Friday, February 19, 2010

Pineapple Chicken and Very Veggie "Fried" Brown Rice

I don't concider myself a great cook of  Chinese (American Style) food by any stretch of the imagination.  Frankly, it's just not my cup of green tea.  That is mainly because of the salt, fat and calorie content AND the dubious "other" ingredients found in your standard slop trough buffet joints.  However, I do think there are some wonderful flavor combinations to be explored and one of my favorites is the marriage of pineapple, chicken and bell peppers.  That being said, I set out to determine if a healthier, lighter version could be made.  It turns out that it CAN!
It just so happens we had it for dinner last night. 

If you are looking for the thickly breaded, deep fried nuggets of chicken in a cloyingly sweet pineapple sauce, you won't find it here.  The chicken is flash sauted and then simmered in sauce.  A small amount of potato starch mixed with chicken broth at the end thickens the sauce just enough to glaze the chicken and vegetables.

The brown rice is more veggies than it is rice.  That was deliberate.  We eat late and I try to keep my evening carbs from starches low but I still wanted a side of "fried rice".  With this recipe, I could have a generous scoop (3/4 cup) and still not exceed the mere 1/3 cup of rice I would normally eat.  The other side is one of my all time faves in the produce aisle...crisp, sweet Sugar Snap Peas.  Flash sauted and sprinkled with a few drops of Sesame Oil and some toasted black sesame seeds... they are addicting!  I have to make 1 1/2 pounds for two people.  One pound for me and the rest for my husband. 

Pineapple Chicken

1 pound organic boneless, skinless chicken breast, 1" cubes
2 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 cup organic diced red bell pepper
1/2 cup organic diced green bell pepper
1/2 cup diced onion*
2 cloves pressed garlic
2 cups chopped organic Roma Tomatoes
1 1/2 cups cubed fresh pineapple
1 cup unsweetened pinapple juice**
2 tablespoons organic brown sugar or succanat
2 tablespoons organic apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon reduced sodium tamari
1/2 inch fresh ginger, grated
1//4 cup water or reduced sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon organic potato, corn or tapioca starch
1/2 teaspoon dark sesame oil
slivered scallions
toasted black sesame seeds

Heat olive oil in a large sauce pan.  Add the chicken and brown lightly.  Chicken does not have to be cooked through at this point.  Remove chicken with a slotted spoon and set aside.  Saute the bell peppers and onion for 2-3 minutes; stir in garlic and cook 1 minute more.  Add diced tomato, pineapple juice, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, tamari and fresh ginger.  Bring mixture to a boil; reduce heat and add chicken back to pot.  Simmer covered for 10 minutes.  Carefully stir in pineapple chunks; return lid and simmer additonal 5 minutes until pineapple is tender.  In a small bowl, dissolve starch in chicken broth or water.  Increase heat to pineapple chicken until it just starts to boil.  Stir in starch slurry until sauce thickens and looses it's cloudy appearance.  Stir in sesame oil for flavor.  Garnish with sliced scallions and toasted black sesame seeds. 

*It is not necessary to purchase organic garlic or onions unless you just want to.  Their pungent oils are natural deterants to pests and the vegetables are therefore not sprayed. 

**You may substitute organic canned pineapple chunks in natural juice.  Just drain the chunks and set aside while the dish simmers.  Adding the pineapple along with chicken and simmering for the full 15 minutes will just disentigrate it.  You may add the canned pineapple after the dish is finsihed and stir to heat through.
Very Veggie "Fried" Brown Rice

1/2 cup (dry) organic brown rice
1 1/2 cups water or unsalted chicken broth
2 teaspoons olive oil
about 1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup diced onion
1/4 cup organic diced red bell pepper
1/4 cup organic diced green bell pepper
1/4 cup organic celery, diced
1/2 cup organic carrots, diced
1/4 cup thawed organic green peas
1/4 thawed organic corn kernels
1/2 teaspoon dark sesame oil
1 tablespoon reduced sodium tamari
scallions to garnish

Cook brown rice in unsalted water or chicken broth until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender.  Uncover rice and fluff with a fork; set aside.  Heat olive oil in large saute pan.  Add both bell peppers and onion; saute 2-3 minutes.  Stir in celery and carrots.  You will need to have extra chicken broth on the side to add to the pan since there isn't very much oil.  Cook veggies until crisp tender.  Stir in the cooked rice, thawed peas and corn, sesame oil and tamari.  Stir "fry" 2-3 minutes adding additonal broth as needed to keep rice from sticking.  Serve with pineapple chicken, garnised with scallions and black sesame seeds.

Sesame Sugar Snap Peas

This really isn't a recipe at all...too easy!  Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a large skillet.  Add desired amount of pea pods.  Saute until crisp tender.  Sprinkle with a few drops of sesame oil and sesame seeds; toss to coat.

This meal serves 6 people
 Per serving:  328 calories, 7g fat, 44g carbohydrates, 22g protein, 7g fiber, 481mg sodium

*Amounts are as close as I can figure out without professional nutritional analysis so don't hold my feet to the fire.  They are close enough for government work!

Zen Dinner


(c) copyright Jill Anderson
The Homegrown Gourmet

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Fort Myers, Florida, United States