Hand Shredded Poached Chicken (手斯鸡)

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My 18-month old is very particular about meat texture and I found out poached chicken is one of a few types of meat she will actually eat. I learned the poached chicken recipe from my mother and have just recently mastered the technique to where it tastes just like hers. With this dish, you get to taste the delicious chicken, but you also get a lot of leftover chicken stock to use as a soup base. Bon appetit!

Serves: 4 (~4 ounces per serving )

Calories per serving: ~255 calories , 28 grams of protein (without skin)

Ingredients:
2 chicken quarters
2 green onion stalks, tied into a knot
4 slices of ginger, each one-inch thick
4 garlic cloves, each sliced in half

(Seasoning & garnish)
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon white pepper powder
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon garlic oil (chopped garlic fried in canola oil)
1 cup cilantro, chopped
2 green onion stalks, cut into two-inch lengths then thinly sliced

Instructions:

  1. Fill a large stock pot with four quarts of water. Bring to a boil.
  2. With a paring knife, cut two small openings along the side of the chicken thigh and stuff two garlic cloves and two ginger sticks into each quarter.
  3. Submerge the chicken quarters into the boiling water. Add the green onion knot and the rest of the ginger. Wait until the water comes back to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low. Poach for one hour.
  4. After an hour, remove the chicken quarters from the pot and submerge them into a pan of ice-cold water for about 8-10 minutes.
  5. Remove the chicken from the cold water and place onto a plate. Rub the white pepper, sesame oil, and one teaspoon of soy sauce all over the chicken and let it rest for another 10 minutes.
  6. Tear the meat off from the bone, discard the skin, and garnish with chopped cilantro and sliced onions. Top off with a teaspoon of garlic oil and drizzle the remaining two teaspoons of soy sauce over the chicken.

*If you like to eat hot/spicy foods, try squeezing a few drops of lime juice in Sriracha and use it as a dipping sauce.

Braised Kale with Pork Shoulder

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This hearty stew is perfect for cold winter days. I came up with this recipe when my husband said there’s nothing to eat in the house. I went to the fridge, and carrots, kale, pork, and tomatoes were the things we had available. I just threw everything together in the pot and to our surprise, it tasted pretty good! I hope you enjoy it as much as we (including my 18-month old) do!

Serves: 4
Calories: ~380 calories, 23 gm protein per serving

Ingredients:
1 bunch of kale
1 pound pork shoulder (remove excess outer fat layer and cut into 1-2 inch cubes)
2 carrots (cut into big cubes)
2 medium tomatoes (cut into big cubes)
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken stock
1/4 cup of water
3 garlic cloves (peeled and left whole)
1 tablespoon cooking oil (canola or safflower)

Pork Marinade:
1/2 teaspoon regular sesame oil
2 teaspoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/8 teaspoon white or black pepper

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Instructions:

  1. Combine the pork marinade ingredients and pour over the pork shoulder cubes. Mix well and let sit for 10-15 minutes.
  2. Tear the leaves off the kale stems and wash thoroughly.
  3. Heat a 12-inch skillet or a larger sauce pan and add the cooking oil. When the oil starts to glisten, add the garlic cloves and saute for 10 seconds. Then slowly add in the marinated pork (discard marinade liquid). Keep the whole garlic cloves in while searing the pork.
  4. Sear the pork, about 15-20 seconds per side under medium heat.  Add the carrots and tomatoes and continue stirring for another 20-30 seconds. If the garlic starting to burn in this step, remove and set aside.
  5. Pour in the chicken stock and water and bring to a boil. Add in the garlic that was removed earlier. Turn the heat down to a simmer and add in two-thirds of the kale. Cover and let simmer for 25 minutes.
  6. Add the remaining kale and simmer for another 10 minutes. (This gives the dish a brighter green color, but you can skip this step if you prefer. Just add all the kale in Step 5 and simmer for 35 minutes.)

Surviving the Holidays

You’ll be in shock when you realize Christmas meals can rack up to 7,000 calories over the course of the day. What?!?! Yes, it’s true! Everything adds up, from the moment you take a bite of your breakfast toast to when you have the last morsel of post-dinner dessert. The added calories will ultimately lead to at least two to three pounds of weight gain. If you don’t want to end up feeling bloated and miserable the next day, try making some of these little changes to help you stay below 2,500 calories!

Limit or Avoid Empty Calorie Beverages
Soft drinks, wine, beer, eggnog, cocktails, and punch all provide empty calories with very little nutritional benefits. Instead, try flavored water, sparkling water, fruit infused water, or iced tea. If you must drink alcohol, limit it to one to two small glasses of spirits through the day.

Work Out Before the Big Feast
Try to sneak in some exercise on Christmas Eve or even Christmas Day. Not only does exercise provide you with endorphins (feel good hormones), but it will help you feel less guilty if you later indulge yourself. Not an exercise junkie? No problem, try yoga, take the dogs on a walk around the neighborhood, or play interactive video games with the kids (boxing, tennis, dancing, etc.).

Aim for Smaller Plates
Use the small plates, so it tricks your mind into thinking you’ve filled your plate with delicious food (technically, you have). With smaller plates, you can even go back for seconds and still have fewer calories than if you had used a big plate.

Take Time to Enjoy Your Food
It takes time for the brain to register you are full, usually about 20 minutes after eating. So take time to chew your food, mingle, socialize, and enjoy the company.

Eat Salads and Veggies First
Fiber in vegetables helps us feel full, so eat the salads first and go light on the dressing. Choose steamed and roasted vegetables over fried ones or casserole dishes (e.g. green bean casserole).

Make a Few Low Calories Dishes
Most traditional meals are high in fat, thus high in calories. Bring or make something light, such as fruit salad, a vegetable tray, or 100 calorie appetizers.

Don’t Skip Meals
People tend to skip meals before the big celebration, thinking they are saving room for the big meal. This really isn’t a good idea, because you’ll tend to overeat when the time comes. So eat smaller meal/snacks instead, staying between 200-300 calories per meal. Then you can still enjoy a 1,500-1,900 calorie feast later on.

Go Easy On the Gravy
Gravy made from fat drippings are a big source of calories. Either skip the gravy or drizzle just enough to coat the meat and potatoes.

Think Half for Dessert
Dessert can easily pack up to 400-500 calories per serving. Only take half of what you normally would eat, and go back for a second smaller portion. This will not only give you time to think over your decision, you’ll only have had one serving if you decide to go back for the other half. Always stick to one dessert you know you enjoy most or gives you the most satisfaction. Don’t waste your calories by sampling a few different ones.

 

What Not to Eat During Pregnancy

Congratulations on your pregnancy!

“Now what can I eat?” you ask.

There are a lot of things you have to be careful about, especially since the food you eat directly affects the outcome of your pregnancy. My advice is to think to yourself, “Would I feed a baby that?” If the answer is “no,” then don’t eat it while you are pregnant.

Let’s review the “Don’t” List:

Stop Smoking / Using Illicit Drugs
This seems like a no-brainer, but you’ll be surprised how many babies have mothers who are smokers and drug users. If you can’t quit these activities, knowing you are pregnant, it’s time to seek professional help. You are exposing your unborn baby to toxic chemicals and restricting their intake of valuable nutrients needed for fetal development.

Say “No” to Alcohol
Alcohol is rapidly absorbed in the bloodstream and can cross the placenta to affect the baby. Baby’s liver is not capable of breaking down alcohol, increasing the risk for a miscarriage, preterm labor, and fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), an alcohol spectrum disorder that can lead to growth problems, developmental delays, learning disabilities, and deformed facial features.  The research on occasional, light alcohol intake (one to two drinks per week) during pregnancy remains very limited. Though no serious side effects have been reported, it’s always good to play it safe. Alcohol  used for culinary purposes (cooking wine or sherry, shaoxing wine, or rice wine) is relatively safe at this time.

Avoid Raw / Undercooked Fish and Raw Shellfish
It’s advised to avoid all raw seafood products, if possible, due to potential viruses, parasites, and bacteria that can lead to food poisoning. This includes sushi, raw oysters, and all other undercooked seafood or shellfish. There’s some controversy about eating sushi during pregnancy as most Japanese women still eat it during their pregnancy and no adverse side effects have been reported. However, eating any raw food products always poses a risk, and therefore you should be extra cautious during pregnancy.

Avoid High Mercury Fish
Mercury can cause birth defects and the larger the fish (especially the predatory type), the higher mercury levels it contains. If you regularly consume fish with high mercury level, excess mercury will accumulate in your blood stream and cross over to your baby, causing damage to their brain and nervous system. Fish high in mercury include swordfish, tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico, king mackerel, and shark. It’s still safe to eat other types of fish such as salmon, sardines, trout, cod, pollack, Atlantic or Pacific mackerel and catfish. Tuna should only be eaten in moderation, about three ounces per week.

Stay Away from Cold Cuts
Deli meats have long been known to be contaminated with a bacteria called Listeria. Listeria has been linked to miscarriage and can cause serious blood poisoning and infection. Since Listeria can cross the placenta, it will threaten the safety of your baby. The bacteria can be killed through heat, so if you still want to eat deli meat during pregnancy, be sure to heat the meat until it’s steaming.

Say “Bye-Bye” to Soft Cheeses
Soft cheeses (especially imported ones) may also contain Listeria because of unpasteurized milk. Unless it’s clearly stated the cheese is made from pasteurized milk, it’s best to avoid it altogether. This includes: Brie, feta, Gorgonzola, Camembert, Chaource, Limburger, and Paglietta.

Be Mindful About Kelp Usage
Kelp is a type of seaweed that’s used in many Asian cultures for soups and stews. It is high in iron and very high in iodine. Routine consumption of kelp during pregnancy can lead to congenital hypothyroidism (a type of thyroid disease) that can contribute to cognitive delays and growth retardation. One to two tablespoons of kelp can contain as much as 1,500-2,000 micrograms (mcg) of iodine. The upper tolerable  limit set by the National Institute of Health is 1,100 mcg for adults. Nori, the most common seaweed wrap used in sushi, or seaweed sheet snacks are safer alternatives (e.g. the sheet snacks only contain about 280-300 mcg of iodine per pack).

Beware of Herbs and Dietary Supplements
Herbs are widely used to make tonics and teas and found in supplement form. The safety of herbal use during pregnancy still largely unknown. American Pregnancy Association has published a list of unsafe and likely unsafe herbs for pregnancy. They include: Rosemary (in medicinal doses), saw palmetto, goldenseal, blue cohosh, black cohosh, dong quai, ephedra, and yohimbe.

Don’t go Overboard with Caffeine
Caffeine has been associated with miscarriage, especially during the first trimester. So coffee and black tea drinkers take note and limit your daily intake to about 200 mg (about one cup). Also, beware of energy drinks and sodas that contain caffeine.

The Painful Truth About Breastfeeding

Mano!

(Photo: Aurimas Mikalauskas on Flickr)

Breast milk, or the scientific term ‘human milk,’ is the best food mothers can produce for their babies. There are endless benefits ranging from providing antibodies that help reduce sickness and infection, to improving growth, to reducing the risk of obesity as an adult. But successful breastfeeding takes time, patience, and determination.

Before I had my daughter, the idea of breastfeeding always seemed easy and natural to me. I learned about it in college, educated new parents at work, and coached and encouraged my sister through her first exclusive breastfeeding with my nephew. But I didn’t know about the ugly and painful side of it until I experienced it myself. You probably aren’t going to go through all the things on this list, but it’s always good to be in the know and prepared for what might happen.

1) Cramps!
When the baby first latches on and triggers the let-down reflex, the uterus will contract. Imagine a menstrual cramp but multiply the intensity, especially if you had a natural delivery. If you had a C-section, you probably won’t feel much because of all the pain medication you received during labor.

2) Your full milk supply doesn’t always come in within 48-72 hours
If you are one of the small percent of mothers whose milk supply doesn’t come in after day three postpartum, don’t panic! You have milk in your breasts throughout pregnancy, the precious colostrum the baby needs for the first few days of life.

There are many factors that can delay full milk production, such as a long second stage of labor, the quantity of pitocin used during an induction, vaginal vs. Caesarean birth, and simple fatigue and stress. Many women give up trying to breastfeed because of all these influences. However, keep latching baby at the breast or pump between feedings and this will tell your brain there’s an ongoing demand for milk, which in turn stimulates production.

My milk supply didn’t come in fully until the eighth day and I had to supplement with formula. I felt a certain level of guilt about it, feeling like I had somehow failed as a mother (I hadn’t). Once my supply came in, I didn’t have to supplement with formula again. Believe in yourself and don’t give up! The key is ALWAYS feed from the breast for 20-30 minutes first, then if supply is lacking, supplement with formula.

3) Sore and cracked nipples
Sadly, there’s no way to avoid this. The constant suction and heat from the baby’s mouth will leave your nipple sore and sometimes cracked and bleeding. Don’t wash your nipple with soap — the areola has natural oils that help protect and heal the skin. Washing with warm water is sufficient. You can also try expressing a couple drops of breast milk and applying that around your nipple before feeding.

4) Painful engorgement
As milk production continues to increase, painful engorgement will follow. Sometimes baby will only take one breast and you’ll need to pump and empty the other to relieve the pressure. If you have an oversupply of milk, you’ll need to empty the breast more frequently; however, frequent pumping leads to more production as the body recognizes supply is low once the breasts are emptied. If you don’t want to stock up your milk for later use, try wrapping warm, mashed cabbage leaves around the breasts to help slow down the production, which will help reduce the painful engorgement.

5) Leakage
Yes, your milk will leak from one breast when you are feeding the baby from the other. You will feel tingling or pins and needles and then notice your shirt is soaked with milk. This is caused by the let-down reflex, which can also be triggered when you hear your baby or another baby cry. Make sure you have plenty of nursing pads around to avoid these natural, but potentially embarrassing, moments.

6) Plugged Ducts
A plugged milk duct feels like a hard knot in the breast and is very painful to touch and massage. This usually happens when there’s a foremilk-hindmilk imbalance, or overproduction. Hindmilk (rich, creamy, high-fat milk) can thicken and clog the ducts, causing all the milk to back up in one area of the breast, especially if engorgement is prolonged. Sometimes plugging is caused by external pressure, such as a tight shirt and/or a poorly fitting bra.

To alleviate the problem, feed baby from the affected breast because they have powerful suction that can help unclog the ducts. Keep massaging the clogged area while the baby is latched on.

A warm shower can also help. Let the warm water run down the breast for a few minutes, then examine your nipple for a white pimple-like substance (known as a bleb). If you can access it with your finger, try squeezing it out and hand express the breast to see if milk will flow out. If it does, quickly empty the breast with pumping or by feeding baby. If plugged ducts are a recurring issue, you can try taking soy lecithin supplement — 1,200 mg three times a day.

7) Mastitis
Poor feeding and latches, oversupply, restrictive clothing, sudden weaning, and failure to clear a plugged duct can all lead to mastitis, a type of breast infection that is painful and warm to the touch. It’s recommended to keep breastfeeding during the infection, even though you’ll be on antibiotics, because sudden weaning can make things worse. You can choose to pump and dump the milk if you are concerned about it containing the medications you are taking.

8) Milk Blister
Milk blisters are tiny pockets of white or yellow fluid on the nipple or areola. They develop when the skin grows over the pores and blocks the flow of milk and you can usually see the blister bulge outward if you compress the breast.

The best remedy is to break open the skin with a sterile needle (place the needle over an open flame for couple seconds). After draining the blister, immediately apply bacitracin ointment (an antibiotic) to the open area. There will be some pain during breastfeeding as it heals.

9) Galactocele
A galactocele is a benign milk cyst that forms in the mammary gland. Though uncommon, it can form during lactation or weaning. You can usually feel the lump in your breast, but it can only be diagnosed through an X-ray. If the cyst becomes too painful, a doctor or a radiologist will have to aspirate it (remove the fluid through a thin needle).

Good luck to all first time moms and experienced mothers on your breastfeeding journey! Feel free to share your experiences and tips in the comments.

Preparing for a Healthy Pregnancy

Did you know a healthy pregnancy starts before conception?

When you and your partner begin planning for children, part of those plans should include a checklist to ensure both of you are in a good nutritional state. If you aren’t already doing so, eat a nutritionally balanced diet at least 6 months to 1 year before becoming pregnant. Maintaining a healthy weight (BMI between 19-25) and a balanced diet consisting of all food groups should provide you with the vitamins and minerals you need for a good reproductive system.

Some key preconception nutrients include:

FOLIC ACID
Folic acid or folate is a type of vitamin B (B9) used to create red blood cells and to help women sustain adequate blood volume throughout pregnancy. Women of childbearing age should consume at least 400mcg of folic acid daily as it helps reduce the risk of the baby developing neural tube defects (more commonly known as spina bifida), a birth defect that leaves the spinal cord unprotected due to incomplete closure. Folic acid also helps with DNA formation, cell growth, and overall baby development.

Good food sources: Spinach, asparagus, lentils, broccoli, bok choy, cauliflower, avocados, beans, nuts, and oranges.

ZINC
Zinc is one of many minerals the body uses to maintain male and female reproductive health by ensuring proper cell maturation (both eggs and sperm) and regulating hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. A diet low in zinc may hinder a woman’s chances of getting pregnant and/or increase the risk of miscarriage as the ovaries require large quantities of zinc to produce high quality eggs for fertilization. For men, low zinc levels directly affect the quality and production of sperm. A daily recommended allowance of zinc is 11mg for men and 8mg for women.

Good food sources: Oysters, lean beef, pork, chicken (dark meat), fortified cereals, beans, and nuts.

CALCIUM
Calcium is a major nutrient needed for the baby’s bone development. Since it might take several weeks to months to increase the body’s calcium concentration, it’s recommended a woman take at least 1,000mg of calcium a day, prior to conception. If a woman doesn’t consume enough calcium during pregnancy, her body will draw what’s needed from the bones, increasing the risk of osteoporosis.

Good food sources: Milk, dairy products like cheese and yogurt, soy milk and/or almond milk fortified with calcium, and tofu.