Winning recipe’s creator used food diary to improve eating habits

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian Health Reporter



Portland resident Nicole Evans, 39, has been making her White Bean and Green Chili Chicken Soup for family and friends for several years. The soup includes tomatillos, poblano chilies, Anaheim chilies, chicken breast and white beans.

See all the recipes

submitted for the contest.

See all the recipes

submitted for the contest.

Before Nicole Evans started keeping a food diary, she didn’t have a good idea of how much fat and calories she was consuming every day.

Once she started the diary, Evans realized she needed to make dietary changes.

An avid cook, Evans tried to incorporate more vegetables into her diet and stuck with meals low in fat, high in protein and full of nutrients.

One of her favorite creations: White Bean and Green Chili Chicken Soup.

“I just love chilies,” the 39-year-old Portland resident said. “I love spicy foods.”

The original recipe includes tomatillos, poblano chilies and Anaheim chilies. The dish is moderately spicy, but omitting the chili seeds can tame the heat, Evans said.

The dish also includes white beans and shredded chicken breast, making the soup protein-rich. The texture is closer to that of a chili than a soup, but Evans didn’t want to complicate the recipe name.

Evans also includes pureed spinach leaves, sneaking in a serving of vegetables of which her 4-year-old daughter is unaware.

“If I told her there was spinach in it, she probably wouldn’t eat it,” Evans said. “But since I puree it in there, she doesn’t know, and she loves it.”

Evans’ White Bean and Green Chili Chicken Soup isn’t just a favorite among her family and friends. Her dish earned her first prize in The Columbian’s Clark County’s Cookin’ contest and a $500 gift card to New Seasons Market.

Area residents submitted 61 recipes on the contest website ( earlier this month. Readers then voted for their favorites. A panel of health experts judged the top 10 recipes and gave Evans’ dish the top award.

Judge Sandra Brown, food safety and nutrition faculty for Washington State University Clark County Extension, said Evans’ recipe was innovative and used produce people might not usually eat but that was easily accessible. The dish is also naturally high in fiber, thanks to the beans.

“I thought it was a good recipe in that it used the dry beans,” Brown said.

The recipe was also appealing because it’s a one-pot meal, and people could use chicken left over from another meal in the soup, Brown said.

Judge Dominique Lopez-Stickney, a registered dietician at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center, said she

liked Evans’ recipe because it used healthy cooking methods. For example, the recipe used chilies and spices for flavor instead of salt, butter or oil. It also used chicken broth as a base instead of a creamy base, Lopez-Stickney said.

Evans’ dish also has a low proportion of calories from fat — 110 calories per 1 cup serving, with 37 calories from fat — which was a plus, she said.

“I know some of the recipes, it seemed to be a healthy recipe, but all of the calories were from fat,” Lopez-Stickney said.

Both judges said they were pleased with the variety of dishes submitted in the contest. Other top 10 recipes included a kale stew, turkey BLT cups, turkey and tofu salad, summer salsa and spring Brussels sprouts.

“Overall, I thought there were some really creative ones,” Brown said. “I really liked the variety.”

Marissa Harshman: 360-735-4546;;;

Winning Recipe

White Bean and Green Chile Chicken Soup

Servings: 8

By Nicole Evans of Portland.

2 cups dried white beans

1 1/2 pounds tomatillos, skins removed and rinsed

2 poblano chiles, seeded and rough chopped

2 Anaheim chiles, seeded and rough chopped

1 yellow or white onion, rough chopped

6 cloves garlic

1 1/2 teaspoons cumin

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

6 ounces fresh spinach leaves

1 bunch cilantro

1 1/2 pounds cooked, shredded chicken breast

2 cups chicken stock

Soak beans in water overnight.

Place beans in large pot, covered with water by 2 inches. Bring to a boil and then simmer until tender with salt, about an hour or so. You will need to add water every once in awhile to make sure the beans stay covered and get tender.

Place the following ingredients in another large stockpot, covered: tomatillos, poblano chilies, Anaheim chilies, onion, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper.

Cook until all veggies are softened, stirring occasionally. This will take about 20-30 minutes.

Puree until smooth.

Add the spinach and cilantro to the mixture and puree until smooth. Add the mixture to the beans.

Then add the chicken and chicken stock. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

Simmer for 15-30 minutes to allow flavors to blend together.

Serve with a bit of cotija or cheddar cheese, tortillas, avocado, lime wedges or whatever suits your taste.

Nutrition per 1 cup serving: 110 calories, 9 g protein, 10 g carbohydrates, 4 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 20 mg cholesterol, 173 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber, 1 g sugar.

Second-Place Recipe

Sue’s Kale Stew

Servings: 6.

By Sue Griffin of Vancouver.

1 bunch of kale

1 24-ounce can diced tomatoes

1 can tomato paste

1 medium to large onion (diced)

Vegetable broth

Garlic cloves (2-3 diced)

1 can of black beans

15 ounces frozen organic corn

Organic no-salt seasonings and pepper to taste

Put in a large soup pan: saute diced onions, garlic and seasoning in vegetable broth until onions are soft.

Add everything else, except kale, and more water or vegetable broth. Cook 10-15 minutes.

Wash kale and tear into medium-size pieces (throw away the stems).

Add kale to the pot. Cover and cook until kale cooks down in the pot, about 10 minutes.

Nutrition per 1 cup serving: 74 calories, 4 g protein, 15 g carbohydrates, 1 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 259 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber, 3 g sugar.

Third-Place Recipe

Turkey BLT Cups

Servings: 4.

By Stephanie Oury of Camas.

1 package turkey bacon

2 diced seeded tomatoes

1 package arugula

3 tablespoons light mayonnaise

Raspberry balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Invert a popover pan on top of a cookie sheet and wrap the backside of the popover pan with foil.

Using your turkey bacon, wrap each popover part of the pan either in a spiral or weave it like a basket, making sure that the bottom is covered as well. You may have to secure parts with toothpicks.

Bake in the oven 25-40 minutes until the bacon looks done.

Meanwhile, mix the tomato and arugula in a bowl.

In a separate bowl, mix the mayo and balsamic to taste. Add it to the salad.

After the bacon cups have cooled, pull them off the popover pan, fill with tomato-arugula mixture and enjoy!

Nutrition per 1 cup serving: 36 calories, 2 g protein, 1 g carbohydrates, 3 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 7 mg cholesterol, 162 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 0 g sugar.