and next 5 ingredients (through bay leaf) to pan; saute 5 minutes or until onion is tender. Return chicken to pan; cook 1 minute. Add broth to pan; bring mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes.

Weigh or lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with knife. Combine flour, chopped parsley, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Add milk, stirring just until moist. Spoon by heaping teaspoonfuls into broth mixture; cover and simmer 10 minutes or until dumplings are done. Discard parsley sprigs and bay leaf.

Yields 2 servings. Serving Size: 2 cups

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