What’s for dinner: Healthier chicken chow mein

IMG_3120Chicken chow mein, with one-third the salt (and no added sugar).

Today’s dinner lesson: When in doubt, add red wine.

(In the sauce, I meant. Although in my experience, a glass of red has never hindered the culinary creation process, either.)

After I spent literally hours* in the kitchen making dinner yesterday, I wasn’t looking forward to any time there tonight. So I decided to go extra-easy on myself, and pulled a bag of Trader Joe’s chicken chow mein out of the freezer. Then I threw half of it away.

* The slow cooker really lived up to its name with the ham and bean soup I was making. It took an extra two hours, so I got to bed at 12:30 a.m.

No, that’s not a portion-control thing. I realized awhile back (thanks to, you know, reading the nutrition facts on the label) that one serving of the prepared dish had 210 calories and 38% of the day’s sodium — but only 10% of dietary fiber. Most of the sugar and salt is found in the packet of premade sauce, which I now automatically throw away. There’s also a lot of salt in the noodles, so half of those get ditched, too.

So, what goes in? Leftover vegetables, like carrots, celery, broccoli or red peppers. Even on my laziest weeks, I’ll have at least one kind around. (Somewhere along the line I picked up a jar of ginger flakes, and I’ll toss in a pinch of those, too, if I remember in time.) I stir-fry in a tablespoon of oil, then later add maybe a teaspoon of soy sauce and a bit less of oyster sauce, plus some water to thin it out. After everything is cooked, I’ll add a liberal splash of red wine, which deglazes the pan and, as the alcohol burns off, thickens the sauce. Once the sauce reduces, the noodles and vegetables come out glazed mahogany-brown and extra flavorful, with only about one-third as much sodium, and no added sugar.

Cost of ingredients: The bag is about $4 at Trader Joe’s, and any additions are just what’s lying around. No special trips to the supermarket required! And because it’s now so vegetable-intensive, I could even eat twice as much and not feel bad.

WHAT SAM WORE: 01-02-13
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The shirt: Black cotton/cashmere crewneck sweater, from Banana Republic.
The pants: Light-wash slim-cut jeans, from Uniqlo in New York.
The shoes: Custom All-Stars from converse.com, a gift from Funny Michael.
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