Sunday, September 18, 2011

Quote Unquote Stir Fry

Lately I've been occupied by revolutionizing my diet. When I was a kid, we basically lived on ham steaks, Hamburger Helper, and spaghetti. (Love you, Mom!) This was totally fine, because I was a really picky kid. There was a period of a year, year and a half when I refused to eat anything but spaghetti and grilled cheese. (Slight hyperbole; or maybe not so slight. Ask my mom.) My mom was rarely experimental, from a combination of her own gastronomical upbringing, her work schedule, and her children's pickiness. When my dad and step-mom got experimental (they were from Southern and Italian households, respectively) I simply said no, or choked down one or two bites and mashed up the rest until it didn't look edible anymore.

When I got to college, and more specifically, when I moved onto campus my junior year, I began to see the eating habits of other people. It really hit home my senior year, when my roommates Chelsea and Mimi were both all about healthy eating (not that you're not, Kayla...<3). So I made some changes. I bought fewer frozen meals, started eating yogurt, took salads to Main Campus for lunch, cut back a little on my massive Mountain Dew addiction, etc. I started trying to cook more. Buuuut for the most part I stuck to simple stuff: pasta (and to kick that up a notch, I'd use alfredo sauce from the jar!) mostly, with some burgers and chicken tenderloins thrown in. I switched to turkey burgers, so I basically haven't eaten red meat for like two years.

Now, I'm not heavy (pretty much the exact opposite, actually), I don't really have any health problems, so this is all preventative, essentially. I'm trying to learn more about nutrition, and I'm trying to learn about cooking as well; what flavors go together, what are different methods of preparation, that kind of thing. I only just recently found out what broil meant.

Recently, however, I've undertaken two of the most radical changes to my diet ever: no more soda (goodbye forever, Mountain Dew!) and no more grains.

The former should be obvious. My boyfriend Andrew will tell you that the two leading causes of obesity in Amurica are soda and potato chips. The latter is slightly more complicated. It was brought to my attention by the recent wave of gluten-free everything, and by a close friend, Caroline, who along with her mother Laurie has a gluten intolerance. Laurie has a blog, Food for Primal Thought, where she writes about her gluten-free, primal diet lifestyle. The primal bit is a step I'm not taking (yet? haha) but her "Primal Wisdom" section intrigued me. The first myth/fact pairing claimed that grains, formerly thought to be a crucial part of the human diet, are in fact a very poor source of even the nutrients that they're touted for.

Laurie wrote about how giving up grains had relieved her from joint pain, headaches, and fatigue, among other things. My boyfriend's mother Deb has also almost completely eliminated grains from her life, albeit not because of a gluten intolerance. She told me the same thing: fewer headaches, more energy. This is what has attracted me. I get frequent headaches, and my energy level hovers constantly around low. It's also about spurring myself into exploration: if I don't give up the bulk of what I eat (pasta, bread), I'll never learn to eat or cook anything else.

So! I'm in the process now of finishing off the grains I still have (down to just some pasta), meanwhile trying to buy things to replace them. I've still got my chicken and turkey burgers, but I'm proud to say that I've been eating apples, bananas, salads, green beans, all that fun stuff. I've got celery (which I like to eat with peanut butter), corn, broccoli, cauliflower and cantaloupe, and carrots and cashews have replaced cookies and crackers as munching foods. It's definitely a start, and one that I feel pretty good about.

But the truth is I'm still scared of a lot of vegetables out there, and I'm scared of cooking them. So I was looking through a recipe book called College Cooking that Chelsea has to see what recipes looked good, which didn't have grains, or which I could take the grains out of, when I saw a chicken and broccoli stir fry. It had rice. Rice is a grain! But I decided to check it out, and it appears what white rice is generally considered gluten free, so I figured it was good, especially since I'm not actually gluten intolerant.

So I decided to have this chicken and broccoli stir fry for dinner, only I cheated and didn't actually stir-fry it--hence the quotes in the title. Here's what I did instead:

Chicken and Broccoli "Stir Fry"

I put two chicken tenderloins in a frying pan, doused them with soy sauce and sprinkled them with fresh ground black pepper and garlic powder (the original recipe called for pepper and chopped garlic, so I figured that would work). I put a little olive oil in the pan too, because the soy sauce started to smoke a little and I hoped the oil would keep it from burning. I covered them with a glass pot lid and turned the stove to medium heat.

For the rice I just used Minute rice, 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup rice for one serving. The directions say to bring the water to boil and then add the rice, but I put the rice in at the beginning and it was fine. I brought the rice and water to a boil, then covered and removed from heat, then let it sit to soak up the water.

For the broccoli, I had a small package of Green Giant frozen broccoli cuts that you can steam in the bag in the microwave, so that's what I did, just following the directions on the box. I didn't eat all three servings, obviously, so I just spooned out what I wanted and put the rest in a Tupperware container.

Once they all were done, I cut the chicken up and combined them! I put a little margarine in the rice to keep it from sticking, but I didn't need to add anything else. Can I say that soy sauce is like, my new favorite thing? It completely saturated the chicken while cooking, so the meat was super flavorful, and in the dish it rubbed off onto the rice and seasoned the whole thing. It was soooo delicious. I was super proud of myself, and it looked legitimate too. Check it out and be jealous:


  1. That looks great! I hate to tell you this, but almost all soy sauce is made with wheat. Stupid, isn't it? And soy is really bad news anyway, but you can find the gluten (wheat) free kind at Saubel's. Rice and corn are the two grains that I do eat occasionally. Neither contain gluten. Everyone is gluten-intolerant really. Gluten is a protein that is not well-digested by anyone and therefore causes all sorts of inflammation problems for all. Someday we will have to talk in person about this :) One more thing - please, please, please never use margarine. Vegetable oils in general are inflammatory killers - hard to believe after all the hype I know. Go for real butter - it's delicious and contains vitamin K2 which you need to absorb calcium properly. (And red meat is very good for you if you get the grassfed kind). We really have to talk... :) Thanks for the shout-out!

  2. Haha I'd love to talk about this in person at some point. It's hard to sort out the truth when you hear so many different things. Andrew, for example, has begged me please, please, please never to use butter! I was raised on margarine but have no personal qualms with butter; he's the one who will take convincing, especially on the vegetable fats v. animal fats thing, and you know if I start doing it I'll have to explain it to him or he'll freak out. But yeah, I'm looking forward to figuring all this out, and I definitely look forward to talking with you about it. :D