Pumpkin Pie Polenta

Neysa : January 20, 2012 19:33 : Lauren Zembron

The past few days here in Massachusetts have been frigid. We’ve had a mild winter – for New England standards – thus far this season, but I have a feeling this is not the end of the cold weather… which means more indoor time, inevitably leading to the spread of germs and the pesky common cold.

Although I very rarely get sick, I do like to nurture my body with an arsenal of cold-fighting foods to ward off any lingering bacteria or viruses. Luckily for me, one of my very favorite foods – pumpkin – has the nutritional power to boost the immune system!

Packed with beta carotene, a nutrient that breaks down to make vitamin A, the orange squash is a powerful antioxidant.

That’s where this warm, comforting, and cold-fighting breakfast comes in.

A welcomed departure from stovetop oatmeal, (my go-to winter breakfast), polenta can be a delicious and healthy way to start the day. In this recipe, the creamy cooked polenta is joined by earthy pumpkin puree, warm spices, a touch of brown sugar, sweet maple syrup, and crunchy pecans.

Healthy, easy, warm, and delicious? I’d say that’s a perfect way to start a winter morning.

Pumpkin Pie Polenta

2 servings

  • 1 Tbsp salted butter
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup 1% milk, preferably organic
  • 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup stone-ground corn grits/polenta, such as Bob’s Red Mill
  • 1/2 cup pure pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • maple syrup, for serving
  • chopped toasted pecans, for serving, optional


  1. Melt butter in a medium-sized saucepan set over medium heat. Swirl butter in saucepan until lightly browned and fragrant, about 3 minutes.
  2. Add in the water and milk; bring to a low boil. Stir in the grits and salt; reduce heat to simmer. Cook grits over low heat until thick and creamy, stirring often, about 10 minutes.
  3. Stir the pumpkin puree into the grits until well-combined and warmed through. Stir in pumpkin pie spice, vanilla extract, and brown sugar.
  4. Serve hot, drizzled with maple syrup and topped with chopped toasted nuts, if using.

Nutritional Information Per Serving (without maple syrup & pecans):

281.9 calories, 7.7 grams fat, 4.4 grams saturated fat, 4.5 grams fiber, 17.6 grams sugar, 8.2 grams protein

Recipe by Lauren Zembron www.healthyfoodforliving.com

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Chicken Salad Sandwiches

Neysa : January 20, 2012 18:38 : Lauren Zembron

There was a period of time during my senior year of college when I’d order a chicken salad sandwich from an on-campus cafe nearly every week after a certain psych class. I honestly don’t remember which course it was, but I distinctly remember getting excited for the delicious lunch that would inevitably follow.

That was during my non-cooking days, (I lived in my sorority’s house that only had a tiny kitchenette), so the thought of making my own chicken salad sandwich never occurred to me.

Nowadays, I would MUCH prefer to make my own healthier version of this classic lunch staple than buy an over-mayonnaised deli sandwich.

For the chicken salad shown in these photos, I opted for leftover roasted chicken… but poached chicken works beautifully as well.

In order to keep the salad healthy without sacrificing flavor or creaminess, I used a combination of canola oil mayonnaise and Greek yogurt (light on the former, heavy on the latter).

As for flavor enhancements, I included my favorites: a bit of white wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, green onion, and salt & pepper.

One of the great aspects of this lunch (other than ease to prepare, delicious flavor, and portability) is its adaptability. I often go for a classic chicken salad recipe – as written below – but sometimes I crave something a little different.

Toss some halved red grapes or chopped Granny Smith apples along with some toasted nuts into the chicken salad mixture, or go the curry route with madras curry powder, raisins, and chutney.

The options are endless, so have fun!

Chicken Salad Sandwiches

<p>A lightened version of the classic chicken salad sandwich.</p>

See Chicken Salad Sandwiches on Key Ingredient.

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Chicken Cobb Salad with Blue Cheese Buttermilk Dressing

Neysa : January 2, 2012 05:00 : Lauren Zembron

If – like so many other people – you’ve resolved to eat healthier in 2012, here’s a fantastic meal to jump start your new approach to eating.

Let’s talk salads. They can fall into a few different camps:

  1. Some are so sparse and sad that their components are barely recognizable as vegetables. Think limp iceberg lettuce and dry carrot strips. Yuck.
  2. Others are loaded with empty calories and drenched in high-fat dressing. Think oily fried croutons and buckets of ranch dressing. Double yuck.
  3. Finally, the camp that this salad fits in… generous amounts of fresh veggies, some lean protein, a bit of healthy fat, and a creamy low-fat dressing. Definitely yum!

The traditional cobb salad gets a healthy makeover with this recipe. Crisp nutrient-packed romaine lettuce is topped with tender poached chicken, juicy grape tomatoes, protein-rich hard-boiled eggs, and creamy avocado. A homemade tangy blue cheese buttermilk dressing completes the classic flavor profile of this popular salad; and though low-fat, the dressing is lip-smacking delicious.

Not only does the salad taste good, but it will also satiate your appetite. Unlike many other salads, this one won’t leave you feeling hungry – thanks to the filling combination of protein & healthy fat. Add a slice of hearty whole wheat bread for even more staying power, or enjoy the salad as is.

Here’s to a slimmer waistline in the new year!

Chicken Cobb Salad with Blue Cheese Buttermilk Dressing

Printer-Friendly Recipe

yield: 2 servings

Ingredients for the salad:

  • 4-6 cups chopped romaine lettuce or mixed greens, preferably organic
  • 1 large cooked organic chicken breast, (I poached my chicken)*, cooled, and chopped
  • 1 cup halved grape tomatoes, preferably organic
  • 1/2 large avocado, diced
  • 2 peeled & chopped hard-boiled eggs**
  • Blue Cheese Buttermilk Dressing***

Directions for the salad:

  1. Lay chopped lettuce out onto two plates.
  2. In side-by-side rows, divide the chicken, tomatoes, avocado, and eggs evenly between the two beds of lettuce.
  3. Either drizzle dressing over the top, or serve alongside the salad.

*Directions for the poached chicken:

  1. Bring a small pot of cold water to a boil over high heat. Slide chicken into the hot water, reduce heat to low, and cook for 15-20 minutes, depending on size of chicken breast.
  2. Remove cooked chicken breast from water, let cool a few minutes, and cut into bite-sized pieces.
  3. Chill until ready to use.

**Directions for the hard-boiled eggs:

  1. Place eggs into a small pot and completely cover eggs with cold water. Bring water to a boil over high heat.
  2. As soon as water comes to a rolling boil, cover pot tightly and remove from heat. Let eggs sit in hot water, covered, for 15 minutes.
  3. Drain hot water from pot and gently shake to lightly crack the shells. Cover cooked eggs with cold water and let sit until cool, a few minutes.
  4. Dry eggs, peel, and refrigerate until ready to use.

***Ingredients & Directions for Blue Cheese Buttermilk Dressing:

yields about 1 1/2 cups, (six 1/4 cup servings), more than you will need for the Chicken Cobb Salad

  • 3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup 2% plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp white vinegar
  • 3/4 cup crumbled reduced-fat blue cheese
  • Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. In a bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, yogurt, and vinegar until smooth.
  2. Stir in the crumbled blue cheese and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  4. Keep leftover dressing in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Nutritional Information Per Serving (salad only):

321 calories, 13.4 grams fat, 2.8 grams saturated fat, 4.8 grams fiber, 36.1 grams protein

Nutritional Information for Dressing Per 1/4 cup Serving:

71 calories, 3.3 grams fat, 0.5 grams saturated fat, 0 grams fiber, 6.9 grams protein

Recipe by Lauren Zembron


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