Ginger Garlic Chinese Chicken

Bok Choy 5.7.13

Those of you who are with me on the low carb train know how difficult finding something acceptable to eat at Chinese restaurants. I’ve pretty much avoided going out for Chinese for the last year. There is usually some type of breading or coating on the proteins in the dishes and the sauces are full of sugars and/or corn starch. This was a difficult change for me…I loved spring rolls, crab rangoon, and the spicy/saucy goodness of most American Chinese foods!

So I got to work concocting a recipe that I could make in the comfort of my own kitchen. I came up with Ginger Garlic Chinese Chicken!!! It’s a nice blend of Asian spices and garlic-y goodness with a healthy portion of veggies.

Ingredients:
2 large chicken breasts
1-2 T coconut oil
1 head of bok choy chopped into uniform pieces
1 bunch of asparagus (approximately 1 lb.) chopped into 1-2 inch pieces
8 oz pre-sliced, pre-washed, ready to use white mushrooms
1/4 C soy sauce
2 t minced garlic
1 t Asian five spice seasoning
1 t ground ginger (I used the dried spice, but fresh is acceptable)
1/2 T dried basil
1 t red pepper flakes
artificial sweetener (this is subject to taste and I use liquid, which doesn’t add to the carb counts below)
xanthan gum (I used approximately 1 t…maybe 2)

Cut chicken into bite-size cubes. Sauté chicken in coconut oil until just cooked through. I added a splash of soy sauce and garlic during the cooking process. Remove from pan (either large cooking pot or wok). Add veggies, soy sauce, garlic, five spice seasoning, and ginger. When the vegetables are cooked through (with still some bite to them…we don’t want mushy veggies people!), finish the dish by adding the chicken back into the mix and add the basil, sweetener, and xanthan gum. You will find the sauce will thicken in about 2 minutes after adding the xanthan gum.

I get approximately 4-6 servings per batch.

Nutritional Information for entire entree:
calories: 1395      fat: 65 g     protein: 165 g     carbohydrates: 51 g     fiber: 21 g
net carbs: 30 g

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Where to Start: Prepping the Kitchen

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So the kitchen is going to be your new best friend when you go all in on whatever WOE you choose. I don’t know about you, but before I went low-carb, I spent a lot of time eating in my car. Fast food drive-thrus were my best friends. Greasy wrappers littered my car’s floors and my refrigerator was almost empty…except for last night’s take home containers.

Preparation is key when starting out. One of the main things I did was cleared all of the junk out of my kitchen. Anything with wheat and sugar was placed in a bag. I gave these evil foods to a few friends for their enjoyment. Pasta, bread, fruit (at first), chips, juices, potatoes, chips, popcorn (oh, my salty favorite!!!)…EVERYTHING that was not on the acceptable food list was OUT!

I have so many websites with GREAT recipes that are low-carb and easy to make. I really try to think of what I want to make for the next week or so before I go shopping. At first I kept my menu fairly simple consisting of chicken, salad, and veggies. As I learned what I liked and disliked, I was able to expand my recipe repertoire.

Then I went shopping. I wrote a few posts ago what I keep in my pantry and fridge. You can read it here. I shop mostly on the outer aisles in the grocery store…produce, meats, and dairy. With the exception of the frozen department, there’s really not much I need from the inner aisles. I always make sure I have easy and quick snacks for on the go.

Again, I have to reiterate the importance of ENJOYING what you eat. If you hate the food, this is not going to work. I encourage people to try some new things every once in a while. Pallets really change after removing processed, sugary, carby foods. Get a little adventurous and try a new veggie or recipe every now and then. That’s how I fell in love with my cauliflower pizza (read about it here)!

What I “Get” To Eat

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Most of the time, when someone goes on a “diet,” there is this self-sacrificing mentality. “I have to give up this and that and those!” Sure, I removed wheat, sugar, and some high starch vegetables from my diet, but the list of acceptable foods is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay longer than the list of no-no’s.

When many people change their food lifestyle, especially when they are “forced” to do so due to medical issues, the focus is placed on what they will be missing out on. Don’t get me wrong, I have thrown a few pity parties due to the choices I’ve made to remove certain foods from my diet, but then I remember all of the delicious foods I can still have. Nope, I can’t have popcorn anymore, which was one of my favorite snacks and has been the most difficult to find a replacement snack that is acceptable. And I really miss fruit…pineapple, apples, kiwi, peaches/nectarines, plums…the list can go on for quite a while. Popcorn and fruit…my only foods I truly miss. Although I can’t eat these right now, I can slowly add them back into my diet eventually.

So what do I do when I wish I could have popcorn??? Well, for a little while pork rinds drizzled with butter was my snack of choice. It worked for a while. I got the buttery crunch I was looking for, but it just wasn’t the same. Eventually I succumbed to the fact that there isn’t a substitute and instead stocked my cupboards with other options. I love almonds and can have these tasty treats in moderation. I love all of the fun flavors available now…cocoa roasted, wasabi soy, smoked, salt and vinegar…yum!

I guess the point of this post is to remind you and me to stay positive. Don’t focus on the “can’t haves.” Focus on the “can haves!” Life is way too short to get hung up on the short list of things I can’t have. Last week (March 6, 2013), I reached my one year anniversary of starting this journey. I would have never made it this far if I hated what I was eating! If I dreaded my food choices there would have been no way to stick with it for so long. I am living a life I can ENJOY and I don’t feel deprived!

Getting Ready

I didn’t post as regularly as I usually do on my weekend off. I spent the two days resting and getting ready for recovering after my surgery. I currently live in a 2-story house so you can imagine how the stairs situation may pose a bit of an issue with a healing foot. That being said, I have a few wonderful people who are going to help me out the first couple of days after my surgery.

My very good friend, Tara (here’a nother shout out for ya, Girl!), is going to drive me to Pittsburgh for the procedure. I have to check-in at 5:15 a.m.!!!!!!! If I could get it changed to a later time, I would…sorry, Tara! That means we have to leave my house by about 4:30 a.m. Poor Tara probably needs to leave her house around 4:00 a.m.-ish. When I get home, I’m going to camp out in my bedroom on the 2nd floor of my house for the next couple of days.

Sherri, my housemate, is going to help me a lot, too…as if I don’t have enough to thank her for!!! She is such a HUGE help and I really appreciate all she does. The pooches really adore her as well.

To make life easier post-surgery, I’m going to be making a lot of food this weekend that can be reheated in the microwave or served as is. There are lemon flaxseed muffins in the freezer already (my FAVORITE!!!). I will also be making my famous (famous with the residential clients I work with anyway!) cucumber and tomato salad and curry tuna salad. I think I will probably make a meatloaf and roast some veggies as well.

I thought I would include my curry tuna salad recipe as it is one of my go-to meals…especially when I’m in a hurry and don’t have a lot of time. I can’t get enough of it!

Ingredients:
1 large can tuna in water
2 large spoonfuls Trader Joe’s Real Mayonnaise
1 t curry powder
1/4 t onion powder
1/4 t garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together until well incorporated. Chill in refrigerator for at least 1 hour for flavors to meld.

I absolutely LOVE to add halved grape tomatoes and cucumbers to the tuna salad. I usually use romaine lettuce leaves and make yummy lettuce wraps.

My Staples

Groceries 1.29.13

I make sure I always have low-carb options handy in my kitchen. Many people think that eating low-carb hurts the checkbook (heck, most people think healthy eating is expensive). It all depends on the effort you put into doing the research, looking for the best deals and being prepared before going to the grocery store. I will concede that if you eat steak and lobster every meal, then yes, you will notice a big difference in your wallet.

In this economy, everyone needs to be aware of where their money goes. I’ve begun loading up on cheap ground beef, chicken, and pork. I’ve even started looking through the weekly sales fliers that come out in the newspaper!!! I used to think that took a lot of time and effort for pennies worth of savings. Boy was I wrong!!!

For today’s blog post, I thought I would share some of the staple food items I keep on hand at all times (for the most part :)).

Refrigerator
Veggies: cucumbers, tomatoes, romaine lettuce, spinach, zucchini, cauliflower
Dairy: butter (usually salted), cream cheese, shredded cheese (it depends on my mood, but usually mozzarella), eggs, heavy cream
Condiments: Trader Joe’s Real Mayonnaise, Trader Joe’s Wasabi Mayonnaise, yellow mustard, Heinz Reduced Sugar Ketchup

Freezer
Veggies: cauliflower, brussels sprouts, cauliflower/broccoli blend, spinach
Meats: ground beef, chicken thighs and breasts, pork roast, some sort of seafood (whatever is on sale…shrimp, cod, salmon, etc.), bacon, ground sausage

Pantry
Flaxseed Meal
Oils: EVOO, canola, coconut, Pam Cooking Spray (butter flavor)
Vinegar: apple cider, red wine, white
Canned: green beans, tuna, chicken
Artificial Sweetener: Truvia (both granular and liquid)
Nuts/Seeds: pumpkin seeds (pepitas), almonds

Spices/Herbs/Other
Cocoa Powder
Baking Powder
Extracts: lemon (pure…my FAVORITE!), maple, vanilla (pure), almond (pure)
Spices: Northwoods Blend (Penzy’s), Bangkok Blend (Penzy’s), lemon pepper, cajun, Italian seasoning
Herbs (dried): basil, rosemary, parsley, chives
Salt
Pepper

Many of these things I already had in my kitchen when I started, however it can be somewhat expensive if you don’t have a stocked refrigerator or pantry. My suggestion is to start slowly. Get the absolute essentials first and work your way to stocking up. This list is very subjective, however I use most of the items above a couple of times each week, if not daily.

I have most of the above listed items at any given time in my kitchen. Being prepared for meals and snacks is key to staying on track. I usually plan my meals at least a day in advance when I’m working. On my day off, I usually prepare something to take with me to work. This way I have easily accessible items at any given time. Makes my life super simple!