Sweetly Spiced Chicken Thighs with Sunkist Minneolas
I hear a lot of complaints that healthy food is bland. Hah! And this meal is proof of just how delicious nutritious can be.
Thanks to Sunkist for sponsoring this recipe blog post. Sunkist has compensated me for my time, but my words, advice and opinions are my own.
As with most of my cooking, I set out to cut sodium and saturated fats, boost nutrition and make the flavors explode. This recipe does all of that. In fact, here’s what my daughter said in a text message when she ate it for the first time.
Here’s how I did it.
- I added a bunch of delicious spices. In this recipe, I was inspired by some Middle Eastern seasonings. If you haven’t had cardamom before, it’s worth the effort to pick some up. Cardamom is fruity and delicious. If you have a store nearby that sells spices in bulk (like Whole Foods), you can pick up just a spoonful of this exotic spice.
- I used citrus. It’s simple to cut sodium with the addition of lemon or other citrus. I frequently squeeze a lemon over a finished dish to brighten flavors. In this chicken recipe, however, I have the flavors popping with the addition of a couple tablespoons of orange juice and the juiciest, sweetest tangelos around – Sunkist minneolas. To make it easy for us, the smart folks at Sunkist devised this cooking guide to show us exactly how to cut sodium with lemon juice and lemon zest. They cleverly call it the S’alternative®. And it’s just the guide many of my patients need.
- I used a reduced-sodium broth too. When cooking the whole-grain couscous, I used both broth and water to cut sodium, but I added some cinnamon and zest of the minneolas to leave it anything but bland.
- I carefully chose health-boosting foods. We’ve got skinless chicken thighs (and they are quite nutritious and cook up more moist than breasts), lots of vegetables, legumes, and delicious citrus fruits. This dish is really a full meal!
These super delicious Sunkist tangelos are still in season, so grab them while you can. In later months, substitute the minneolas for another favorite juicy orange citrus fruit.
The portions in this dish are large enough for hearty eaters, but many of us will enjoy leftovers for lunch. For my carb-counting patients and friends with diabetes, keep in mind that the health-boosting fiber is a significant contributor to the total amount of carbohydrate – a full 13 grams fortunately. If the carb count in this recipe is still greater than your meal allotment, you can cut the couscous by half and save about 13 grams of total carbohydrate (4g of which are fiber).
Sweetly Spiced Chicken Thighs with Sunkist Minneolas
- 1 tablespoon olive or canola oil
- 1 large onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
- 4 large carrots, chopped (about 1.5 cups)
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped or crushed
- 1.75 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 1 (15.5 ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 1 3/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon divided (save 1/4 teaspoon for the couscous)
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1 1/4 teaspoons ground paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
- 1 cup reduced sodium chicken broth divided (save 1/2 cup for the couscous)
- 2 tablespoons orange juice
- 1 6- ounce bag baby spinach
- 4 Sunkist minneolas peeled, separated into sections and cut into bite-sized pieces.
- 1 cup dry whole wheat couscous
- 3/4 cup water
- 1 teaspoon zest from the minneola
- Heat a Dutch oven or large pot over medium heat. Add the oil. Sauté the onions and carrots until slightly soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir.
- Add the chicken, chickpeas, 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, cardamom, paprika, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly so the spices are evenly distributed.
- Add 1/2 cup of the chicken broth and the orange juice.
- Increase the heat to bring the contents to a boil. Then reduce the heat to a low boil and cover. Cook for 30 minutes or until the chicken is done. Stir periodically.
- Meanwhile prepare the couscous. Put the water and remaining 1/2 cup of chicken broth into a medium pot. Add the remaining 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon and the zest from the minneola. Cover and bring the contents to a boil. Then add the couscous and stir. Return the lid and remove the pot from the heat. Allow the contents to sit undisturbed for 5 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. Then fluff with a fork.
- Just before serving, add the spinach to the chicken mixture and mix to wilt, about 2 minutes. Then add the chopped minneola.
- Serve over couscous.
Cheers to delicious, nutritious eating!
Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, CHWC, FAND, is a Nutrition, Culinary & Diabetes Expert, Wellcoach®-certified health and wellness coach, Freelance Writer, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Educator. She's also the author of four books, including a best-seller. She's a nationally-recognized media expert in high demand for print and online interviews, as well as corporate and one-on-one nutritional counseling. Jill's philosophy is that nutrition science should be understandable, realistic and oh so delicious.
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Like most of my patients and clients, I lead a busy life. You probably do too. Fortunately, you don’t need weeks, days or even hours to start living better and healthier. This blog offers timesaving strategies and bite-sized nutrition and health information. Come by often for tips and inspiration to healthy living – no matter how busy you are. I am a registered dietitian nutritionist offering credible, practical nutrition advice to keep busy people healthy. Yes indeed, we can be both busy and healthy.