A Half-Empty Nest, Stir-It-Up Chicken and Snow Peas

Hello! Happy Wednesday! We’re just a couple of work days away from a fabulous 3-day weekend. I don’t know about you but I’ve been waiting for this weekend since February! March and April are really long months and Memorial Day can seem so far away when you’re dealing with the crazy “is it Spring or is it still Winter” weather. I’m looking forward to the rest! And the barbecues! ūüôā

What are your plans for the Memorial Day weekend?

As you know, Thing 1 left the nest yesterday. Yesterday was interesting. And odd. And surreal. It was pretty much a regular Tuesday – I did my track workout and then I went to work. I practiced the pigeon pose all day (I should be an expert soon!) and I ran a couple of errands at lunch. Normal, right? On my way home, Thing 2 asked if she could eat dinner somewhere else. Fine, I need to learn how to cook for 2 and not a crew anyway. So, that’s what I did. I found a great stir-fry recipe that serves 2 and that’s what my Sailor and I had for dinner. Still, not abnormal for it to be just the two of us. The girls both have social lives and would, at times, both be gone for dinner. It didn’t really hit me until this morning. She’s swearing in today and will actually fly off to Great Lakes. And I feel like I want to cry. She’s really gone – I mean, she’ll come back for leave and she’ll be in this area for school – but that’s it. She’s making a career and life for herself. I just don’t know how to process that. I’m so proud of her!

So, here’s that stir-fry recipe. It comes from the Abs Diet Cookbook. It’s absolutely packed with protein and flavor. The red pepper does give it a nice kick so, if that’s not your thing, you probably want to scale back to a pinch or maybe just use freshly cracked black pepper, instead. This took no time at all. We used up all the brown rice in the chili the other day so I was stuck with white rice but it was still delicious. The rice took the longest time to cook and that was only 15 minutes. Got more than 2 mouths to feed or want leftovers for lunch the next day? Double the recipe! Easy peasy. Enjoy!

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Stir-It-Up Chicken and Snow Peas
Makes 2 servings

2 teaspoons peanut oil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 thin-cut boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces or strips
1/3 cup frozen snow peas*
1/3 cup asparagus tips
1/3 cup thinly sliced carrot
1/4 medium onion, cut into bite-sized pieces or strips
2 tablespoons sliced almonds
2 teaspoons reduced-sodium soy sayce
Cooked brown rice
*I could not find any so I used some frozen bell pepper strips instead. They were delicious.

Heat the oil and red pepper flakes in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the remaining ingredients, except rice, and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, stirring often. Serve over the rice.

Nutritional information:
Calories 428; Protein 48g; Carbohydrates 28g; Fat 18g (saturated 3g); Sodium 505mg; Fiber 7g

Sweet-Spicy Chicken and Vegetable Stir-Fry

So, it’s been a busy past few weeks. The holidays always get crazy the closer it gets to Christmas. Of course, throw in susceptibility to the colds that are inevitably making their way around schools and places of employment and you have a disastrous combination.

Because we’re all so busy, time is a premium and being able to get dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes is priceless. The best way to make that happen is with stir-fry. Seriously, the most time consuming part of a stir-fry is the chopping and that doesn’t really even take that much time!¬† So, dinner on the table in a blink of an eye. Add in a Cooking Light recipe and it’s totally a win-win situation. And have I got a recipe for you! Sweet, spicy, chock full of vegetables and protein-packed chicken. What more could anyone ask for?

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Sweet-Spicy Chicken and Vegetable Stir-fry
(with double sesame rice)

3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into bite-size pieces
8 ounces sugar snap peas
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1/2 medium red onion, cut into thin wedges
1/4 cup sliced green onions
1/4 cup unsalted dry-roasted peanuts

1. Combine the first 7 ingredients, stirring well; set aside.

2. Heat a large wok or a large heavy skillet over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon canola oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add chicken; stir-fry 4 minutes or until browned and done.

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Remove chicken from wok. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil; swirl to coat. Add sugar snap peas, bell pepper, & red onion; stir-fry 3 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender.

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Stir in brown sugar mixture; cook 1 minute or until thickened.

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Stir in chicken; toss to coat. Sprinkle with green onions and peanuts.

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Serves 4 (serving size 1 cup)
Calories 349; fat 14.2g (sat 1.7g, mono 7.5g, poly 4.3g); Protein 31g; Carb 24.6g; Fiber 3.5g; Chol 66mg; Iron 2mg; Sodium 576mg; Calc 60mg

For the double sesame rice (Optional. Do what you like!)
Cook 1 (3 1/2 ounces) bag boil-in-bag long-grain rice according to package directions; drain. Stir 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds, 2 teaspoons dark sesame oil, and 1/4 teaspoons salt.
Serves 4 (serving size 1/2 cup)
Calories 119; Fat 3.3g (sat 1.7g), Sodium 148mg

General Tso’s Chicken

I don’t know about your house but we love Chinese food in my house. ¬†Whenever we move, we’re always on the hunt for the good place – because you know there are some NOT good places out there masquerading as good and just waiting to cripple your stomach with an excess of sodium or oil or just plain grossness. ¬†Well, we have a great place where we are now but, as a health conscious runner and mom, I generally put a limit on what we can order. ¬†Our normal is beef and broccoli and maybe some garlic chicken or curry chicken. ¬†Those dishes are usually sauteed instead of deep, fat fried and much better for our waistlines. ¬†Now, that doesn’t mean that we don’t wish we were eating General Tso’s Chicken or Orange Chicken – and we do get an order every now and then – but sometimes a craving absolutely must be fed. ¬†So, when I found this recipe marked “healthy and fast” on the Food and Wine Web site, I was hooked!

This recipe cuts a great deal of the fat by soaking the chicken in a cornstarch mixture rather than a full batter and then pan-frying in a small amount of oil rather than deep-fat frying. ¬†The result? ¬†Healthy homemade¬†General Tso’s Chicken – slightly sweet and a little spicy and amazingly delicious and on your table in about 30 minutes! ¬†Paired with some sticky white rice and some steamed broccoli, you’ve got a dish to rival anything you might get from your favorite take-out joint. ¬†Eight thumbs up in this house!

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General Tso’s Chicken

1-1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

1 large egg white

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon soy sauce (I use low sodium)

1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons cornstarch

1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into 1-1/2 in pieces

1 cup low sodium chicken broth

1 teaspoon Chinese chile-garlic sauce

3 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus more for frying

2 tablespoons very finely chopped fresh ginger

2 large garlic cloves, minced

4 scallions, thinly sliced

Steamed broccoli and white rice for serving

1. In a medium bowl, combine the toasted sesame oil with the egg white, 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce and 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. Add the chicken, stirring to coat. Let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the chicken broth with the chile-garlic sauce, sugar, the remaining 1/4 cup soy sauce and 1 tablespoon cornstarch.

3. In a large saucepan, heat the 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for high heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir the broth mixture, add it to the pan and cook until thickened and glossy, about 3 minutes. Keep the sauce warm over low heat.

4. In a large deep skillet, heat 1/2 inch of oil until shimmering. Carefully add the chicken, one piece at a time, and fry over high heat, turning once or twice, until very browned and crisp, about 4 minutes. Drain the chicken on paper towels and immediately add to the sauce with the scallions.  Cook until just coated, about 30 seconds. Serve right away with steamed broccoli and rice.

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