Protein in a Pot


Many classic protein-rich one-potters — think chili, stews and chicken soup — are laced with ingredients such as cream, fatty meat, whole milk, and processed cheeses and noodles that cause them to nutritionally combust. But with a little tweaking, you can get cozy comfort without skewing your six-pack. By boosting the vegetables and making use of the best meats, you can convert carby, fatty comfort food into muscle-friendly wonders, perfect creations for a lazy Sunday, because the flavors only get better after melding in the fridge for a day or two. Each of the following recipes can be frozen for future meals, packed for virtuous lunches during the week or scooped up right from the pot for dinner to keep muscles fed and full.

Turkey Noodle Soup

The time-honored chicken noodle soup gains new life with the addition of nutrient- and protein-packed edamame, fast-cooking whole-grain soba noodles and turkey breast, which has more protein, iron and the antioxidant selenium than chicken breast.

Serves 4

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 pound skinless, boneless turkey breast, sliced into 1-inch cubes

1 onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced

4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

2 cups water

1 large carrot, thinly sliced

2 celery stalks, thinly sliced

1 cup cremini mushrooms, sliced

1 tablespoon dried thyme

½ teaspoon red-pepper flakes

½ teaspoon fresh black pepper

1 cup frozen edamame, shelled

6 ounces soba noodles, about 2/3 of a package

In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add turkey breast and onion to the pan and cook until turkey is no longer pink, about five minutes. Stir in garlic and ginger and cook one minute more. Add broth, water, carrot, celery, mushrooms, thyme, pepper flakes and black pepper to the pan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, until carrots are tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in edamame and soba noodles, return to a simmer and cook for five to six minutes, or until noodles are tender. Garnish with fresh cilantro, if desired.

Nutrition totals (per serving): 336 calories, 4 g fat (1 g saturated), 43 g protein, 43 g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber

Salmon Chowder

This hearty vegetable-laden chowder provides a healthy dose of protein and disease-thwarting omega-3 fats, courtesy of canned salmon. Easy-to-make cashew cream gives the chowder a rich, creamy goodness without the saturated fat found in the heavy cream or whole milk used in most recipes for this iconic seafood dish.

Serves 4-6

1 cup unsalted cashews

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, diced

1 pound (about 2) sweet potatoes, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 large carrot, sliced

2 celery stalks, sliced

1 cup frozen corn

1 ½ tablespoons tomato paste

½ teaspoon red-pepper flakes

4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

2 5-ounce cans salmon, drained

2 cups fresh or frozen broccoli florets

Salt and pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons fresh dill

In a bowl, cover cashews with water and soak for two or more hours. Drain cashews, place them in a blender and add just enough water to cover them. Process until smooth; set aside. In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook for five minutes. Mix in potato, bell pepper, carrot, celery, corn, tomato paste, pepper flakes and broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer covered for 15 minutes or until potato and carrot are tender. Stir in cashew cream, salmon, broccoli, salt and pepper; simmer five minutes more. Stir in dill and serve.

Nutrition totals (per serving): 410 calories, 17 g fat (3 g saturated), 25 g protein, 45 g carbohydrate, 7 g fiber

Curried Pork Stew

Inexpensive pork tenderloin provides a laudable 6:1 ratio of protein to fat to keep muscle growth on the upswing, while the chickpeas and vegetables give this one-pot powerhouse a hearty dose of fat-obliterating fiber. You can serve this with brown rice, if desired.

Serves 4

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, diced

1 1½-pound pork tenderloin, sliced into 1-inch cubes

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 tablespoon curry powder

¼ teaspoon cayenne powder

3 plum tomatoes, diced

2 cups cubed butternut squash or sweet potato

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

½ cup dried currants or raisins (optional)

1 cup water

Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook for five minutes, stirring regularly. Add pork and garlic and cook for five minutes or until pork is cooked through. Stir in curry and cayenne, and cook one minute more. Add tomatoes, squash, bell pepper, chickpeas, raisins, water, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium low and simmer covered for 20 minutes.

Nutrition totals (per serving): 450 calories, 8 g fat (1g saturated), 39 g protein, 57 g carbohydrate, 10 g fiber, 17 g sugar, 461 mg sodium

Chocolate Beer Chili

Red meat, chocolate and beer. What’s not to love about this intensely flavored chili? Each serving provides an abundance of top-notch protein and half a day’s fiber requirement. A worthwhile splurge is grass-fed beef or bison, which have a better fat profile than industrial beef. If desired, you can add a dollop of reduced-fat sour cream or a sprinkling of reduced-fat shredded cheese before serving.

Serves 4-6

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, diced

1 pound extra-lean ground beef or ground bison

1 carrot, sliced

1 red bell pepper, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon dried oregano

2 teaspoons chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin powder

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 cup dark beer

1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes

1 5 ½-ounce can tomato paste

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

1 19-ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 19-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed

Heat oil in a large saucepan or skillet over medium heat. Cook onion until soft and translucent, about four minutes. Add meat and cook until browned throughout. Add carrot, red pepper and garlic; cook for two minutes more. Stir in oregano, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper; cook two minutes. Stir in beer and simmer for three minutes. Add tomatoes plus juices, tomato paste, cocoa powder, kidney beans and black beans. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Nutrition totals (per serving): 433 calories, 9 g fat (3 g saturated), 35 g protein, 55 g carbohydrate, 17 g fiber