Have Fun With Food – Lose That Chicken And Broccoli

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Original RecipeIf you’ve been reading here a bit, you probably already know this. If you’re new, I want to explain that my mission is to prove that being healthy isn’t boring and doesn’t involve lots of chicken and broccoli. It can if you want it to but if you really want plain ole chicken and broccoli, we need to sit down and have a chat. LOL, life is too short to not live a little with your taste buds.

Celebrations in my former life (as I like to call it) used to be all about the food. It’s Thanksgiving, I want to enjoy. It’s my birthday, I want to have fun. Enjoy and fun meant eat until I could barely move, and then eat dessert and pick at leftovers on top of that. Now I realize that I can still have fun and eat, but not end up feeling blurgh and laying around afterwards. Actually, it’s more fun the way I do it now.

Lately I’ve taken to experimenting with fancy meals like Pasta Fra Diavolo and Pan Roasted Quail with Quince. I usually hack an idea that I found elsewhere and attempt to recreate it. I’ve gotten a couple emails asking exactly how I do this so I wanted to kinda run you through what I do. Use it as a starting point and come up with your own process based on what works for you. My goal is to have tons of flavor, save money, enjoy the cooking process, and make meals that are quick to make and lower in calories.

In past years, birthday celebrations were at a restaurant of choice but this year I decided to celebrate at home with a special dinner. There is a fancy neighborhood that opened near here and has a bunch of quite expensive trendy restaurants. These are way out of my price range but I can still dream. That part is free. Saturday morning I jumped online, found a listing of the restaurants, and picked one that sounded good. It was a gastro pub. Ooooh la la! šŸ˜‰

I went over their menu and picked what I would order for birthday dinner if I were actually there – Cast Iron Pork Tenderloin with Cinnamon Butter Sticky Rice and Banana Tamarind Salsa. Sounds yummmmm. That’s the picture of it from their website above. So let’s Quest-ify it. For fancy meals, I’m a steak person so I immediately thought beef tenderloin instead of pork. It has an Asian theme so I quickly googled and found a recipe for an Asian steak marinade on the Chicago Tribune’s website.

Beef tenderloin is quite the tasty morsel and it doesn’t require more than salt and pepper, so I wouldn’t think of marinating it BUT the marinade gave me ideas for Asian flavors like lime, garlic, ginger. I decided to use these as the basis of an Asian salsa. Salsas usually have a pepper, vinegar, herb, and something chunky. Hmmm, bananas don’t scream Asian to me so I dropped that and went with Asian pears. I ended up with a mixture of pears, soy sauce, lime, garlic, ginger, serrano pepper, cilantro, and sake.

When I figure out the ingredients, I play around with the amounts as I go. I don’t have them in mind going in. I add more of this and that, and take notes on an index card so I can type it up later. If I add more or less, I cross out and put the new amounts. Lots of scribbling involved. At this point, I had the steak and salsa and moved on to the rice. I googled sticky rice and found a dessert recipe for black sticky rice with a coconut cream sauce and grilled pineapple.

I knew I didn’t want a dessert version so I changed that up big time since the black rice intrigued me. I dropped the sugar and pineapple completely. I kept the coconut, but I lighten up both the fat and the coconut flavor by using a coconut almond milk blend. I used Asian spices in the rice for the savory Asian flavor combined with the slight coconut. Tah dah! Side of rice was in the works. I also grilled asparagus for a nice veggie side and tossed them in salt and sesame oil.

Accidental Fitness Quest VersionPretty darn easy. Find a starting point, think about flavors, grab a recipe, add/drop/combine, and play with flavors and textures. We have an upscale grocery store near here that I frequent often. It’s not a Whole Foods type place, but has a mixture of foodie selections combined with food for the masses like me. I pulled together my list of ingredients and went shopping.

Were the ingredients more than what I would spend for a normal dinner at home, yes. Were they more than what I would spend at the restaurant, heck no. When all was said and done, I spent just under $28 for the ingredients but there was tons leftover. For example, I bought a quart container of the coconut almond milk but only used 3/4 of a cup. Plenty left for other meals this week.

Dinner took about 30 minutes to throw together. Each plate came to 358 calories. Yep, you read that right. That’s a picture of my version for birthday dinner. Not bad plating either if I say so myself. One of the things that I find that I do now is actually taste my food.

I take a bite and enjoy it. I chew slowly and see how the flavors came together. The different textures. I really taste it instead of eating just because it’s there and not really noticing how it tastes. I find that I eat much less and end up happier because I eat just enough to feel full and not over stuffed.

I don’t even do it with the intent of this happening. It just ended up being one of the outcomes. A light bulb moment so to speak. I’ll be posting the recipes for dinner throughout the week so look for them. I’m also going to be playing around with the leftovers to use them in different ways than dinner. So this is how I usually hack an idea and make it mine.

Enjoy your food, savor it, play with textures, colors, and ingredients. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time, money or involve lots of calories. If you’re looking to learn more about how to eat for your goals, figure out how to lose the chicken and broccoli from your days, and have fun along the way, let me know at adrianne@growthstimulustraining.com. I’d love to talk about what we can do together in the virtual kitchen and Quest-ify some things.

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