Author: Monda Rosenberg.
Canada’s own Monda Rosenberg retired as Food Editor of CHATELAINE, Canada’s largest circulation magazine, in 2009. She was responsible for the magazine’s entire award-winning Food section, including writing and recipe development of over 2,000 recipes a year and overseeing food photography. Before joining CHATELAINE, Monda Rosenberg was Food Editor of the Toronto Star for five years.
Monda has received an impressive number of food writing, styling and publishing awards including the Nabisco Food Writer’s Magazine Food Editor of the Year Award, the New York Art Directors Award for Food Styling and the General Foods Nutrition Writing Award. She has been president of the Ontario Home Economics Association and president of the Toronto Home Economics Association for a double term.
A frequent guest on national television and radio shows, Monda is the author of The New Chatelaine Cookbook, two Vitality Cookbooks, the Quickies series of 7 cookbooks and Chatelaine’s Wonder Foods.
WHAT DO WE NEED
While we hear a lot about the vitamins and minerals we need daily, the fibre that also comes in fruits and vegetables is not talked about as much. Truth is, fibre is also essential to good health. Just marrying some of the flavour-bursting fruits and vegetables we buy in supermarkets and produce stands brings along a valuable cache of fibre.
Here are suggestions for upping your fibre intake with your chicken dinners, from every day meals to entertaining friends and family.
Health Canada recommends that we consume 25 to 40 grams of fibre a day; at the end of my meal suggestions is a chart of some of our richest fruit and vegetable sources.
1. DON’T ROAST ALONE
Whether you’re roasting a whole chicken or pieces, it takes almost no extra effort to add vegetables and create a one-dish roast dinner. Remember, with potatoes, it’s the skin that harbours the most fibre. So whether you cut regular potatoes in half, or use mini potatoes, leave the skins on. Simply add them to the pan or baking sheet and remember to turn or stir them.
Regular potatoes need about an hour of cooking, mini gems about a half hour. Nestle whole sweet potatoes, skins intact, beside the chicken. Once tender, their skins will easily peel off.
Bake big wedges, slices or halves of squash beside the chicken - all squash types rate well on the fibre scale. A cup of cooked squash holds over 5 grams of fibre.
Other veggies to nestle around a roast are pieces of carrots, wedges of onions, red pepper halves, fennel slices, parsnips and leeks.
2. NOODLES NEED THEIR VEGGIES TOO
Peas are near the pinnacle of the high-fibre pile. A cup has more than twice the fibre of a cup of corn niblets and over three times that of a potato with skin on. Keep a bag in the freezer and add a handful or two to your chicken pasta sauces, particularly creamy sauces.
Include snow peas, julienned carrots, broccoli florets and baby carrots in your Asian noodle tosses - all are fibre-rich.
Chicken noodle soups - homemade or straight from a can or box - are one of the easier dishes to be able to boost up the fibre intake. Simply include shredded cabbage and/or green beans, kale, mushrooms, turnip, parsnip, pumpkin, zucchini, tomatoes - just about any vegetable you can think of.
3. FROZEN DINNER ADD-ONS
There are delicious frozen chicken dinners sold in supermarkets and, while you don’t want to heat up a prepared frozen dinner every night, they can be a godsend when you want dinner in 10 minutes.
It’s amazingly easy to up the fibre count of most frozen meals by simply stirring in frozen peas or your favourite vegetable that needs little cooking for the last few minutes.. This works particularly well for butter chicken, curried chicken, chicken korma, chicken risotto or paella.
Side vegetables can be fibre boosters as well. You can quickly steam up asparagus, cauliflower, broccoli, bok choy or green beans and serve beside the frozen dinner. Since many frozen dinners suggest letting them sit for a few minutes after cooking before eating, you can use that time to microwave a vegetable and serve beside the entrée. Bright green baby bok choy or green beans look gorgeous surrounding a shallow bowl of chicken curry.
4. POT PIE WINNERS
When making your next chicken pot pie, be sure to include lots of high-fibre vegetables such as peas, sliced carrots and chopped peppers.
If you love Brussels sprouts, thinly slice and blanch them before adding to the pie filling. Zucchini, bite-size pieces of asparagus and marinated artichokes add plenty of flavour, character and, of course, fibre.
Corn niblets are always an easy and inexpensive stir-in.
Chicken salads, whether cool and refreshing from cooked chicken pieces, or in warm strips atop a pile of dressed greens, are the most popular of summer main salads.
While fresh greens alone assure calcium, potassium and folate: a high-fibre profile is easy to achieve because some of the highest-fibre fruits and vegetables are those that add scrumptiousness to chicken salads.
It’s hard to beat a curried creamy chicken salad with raisins and sliced dried apricots. Mangoes, avocado, red pepper, marinated artichoke, grapes, snow peas, red pepper, kiwi and papaya are all fibre-rich and work deliciously in a chicken salad. Better yet, serve the salad in a fibre-high avocado, cantaloupe, honeydew or papaya half, and then sprinkle with fibre-boosting almonds or toasted coconut.
6. BARBECUE DINNERS
Thank goodness it’s a snap now to cook your entire dinner on the barbie and it’s super easy to grill up fibre-rich healthy fruits and vegetables that beautifully complement barbecued chicken.
Take mangoes, for example. Slice large pieces of mango from the stone. Brush with melted butter and grill until marks form and the mango feels warm.
Artichokes are incredibly high in fibre, so prepare as you would for steaming - but sprinkle with water, wrap in foil and cook right on the grill beside the chicken. Halve peppers and grill until blackened, then wrap in foil and the black easily peels off.
Place halved large tomatoes, cut-side down, on the grill and after turning, sprinkle with chèvre or any cheese you like with chicken. Do scatter with a few fresh basil or coriander leaves before serving.
Don’t forget corn-on-the-cob. Wrap in foil and cook beside the chicken.
7. SKIP IN THE PAN SAUTES
Gotta get dinner on the table in 15 minutes? Sautéing up chicken thighs will fit the bill perfectly. But wait, as soon as you get the chicken in the pan, slice up some apples, pears, mangoes or peaches. As soon as the chicken is browned, throw in the fruit and a splash of juice or white wine and you can feel good about the fibre boost you have just created.
Check this site for Four Season Warm Asian Salad using mangoes or peaches and Apple-Sage Chicken Sauté.
8. STIR FRYS
Three cheers for chicken stir-fries. Not only can they be a one-dish wonder, with more mix of fresh produce than any other fried entrée, but depending how fast you can chop - an amazingly quick yet super healthy dinner. Whatever veggies you happen to have can usually go into the toss. Fortunately, some of the highest fibre vegetables are darlings of the stir-fry set, including broccoli, snow peas, carrots, cabbage and zucchini.
Then there are the nuts. Every respectful Chinese menu includes Cashew Chicken. A cup of cashews has over 4 grams of fibre. Pecans are in the same ball park and much less expensive. Almonds still encased in their skins have over 16 grams of fibre. Use the white ones without skin and you have lost over a gram of fibre.
9. SOUP SAVVY
Homemade chicken soups have always been trusted to cure our ails (even if it wasn’t made by your mother) and improve our moods. So whether your ultimate soup is one created from stock that began as chicken bones lovingly simmered for hours, or one from a can that you have been buying for years, the vegetables you add can turn this ultimate comfort food into an important source for your daily fibre count.
Supplement the usual onions, carrots and celery with fibre-rich shredded cabbage, turnip and parsnip. Sub black beans for the expected noodles. While a cup of egg noodles has about 4 grams of fibre, a cup of canned black beans has over 12 grams. Add corn niblets, cumin and chili powder for a south-of-the-border-rocking soup. Stir in half a bag of fresh spinach just before you ladle into bowls and you’ve added over 10 grams of fibre.
10. SALSA IT UP
Fresh salsas are the fastest way to add flavour-rich fibre to chicken cuts, especially a whole barbecue chicken you picked up at the supermarket deli. This is partly because salsas don’t need cooking and can be stirred up while the chicken is cooking or while you heat up the store bought chicken.
In the Fall, when cranberries are harvested, do include finely chopped fresh cranberries in a salsa or grind them up in a food processor with onions and apples because a mere 1/4 cup chopped cranberries have over 2 grams of fibre.
Check out Chicken Tartlets with Cranberry Salsa - ideal for harvest and holiday entertaining.
Remember, any of these salsas could be used to dress up a rotisserie chicken or breaded chicken.
An avocado (the highest-fibre fruit) and ripe tomato salsa is the perfect summer topper for barbecued chicken or a buttery sauté. Just chop all and mix with lime juice, garlic and green onions.
Figs, as you might expect, are fibre heavy. Dried figs contain the highest fibre content of any dried fruit. For a fibre rich chutney check the internet for date chutneys. There are many versions that sound like they would work beautifully with chicken including some containing dried apricots and maple syrup. Yum!