04 April 2013

Healthy Chicken Feijoada

I was a confirmed carboholic for most of my pregnancy. No regrets there-- I will always have the fond memory of leveraging my son's metabolism to eat ice cream and french fries with abandon. I kept my weight healthy and on track for all 9 months, which is the first time in my life I have been able to say that. I was a lucky gal.

Continuing the carb-fest for three months afterwards? Errr, my pre-baby wardrobe is seeming more unlikely with each passing day. So unless I want to embrace my maternity pants for another year or two, it is time to stop the madness and put down the fried potatoes.

Enter this dish, an easy, nutritious, and homey meal with no potatoes or refined carbs.  It takes the delicious Portuguese feijoada and spins it into a healthy weekday meal which could even help me lose some of my baby padding.

The recipe here is not traditional in Portugal but the inspiration is. This is my riff on a feijoada à transmontana, which has a stew of kidney beans, carrots, and tomatoes as its base. In the traditional version, a variety of tasty pork sausages and fatty pork cuts are served with it, alongside a heaping pile of white rice to soak up all the good juices.

Instead of sausage, I opted for skinless chicken breasts which are quickly sauteed to give a crisp exterior. I added a big serving of turnip to the stew to mimic the texture of potato, making rice unnecessary. I also kicked up the heat with some red pepper flakes, since there is no chouriço in the dish to give it a garlicky hit.

The result is certainly not as indulgent as the original, but thanks to the spicy stew of beans and root veggies it packs a hearty punch-- which is important when you feel so sleep-deprived that feeling food-deprived as well would just be too cruel.

Even better-- with a few more nights of eating like this, I just may be back into my old jeans by Christmas.

Healthy Chicken Feijoada
serves 2

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced in half moons
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 small turnips, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup white wine (or vinho verde)
1 large can of kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can diced tomatoes
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1. Preheat the oven to 400F (200C). Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium high heat. Prepare the chicken breasts by rinsing and drying them, then seasoning well with salt and pepper.  Once the oil is hot, sauté the chicken for about 5 minutes per side, until there is a nice golden brown color. Remove the chicken from the skillet and set aside.

2. Add the onions and garlic to the oil that is left in the frying pan, and cook over a medium heat until softened. Add the turnips, carrots, celery, and red pepper flakes next, cooking until the veggies are just beginning to brown and soften.

3. Turn the heat up to medium high and add the wine, simmering until most of it has evaporated. Add the beans and tomatoes, heat through and then add the broth and cilantro. Bring to a simmer.

4. Transfer the veggies to a small casserole dish and top with the chicken breasts. Place in the oven and cook for about 40-45 minutes, until the chicken is done and the veggies are bubbling. Let cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.


  1. Yum -- this looks delicious! Our winter's been lingering so stews still appeal, but sundress season is right around the corner and cheesy pasta bake just won't do for me...! :)

    1. Reba, thanks! I couldn't have said it better myself.