This decadent dinner won’t bust your belt … or the bank

A few years ago, while I was still covering health and wellness, and writing a weekly food column, I spoke with a nutritionist about battling the bulge at this time of year. Let’s face it, ’tis the season to overindulge in every possible way, and when oversized sweaters and puffy coats are par for the weather course, it’s easy to let the old waistline go to waste.

So my dietary expert told me the solution is to embrace something called the “plate method.”

Basically, think of your platter as a pie divided into four equal pieces (only not an actual pie because, hello defeated purpose). Fill two of those pieces with fresh produce, one with a lean protein and one with a (preferably whole-grain) starch of your choice. Oh, and if you’re carbing it up with the entrée, forgo the sweet treat at the end.

Really, balance is the key to keeping healthy during the holidays. Which now leads me to wonder: Is it possible to create a festive meal that embraces this healthy plan without dipping into the gift fund?

Yes. Yes, it is. And better yet, it involves tender, herb-spiced chicken, a heaping helping of salad and, get this, bright purple potatoes. Seriously! Purple!

Now, historically for this column, we’ve tried to keep your total purchase price to $25 or less. This one stretches the budget to just shy of $30 (you would hit it if you were rounding up); but given that you’re preparing an entire feast that could cause four, if not five, people to temporarily loosen their belts, it’s still a pretty darn good deal.

So go ahead and indulge this season: This mostly healthful meal will surely wow guests without breaking your bank account … or your diet.


Herb-rubbed roasted chicken and potatoes

(Cook’s note: This recipe calls for a 3-ounce package of poultry herbs — which traditionally comprises fresh rosemary, thyme and sage. It looks like a lot, and it is, but you will actually use all of it. You can buy each herb individually, but the best bang for the buck is this pre-packaged goodness.)

1, 5-pound roaster chicken
1, 24-ounce bag petite purple potatoes
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, divided
1, 3-ounce package poultry blend herbs, divided
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Divide butter into two microwave-safe bowls. Keep one bowl cool in the refrigerator, and melt the other until liquefied.

Strip leaves of herbs from the stalks and mince leaves well. Do not discard stalks though, as they are fine for making bone broth or for stuffing into the bird for additional flavor.

Mix 1 tablespoon of the minced herbs, salt, onion powder, garlic powder and black pepper with the liquefied butter until fully blended, then refrigerate until herb-spiced butter chills and starts to firm up.

While butter is coagulating, use a very sharp knife to cut two slits in the skin at the top of the chicken breast and two slits around the thighs.

Very gently, using either your immaculately clean hands or the handle of a butter knife, separate the skin from the meat of the bird. To do this, run either a finger or the knife gently under the skin, following the curve of the breast, thigh and leg meat until it separates but doesn’t tear. Now, it’s worth noting that this is gross and requires you getting … ummm, personal … with your dinner, but the flavor enhancement is worth the effort.

Break the herb-spiced butter into small pieces and insert it beneath the skin of the chicken, rubbing it gently into the meat. Rub any remaining butter into the body cavity of the bird, and stuff, if desired, with the stems from your herb stalks.

Place the bird into a deep baking dish, drizzle with water or, if you have it, either chicken broth or white wine. Make sure to leave some room around the bird as you will later be adding the potatoes.

Bake chicken at 425 for one hour.

While chicken is baking, quarter the potatoes and pull out the second bowl of butter to soften. Blend remaining herb mixture, plus extra salt and pepper, if desired, with softening butter until incorporated.

Toss potatoes in remaining butter until coated with herbal goodness, remove chicken from the oven, and surround it with your freshly coated potatoes. Take a moment to revel in the festive beauty that is a gorgeously browning bird and bright purple spuds!

Douse with another round of water/broth/wine and return the baking dish to the oven.

Roast until potatoes are tender, chicken legs easily separate from the joint and a knife inserted into the breast results in clear liquid, another 30 minutes or so. The chicken’s internal temperature should be 165 Fahrenheit before consumed.

Remove chicken to a cutting board or platter and allow to rest, foiled, for 10 minutes before carving.

Serve, according to the plate method, with potatoes and fresh produce of your choice. We recommend — and priced — a baby spring mix salad with thinly sliced red onion, fresh cherry tomatoes and a light vinaigrette dressing; however, fresh steamed vegetable medley and/or fruit salad would also be a great complement.

— Recipe by Regan Foster


5.29-Pound Chicken … $8.94
24-oz Bag Petite Purple Potatoes … $2.99
3-oz Poultry-Blend Fresh Herbs … $3.99
1 lb Kroger-Brand Unsalted Butter … $2.99
5-oz Organic Baby Spring Mix … $3.49
10-oz Package Grape Tomatoes … $1.79
1 Medium Red Onion … $0.89
14-oz Kraft Balsamic Vinaigrette … $2.29
Tax (8.25 percent) … $2.26
Total … $29.63

Additional culinary ideas: Salad days, Gridiron grub