Saturday, January 5, 2008

My unnatural love for the Whole Foods store

I spent my early twenties living in downtown DC, buying food from grocery stores that had more lottery ticket options than fresh fruit. I seriously got used to picking out the "not so terrible looking" apple from the sad little bins. The Safeway grocery stores had nicknames even.( I apologize in advance for their very un "p.c" monikors). One near me was called the "Soviet Safeway" because the aisles of food were known to be very sparse and sometimes bare. Another one a few blocks away was called the "Un-Safeway" because of some petty crime in that area. As you can imagine, neither of these images elicit happy feelings toward grocery shopping.

Here I am ten years later, in the suburbs, missing the hubbub of the city, but certainly not my neighborhood grocers. I literally heard the angels sing when I walked in Whole Foods for the first time. My husband lovingly refers to the store as Whole Paycheck, but I'm trying to prove him wrong. It's only when I go down the speciality aisles that I get into trouble. Which is exactly what I did today. Yes, I promised you a website that encouraged healthy, but affordable dishes. Sometimes when you're building a pantry of flavors, you need to spend a little more. I promise it will be worth it...and it won't be a weekly expense. All of the Asian flavors that I bought for the next recipe will last me six months - at least. So go ahead and divide your receipt by six and breath a sigh of relief.

I made this surprisingly quick and uncomplicated chicken and peanut stir fry for lunch today:

Sichuan-Style Stir-Fried Chicken With Peanuts - courtesy of Cooking Light magazine


2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

2 tablespoons rice wine or sake

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 teaspoon dark sesame oil

1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces

Stir-Frying Oil:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided


1/2 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth

2 tablespoons sugar

2 1/2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

2 tablespoons rice wine or sake

1 tablespoon Chinese black vinegar or Worcestershire sauce

1 1/4 teaspoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon dark sesame oil

2 tablespoons minced green onions

1 1/2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger

1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic (about 7 cloves)

1 teaspoon chile paste with garlic

Remaining Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups drained, sliced water chestnuts

1 cup (1/2-inch) sliced green onion tops

3/4 cup unsalted, dry-roasted peanuts

6 cups hot cooked long-grain rice

Preparation: To prepare marinade, combine first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl; cover and chill 20 minutes.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil in a wok or large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken mixture; stir-fry 4 minutes or until chicken is done. Remove from pan; set aside.

To prepare sauce, combine broth and next 6 ingredients (broth through 1 teaspoon sesame oil); stir well with a whisk. Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in pan. Add 2 tablespoons green onions, ginger, garlic, and chile paste, and stir-fry for 15 seconds. Add broth mixture, and cook 1 minute or until thick, stirring constantly.

Stir in cooked chicken, water chestnuts, sliced onion tops, and peanuts; cook for 1 minute or until thoroughly heated. Serve over rice.

6 servings (serving size: 3/4 cup stir-fry and 1 cup rice)

Since the sauce was going to be super flavorful, I decided to go the quickie route and make a "Boil in a Bag" 10 minute brown rice. No need to waste perfectly good chicken stock when the rice isn't the center of the meal.
  • The marinade took about 2 minutes to make, I purchased organic chicken from Whole Foods already cut into stir fry pieces, so this part of the recipe took no time at all. I put the marinating chicken in the fridge for 20 minutes while the water boiled for the rice.
  • The next steps of prep, the sauce took literally five minutes because of my vegetable chopper (I use it, like, twice a day. Get one. You will not regret it!) Also, I've started to use bottled minced ginger. It tastes very good and it cuts out the five minutes of peeling and grating of the fresh root.
  • After failing to "waft" the chili paste properly and getting more than I bargained for when smelling this foreign ingredient I decided to add only 1/4 teaspoon to the sauce. It provided just enough heat to make my lips tingle and not burn.
  • This is truly a wonderful meal that both my husband and I enjoyed. I would rate this very high and I'm adding to my list of meals I will make when guests are over for dinner. When you've lined up your ingredients before you start cooking, this dish moves from the stovetop to your table fast!
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