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Joni Woolf: Healthy dishes for winter enjoyment

Today, as I write this, Sumter County residents are looking out on fields of white — as I am just north of Sumter, in Schley County. The man across the road is trying to put up a fence, but gave up after dropping the posts on the snow-covered ground and leaving the scene. Though lovely to look at, it can be hazardous for a short time. So, we are careful. By the time you read this, the danger will have passed and the temperatures will have climbed a bit. But winter persists, bringing cold, damp days — days when we feel we need robust meals to get us through the season.
One of the joys of friendship is sharing recipes. And as someone who writes about food (and recipes) I enjoy frequent conversations with friends about food — how we prepare it, how we try to manage calorie intake, how we find new recipes, how we try to please the varying taste preferences of family members.
Three days a week at Southwest Georgia gym, I meet with a group of some 30-35 adults who exercise together. But we do more than exercise, important though that is to all of us. We visit —  about the weather, our churches, our community, and ultimately, our recipes. One of my friends at the gym, Susan Guynn, has shared several recipes with me, most of which I’ve tried. They have ingredients that are easy to find, they are relatively easy to prepare, and they are low-calorie. They also happen to be delicious, and these offered today are the kinds of robust dishes that warm the body and soul on a winter’s day — like today.

One-Pot Cabbage Casserole
2 lbs. ground beef (93 percent lean)
Salt and pepper or Creole seasoning
1 onion, chopped
1 cup rice, uncooked
3 large handfuls of roughly chopped cabbage
1 8-oz. can tomato sauce
2 cups water (use the tomato sauce can, fill twice)
1 14-oz. can Rotel or regular diced tomatoes, undrained
1 cup shredded cheese (Colby Jack or Cheddar)
Season and brown ground beef and onions. Drain off grease. Once onions are clear, add rice, cabbage, tomato sauce, 2 cups of water and diced tomatoes. Stir. Let mixture come to a boil and then reduce heat to medium low and cover to simmer for 20 to 30 minutes or until rice is done and cabbage is soft. Do not lift lid before 20 minutes to make sure rice cooks well. Once cooked, top with cheese and cover with lid to melt a few minutes. Cut into 8 slices. Each huge slice is only 6 SmartPoints (Weight Watchers).

Healthy Crock Pot White Chili
2-3 large boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 15.5 oz. cans Great Northern beans (drained and rinsed)
1 15 oz. can sweet golden corn (drained and rinsed)
1 4.5 oz. can chopped green chilies
2 14.5 oz. cans reduced sodium chicken broth
1 medium sweet yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 lime, juiced
1 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 ½ teaspoons chili powder
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper — more if you like it spicy
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
Black pepper (to taste)
Paprika (to taste)
Place chicken breasts, Great Northern Beans, corn, green chilies, chopped onion, minced garlic and spices in the crockpot. Add two cans of chicken broth and squeeze the juice of one lime over the mixture. Cook on low 6 to 8 hours. Before removing from crockpot, use two forks to shred chicken. Stir ingredients thoroughly. Serve with toppings, as desired — jalapenos, plain Greek yogurt, reduced fat shredded cheese, reduced fat sour cream, or salsa. Note: Make sure the beans and corn don’t have sugar listed as an ingredient. Fat-free chicken stock in the box may be used instead of the canned broth. Don’t add the full box if you like to eat chili with a fork! Another note: This chili is a very good alternative to one based on beef, and better for you.
So, branch out. Try new ways of preparing traditional favorites and don’t be surprised if you like them just as well.

Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at indigojoni@windstream.net