Chicken Braised in a Healthy Vegetable Sauce


Recently, a friend was diagnosed with diabetes. He has typically enjoyed my cooking, and even calls me his “Food Buddy.” So I came up with a dish for him, based on the type of food he usually likes, but made it diabetic friendly: satisfying protein, fiber-containing but low-starch vegetables, plenty of flavor. There were no added carbohydrates, and only minimal oil and modest salt. Several quarts of my new Chicken Braised in Vegetable Sauce are being delivered to him this morning, as I write this blog article.


I researched ingredients that are best for my friend’s condition, and used several cooking tricks I’ve picked up over the years. I wanted the dish to be tasty enough that people without a restricted diet would enjoy it and, ideally, not notice anything unusual. The dish is a thick stew with chicken and green beans in a richly flavored sauce. It can be eaten alone or accompanied by a salad. For those without restrictions the stew can  also be served with noodles, rice, potatoes or bread.


The recipe serves 6 people.


1 medium-small onion

2 cloves garlic

2 very small or 1 medium yellow or zuccchini squash

2 medium tomatoes

1 teaspoon olive oil

2 cups low-salt chicken broth or water

3/4 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground celery seed, or celery salt

1/4 teaspoon oregano

1/8 teaspoon cayenne

1 (12-ounce) bag frozen French-cut green beans

1 1/2 teaspoons salt (reduce to 1 1/4 teaspoons if using celery salt)

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast


Peel onion and cut it in chunks. Peel garlic cloves. Cut tip ends off squash and cut squash into chunks. Cut core end out of tomatoes and cut flesh into chunks. Puree these vegetables together in a food processor, part at a time if necessary.


Transfer the mixture to a heavy pot. Add the olive oil. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently and scraping the bottom of the pot. When the mixture begins to thicken add the chicken broth or water and seasonings other than the salt.


Simmer this mixture, covered, ten minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, prepare the chicken: Trim off all tough and fatty parts. Cut chicken flesh into 1-inch cubes.


When vegetables and liquid have simmered, add the frozen green beans. Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer, and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until greenbeans are tender (10-15 minutes).


Add salt and bring heat back up to medium high. Add chicken and, stiring frequently, cook until tender and done, 15-20 minutes. If sauce is becoming dry, add a little water as needed. When cooked, check salt in the sauce and a piece cut off a chunk of chicken. If needed, add a little salt. The stew can be served now, or for richer flavor, refrigerated and reheated later.


Serve in shallow bowls like a stew. Accompany 


Tofu “Egg” Salad, a Vegan Treat


Here’s a home version of the vegan “egg” salad we make at the restaurant. The main difference is that at the restaurant we use a complex seasoning mix we developed for scrambled tofu that includes several spices that are hard to find in the supermarket. The simplified home version, however, makes a tasty tofu salad that is similar to what we do commercially, and is good for sandwiches as well as an appetizer.


Although crumbling the tofu by hand or a fork is quickest, a prettier dish is made by thinly slicing the block of tofu on a cutting board, then turning the board and slicing across those slices, then cutting through the pile of sliced tofu so it looks like tiny cubes. For best results, drain the block of tofu then stand it on its end to shed some liquid while preparing the other ingredients.


The recipe makes a pint of tofu salad, sufficient for four sandwiches or an appetizer spread for ten or more people. It will keep for several days in the refrigerator.


1 (14-ounce) block firm tofu

2 inch length of a celery stick

2 fairly thin green onions, white and green parts

2 tablespoons Dijon or brown mustard

2 tablespoons Vegan mayonnaise (such as Hellmann’s)

1 teaspoon cider or wine vinegar

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground dry turmeric

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/8 teaspoon paprika

2 large pinches garlic salt (together less than 1/8 teaspoon total)

A pinch of cayenne


Drain water off the block of tofu and stand it up on its end in the emptied tofu container to drain some more liquid while preparing the remaining ingredients.


On a cutting board, using a chef’s knife, finely mince the celery and green onions. Transfer them to a mixing bowl. Add mustard, mayonnaise, vinegar, salt and spices. Mix well.


On the cutting board, thinly slice the block of tofu then pile up the slices, half at a time, and thinly slice through then to make long matchstick-shaped pieces. Turn the board and thinly slice across them to make diced tofu. This makes the most attractive tofu salad. Alternately, crumble the tofu with the hand or a fork, part at a time, breaking up any big chunks.


Add the tofu to the bowl and mix everything together well. Let sit ten minutes, then mix well again and taste, Add a little salt, if needed. Allow the salad to rest for at least half an hour or up to a day or two refrigerated to let the flavors mingle. Stir well before serving,


If using as a spread for the appetizer table, transfer to an attractive bowl or small platter. The surface can be dusted with paprika, if desired. If making sandwiches, some sliced tomato and spinach leaves make a nice addition.





Green Tapenade, an Easy Appetizer or Bruschetta Spread


Mediterranean French “Tapenade” is classically a mixture of minced or ground olives seasoned with capers, olive oil, and sometimes anchovies. It takes its name from “tapenas,” the Provençal word for capers. Mixtures of mashed olives and capers have been prepared in the Mediterranean since ancient Roman times, reportedly back then as a way to make use of the crushed olives and capers stuck at the bottom of the amphoras they were shipped and stored in. Tapanade traditionally is spread thinly on bread as an appetizer, especially to accompany wine. Here is a simple version made with green olives.


Both olives and capers can be somewhat salty, since salt is part of what preserves them. If a less salty spread is desired, the olives and capers can be rinsed briefly in running water in a sieve.


The recipe serves eight to ten people as an hors d’oeuvre or appetizer. Offer thinly sliced baguette, lightly toasted as for “bruschetta,” or spread on crackers or pieces of flatbread. A cold Sauvignon Blanc or Provençal rosé will pair with this dish.


1 cup pitted, non-stuffed green olives (rinsed if lower salt wanted)

3 tablespoons capers, drained (rinsed if lower salt wanted)

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

3-inch length of green part of 1 green onion, optional


Using a cutting board and a chef’s knife, or a small food processor, or a mortar and pestle, finely mince the olives, capers and green onion, if used. Stir in the olive oil.


Transfer to a bowl to serve, accompanied by toasted bread, crackers, or flatbread. Alternatively, spread the tapenade thinly on the toasts and place on a platter to pass around for serving.




Deviled Smoked Turkey Appetizer


As holidays approach, I find myself making more appetizers for gatherings and receptions. “Deviled” treats, such as eggs or ham, lend a humorously evil touch as a party appetizer around a religious holiday, a church supper, a wedding, or to kick the New Year off to a good start. But let’s risk it!


That delightfully wicked association of the Devil with food typically means spicy, especially with sulfur-containing seasonings like mustard, black pepper and chilies. The concept of the Devil and Hell being connected with burning heat and sulfurous fumes (brimstone is an old name for sulfur) almost certainly comes from early people’s experience around volcanos and all that fire and bubbling and chaos and smell “down there” in the pit.


In my childhood a favorite sandwich spread and appetizer was “Deviled Ham,” which came in iconic small cans with a dancing, merry red devil on the label. That canned treat, however, goes back well before my childhood. It was created just after the Civil War by the Underwood Company, a canning business founded in Boston in the 1820s. Underwood had already become prominent producing canned foods that fed Union soldiers in the Civil War, and went on to can foods that pioneers took with them as they moved West. Of course, I didn’t know all that when I was a kid, only that Underwood Deviled Ham was luscious.


Although I enjoy pork, as should be apparent from numerous recipes in this blog, many people do not eat it. So rather than Deviled Ham, here is a fairly easy appetizer based on smoked turkey, which will appeal to a wider number of nibblers at the appetizer table. It hit me to use smoked turkey recently after I had a few slices as a snack from the deli counter. And smoked turkey that is sold sliced is easy to cut finely to make the appetizer. In addition to the obligate mustard, black pepper and chili, I’ve added diced canned pimiento and chopped pickle to give some color highlights.


The recipe makes a half pound, which with crackers will provide appetizers for ten or more people. The mixture should be made in advance, then stored refrigerated for at least a few hours or up to a day or two before serving, convenient for entertaining or taking to a pot luck.


While the point of the recipe is to make an appetizer with smoked turkey, using smoked ham instead of turkey makes a good dish also.


1/2 pound deli smoked turkey breast, sliced thinly (or smoked ham, see above)

Bread-and-butter or dill pickles sufficient to make 2 tablespoons after dicing

2 tablespoons canned diced pimiento, drained

3 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

1 teaspoon vinegar

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

Salt if needed

Paprika for garnish


On a cutting board, using a chef’s knife, finely dice the turkey by stacking the slices then cutting them across into 1/8-inch slices, then turning them and cutting into 1/8-inch bits. Place in a mixing bowl. Place several slices of pickle on cutting board and dice them up with the chef’s knife. Measure 2 tablespoons, and add them to the bowl. Drain liquid off the measured diced pimiento and add pimiento to the bowl.


Add mustard, mayonnaise, vinegar, cayenne and black pepper. Mix well. Taste, and add a little salt if needed (smoked turkey varies in saltiness). Cover bowl and refrigerate at least several hours, or up to several days before serving. Stir the mixture well and taste. Add a little salt, but only if needed.


To serve, heap the mixture up on an attractive small platter or shallow bowl. Sprinkle lightly with paprika. Accompany with small crackers to spoon the mixture onto.


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