It became clear to me in recent weeks that Son's food allergies had blinded me. Because of my obsession in reading food labels and finding foods that Son could eat, I ended up stocking up on the snacks that were safe for him in mass amounts.
Son discovered that he LOVED snacks in massive amounts and in the past year has readily set aside meals to snack more. I wasn't totally conscious of it at first, because I was too busy to really track it and get a sense of it, but it came to a head this summer when I had more time to focus in on what he was eating and realized that mostly, what Son was eating was junk. Allergy free junk for him, but junk. Bagel chips, tons of granola bars, and lots of snacky things and avoiding, by being too full to eat, healthy, well-balanced meals.
I decided to put my money where my mouth was and reform this. I stopped buying all number of snacks, and limited any crackerish/carbish type snack to mid morning on the days he went to school or camp. The rest of the day, while at home with me, we had only fruits and vegetables. I began letting him be hungry in between meals - really hungry, to the point where his hunger would push him to eat more of the better stuff - not the junk. In two weeks, I reformed my snacker.
It took a lot of work and watching him be hungry was hard. After all, he lives in the world where half the stuff is off limits already and to let him be HUNGRY seemed somewhat cruel. But I remembered the objective was to get him to eat better, more balanced, more nutritious meals, and because that objective loomed in front of me, I stuck to my guns. I explained to Son what was going to happen, the new rules of fruits or vegetables only between meals (which I applied similarly to Daughters) and that if he didn't eat a meal, there would be no second chance at a later meal or snacks. There would be fruit or vegetables but nothing else. The first day was hard, with a lot of whining, but I focused in and offered him other things when he was hungry like a banana, or mango, or cantaloupe, or peach, or carrots with hummus, or bell peppers with Korean dipping sauce. I gave him choices, but not the ones he wanted, and although he'd wail about wanting his favorite Trader Joe's Bagel Chips, I wouldn't give in. "Sorry buddy. You know the rules. You can have some food if you're hungry, but your choices are fruits or vegetables." He discovered that spicy hummus with carrots tasted really good and that his favorite fruit is actually a slightly tender nectarine. I think his tongue cleared out from all the excess salt and carbohydrates and began really appreciating food.
This poached chicken has become one of his favorites to eat with rice and a few green vegetables. He'll smell the ginger sauce, and say "I love that smell mom" and when he sees the chicken resting at room temperature before I cut it up, he'll beg me over and over again for "just a bit." With brown rice and some green beans, it's the perfect meal. I love it for its ease of preparation and its flexibility in cooking times. This version is very similar to the whole chicken version, but since it only uses white meat it is in some ways suited to the families where white meat only is consumed. (Daughter #1 is a white meat lover.) It cooks in quicker time, but again is forgiving if you leave the chicken in the water longer than necessary. It can be served hot, warm, room temperature, or cold, and with the dipping sauces you have a winner.
Poached Chicken Breasts with Three Dipping Sauces
Serves 4 to 6
2 to 3 whole chicken breasts, bone in, skin on
5 slices of ginger
1 onion, or leek, or a few cloves of garlic (to flavor the water)
4 inches ginger root, peeled finely chopped (I use my mini food processor)
3 scallions, finely chopped
½ cup vegetable oil
¾ teaspoon salt
2 jalapenos, finely chopped (I use my mini food processor)
1 tablespoon sugar
¼ cup rice wine vinegar
5 scallions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
¼ cup soy sauce (I prefer low sodium, Kikkoman green)
Fill a large stockpot with water. The water should be at a level which will allow you to completely SUBMERGE your chicken underwater, with no problem. A large stock pot will generally be big enough.
Cover your stockpot and bring water, ginger, and onion/leek/garlic to a boil. In the meanwhile, salt chicken breasts liberally and give it a bit of a salt scrub. Rinse thoroughly and set aside, until water is fully boiling.
Once water is fully boiling, place chicken into the water, making sure that it is completely submerged in the water. Leave pot uncovered and bring chicken and water to another rolling boil again. While waiting it to boil again, you can skim off any scum off the surface of the water, if you intend to use the broth for rice porridge or something else. If you don’t want to use the broth for anything, go ahead and just wait for the chicken and water to boil again.
Once water is boiling, carefully stir chicken to make sure that the entire pot is evenly distributed with hot water. Cover pot with lid and TURN OFF stove. Do NOT remove lid of pot for the next 45 minutes, but you can even let it rest for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
While your chicken is enjoying a nice soak in the hot water, begin making your 3 dipping sauces.
For the ginger sauce, mix together finely chopped ginger, finely chopped scallions, oil and salt together in a bowl. Mix and set aside.
For the jalapeno sauce, mix together finely chopped jalapenos, sugar, and vinegar. Set aside.
For the scallion sauce, place chopped scallions in a bowl. Heat two tablespoons of oil in a small, fry pan or sauce pan. The oil should be hot enough that it shimmers or you can test by carefully putting one scallion piece in the oil to see if it sizzles. If the oil sizzles the scallion, then carefully pour the two tablespoons of oil over the scallions in the bowl and allow the scallions to be cooked by the oil. Add soy sauce and mix. Set aside.
Once the 45 or more minutes of chicken cooking in water is up, uncover pot, and remove chicken breasts from water and place in a bowl (in order to catch residual liquid). Allow chicken to cool enough so that you can handle it without screaming OUCH!
Once chicken has cooled sufficiently (30 minutes or so), begin cutting chicken as you wish. I don’t like skin so I removed skin, peeled breast off of bone and cut it into nice large cubes.
Serve chicken warm, room temp, or cold from fridge, with dipping sauces. Allow diners to dip however they please. Perfect with hot rice.