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At least, that’s how my office staff feels, and once a month, our ‘staff spirit’ committee organizes a potluck to bring people together for at least one lunch.  My first office potluck’s theme was “The Last Supper” and everyone was asked to bring dishes that began with their last initial.  It was a fun theme and I brought noodles (japchae) and Nutella Banana Bread.  YUM!

For this last potluck, the theme was Asian food.  I was pressed for time so chose to do something super easy and Americanized, but at least somewhat healthy and hopefully appealing to the masses.  Who doesn’t love chinese chicken salad?  Unfortunately, it is usually laden with fried wontons and syrupy dressing … so I decided to make my own version of Kale Chinese Chicken Salad.  As a heartier green, the kale would remain nice and crisp even an hour or two after I tossed the salad in the dressing – just what I was looking for!

Preparation was made exceedingly easy by a trip to my nearby Whole Foods – after snagging one of their flavorful rotisserie chickens and a bag of their Harvest Sensations Kale Salad mix, I was all set to go!

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Kale Chinese Chicken Salad (serves 6-8)

  • 1 package of Harvest Sensations kale salad mix (contains kale, shredded carrot, purple cabbage – about 6-8 cups of de-stemmed kale leaves)
  • 1 small 2.5 lb rotisserie chicken, meat shredded
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Meyer lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons Ponzu juice (or just more lemon juice)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup grapeseed oil or canola oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped scallions
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
  • 15 wonton wrappers, thawed and cut into 1 cm strips
  • vegetable oil spray or mist-o

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray wonton strips with a little vegetable oil and distribute evenly in a single layer on a large cookie sheet.  Bake ~6-8 minutes or until golden-brown, stirring half-way through to allow for even crisping.  Set aside.
  2. Whisk together soy sauce, lemon juice, ponzu (if using), sugar, vinegar, salt, and pepper in a small bowl, then add sesame oil and grapeseed/canola oil in a slow stream, whisking until sugar is dissolved and dressing is combined well.  Adjust seasoning to taste.
  3. Toss chicken and scallions with 1/3 cup of dressing in another large bowl.
  4. Toss kale salad mixture with enough remaining dressing to coat, massaging in the dressing.
  5. Add chicken, scallions, cilantro, almonds, and sesame seeds to the kale and toss well.
  6. Just before serving, top with wonton crisps.

Optional additions: blanched snow peas or sugar snap peas, mandarin orange slices (pith removed).

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Not your usual spaghetti…

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Do you fear the carbs?

I spend a good portion of my patient time counseling patients on how to manage their weight and diabetes, and often that involves talking about food choices, nutrition, and exercise (yes!  a few of my favorite things!).  Some of my patients hardly know where to start, while others have embraced multiple fads (Atkins, South Beach, Paleo, Grain Brain, Gluten-free, etc), sometimes even eliminating whole food groups or cooking (i.e. only eating raw) in their efforts to lose weight and feel better.  There is a lot of controversy over carbohydrates, which have recently been cast as the new enemy in our fight against diabetes and obesity.

I wish I had an answer for “Which diet is the best diet,” but I don’t.  The best diet is the one you actually adhere to, the one you can follow sustainably.  For me, that means a more plant-based diet that emphasizes fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables, while also incorporating lean protein, whole grains, and good fats.   Make your calories count, and be mindful of avoiding foods that are highly caloric but not necessarily nutritious.   It’s amazing how different 2,000 calories can look on your plate, depending on what you choose.

I think that carbohydrates (whole grain, unprocessed and unrefined ones) do have a place in our diet and can be enjoyed in moderation.  For those seeking to expand their options beyond pasta, however, the following is a tasty rendition of spaghetti squash – this would never be a substitute for pasta…it stands alone as a tasty interpretation of this now very popular squash, which is low in calories, high in fiber, and contains folic acid, potassium, vitamin A, and beta-carotene. 

Spaghetti Squash with Prosciutto, Lemony Kale, and Cherry Tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 shallot, sliced thinly
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 slices proscuitto, chopped
  • ½ tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
  • 2 packed cups of chopped kale leaves
  • ½ lemon, juiced
  • ¼ cup oven roasted cherry tomatoes*
  • ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
  • salt & pepper
  • optional: freshly grated parmesan cheese

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Slice squash in half lengthwise and remove seeds.  Drizzle cut surface with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Place the squash on a baking sheet, cut side up. Roast for about ~30-45 min until the flesh is tender and you can scrape noodle-like strands with a fork.
  3. Remove squash from the oven, cool slightly and use a fork to scrape the squash into strands.  Set aside.
  4. In a large skillet over medium heat, add about 1 tbl olive oil to the pan.  Saute shallot and proscuitto until slightly crisp.  Add garlic, rosemary, and chile flakes.
  5. Add the kale leaves and a good pinch of salt.  Stir in lemon juice.
  6. Once the kale is partially wilted, add the squash strands, a little grated cheese, the oven roasted cherry tomatoes, and salt and pepper, to taste. Toss to incorporate.
  7. Remove from heat and top with toasted pine nuts and extra grated cheese.

* for oven roasted cherry tomatoes – halve cherry tomatoes crosswise and toss with a little olive oil, making sure they are evenly coated.  Lightly season with salt and pepper.  Stir in minced herbs if using (e.g. thyme or rosemary).  Roast in preheated oven at 250 degrees F for about 1 hr or until shriveled and almost dry, with a little juice.