Fast, healthy, “no-dressing” salad!

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This is yummy! Are you trying to lose weight? I am perpetually trying to lose weight or not regain the weight I have lost.  I have about 44 years of dieting “under my belt”, so I should be an expert, but my thoughts are constantly evolving.   At this stage of my life, taking good care of myself comes above weight loss in my priorities, so the perfect meal for me has abundant nutrients along with fitting my weight goals.

Here is a favorite lunch. The pictured bowl has about 4-5 cups of raw spinach under the fruit.  I top with an assortment of whatever fresh, delicious fruit is in my refrigerator.  This day it was strawberries, tangelos, pineapple, heirloom tomatoes on top, which provide enough natural sweetness that no dressing is needed.  Add garbanzo beans, kidney beans, cooked fish or cooked poultry if you wish.  As shown with the spinach and fruit, it is about 210 calories, 14% protein (8 grams), 8% fat (2 grams) ,  78% carbohydrates (44 grams) and 10 grams of dietary fiber.  330% of daily  vitamin A,  384% of vitamin C, 24% of calcium, and 32% of iron have been satisfied. This is making calories count!

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Filed under Fast Healthy Cooking, Healthy cooking, Salad, Weight loss

Fast Food Reinterpreted

Fast food

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When I cook from a recipe book, I want to create that person’s vision of the meal before tampering with the ingredient list.  That is time consuming.  The other night I was hungry!  I needed some things at Trader Joe’s before dinner and grabbed a bag of “Trader Ming’s” Kung Pao Chicken” on impulse (after reading the label) intending to “wok” a fast meal, and was it fast!

I had purchased a Whole Foods in-store-pre-cut veggie mixture the day before and got that out.  After heating my wok the frozen pre-cooked chicken chunks hit the oil.  When it looked thawed and somewhat heated I dumped in the large package of fresh pre-cut veggies, plus the palm-sized frozen packet of veggies that came with the mix.  I stirred until the veggies were nearly cooked then added one of the two packets of frozen Kung Pao sauce.  Voila! A meal in 5 minutes.  No chopping. No cutting. No measuring. No waiting.  I have a better 5-minute-meal idea for next time, so come back and see, but this was delicious!

The “Trader Mings” Kung Pao Chicken Stir Fry ingredients are real food: chicken dark meat chunks, whole eggs, soy bean oil, water, cornstarch, chili powder, salt, white pepper in the meat chunks.  Frozen veggies were ginger, garlic, green onion, green bell pepper, red bell pepper, brown onion, fried dried chili, water chestnut, peanuts. Sauce was water, sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, cornstarch, lime juice, ginger, garlic, green onion.

The veggie combo cut for me by Whole Foods included fresh zucchini chunks, snow peas, summer squash, red bell peppers, green bell peppers, red onion, cauliflower, broccoli, all as fresh as if I had cut them myself.

Without the time-saving ingredients I bought, I would have ended up eating something much less fresh and healthy.

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Filed under Chicken, Fast Healthy Cooking, Healthy cooking, meal in minutes, Wok cooking

Hong Kong-Style Mango Ginger Chicken

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I have often said that one or two great recipes make the purchase of a cookbook worthwhile.  This is one of those recipes. Absolutely delicious!  Grace Young deserves to have people rush out and buy her book, Stir-Frying To The Sky’s Edge, just based on this recipe alone, p.124-125.

This meal is attractive with complementary colors bright green (bell peppers) contrasting with bright yellow (mango).  The sauce had a spicy-sweet-tanginess.  I had almost forgotten the red pepper flakes until I detected the little kick of spicy heat.  The wine and soy sauce provided a counterpoint to the sweet, ripe fresh fruity mango taste .

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I prepared all my ingredients ahead of time, so when it came time to do the cooking, all were at my fingertips, which made the process more smooth.

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I made one noticeable error, though it did not ruin my meal.  When I read “2 TBSP lightly beaten egg whites”, I mentally translated that to one egg white.  Oops. Too much egg white.  That was clear as soon as I started mixing the chicken with egg white and cornstarch, etc, and it got very sticky.

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I increased the cornstarch amount until it got drier as I expected it should be, and that seemed to solve the problem reasonably, though there was a little cornstarch-egg white dough left over.

I did not understand why the first step is to boil the coated chicken rather than wok the chicken, but I was not about to find out, so followed the instructions.  Watching the chicken cook reminded me of watching German dumplings rise from the bottom of a pan.

Reading more about wok cooking I discovered that coating chicken with egg white, then cornstarch and briefly boiling chicken before cooking it is the “velvet chicken” technique, a way to render chicken tender and juicy.

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The green bell pepper looked lovely as it cooked with the onion.  My onion was closer to minced than thinly sliced, but it did not affect the flavor, only the appearance.

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The sauce turned out to be wonderful, and did not taste too salty to my low-salt taste buds.  I did substitute low sodium soy sauce and low sodium broth.

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This would make a perfect dish to serve for company.  The mango is a festive, luxurious ingredient.  I used Manila mangoes, which are my favorites, and might be the same as the specified ataulfo mangoes.  They look alike on internet photos.  I have never seen the term ataulfo mango used here. Since the cookbook’s photo of the meal showed an approximately equal amount of mango and bell pepper, I increased the mango to two Manila mangoes, as they are quite small.

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I am thankful for Trader Joe’s frozen, prepared brown rice, as so far, when wok-ing, I have not yet managed to also get rice cooked, except the microwavable packets.

Hong Kong- Style Mango Ginger Chicken was prepared as part of the Wok Wednesdays project :

http://wokwednesdays.wordpress.com/

All participants have agreed to not reveal the recipe out of respect for author, Grace Young.

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Inspiration from “Easy Chinese: San Francisco”

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Ching-He Huang, shown above, is host of the Cooking Channel’s shows Easy Chinese: San Francisco and Chinese Food Made Easy.   I happened upon an episode of Easy Chinese: San Francisco while searching for cooking shows that feature healthy cooking from scratch.  Easy Chinese: San Francisco especially interested me, since I am having fun with wok cookery and live near San Francisco.

Ching-He Huang is absolutely delightful to watch, and the food she prepared looked delicious. Watching her cook is a treat.

Born in Taiwan to Chinese parents, Ms. Huang immigrated to South Africa at age five, then to Britain at age eleven.  Before producing her current shows for the Cooking Channel, she created the 2005, UK show, Ching’s Kitchen, and she appeared on Saturday Cooks, Daily Cooks, Market Kitchen and Cooking the Books, in the UK.  Her first cookbook, China Modern was published in 2006.  I counted a total of eight cookbooks she has authored to date.

Follow this link to find out more about Ching-He Huang’s Cooking Channel shows, discover 137 of her recipes, and view 8 short video clips from her programs.

http://www.cookingchanneltv.com/chefs/ching-he-huang.html

Ching-He Huang’s own website is here:

http://chinghehuang.com/

Referring back to my burned ginger and garlic dinner, I discovered in watching just one episode that Ching-He Huang stir-fries her ginger just briefly, to infuse the oil in the pan with ginger flavor. She is an inspiration.

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Filed under TV shows: Chinese cooking

Lessons learned

At times it seems we learn more from our mistakes than our successes.  It may be melodramatic to call it a “wok disaster” if I actually ate the meal, but it felt like a “disaster”.  I apologize in advance to those of you who have survived tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis.  I have not survived those, so I still use that word with casual abandon.

MISTAKE #1: I waited until I was absolutely starving before I started cooking, and that led me to….

MISTAKE #2: Even knowing that wok cooking goes quickly, I failed to have all ingredients ready to go into the wok before cooking, which led me to…..

MISTAKE #3: Charred ginger and garlic (the first step in the recipe)…..

MISTAKE #4: I continued on cooking despite charring the garlic and ginger, hoping somehow it would be lost in the dish.  It wasn’t.  (Note to self: Next time stop, scrub the pan, then start over.)

FINAL RESULT: A reasonable meal, which had pieces of charcoal in it that needed to be picked out or spit out, and  a kitchen that smelled like a kitchen fire for several days.  Not exactly appetizing.

I didn’t photograph the charcoal bits.

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Stir-Fried Chili Scallops with Baby Bok Choy

Recipe was from: “Stir-Frying To The Sky’s Edge”; copyright 2010 Simon & Schuster; by Grace Young; p. 154-155.

After choosing my new wok at The Wok Shop, I found the most adorable baby bok choy in a tiny market in SF Chinatown, so selection of this recipe was ingredient driven.  See Grace Young’s cookbook above, for the recipe (buy the book!)

The final result was like going to a terrific Chinese restaurant. The ingredients were perfectly cooked and not a bit overdone. The sauce had a lovely shiny glow:

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I learned some basic wok skills while preparing this meal:

1. Get all the ingredients assembled before starting.  Wok-ing is fast!

2. A basic starting routine is to heat the wok, add oil, then aromatics garlic and ginger.

3. Push aside aromatics, then sear protein undisturbed in an even layer for half its cooking time; stir-fry until done, then remove protein to a platter.

4. Stir-fry veggies in oil, then add the protein back in, cover with the sauce, and stir until finished.

I goofed when cooking, because I could not read the entire recipe and simultaneously keep up with the cooking. When the protein was half-cooked I added the veggies and sauce all at the same time and I never moved the protein to a platter.  Oops!  It did not seem to affect the taste any. Everything tasted perfectly prepared. I used prawns instead of scallops.

Next time I plan to reduce the high-sodium ingredients in the sauce because the taste was much too salty for my taste buds.  Typically I cook without added sodium.  I calculated that this meal had almost 2,600 mg sodium and I already had omitted the added salt and used low-sodium broth instead of regular broth.  The above sodium count does not include sodium that may be in the brown rice.

I have been mulling exactly how to reduce the sauce ingredients and still capture authentic Chinese flavor. It must be possible because Chinese restaurant food is less salty than this dish using the recipe as written.  I am not certain how to do it, though.  I plan to research recipes in my 1979 cookbook, “The Thousand Recipe Chinese Cookbook”, by Gloria Bley Miller and see if I can figure that out. I remember thinking that book was very expensive, though in 1979, it was $14.95 for 926 pages.

Tonight I am cooking the same recipe with scallops instead of the prawns I used the first time, and I will alter the sauce to reduce the saltiness, then edit this post to report my experiment.  The easy answer could be to cut salty sauce ingredients in half, but I may try to compensate in some way.

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Seasoning my new WOK

I was a little intimidated to season my carbon steel wok, but Tane at The Wok Shop had assured us that woks can almost always be resurrected, despite mistreatment, so I went forward.

The method I used is shown in the video, “Walking You Through Seasoning a WOK”,  by Tane of The Wok Shop:

Step 1 is to scrub the wok using dish detergent, then dry over heat.  I thought I was thorough, but when I applied oil in the next step, I noticed a grey-black carbon that accumulated on the paper towel when I spread the peanut oil  That made me wonder if I had scrubbed long enough and hard enough to remove the industrial oil.  I used a natural bristle brush from The Wok Shop, plus Palmolive.  If I did it again, I would use the steel scrub brush that Grace Young uses instead, and I would scrub it 3-4 times instead of twice, just to be sure the industrial oil is gone.  However, if I have industrial oil on mine, it is buried under a layer of peanut oil by now!

Step 2 is to coat with peanut oil, inside and out, then bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes.  After the wok cooled, I scrubbed with tap water, then repeated the oil and bake step. It looked like this after 2 cycles of oven seasoning:

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Step 3 involves cooking chives or scallions and ginger in a few TBSP of peanut oil until the aromatic produce is fully charred, moving the veggies up onto all portions of the sides of the wok during the process.  Keep stirring! Here is the pan after stove seasoning:

After cooking my first wok dinner it looked like this; well on its way towards developing a mature patina:

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Grace Young’s video on how to season a wok is also terrific. but she skips the oven seasoning part of the process:

An article on Grace’s method is here, which has information I have not seen elsewhere:

http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-season-a-wokcooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-171893

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