Some say the key to better sleep and a good love life is to take the television out of the bedroom. They may have a good point, but I’m currently not complaining about either of those areas. I love having a TV in our room so I can catch the news every morning while I get ready. Of course, some of what I hear barely qualifies as news. Like the fact that the average American eats less than ten grams of fiber per day, as announced by some Barbie doll masquerading as a nutritionist.
For what it’s worth, the recommended intake is 25-30 grams, and reaching that target will help keep your digestive track healthy, may reduce cholesterol, and will certainly keep you more satisfied throughout the day.
The supposed nutritionist proceeded to lead us around the grocery store, pointing out healthy options for a balanced diet and weight loss. Fruit juice, Greek yogurt, and Skinny Cow ice cream snacks were the three that stuck in my mind all day. Can you guess which of those three is the only one you’d catch me eating?
Let’s start with fruit juice. To be fair, it can be a good source of vitamins. But let’s be frank. Does a glass of juice at around one hundred calories satisfy you the way a piece of whole fruit would? I think not. And on to Skinny Cow. Oh dear, Skinny Cow, how I used to love thee. Then I realized the abundance of more tasty, nourishing late-night snacks without the artificial sweeteners. That leaves Greek yogurt. You can bet I make time for a daily dose of all-natural, protein-packed Chobani.
The conclusion I’m drawing is that I could do a far better job helping Americans eat a more balanced, fiber-rich diet. And I might even look cuter doing it, in a real-girl sort of way.
Let’s talk about where fiber comes from. Legumes, like beans and lentils. Unprocessed whole grains, like barley and quinoa. And of course, fruits and vegetables. Believe it or not, even though I make it a point to eat a high protein, moderately low-carb diet, I still manage to get my daily recommended dose of fiber – and on many days, quite a bit more.
The key, I think, is choosing carbs wisely. Avoiding processed foods as much as possible in favor of all those things I mentioned above. And once I’ve got all those fiber-rich ingredients, I pair them with a protein, of course.
This dish is a great example of all of the above. Hearty yellow cornmeal pairs with my favorite superfood, pumpkin (big surprise there!)and a little bit of cheese to make a thick, creamy polenta. This is the bed for a mixture of sweet onions and chicken sausage with plenty of leafy greens and white beans. It packs in more than half of your recommended daily fiber intake, and a good serving of protein too. But most of all, it’s absolutely perfect comfort food for a cool autumn night.
Chicken Sausage with White Beans and Chard over Pumpkin Polenta
1/2 cup thinly sliced yellow onion
1 large bunch of Swiss chard (or kale, spinach, or another leafy green of your choice)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 links all-natural, fully cooked chicken sausage*, 4oz each, thinly sliced
1 cup drained, rinsed cannellini beans
1 cup (240 gm) canned pumpkin puree or roasted, mashed winter squash
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup (72 gm) yellow corn meal
pinch of nutmeg
1 oz grated pecorino romano cheese
salt & pepper, to taste
Heat a large saute pan over medium-low heat. Spray with nonstick cooking spray. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, until softened.
Meanwhile, prepare the Swiss chard. Cut off the thick stems and slice the leaves into 1″ ribbons. Rinse in a colander and set aside.
Add the garlic, chicken sausage, and white beans to the onions. Season the mixture with salt and pepper. Cook for one minute, until garlic is fragrant. Add the Swiss chard, with the water still clinging to it. Stir to combine, then cover the pan and raise heat to medium-high. Let the greens wilt down while you prepare the polenta. Stir occasionally.
Whisk together the water and pumpkin puree in a medium sauce pan. Season generously with salt, and add the nutmeg. Place the cornmeal in a small bowl and pour a little of the pumpkin mixture over it; stir well (this will make it easier to incorporate the cornmeal into the heated pumpkin mixture, without clumping.) Bring the remaining mixture in the sauce pan to a boil. Whisk in the wet cornmeal until smooth, then reduce heat to medium-high and cook, stirring often with a wooden spoon, for about 10 minutes. When polenta has thickened (if you draw the spoon across the bottom of the pan, the line should remain visible for a short time), stir in the grated cheese and turn off heat. Adjust with salt and pepper to taste.
Taste the sausage and bean mixture and season with salt and pepper if desired. Divide the hot polenta between two plates and top with the sausage, white beans and chard.
*Chicken sausage can be a much healthier alternative to pork sausage, but it can also be loaded with crap (for lack of a better word.) It’s important to choose wisely. My rule of thumb, aside from just reading the nutrition facts, is that if there’s anything in the ingredient list I can’t easily pronounce and wouldn’t put in the sausage if I were to make it myself, I put it back and look for another. For this recipe I used Sam’s Club Spinach and Asiago chicken sausage.
Servings Per Recipe: 2
Amount Per Serving
Total Fat: 10.2 g
Cholesterol: 80.0 mg
Sodium: 1,645.7 mg
Total Carbs: 65.1 g
Dietary Fiber: 16.2 g
Protein: 31.2 g
**These amounts will vary based on the brand of chicken sausage used.