Friday, February 25, 2005

Dinner on the Diet Wagon

So, I've renewed my commitment to sticking to WW -- after a near breakdown the other night, I can't deal with the idea of hating clothing shopping for the rest of my life and the only way to make it better is to work to make my body something to feel better about. I've been going to the gym (Cate and I have surprised ourselves with a near addiction to the gym, but we concluded it's a better addiction than, say, heroin). And now that I've read way too much information on dairy and dieting, I'm keeping track of dairy, water, and everything else I put in my mouth in my little book.

Anyway, I won't bore you with anymore dieting news. (Though the delicious dinner pictured was just 6 WW points (4 points for the Kung Pao Chicken and 2 points for the rice.) It seems that my Chinese Cooking for Dummies book has been getting a lot of action lately. Dan made Beef and Broccoli and Hot and Sour Soup from it earlier this week, and last night I decided to make Kung Pao Chicken.

Dan and I love spicy foods. While Kung Pao Chicken has a reputation for being battered, deep-fried and coated in a thick, oily sauce, this more authentic Chinese version is light, since it's stir-fried, but it still has a spicy flavor that complements the peppers and peanuts perfectly. Even though the ingredient list looks a little long, a trip to Kam Man and about $10 worth of sauces will have you set to make this and many other Chinese dishes.

Kung Pao Chicken
adapted from Chinese Cooking for Dummies
makes 4 servings (4 WW pts each, plus 2 pts for 1/2 C rice)

1 T oyster-flavored sauce
1 T Chinese rice wine (Mirin)
1/2 t cornstarch
3/4 lb chicken breasts (approximately 2), cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3 T chicken broth
2 T white vinegar
2 T dark soy sauce
2 t sugar (I used 1/2 sugar, 1/2 Splenda)
1 T cooking oil
1 t minced garlic
6 whole dried chilis, cut in half
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
1 cup sliced bamboo shoots
1/2 t cornstarch disolved in 1 t water
1/3 C roasted peanuts (walnuts or cashews can also be used)

1. In a medium sized bowl, mix oyster sauce, rice wine & cornstarch. Add chicken and stir to coat. Let sit while preparing other ingredients.
2. Wisk together chicken broth, vinegar, soy sauce, and sugar in a small bowl.
3. Cut both peppers into 1/2 inch dice. Mince garlic and cut chili peppers in half horizontally.
4. Heat pan (the larger the better, to avoid steaming the meat) over high heat. Add oil and swirl to coat. Add garlic and chilis, stirring until fragrant.
5. Add chicken and cook for about 3 minutes, until you don't see any raw pieces. Add peppers and bamboo shoots, cooking for an additional minute.
6. Add previously combined sauce and bring to a boil. Add the cornstarch and water and cook, stirring until it comes to a boil and thickens. Stir in peanuts. Serve with steamed rice.

This dish isn't overly spicy -- which is nice for serving groups of varying spice tolerance. If you (or one of your guests) prefers it a bit hotter, take a small bite of one of the chili peppers -- it'll warm up every bite you eat.


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