This is the time of year all Americans become New Englanders. It was in the fall of 1621 that 90 Wampanoag Indians and 52 English settlers shared the food from the season's harvest. Since then, the Thanksgiving season has been celebrated with foods based on the hearty, simple cuisine the pilgrims brought with them and adapted to their new environment.

When English cooking met Native American ingredients, the early settlers began eating cranberries, clam chowder, Indian pudding, pumpkin pie, baked beans and blueberry pandowdy. The English contributions included pastry dough and the technique of steaming, used in preparing Boston brown bread, puddings and other British dishes.

Many traditional English and American Indian classics marry well because both types are hearty and especially suited to long, hard winters. But Pilgrim-style dishes don't have to be filled with fat and calories to be substantial and satisfying.

With a few twists, even the traditional New England boiled dinner can be updated to be more healthful, while preserving its trademark flavor and rustic simplicity. Instead of the fatty corned beef traditionally used, substitute more healthful skinless, boneless chicken breasts. The dish can still follow traditional lines with the usual large proportion of vegetables and a generous use of herbs for rich flavor.

A one-pot meal, like this updated New England Dinner, provides more food and fewer calories than the traditional corned beef version. It's a great way to pay tribute to New England this time of year.

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Fitter, Leaner New England Dinner

Makes 4 servings.

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme (or 1/2 tsp. dried)
  • 1 tsp. finely chopped fresh marjoram (or 1/2 tsp. dried)
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped flat-leaf parsley (or 1/2 Tbsp. dried)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, halved lengthwise (about 3/4 lb.)
  • 4 cups non-fat, reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 4 button mushrooms, stems removed
  • 8 small red potatoes, halved or quartered, depending on size
  • 2 large leeks, trimmed, washed and halved lengthwise
  • 2 small carrots, trimmed and halved lengthwise
  • 2 plum tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed with the side of a knife
  • 2 cups frozen French-style green beans

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, mix together thyme, marjoram and parsley. Sprinkle chicken pieces lightly with salt and pepper. Rub herb mixture into chicken, covering all sides.
  2. Heat a large, deep nonstick skillet over medium heat. Brown chicken on each side and transfer to a dish, including any juices. Add broth, mushrooms, potatoes, leeks, carrots, tomatoes, bay leaf and garlic to the skillet and heat to boiling. Immediately reduce heat to a simmer and cook about 15 minutes or until potatoes are about halfway cooked. Transfer chicken and any accumulated juices back to the skillet. Cover and cook until chicken is almost tender, about 10 to15 minutes.
  3. Add green beans and simmer, uncovered, just until beans are tender-crisp, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove bay leaf. Transfer mixture to serving casserole dish or plates and serve immediately.

Per Serving:
296 calories,
2 g. total fat (0 g. saturated fat),
44 g. carbohydrate,
28 g. protein,
7 g. dietary fiber,
703 mg. sodium

Exchanges: 3 Very-Lean Meat, 2 Bread/Starch, 3 Vegetable


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