Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Cornucopia of Bright Vegetables

Sometimes inspirations for healthy eating can come in the most unlikely places. This year during their debut concert, one of my youth chamber singers brought in two or three plastic containers of salad that her mother had made for everyone to share. It consisted of lightly poached assorted vegetables with crab sticks, tossed together and eaten on its own. No dressing, no nothing - it didn't need it, and it was both healthy AND so good.

This memory came floating back to me about a day or two ago when I was deciding how to fit in a good, substantial healthy dose of vegetables in my diet, and not really wanting to have yet another lot of salad greens for lunch. So I made up an entire batch of it, had a most excellent meal, and saved the rest for today to accompany an experimental Mushroom Rice Cooker Risotto.

I used Veganza's recipe here as a base, but left out the canned tomatoes and the veggies in the recipe since I didn't have any on hand. Instead, I tossed in a pack of sliced brown mushrooms as per steps 1-3, let it cook, then stirred in some frozen baby peas at the very end of cooking time just to warm them through.

I was a bit skeptical as to how the risotto would turn out - I've always done my risottos the traditional way of dying over a hot stove and stirring all that stock in ladle by ladle. Well, despite being just a little too sticky (I'll cut down the water or stock next time perhaps), the entire thing came out BEAUTIFULLY. Tasty too!

It paired up beautifully with the remaining poached vegetables for a healthy, satisfying meal. Just what the day called for.

And in honour of Amanda, and her wonderful supportive mother, here is Amanda's Mum's Healthy Salad, modified a little to fit what I had on hand.

Amanda’s Mum’s Clean Healthy Salad

A selection of vegetables, whatever you want, really, but this is what I used:
1 small to medium head broccoli, cut up
2 medium potatoes, diced fairly large
1 large carrot, chunked
1 pack snow peas
2-3 fresh baby Portobello or white mushrooms
A few crab sticks (optional)

Poaching liquid:
Water, enough to cover vegetables and then a little bit extra
2 tsp salt or less
A good glug cooking wine (I used cider, just use whatever you got)

1. Put the potatoes and carrots into a medium saucepan which has a lid. Add enough water to cover the vegetables, and then about maybe an inch or inch and a half more (there are other veggies that will go into the poaching liquid so you don’t want too little liquid in there). Add 1-2 tsp salt. Add a glug of cooking wine or cider.

2. Set the saucepan on the stove and bring to a boil. Continue to boil for a minute or two, then check on the carrots – they should be tender. Using a slotted spoon or just draining them on the side of the pan, lift the carrots out of the poaching liquid and set aside. Bring liquid to the boil again.

3. Add in the broccoli. Give it 30 seconds to a minute, just enough to blanch, rather than boil. Lift the broccoli out with a slotted spoon, or drain it on the side of the pan, and set it aside with the carrots.

4. Add in the snow peas and mushrooms. Give another 30 seconds or a minute, then lift out and drain. Set aside with the carrots and broccoli.

5. Add the crab sticks, if you have – you just want it to heat through, because if you cook it too long it turns into this nasty sticky swelled mess.

6. By this time the potatoes should be completely cooked through and soft. Lift them (and the crab sticks if you’re using them) out of the poaching liquid and drain, then add them to the other vegetables. Toss them lightly just to mix up the colour and all.

7. Save the poaching liquid if you can – it makes an excellent stock for rice, soups, or risottos even.

8. Serve veggies either hot or cold, on their own or with other protein like shredded meat, even boiled eggs.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Salad Mondays, and the Versatility of Poached Chicken

Since my last post about my reluctance in eating salad (and that was a while ago *coughcoughcough*) I've instituted something called Salad Mondays.

Every Monday, a good friend and I have started coming to our choir rehearsal studio a bit earlier with ingredients for salad - it varies from week to week. We've been known to bring chick peas and tuna, a can of sweet corn, fruit cheese, grapes - whatever we fancy can be put into a salad without endangering the taste and mucking it up. The basic idea is, we throw everything together in a big bowl, mix it all up, and then we have a good, healthy, filling and tasty salad for dinner. Plus, we get to say that we've eaten ONE very healthy meal, with all those fresh veggies and fruits.

This does mean that I do tend to look for salad ideas, because by Monday sometimes my brain goes completely blank, and I default to tuna-chickpea salad. Which is all well and good, but one needs variety after all.

So when I stumbled upon Maki of JustBento's recipe for easy poached chicken yesterday, the 'Ahah! Salad material!' lightbulb went off in my head.

The recipe calls for half a chicken breast, but they were out of them at my grocery store so I used chicken strips instead. They turned out just fine. I didn't have sherry on hand so I used the remains of some hard cider I had in the fridge to add to the poaching liquid. And as usual I forgot something - the ginger in the recipe, which would have added a very nice flavour to the chicken.

But! And this is the point - the chicken turned out amazing, even with the substitutions and my brain fart about the ginger. Tender, flavourful, and not overpoweringly salty, it's perfect for light salads, adding to soups, quick sandwiches, and quick breakfast frittatas.

Defintely a keeper as far as recipes go.

In fact, it inspired me so much, I came up with another quick salad recipe - just in time for next Monday too, even better!

Shuku’s Poached Chicken Salad with Shichimi Togarashi and Capers
Serves: 1 hungry, or 2 less hungry, people

½ poached chicken breast, using Maki's recipe
A good handful salad leaves (a mix of lettuce, rocket, wild greens etc works well)
A handful cherry tomatoes
2-3 spears fresh baby corn, snapped into rough rounds
2 tsp drained capers

2 tsp. gluten-free mayonnaise / soy mayonnaise
A splash mirin
Shichimi togarashi

1. Tear salad leaves into bite-sized pieces and place in a medium-sized bowl. Add cherry tomatoes, capers, and baby corn rounds.

2. Shred chicken breast or cut into bite-sized pieces. Add to salad vegetables.

3. Add the mayonnaise, a dash of mirin and a good dash of shichimi togarashi, and toss everything together.

4. Serve right away.