Tasteful ways to eat lighter

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I'm always looking for interesting sides to pair with roasted or grilled meats. That way I don't have to fuss with the meat by coming up with a sauce or spice mixture to dress it up. Instead, I concentrate on a side dish. My favorite sides can be made ahead of time and allowed to sit, in the refrigerator or at room temperature, while I work on other things.

Here's a great example. It comes together fast, cooks slowly for 15 to 20 minutes and then waits for me to be ready instead of the other way around. It doesn't hurt that its main component is chickpeas, always popular at my house. The chickpeas are enlivened with a sweet-spicy combination of apples, onions, red bell peppers and dried spices. It's a fun, flavorful and healthful addition to dinner.

The mixture can be cooled for 20 minutes, then covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Moroccan Chickpeas

With Apples

5 or 6 servings

1 or 2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, preferably a sweet variety, cut into 1⁄4- to 1⁄2-inch dice (1 cup)

1 medium red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1⁄4- to 1⁄2-inch dice (1 cup)

1 medium Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and cut into 1⁄4- to 1⁄2-inch dice (1 cup)

1⁄4 to 1⁄2 teaspoon salt

1⁄2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1⁄2 teaspoon ground cumin

1⁄4 teaspoon ground allspice

1⁄4 teaspoon ground cloves

Pinch cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon double-concentrated tomato paste (see NOTE; may substitute 1 tablespoon tomato paste)

3 cups cooked chickpeas (may substitute no-salt-added canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained)

3⁄4 cup low-sodium chicken broth (may substitute water)

2 tablespoons light brown sugar

Leaves from 3 or 4 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, chopped (2 or 3 tablespoons)

Heat just enough oil to coat the bottom of a large saute pan or skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and bell pepper; cook for 3 minutes, then add the apple and 1⁄4 teaspoon of the salt. Cook for about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften.

Add the cinnamon, cumin, allspice, cloves, cayenne pepper and tomato paste; mix well and cook for 1 minute. Add the chickpeas, broth and brown sugar; mix well. Cook until the liquid comes to a boil, then cover the pan or skillet, reduce the heat as needed to maintain a very low boil and cook for 15 minutes. Taste and add 1⁄4 teaspoon salt if needed. If the mixture is soupy, increase the heat to high and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the liquid has reduced and slightly thickened. Remove from the heat; add the parsley and mix well. Serve hot or at room temperature.

NOTE: Double-concentrated tomato paste comes in a tube and can be found in the Italian section of most supermarkets.

NUTRITION Per serving (based on 6): 201 calories, 8 g protein, 34 g carbohydrates, 5 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 183 mg sodium, 8 g dietary fiber, 12 g sugar


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