One-Dish Winter Dinners

Lasagna. Food by Keri White

This time of year calls for hearty, warming comfort meals, which often involve slabs of meat braised in gravy, stew-style. This can be wonderful but also heavy.

As more of us attempt to limit meat intake for health, environmental, ethical or other reasons, those recipes are more like special occasion meals. But we still need sustenance through winter, and these recipes can provide it. Both are simple and straightforward but also quite adaptable.

The chicken braise could also integrate veggies. Carrots? Cabbage? Greens? Squash? Yes, yes, yes, yes. And if you are not feeling rice, swap it out for barley, couscous or noodles. Ditto the lasagna — not a fan of Swiss chard? Drop it and use spinach. Or zucchini. Or eggplant. Or a mélange of whatever veggies you have on hand.

The point is these are hearty, tasty and, while not especially low cal/low fat, they are lighter than a slab of pot roast or a bowl of beef stew!


Lasagna with Greens
Serves 4 generously

Using fresh lasagna sheets saves a step — no boiling of the noodles — which also saves on washing that extra pot and probably a colander. If you prefer to use traditional noodles or no-boil dry noodles, do so; just be sure to follow the directions on the respective packages to ensure the right texture and cooking times.

1 package fresh lasagna sheets cut to fit your pan (you may not need to use them all)
½ pound ricotta cheese
1 egg
½ teaspoon dried oregano
Generous sprinkling of salt and pepper
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2-3 cups good-quality marinara sauce
2 cups cooked Swiss chard
(see recipe below)

In a medium bowl, mix the ricotta, egg, oregano, garlic, salt and pepper.

Coat the bottom of a square baking dish with marinara sauce and place a lasagna sheet in the pan. (If it doesn’t cover the bottom, cut additional pieces to reach the edges in a single layer.) Spoon the ricotta cheese mixture on the sheet, then sprinkle some mozzarella and some Parmesan. Spoon on some more sauce. Place another lasagna sheet, then add a layer of greens, and drizzle some more sauce. Repeat this sequence until you reach the top of the pan. Cover the top lasagna sheet with sauce and cheese.

Cover, and bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes, then poke it with a knife to ensure that the lasagna is soft all the way through. If not, cook it for another 10 minutes and check again. If so, remove the cover, and cook another 10-15 minutes to allow the cheese to brown.

Swiss Chard
2 bunches Swiss chard, rinsed and chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons oil
Heat the oil in a large skillet with the garlic, salt and pepper flakes. Sauté until fragrant. Add the greens and cook, turning over frequently, until wilted and soft, about 8 minutes.

Braised chicken and rice

Braised Chicken and Rice
Serves 4
I made this for a convalescing relative — it is simple enough to appeal to timid palates, but it can be jazzed up with additional veggies or seasonings according to preference.
1 tablespoon oil
4 bone-in chicken breasts, seasoned well with salt and pepper
1 onion, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
½ teaspoon each thyme and rosemary
6-8 cups broth or water
3 cups white rice
Fresh parsley for garnish

In a large skillet with a cover, heat the oil and sear the chicken on all sides. Remove the chicken from the skillet and set it aside. Scrape up the brown bits, add oil if needed, and add the onions, celery, garlic and seasonings to the skillet. Sauté until softened.

Return the chicken to the skillet, and add broth or water. Bring it to a boil, lower the heat, cover and simmer for about 60 minutes, or until the chicken is very tender and falling off the bone.

When the chicken is done, remove it from the pan, and set it aside. There should be about 6 cups of liquid in the pan. If not, add more broth or water.

Add the rice to the pan, stir, bring it to a boil, then lower the heat, cover and simmer until the rice is nearly done and most of the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes.

While the rice cooks, remove the chicken from the bones. Return the chicken meat to the pan, mix and, when all the liquid is absorbed, garnish it with fresh parsley and serve.


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