A great, healthy way to get your Chinese take-out fix, this Sweet and Sour Chicken Salad is full of fresh pineapple, roasted chicken, red bell peppers and a super tasty sweet and sour dressing!
So the other day I had this revelation. I was with my husband and our youngest and we were at the food court in the mall. It was actually an outlet mall and the food court offerings are pretty slim, which is super annoying. I mean, get with it already, outlet people! Anyway, my husband decides he wants to go for the Chinese food. I tell him that’s fine, I’ll figure out something decent to get there or call it a treat and call it a day. So we’re in the line, walking through, looking at everything and all I can think is “I can’t eat this. I absolutely can not justify eating this.” Long story short, I walked through the line without getting anything and once my husband got his food, we noticed a new creperie on the other side of the food court where I actually managed to snag some surprisingly fantastic, fresh food. I guess the outlet people got the memo after all 🙂
My revelation was this: I don’t LOVE Chinese food the way I used to and I’m not going to have a cheat meal that I don’t L-O-V-E. When I go out to an awesome restaurant and I get something that is not particularly healthy but is so amazing that it automatically puts a cheesy grin on my face and I MUST instagram it, I feel no guilt. I feel no shame. I’m living a happy life that has balance and it’s worth it. But when I get say, some fast food or something of the like, I feel awful afterwards. Not just mentally either, but actually physically terrible. As if there’s a freaking brick in my belly, which by the way, is precisely when the guilt sets in, because it wasn’t worth it and jeez, Stephanie, that was a crap decision, get it together!
So later, I began considering why I no longer love Chinese food with a capital “L”. I came to conclude that it’s a combination of two things.
- Food tastes different to me now. It just does. Since I’m taking in SO much less sugar and salt on a daily basis, when I eat out, food tastes sweeter or saltier to me than it would have a year ago. It’s a good thing, but it does change what my favorite foods look like. Chinese food in particular, is made with a TON of sugar that I never really gave a second thought about before, but sweet for the sake of being sweet doesn’t really work for me these days.
- The next one is more of a mental thing. Now when I look at that gloopy, sugary, deep fried food, it hardly feels like food to me at all. There’s very little nutritional value there, so what’s the point? I feel like I know too much now to do that to myself. I kind of dig me and I deserve better! I hate to even type this, but it even looks kind of gross to me now.
These are flavors that I used to really love and I wanted to be able to have them without all of the fat and sugar that usually comes with, so what’s a girl to do? Well, there are actually quite a few things I could have done, but since I’m always looking for new, flavorful salad combos, this time I decided to set to work on a salad.
I won’t bore you with the details since I just went on and on about my Chinese food experience, but suffice it to say, I wasn’t really sure what was in sweet and sour sauce. Honestly, I had to google it. Thank heaven for google, am I right?! Prior to googling it, I pretty much just figured it was mostly ketchup, sugar, maybe some pineapple juice and cornstarch. There’s a little more to it than that (no pineapple juice, btw), but essentially I wasn’t too far off base. I wrote down a list of the ingredients I wanted to use and came up with a vinaigrette that I really love and I hope you do too! When it’s combined with those sweet, ripe pineapples, the greens, red bell peppers and the roasted chicken, it’s pretty ridiculous 🙂 By the way, the baby limas are optional (if you’re a fixer, you might not want to use half of a yellow in your salad, and believe me, I get it), but I’m really into them right now, so there ya go!
So here’s to a new, amazing salad to add into the rotation and to curbing those Chinese food cravings!
** A couple of ingredient notes:
- Tomato paste – when I buy a can of tomato paste and only need a small amount like we do for this recipe, here’s what I do. I lay a sheet of wax paper on a baking sheet. I take a tablespoon (a measuring Tbs, not a large spoon) and I lay tablespoons of tomato paste on the baking sheet. I then throw it in the freezer for a couple of hours until fully frozen, then I take the little tomato paste nuggets off of the wax paper and throw them in a freezer bag and back into the freezer. Then you have Tbs increments ready to go for whatever you need! Boom!
- Fresh ginger root – again, when you buy fresh ginger, you often only need a small amount for a dish and then it’ll only last so long in your fridge, but fresh ginger is AMAZING and I’m not missing out on that! I peel the entire piece of ginger (a spoon works great for this), then I slice a little bit of it into rounds (for ginger tea or ginger syrup) and then I leave the rest whole and put it all in a small freezer bag. Then, when I need some fresh ginger, all I have to do is pull out the whole piece and grate it using the small side of a box grater. It’s awesome and lasts FOREVER.