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Recipes to enjoy while watching the big game

Just when you think you've made it through the holidays, and the eating season is over, you're invited to watch the big game with a group of friends. Whether you're a football fan or just focusing on the commercials and the half-time show like me, food is going to be a part of the plan. No worries because with these two recipes you can indulge, and you can keep on track with your Zone lifestyle at the same time. They're easy to prepare, fun foods with plenty of the flavors we've come to expect at sporting events. The Mexican Style Chicken and Beans can be eaten as a snack or as an entire meal, and the Buffalo Chicken with Blue Cheese Dip makes an excellent protein chaser for a beer or a glass of wine. Remember, alcohol is considered a carbohydrate for Zone balance purposes. Another tip, if you can't find dressings and dips made with good fats, buy the fat-free types and stir in some light (refined) olive oil. This will give your dips a satisfying richness without changing the flavor. Enjoy!

Buffalo Chicken with Blue Cheese Dip

Any amount of chicken and hot sauce can be used in this recipe as long as the hot sauce is fat free. The dip yields about 1 cup, containing 2 blocks each of protein and carbohydrate and about 10 blocks of fat in the entire cup. A Zone-friendly ranch dressing can be substituted for the dip.

Ingredients
Boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into large bite-sized chunks
Hot sauce (I use Frank's brand)
Celery, cut into 4-inch sticks

Dip Ingredients
1/2 cup fat-free plain yogurt
1/2 cup light sour cream
2 tablespoons reduced-fat blue cheese crumbles
Onion powder, to taste
Garlic powder, to taste
Sea salt, to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Toss the chicken breast chunks with the hot sauce, using enough sauce to thoroughly coat chicken. Spread the coated chicken on a cookie sheet that's been covered with parchment paper for easy cleanup. Bake just until cooked through. It can also be broiled or grilled if preferred.

While the chicken is cooking, stir together the dip ingredients, combining thoroughly.

Serve the chicken and dip with the celery sticks.

Mexican Style Chicken and Beans

Makes 8 servings (4 protein blocks, 4 carbohydrate blocks and 4 fat blocks per serving). This dish can also be served as an hors d'oeuvre by cutting the chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces.

Ingredients
1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast (I use 4 larger chicken breast halves and cut each one in half)
1 15-oz. can black beans, drained
1 15-oz. can red kidney beans, drained
1 large jar Southwestern-style salsa with corn and beans, medium heat or to your taste
2 oz. baked corn chips (about 36 chips), broken into large pieces
1 8-oz. package Shredded reduced fat Mexican cheeses

Optional, for garnish

Low-fat plain yogurt

Chopped green onions

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place the chicken in a 9 x 13 baking pan.
Distribute the black beans and the kidney beans evenly over the chicken to cover the entire bottom of the baking pan.
Spread the salsa over the chicken and beans.
Scatter the broken chips over the salsa.
Top with the shredded cheese.
Cover with foil, making several small slits in the foil and taking care that the foil does not touch the cheese.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking another 10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the dish is bubbly. If desired, the cheese can be reserved and added when the foil is removed.

Plate the dish and serve with the optional dollop of yogurt and a sprinkling of chopped green onion. For hors d'oeuvres serve the yogurt and green onions in separate dishes on the side.