Tuscan Chicken Soup with Pesto and Orange Chicken

When I woke up to go to the gym yesterday morning, I forgot we were supposed to get snow overnight.  My first thought was “maybe I’ll just do something on exercise on demand.”  But the snow was fluffy, I was able to brush the car off in a couple minutes and off I went.

I think I am actually getting better at swimming!  I never took swimming lessons as a kid – my sister and I ruled the shallow end of the pool.  And as luck would have it, in high school you had to perform certain swimming strokes in gym class to pass, and the day I was to swim we had a substitute, Mrs. Chick who went to our church.  When I explained to her I couldn’t swim, she put check marks that I completed the swim test and said “we’ll just keep this between us!”

But I dream of swimming like Kerstin – she was an accomplished distance swimmer in high school college.  I think my main fear is the breathing – I tend to panic the second my head gets under water, but I am getting there!  I did 35 minutes with only about 1 minute break total 😀  Then 5 minutes in the hot tub 😀

For breakfast I cut a baked potato in half – my half was 5 ounces.  I scooped out the potato, sauteed that with baby spinach and 1/3 cup of egg beaters and then stuffed that mixture back in the potato skin and nuked it for 30 seconds.  I thought I had brought cheese to put on top, but I must have forgotten it, didn’t matter – I put spicy salsa over the top and it rocked.  This whole thing is only 4 points!

Tuesday is my strength training day – I checked my blood sugar before leaving and it was only 100, while a great number, too low to work out, so I had a slice of my high protein bread with a tsp. of no sugar added peanut butter for fuel for 5 points.

I did 30 minutes of strength, discovering that my hamstring muscles are almost non-existent, then did a 1 mile 15 minute walk.

So for day Two of Soup Club, I made what I am calling a Tuscan Chicken Soup.

Tuscan Chicken & Spinach Soup with Pesto

(printer friendly version here)

Course: main meals
PointsPlus™ Value:    5
Servings:  5

Preparation Time:  10 min
Cooking Time:  20 min
Level of Difficulty:  Moderate

1 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup(s) Carrots
1/2 cup(s) sweet red pepper(s)
8 oz  Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
1 tsp minced garlic
6 cup(s) canned chicken broth
1 1/2 tsp dried marjoram
4 oz spinach, chopped
2 cup(s) canned cannellini beans
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp table salt
2 Tbsp store-bought pesto sauce

Heat oil in a dutch oven or stock pot over medium-high heat. Add carrot, bell pepper and chicken; cook, turning the chicken and stirring frequently, until the chicken begins to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring for 1 more minute.
Stir in broth and marjoram; bring to a boil ver high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring, until teh chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Remove chicken and let cool.
Add spinach and beans to the pot and bring to a gentle boil. Cook for 5 minutes to blend the flavors.
Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Stir the chicken and the pesto into the pot, season with salt and pepper and heat until hot.
5 points for 2 cups.

I used 2 tablespoons of this prepared pesto

this was the first time I've ever used marjoram in a dish!

the chicken and beans sink to the bottom - this was really good, but I ended up adding crushed red pepper to my broth

I also had some delicious black berries and a clementine on the side:

One of me and Hannah’s (I am positive that is not grammatically correct! I never get that right – should it me Hannah and my?) favorite Chinese dishes is orange chicken.   While Trader Joe’s has a good frozen orange chicken, I was trying to find a healthier version to make at home.  But must of the recipes I found called for upwards of 1/2 cup of brown sugar!

I am posting this recipe, but we both felt that the sauce needed something else – now that I think of it, a couple tablespoons of orange marmalade would have made it perfect, we’ll have to try that next time (or you can add it if you make it and let me know if it works!)

Now I may get some flack here, but I deep fried the chicken that was tossed in a combo of flour and cornstarch.  Our deep fryer holds a temperature perfectly, so nothing is greasy, but to account for the deep fry, I added the one tablespoon of olive oil to the recipe – even though I know there is no way 1 tablespoon of oil was absorbed.  This may look like a lot of ingredients, but we were done within 30 minutes.

Orange Chicken (printer friendly version here

Course: main meals
PointsPlus™ Value:    7
Servings:  4

Preparation Time:  10 min
Cooking Time:  20 min
Level of Difficulty:  Easy

1/4 cup(s) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup(s) cornstarch
1/8 tsp table salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 Tbsp canola oil
3/4 cup(s) water
1/8 cup(s) lemon juice, canned or bottled
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp unpacked brown sugar
2 Tbsp fresh orange juice
1 tsp garlic clove(s), minced
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch
1 Tbsp water
1 pound(s) Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts, cut into cubes
2 tsp orange zest
1/4 cup(s) Egg Beaters Egg Beaters
1/8 cup(s) teriyaki sauce
1 tsp Sriracha Chili Sauce


Combine 1/4 cup flour and 1/4 cup cornstarch. Place chicken in egg beaters along with salt and pepper, then coat the pieces in the flour/cornstarch mixture to coat.
Deep fry in batches at 375 for about 5 minutes, until completely cooked.
Meanwhile, in a large saucepan combine water, lemon juice, orange juice, rice vinegar, and soy sauce. Blend well over medium heat for 2 minutes. Stir in brown sugar, orange zest, garlic adn red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil.
Combine 1 1/2 tablespoons of cornstarch with 1 tablespoon of water. Slowly stir cornstarch mixture into the sauce until it thickens. Pour sauce over breaded chicken and add any additional red pepper flakes or garnish with green onions.
Server over cooked white or brown rice, and stir fry veggies.

the cornstarch is really a light coating, but it gets extra crispy

I had 4 ounces of the chicken, 1/3 cup of the sauce, and broccoli, zucchini and red pepper strips and 1/3 cup of cooked brown rice.  Dinner comes in at 10 points because I added extra hot stir fry sauce to mine 😀

it's not the real deal yet, but I am going to work on this one - so close!

And reason 1,521 that I love Tony.  Pretzels are one of my favorite snacks, I had no idea they were all fried though!  So he found me these baked pretzels with sesame seeds – delicious!  Thanks Tony!

Stats for Tuesday:

  • 29 points (including 2 cookies I had to eat because my blood sugar was 46 after dinner)
  • 12 flex points remaining
  • 20 activity points earned but not used
  • average blood sugar 89

Question of the Day:  I was surprised to learn that both Nicole and Gina’s husband’s don’t read their blogs.  Does your spouse or significant other read your blog?  Do they even know you have one?  Curious to see!  Tony is my #1 proof reader – just the other day he was like “you said kick it up a notch twice in the same sentence!”  I love you Tony!

p.s.  thanks to Tami (check out her last post about multi grain bread v. whole grain bread!) for telling me to copy my eTools recipes to a Notepad to remove the scripts that were driving me insane – it worked perfect today!

p.s.s. Don’t forget to submit your healthy recipes for a chance to win one of two AUTOGRAPHED copies of Rocco DiSpirito’s new cookbook – Now Eat This!  You have until Friday, January 14 to enter.

Have a great day!

42 thoughts on “Tuscan Chicken Soup with Pesto and Orange Chicken

  1. Please, I know you’re on WW and points is the way to go but before you did that you use to tell the calories of your goodness you make. Can you do that again, at least sometimes. Like that baked potato thing, now that is something I’d love to sink my teeth into. Oh yes, I know I could figure it out myself and if you choose to stay with just the points I will but you know, the easy way is sometimes the best way.
    Take care Biz and have a superb day. God Bless!!

  2. I’m bookmarking this recipe-it looks delicious! I love orange chicken and this looks perfect!

  3. The soup looks great! So does the orange chicken. It DOES stick better and look better if you deep fry it. I just never know how much oil gets on it and I’m afraid it’s too much. I haven’t had good luck baking the breading on though. I’m not patient enough!

    BSI? Just curious. I thought of it this morning for some reason and thought I’d ask.

  4. Biz, your Orange Chicken looks INSANE!!! Who needs Chinese take-out when you can make that?! AWESOME!!!

  5. B used to read my blog when we lived together, then I started writing about things he wasn’t interested in, so he stopped. I’ve never hid my blog from anyone though – people usually think it’s cool, but they never look at it or anything! 🙂

  6. The tuscan soup looks and sounds yummy!

    Not sure where you got your info that pretzels were fried??? I made pretzels for many years, both at home, and for Snyder’s. I have never heard of fried pretzel’s. They are boiled, if doing them at home, or put through a sodium hydoxide boiling bath when made at a factory setting [looks like a waterfall bath]. Then baked to become crispy.

    I eat pretzel’s all the time. They are low in fat, and calories. Just watch out for the high sodium content in some!

    You can see several versions on YouTube.

  7. I’m SOOO making every one of these recipes – Biz, you’re great for putting the Points plus values. How do you get that little trademark thingie – you can cook AND you’re a tekkie. Damn you. The soup looks awesome (I have a fantastic homemade pesto recipe for when fresh basil is plentiful), and so does the breakfast. The chicken is over the top – I don’t know if I could keep myself from overeating it!

    BTW, I made the Brazilian Ham and bean soup of Nutmeg Notebook Tami’s that I saw Helen mention yesterday, and it was great. I made it EXACTLY, including weighing the ingreds, according to her recipe and it’s delish. You might need to kick it up a notch with your hot-lovin’ self. And yes, it would be “Hannah and my”. My kids grew up with 2 grammar nazis – they hated it then but now say they will totally do it to their own kids! Victory is sweet 😉

  8. I loved Mrs. Chick, I did not realize she ever subbed at the high school. My husband reads my blog, but tends to hit it in large doses. He actually is not on-line too much.

  9. Orange chicken looks ridiculously good.

    My husband is my #1 fan in anything I do. He reads my blog and comes back later to read comments. He’s a sweetheart of a man. LOVE him to pieces. 🙂 We’re sappy sweet even after 20 years.

  10. One more thing – I have to tell you you should do a cookbook, even if you have to self publish. I swear, my favorite recipe folder is mostly ones I’ve printed from you, with TJ, Lyn@ Escape From Obesity, and Tami (Nutmeg…) about tied for 2nd. It would save my work a lot of paper.

  11. Great job on the swimming! I’ve never had that problem. I love to swim! But looks like you are doing awesome at it!

    Your recipes look delicious. I’m going to have to print them and compile a “Biz” cookbook, so I can remember to try some of them!

  12. Biz I am so loving the series of soup recipes you are doing this week! I love soup and could eat it every day for lunch. Unfortunately my family doesn’t share my fondness for it.

    The credit for the posting tip really belongs to my son David. He is a computer science major and my go -to guy for all of my computer problems and since I am not tech savvy I have lots of questions! I will let him know that I was able to pass along one of his problem solver solutions that he helped me with and that yet another blogger had success!

    I am loving the stuffed potato for breakfast. I don’t care for the traditional breakfast fare so I would love that!

  13. Cook’s Illustrated has an amazing orange chicken recipe. Pretzels are fried? I buy Utz sourdough pretzels and those are baked. So are the Rold Golds

  14. My husband knows that I blog, but he has never read an entry before. It’s just not his kind of blog to read. He couldn’t care less how I prepare a dish as long as there’s enough for him! 🙂

    That orange chicken looks so good! I wish that such results could be replicated without involving deep frying!

    Awesome job with the swimming! As my swim teacher says, “stay wet!”

  15. I never thought to make a baked potato for breakfast, but it totally makes sense! Just like eggs and hashbrowns!
    My husband reads my blog – but sometimes he needs a gentle reminder…. 🙂

  16. Even though I have started using the words “this picture is for my blog” I don’t think Mr. Helen has any idea what I’m talking about. I think he believes I’m texting all these pictures to Shelley – lol!

    This is how I remember whether to use me, my, I, etc. You take out the other person’s name and construct the sentence without it. Whatever sounds correct i.e., One of ‘my’ favorite vs. One of ‘me’ favorite vs. One of ‘I’ favorite. See how easy that is. Then you add the other person’s name back in: “One of Hannah and my favorite dishes” I learned that years ago in an English class and have never ever forgotten it!

    Nope, she didn’t respond yet. You were the 2nd number I picked (always pick a backup) so you will get them if she doesn’t respond by Friday.

  17. Love your breakfast, potatos and eggs are my favorite combo 🙂

    My husband doesn’t read my blog, he will sometimes, but not frequently.


  18. Your orange chicken looks sooo good! I admit, I LOVE TJ’s orange chicken…their chicken teriyaki too ( tastes just like the mall! but with way less cals) I have done that trick with the cornstartch on the chicken pieces, but didn’t deep fry, only pan fried, and they were super crispy, constarch seems to stick better than plain old flour too!

    My husband only knows and occasionally reads my food blog. everything else is mine and mine alone! lol ( I post in another shared blog about weight loss) He doesn’t care much about what I post, but he likes to know about the stats and how much money I have earned….lol

    I have a wonderful turkey meatloaf recipe that uses marjoram….love it!
    and it uses hot sauce….lol…so you should def check it out! lol

  19. So, i saw pesto and orange chicken and immediately assumed it was part of the same dish. I wasn’t so sure about how that would taste. Still wondering if there is such a dish. I love orange chicken but can’t do battered baked or fried. I’m going to experiment with that one. I just got an orange ginger sauce yesterday and will give it a try with that.

  20. My husband doesn’t read my blog, and quite honestly, I wish that I’d never told anyone I know in real life about it…I have to self-censor quite a bit.

    I was going to offer Helen’s advice on the grammar situ – that’s how I remember it.

    I think you are misinformed about pretzels being fried – I’ve always thought of them as a diet-friendly snack because they were baked. I eat Rold Gold and they are baked.

    The chicken pesto soup looks as good as I thought it would be! YUM.

    One last thing…I am so proud of you for swimming. Didn’t know that you were not really comfortable with it until today – which impresses me all the more. GREAT WORK, my friend! 🙂

  21. Your bowl of fruit looks so good. Also I thought that all pretzels were baked, too! Who knew?

    My boyfriend reads my blog on holidays between university terms, hehe. He catches up on all my past posts 🙂 But his mum reads my blog regularly! I think it’s really sweet. And both my parents religiously read my blog and all comments. I like having that kind of support.

  22. That orange chicken looks yum, wish I lived closer so I could come over for dinner sometime.

    Aubrey knows I blog but hasn’t ever read it or asked about it – he doesn’t care what I cook or say as long as he gets to eat what he likes 🙂

  23. My husband doesn’t know about it…yet! I’ll tell him sooner or later! He won’t read it though (he’s not on the computer much) but I’ll probably read it to him until he begs me to stop!
    PS Will you enter my contest? Thanks!

  24. the soup sounds fabulous! very warming and yummy 🙂

  25. I love orange chicken and that looks amazing! Definitely bookmarking this one!

    My husband does read my blog…he also proofreads for me! I’m always going back to change something after he reads!

  26. WOW – the orange chicken looks wonderful – it’s amazing how “fried” cornstarch makes things look. The potato creation at breakfast time looks awesome, too – love it!

  27. Ryan knows I blog but he doesn’t read it. Every once in a while he would but he isn’t too interested in it. He figures if I have something to say, he’ll hear about it!

  28. That orange chicken looks out of this WORLD!!!! I have to make that!!

  29. i think if i saw my hubby cruising my blog i would die. he’s just not into the blog scene, i wish!

    love the orange chicken, i really shouldn’t read food blogs late at night, now i’m craving it!

  30. Once again I’m jealous of your fryer. One of these days, one of these days. As for fried pretzels, I’m intrigued. I’ve never seen fried ones for sale anywhere around here. All ours are baked & fat-free, but I haven’t hunted for the fried kind. Biz, you are so blessed to have a hubby that is so supportive. My hubs is too and a really great buy, but pretty much the only time he reads my blog is when I ask him to (the only thing he does online is watch movies and go on an ex-Scientologist message board) and since I hate that I feel like I’m coercing him, it’s a rare thing.

  31. Wow I really like the looks of this chicken soup – pesto is such a great addition!!! I need to give this one a try for sure.

  32. I have no significant other so no they don’t 🙂 My brother said he’s been reading my new racing blog though.

  33. Wow, Biz – I am impressed!! Swimming is HARD – and 35 minutes with only one break rocks! I need this to motivate me to get in the pool. 😦

  34. My husband knows I have a blog but hasn’t ever wanted to read it. I’m not sure he knows I post most days, but he knows it’s mostly running and my deep thoughts on life, which he already hears way more about than he thinks is probably necessary! I’ve kept the blog anonymous though, other than telling two friends about it. I think someone could figure out who I am pretty easily from some of the details, but I didn’t want my name tied directly to it.

  35. Yum, that fried shickum looks perfect. I love baked pretzels.

    And no, my husband does not read my blog, in fact the other day I was looking at it and he looked at the screen and said the name of my blog and then said oh my god, what ARE you reading?! Lol. So yeah, he’s not interested.

    How lovely that you have a proofreader! I’m definitely jealous of that.

  36. I love, love, love orange chicken (the unhealthy stuff) and can’t wait to try this out. 🙂

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