Welcome to Day 1 of our 30 Days to a Food Revolution. I am excited to be kicking off this adventure with a post from a good friend, Shirley Braden. Shirley is the author/owner of the blog, gfe–gluten free easily. She was diagnosed as gluten intolerant in June 2003 after a lifetime of health issues caused by gluten. She’s been gluten free ever since and is now happy and healthy. She leads the King George Gluten Intolerance and Celiac Group, which she formed in 2004. She also serves on the council of a local GIG group and edits its newsletter, and is a founding member of a local health initiative. She’s a relentless advocate for celiac and gluten intolerance education, always speaking at health fairs and other public forums.
Shirley’s recipe: Garlic Lime Chicken
Shirley’s tip: make your own instant food
Tucked into my planner is the little gem above. I clipped it out of our local newspaper. It’s dated April 23, 2008. Yes, it’s been in my planner for 2 years now. Sometimes the clipping gets pushed to the back, but then I clean out my planner and bring it to the front again. “People spend hours looking for instant food.” Think about that for a moment. The truth and irony in that statement made me laugh out loud the first time I read it. And, it still amuses me. But, admittedly, it also saddens me, too. People really do spend hours looking for “instant” food. In fact, I’ve “been there, done that.” It’s been a very long time, but yes, I bought into the instant food thinking at one time. The concept of instant food is largely a misnomer. Well, at least the type of instant food that’s immediately brought to mind in this Graffiti commentary is. For one thing, how instant is this food really? And, secondly, does the “instant food” purchased really equate to food? Last, can we make instant food at home using real food? How?
Other than the amusement factor, you might be wondering why I have held on to this clipping? Well, I find that reading this little nugget from time to time (or even thinking about it) keeps me “grounded.” It reminds me to cook with real food and not to get too hung up on cooking a meal. In other words, I am reminded to keep it simple and skip the martyr role for the time I spend in the kitchen. Don’t get me wrong … although most of the time I love cooking, I’m not immune to coming home after a long day and plopping on the sofa and not even wanting to think about preparing a meal. But, after I run through the “instant food” options, I usually get up and make a really good meal in a relatively short amount of time. Cooking with real food provides a much more satisfying meal, we know what we are eating, we don’t have to leave home, plus the cost is almost always less … or at least a better value for the quality and nutrition offered.
Folks do spend hours looking for instant food in the canned and frozen aisles of the grocery store, at restaurants, and, even at fast food restaurants. Despite the label of “fast,” one who frequents fast food restaurants can spend hours there over several visits. While I have always baked from scratch, there was a time when I would load up my grocery cart with boxed “helpers,” pasta “meals,” frozen pizzas, and much more. We’d even dine out once a week plus stop at fast food restaurants one or two times during that same period. For many, instant food simply equates to dining out and not cooking. Mr. GFE and I spent an hour and a half dining out the other evening. (That didn’t include the hour round trip to get to the restaurant.) We had a lovely time and our meal was actually real food and quite enjoyable. However, because of the time taken, one really couldn’t call our meal instant food. Yet many people opt for eating out because they want “instant” food. And, another consideration … maybe the hours referenced in the graffiti statement is not just talking about the hours spent in actual shopping or eating out, maybe it’s also alluding to the hours that one has to work to pay for these instant foods.
Advertising does everything possible to make us think we don’t have the time—that we need the instant food. There are slogans like “Home cooked food without the hassle.” And, so many individuals have bought into this line of thinking, that they’re spreading the instant food gospel, too. Whenever I share homemade baked goods with folks, at least one person always says something like, “It’s great that you have the time to bake from scratch.” The truth is I don’t have any more time than the next person, but baking and cooking with real food is important to me. And, I can bake a lot with real ingredients in a relatively short amount of time.
What do the people who eat this instant food think of what they are eating? If you ask them “How’s the pizza?” or “What do you think of those cookies?” The responses are usually “it’s okay” or “it’s not bad.” Those statements alone are a sad commentary. Why should we accept “okay” or “not bad” for the taste of our food? Fresh, real, and delicious is not what comes to mind for most of this instant food.
The other point that needs to be considered, which I mentioned earlier, is whether the instant food being consumed actually meets the definition of food. Is the frozen microwave meal that has Healthy, Smart, or Lean in its title really any of those things? Such product labels often list about 20 ingredients (some have more!) and include items like sodium benzoate, chicken powder, and high fructose corn syrup. Is that food? The fact is that food scientists work for these companies and their job is to create products that emulate food in taste and, uh, nutritional content … just without all the real food involved. Why? Cost, shelf life, and quality control. Those who are creating “food” want the most economical sources to create a product that is less expensive for them to produce, always consistent in its presentation and taste (their meaning of quality control), and will last for months (even years—check some expiration dates). That’s why if you look closely at many products, like cheese products, you’ll see that they are labeled differently. Packaged, sliced cheese and other cheese products are shown to be “cheese food.” Translation: It contains a certain percentage of cheese, may taste similar to cheese, but it is not totally cheese. Although real cheese will mold in a fairly short time; cheese food products can keep in the refrigerator for months on end. Even if the components of these “foods” are equivalent to food, do they have the same effects/end results our bodies? That’s something that many have questioned—including Michael Pollan in his acclaimed In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. Pollan reveals much about food manufacturing, “food science,” and changes in FDA rules in this book. It’s an eye opener and a quick read, so it’s definitely worth picking up.
Many of us will visit other countries and come back raving over the food. But, when we look back at what we enjoyed the most, it is usually the simple meals made from real food. One friend visited Italy and came back talking about tomato chunks topped with some mozzarella and olive oil. She fell in love with that fresh, simple meal. That dish is real food all the way … and it’s pretty much instant food, too. Because Mr. GFE is an avid scuba diver, a frequent destination of ours is the Caribbean. We love the simple meals, which burst with flavor from both their preparation and the use of local herbs, spices, fruits, and vegetables. Think grilled fish and other seafood. Jerk chicken. Curried goat. Rice and beans. Roasted garlic chicken. Papaya. Pineapple. Coconut. Mango. Curry. Cinnamon. Nutmeg. So many real food dishes like these can easily be made and enjoyed at home.
So often we have preconceived notions and miss the obvious when it comes to meal solutions in our home. Think fresh (although frozen, and even canned in some cases, can work as well) … think simple … think tapas … think appetizers. We’ll go to a restaurant and pay for these items—even eating them as our meal sometimes—but we usually don’t optimize using them at home. Oh, sure, we might make some for parties we are hosting, but for some reason, when we’re cooking a meal at home we think that we have to cook for a long time and have a meat or protein plus veggies, plus a bread, etc. But many of the appetizers you’ll find on restaurant menus are easily replicated at home (with healthier, quality ingredients) and in combination with a small garden salad, they make great meals. Think chicken satay, spinach artichoke dip, chicken wings, ahi tuna, crab dip, and the like. One of the best ways to have a simple, “small bites” kind of meal, without even making new foods is to have a clean-out-the-fridge event on Friday evening. We call ours a smorgasbord. It’s a great way to have a variety of little bites, while ensuring that no food goes to waste for the week. Everyone can choose his/her favorites from the past week. Son especially loved our Smorgasbord Friday. A little bite approach can also be a good way to get kids to try new foods. It’s a proven fact that children are more drawn to food if it’s cut into bite-sized pieces or served in smaller portions. Sweet little Susie who long ago declared war on mushrooms might be more willing to sample that one bite of mushroom quiche than she would be to eat a full portion.
Even when we go out to a fine restaurant for a full meal, it’s the simple meals that often satisfy and impress us the most. The entrées could include an excellent steak, steamed lobster, grilled salmon, pan-seared trout, and braised short ribs, for example. Side dishes offered might be garlic mashed potatoes, polenta, roasted red bliss potatoes, grilled asparagus, sautéed Brussel sprouts, and baked sweet potatoes. They are all real food dishes with most requiring little preparation and cooking time. A meal of grilled salmon, like my Cayenne Lime Salmon and asparagus Roasted Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus can literally be cooked and ready to serve in just a few minutes. I wager that you can have that meal on your table in less time than it would take you to prepare any “helper” dish or just drive to a restaurant. So you can have instant food, but this time it will be real food that you have prepared. And, frankly, you’ll find out there just is no comparison in flavor or nutrition.
The recipe I’m sharing today is Garlic Lime Chicken. This is a moist and flavorful chicken recipe that is just right with its garlic, lime, and other seasonings. It’s well loved by everyone who tries it and all ages. It comes from Leanne Ely, a nutritionist who is part of the Flylady “network.” You can read more about Leanne here. She is a great resource for simple, healthy meals made from real food. She shares recipes via Flylady’s emails and at her own site, Saving Dinner, where she shares her menu mailer plan. Menus are delivered via email with recipes and shopping lists. Leanne is known for getting people to eat and love foods they’ve never enjoyed before; e.g., kale. But let’s get to her ” must make” recipe, shall we?
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon thyme
6 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup chicken broth
4 tablespoons lime juice
In a bowl, mix together the seasonings and spices (first 7 ingredients). Sprinkle mixture on both sides of chicken breasts.
In a skillet, heat butter and olive oil together over medium high heat.
Sauté chicken until golden brown on each side, about 5 minutes on either side or until no longer pink in the center.
Remove chicken and add lime juice and chicken broth to the pan, whisking up the browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Keep cooking until sauce has reduced slightly.
Add chicken back to the pan to thoroughly coat and serve.
Shirley here: Leanne’s version is cooked on the stovetop, which works fine, but requires several minutes of attention. My dear friend, Therese, converted Leanne’s recipe to an oven recipe. So, I’ve been using that method most of the time. Here’s how I make the oven version of her recipe.
Place butter and olive oil in 9 x 13 baking dish. Set in preheated 400-degree Fahrenheit oven just a few minutes until butter is melted. Stir butter and olive oil. Add chicken breasts. Sprinkle breasts with seasoning mix. Flip the breasts. Mix chicken broth and lime juice together and pour over chicken breasts. Sprinkle chicken breasts with seasoning mix. Bake for about 40 minutes; turning chicken pieces over half way through. Baking may vary depending on the size of the breast portions. You can pound the chicken pieces flatter for quicker cooking time if you like.
Per Serving: 343 Calories; 11g Fat (31.1% calories from fat); 55g Protein; 2g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 147mg Cholesterol; 612mg Sodium.
Serving suggestions: Roasted asparagus (preheat oven to 400 degrees, lay your asparagus in a baking dish or pan, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and a smidge of thyme, bake for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on thickness of asparagus), baked potatoes (try Yukon Gold potatoes–delicious!) and steamed baby carrots (add a little butter after steaming and sprinkle some nutmeg on top before serving).
Vegetarians: Skip the chicken and use vegetarian patties or tofu instead. Dip the patty in the melted butter/olive oil mixture before adding seasoning though (so it will stick).
Reprinted with permission from Leanne Ely at Saving Dinner
Shirley’s Additional Notes: This recipe can be made dairy free simply by substituting non-dairy butter or using all olive oil and skipping the butter. You’ll want to mix up a triple recipe of the seasoning mix and keep it an empty spice shaker to be ready for baking future batches. I sometimes use bottled lime juice, but fresh is really wonderful in this recipe. I like to make the small amount of chicken broth by adding one teaspoon of Better Than Bouillon chicken base to one half cup of boiling water. As Leanne shares in her notes, vegetarian patties or tofu may be used for a vegetarian/vegan option. Gluten-free readers should ensure safe status of seasonings and vegetarian protein sources used. I often serve vegetables and potatoes with my garlic lime chicken. My favorite black-eyed peas and one of my Pan-Baked Potatoes complemented the garlic lime chicken meal shown. Serving this chicken with the sauce over rice is also a great, easy meal.
As a side note, when I went to Leanne’s site to obtain links, I found out she’s about a third of a way through a 28-Day Break Free Plan. She’s given up gluten, dairy, soy, and eggs. You can follow her progress and see her personal reasons for embarking on this lifestyle change here.
Think about the wisdom in that graffiti clipping and all that’s been shared in Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution series, and plan on making some “instant food” dishes using real food at home this week. Then consider how they compare in taste, nutrition, time expended, and cost to the other instant food options. Let us know how you fare. Or if you are already on board with the real food movement, tell us about one of your favorite “instant food” dishes made with real food.
Be sure to visit Shirley today at gluten free easily to read her personal Food Revolution post there and she shares another recipe!
In order to be entered to win one of 7 cookbooks, here’s what you need to do to gather entries into the drawing. The more you do, the more chances you have to win!
- Leave a comment on this blog on as many of the 30 guest food bloggers as you like. Each comment is an entry.
- Sign up for The W.H.O.L.E. Gang newsletter.
- Visit that guest blogger’s site and leave a comment there too.
- Tweet about this project using both of these in your tweet so I’ll find you #30days2 #foodrevolution
When the initial 30 days of guest posts are over on June 4th, we’ll pick the winners.