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Sherrie Norris Lovin’ Spoonful Cooking Column: Springing Forward with Lighter, Healthier Dishes

By Sherrie Norris

For many of us facing the warmer days of spring, this year especially, we find our thoughts beginning to transition from those filling and often “heavy” comfort foods we prepared and consumed during the last year, to much lighter, healthier dishes.

It’s becoming quite evident, well at least after this colder-than-normal week, that we can’t hide those extra pandemic pounds behind the big sweaters and jackets much longer. I knew it was coming, but I thought surely we’d have time to start planning how to slowly move beyond the creamy casseroles and carb-filled desserts. Time ran out on us, folks. 

 I’ve decided it’s going to take more than a slow-mo plan. How about some extended time outside cleaning up the yard and garden spots, raking the dead leaves, walking on purpose and staying busy in the sunshine to even begin the new mindset!

So, let’s  decide right now together to try a little harder to spend less time in the kitchen and on the couch. Let’s make the effort to head out the door and exercise more in this season of renewal. We need it in our hearts, minds and bodies just as does the dark damp ground as it begins to spring forth with new life.

All in? Good! Let’s go!


Healthy Chicken Stew

8 chicken pieces, breasts or legs

1 cup water

2 small garlic cloves, minced

1 small onion, chopped

1 ½ tsp. salt

½ tsp. pepper

3 medium tomatoes, chopped

1 tsp. parsley, chopped

¼ cup celery, finely chopped

2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped

2 small carrots, chopped

2 bay leaves

 Remove skin and any extra fat from chicken. In a large skillet, combine chicken, water, garlic, onion, salt, pepper, tomatoes, and parsley. Tightly cover and cook over low heat for 25 minutes. Add celery, potatoes, carrots, and bay leaves; continue to cook for 15 more minutes or until chicken and vegetables are tender. Remove bay leaves before serving.


Goat Cheese, Spinach and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

¼ pound goat cheese

1 cup romaine lettuce

½ cup spinach

1 radish, diced

4 Tbsp. sun dried tomatoes

4 Tbsp. olive oil

1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

Slice goat cheese, brush with a little olive oil and broil until golden. Serve on top of salad greens with diced radish and sun-dried tomatoes. Drizzle with remaining oil and vinegar.


Bran Muffin Breakfast Trifle

3 medium-size low-fat bran muffins 

4 cups assorted fresh fruit chunks

2 cups nonfat or low-fat vanilla, or fruit flavored yogurt

Place half the muffin crumbs, coarsely crumbled, in a 2 ½ quart glass bowl or airtight container. Arrange all the fruit on top. Cover with remaining muffin crumbs. Spoon yogurt evenly over the top. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.


Guilt-Free Pineapple Cheese Pie

1 small can crushed pineapple, in natural juice

1 pkg. (3 oz.) lemon Jell-O

1¼ cup boiling water

3 oz. Neufchatel cream cheese, softened

¼ tsp. orange or lemon rind

3 Tbs. sugar (substitute half with Stevia or other natural sweetener)

½ tsp. vanilla

1 cup low-calorie half and half

Drain pineapple. Dissolve gelatin in water. Blend Neufchatel, citrus rind, sugar and vanilla. Combine ½ cup gelatin with pineapple. Blend remaining gelatin into cheese mixture. Fold in half and half; pour into lightly sprayed pie pan. Chill until set, but not quite firm. Spoon remaining pineapple mixture on top and chill overnight.


Banana Graham Dessert

1 pkg. (1.5 oz.) instant sugar-free vanilla pudding mix

2¾ cups cold skim milk

1 cup nonfat sour cream

12 reduced-fat graham crackers

2 large bananas, sliced

In a mixing bowl, beat pudding mix and milk on low speed for 2 minutes. Fold in sour cream. Let stand for 5 minutes. In a large bowl, layer a third of the graham crackers, bananas and pudding mixture. Repeat layers twice. Refrigerate.