Oven-Roasted Chicken Shawarma

One of the big lifestyle changes that I have made since I have come back home is in the food I eat. I have been on a diet for the past seven weeks. Well, its not a diet but rather mindful eating. I have been cognizant of the macronutrients of the food I eat, whether it’s processed or not and if meets my daily nutrient requirements. There are pros and cons to mindful eating. A big advantage is challenging myself to make healthier foods by coming up with new recipes. There are negatives to mindful eating too– mainly that for the most part I have had to give up alcohol, bread, and sugar. If you have been following my blog you would know that leaving sugar wouldn’t be hard for me at all (if you need context check this out). However, leaving bread and alcohol was very difficult.

Coming back home felt like a clean slate. This needed to be a new chapter and for that reason, I felt that this mindful eating exercise had to be a part of the process. I committed to the regime. Woke up every morning and did an hour of crossfit training followed by a 300 calorie breakfast composed of 6 egg whites, a bowl of oats in soy milk with dried figs; an apple and cold brew coffee for mid day snack; black chickpea salad for lunch; and grilled chicken with one carrot and one cucumber for dinner. This is what I have been eating most days day. This comes to about 1,400 calories with a good mix of carbs, protein, and fat. It took some time to get used to this regime but now it feels strange when I deviate. Of course, I change the meals a little every now and then but the end caloric intake remains about the same.

The high intensity interval training and diet have resulted in me losing a little more than 10 kgs (22.05 lbs) in 7 weeks. The transformation, while physically doesn’t look like much, has been great for me mentally. I feel more energetic and am getting to a point where I feel comfortable with my body, more so than I have been in a long time.

Every now and then however, I get cravings which usually land up conveniently on a weekend. I seize such opportunities to make what I would call a feast. A no holds barred meal wherein I throw mindfulness out the window and create something based purely on the pleasure of taste. This oven-roasted shawarma is a product of this weekend’s feast. Shawarma is a middle eastern preparation of marinated meat that is cooked evenly and eaten with pita bread and a host of delicious accoutrements. I have made this in the past but each time the spice blend I used didn’t do justice to food. It always ended up tasting a lot like chicken tikka instead. There are two big differences between Indian and Middle Eastern marinades. The first is that in Indian marinades the meat is soaked in yogurt as a layer of additional fat whereas, in middle eastern marinades that fat is provided by olive oil. Secondly, middle eastern preparations focus more on the taste than on the aromatics. Hence, they do away with things like cloves and cardamom and only keep spices that enhance the flavors. I made this dish in the most traditional way possible. I left the chicken in its marinade for almost 12 hours, cooked in an oven for twenty minutes sliced and further fried off half the pieces in a skillet to get a crispy outer coating. What I was left was a mix of tender and crispy pieces of meat that was accompanied with store bought pita and a homemade mint white sauce which I love so much that I plan to make a lot more very soon. The feast was absolute success. Both my dad I overate which resulted in a high that comprised of antacid and soda bicarb. No regrets though.

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I have loved making all these amazing recipes. I have been hearing back from a lot of friends and family  about the things that they have been making. Please share, like, and send pictures! Looking forward to the next feast day though I have been mandated by my vegetarian mother to make something for veggie lovers instead of just meat guzzlers. Hang tight for that recipe soon!

Ingredients

3 limes, juiced

1/2 cup and 1 tablespoon of olive oil

6 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed and minced

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons red chili powder (paprika works as well)

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

A pinch ground cinnamon

Red pepper flakes, to taste

1 kilogram (~2 pounds) boneless, skinless chicken thighs

1 large red onion, peeled and quartered

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Preparation

Step 1

Prepare marinade for the chicken. Combine lime juice with 1/2 cup of olive oil, garlic, salt, black pepper, cumin, red chili powder, turmeric, cinnamon, red pepper flakes, and chicken into a large bowl. Mix well, cover and keep for a minimum of 1 hour and a maximum of 12 hours. 

Step 2

Heat the oven to gas mark 6 or (425 F). Grease the pan with some oil and set the chicken. Coat the onions in the marinade and place in the pan as well.

Step 3

Put the chicken in the oven for not more then 30 minutes or until the outer edges of the chicken begins to crisp and darken. Once cooked, let the chicken rest for 2 minutes. Slice thinly. If you want to make the chicken more crisp, add a tablespoon of olive oil on a skillet at high heat and cook until chicken begins to curl tight. Serve with Hummus, white sauce, fresh veggies, pita, and pretty much anything you desire!

 

 

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Pad Thai

Today I begin my first full time job. I will be working in digital marketing in a PR company and while four years ago, I wouldn’t even think of this as a potential occupation, my experiences and degrees suggest otherwise. One of the things people have started telling me is that “Oh, Archit now that you have started working you will have no time.” I found this constant opinion that in college I had time and now I won’t, hilarious. College was hard y’all! I’m not going to lie, my last semester was a lot less busy but every other semester, I was constantly moving from a class to a meeting to working on homework. In fact, because I lived on campus I didn’t even have commuting time which I could use as respite from constant engagement.

In all this craziness, I also had to keep myself fed which meant either eating the same food in cafeterias or actually cooking. While I love cooking, it’s a little time consuming: prepping, the actual act of cooking, and washing dishes all add up. Therefore, I had to think of recipes that needed less equipment and minimal prep time. Enter Pad Thai. All it needs is rice noodles, any (or all) of the veggies you have in your fridge, and a sauce with which to caramelize everything. The important thing here is the sauce. All the flavors are introduced by the sauce which means it needs to hit the three palette tenets of asian food- spice, sweet, and savory. The traditional pad thai recipe asks for tamarind paste but I substitute that with lime juice and rice vinegar which simulate the tang and acidity of tamarind.

I miss original thai food all the time. One of my favorite places to eat in college was a small thai restaurant called Royal Thai, which was run by this tiny but energetic woman that we called “Thai Queen.” She used to love us and always gave us free refills of thai iced tea. I do miss college, but food like this keeps those memories alive. This week I had an unique opportunity to head back to Denison and begin a life there but I chose against it. I do believe that I made a good choice of starting a life in a country that does accept me but I guess only time will tell how smart of a choice this was.

Anyway, I hope you like recipe and give it a try. I have been hearing back from people who have been making some of the recipes and I am excited that you seem to like them. Send me pictures so that I can blog about them!

Pad Thai

 

Ingredients

Serving Size: 2 people

4 tablespoons fish sauce

2 tablespoons lime juice

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoons Sriracha

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 cloves garlic minced

2 red chillies or 3 green chillies

200 g of chicken breast or shrimp

2 well beaten eggs

15 large cremini mushrooms sliced thinly

1/2 red or green peppers

250 g of rice noodles (3 mins on boil)

6 Spring onions

handful of coarsely chopped cilantro

handful coarsely chopped peanuts

Preparation

Step 1

Boil noodles for 3 minutes or as per package instructions.

Step 2

To make the sauce: add sriracha, fish sauce, lime juice, rice vinegar, and sugar. Mix well.

Step 3

In a wok, add oil and heat on high until oil begins to smoke. Add Shrimp or chicken and cook a minute under it’s done. Remove protein, and add garlic, ginger, and all the veggies. Cook well and add rice noodles. Add the Beat the egg whites in the center along with your pad thai sauce

Step 4

Reduce the heat and let the sauce caramelize. Mix well and serve with peanuts.

 

Lemon Garlic Chicken with Mushroom Wild Rice

My favorite restaurant in college was Northstar Cafe. It’s a chain of homey little eateries found only in Columbus, Ohio. The food is locally sourced and the menu is small but each dish is made to perfection. The casual atmosphere is inviting to a mixed crowd of both young and old(er) patrons. As a college student it was definitely on the pricier side. My best friend Morgan and I loved this place. We would come here all the time and usually get the same things. One of us would get a flatbread, either chicken or veggie; a fish sandwich; a couple of ginger ales and a dark chocolate truffle giant cookie (for starters).

While I loved all the food, the one thing that always made me happy was the side dish that came with the fish sandwich. It was called a wild rice salad. A rice with a husk covering giving it the texture of oatmeal, along with a sweet dried currents, a silky acidic bite because of added dry wine, and a crunch delivered by slivered roasted almonds. The complexity of flavors and the simplicity of its appearance baffled me. I wanted to recreate this but give it my own twist.

Wild Rice

Lets start by talking about wild rice. A dark blown/ black colored rice indigenous of North America packs a lot of flavor. Unlike basmati or other polished rice, it doesn’t take in flavors but contributes its own to the dish. That’s also why it cannot be the only thing you serve. It has to accompanied with other flavors and perhaps even a protein. I decided to do both. For flavor, I substituted the currents with caramelized onions which provides the sweet profile but still is savory and I added thinly sliced button mushrooms that are cooked in a white wine reduction. This removes all the alcohol from the wine but flavor is soaked up by the mushrooms which compliment the rice amazingly well. For the protein, I chose the chicken breast that I sliced laterally and marinated in lemon juice, garlic, and dried rosemary for a quick 30 mins. Once the flavors were soaked in, I pounded the chicken thin and lightly coated in flour. The flour makes sure the chicken remains moist and also prevents the garlic and rosemary from burning.

What you end up with are well seasoned fillets of chicken with juicy outer layer and charred edges with just a hit of burnt garlic flavor. The rice is smooth and silky and mushrroms melt in your mouth while the rice gives some resistance but the kind that gives you the satifsfaction that you are eating something healthy. And to be honest, this is quite healthy. The rice is rich in fiber, chicken breast has no fat and we use very little oil. Though, there are ways to make it unhealthy too. Add butter in the rice and then dress it with raisins and roasted almonds for a decadent yet satifying side.

Go ahead and give this recipe a try and let me know how you like wild rice!

Ingredients

Serves 1

For the marinade

250 g Chicken Breast

2 tsp dried rosemary (1 tsp if you are using fresh rosemary)

2 tsp dried thyme (1 tsp if you are using fresh thyme)

2 cloves of garlic, minced finely

1tbsp olive oil

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

For the rest of the meal

2 tsp of all purpose flour

1/2 cup of wild rice (follow packet suggestions. Usually takes about 30 minutes to cook)

350 g of any fresh mushrooms finely sliced (3 cups chopped)

1/2 medium red onion finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced finely

1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 cup of dry white wine (I used a sauvignon blanc)

6-8 fresh basil leaves, tightly rolled and finely chopped

Salt, pepper, and lemon juice for taste

Preparation

Step 1

Start with the marinade. Take the chicken breast and cut lenghtwise. Add to the bowl with olive oil, garlic, dried spices, lemon juice and a lot of salt & pepper. Leave it in the fridge for 20 minutes and no more than 30.

Step 2

Take out the chicken and wrap in plastic wrap. Then with a meat tenderizer or a rolling pin (I used a rolling pin) beat the chicken until its about 1/4 inch thick. Place the tenderized chicken on flour and lightly coat both sides of the meat.

Step 3

Take a medium skillet, heat on high and add 1tbsp olive oil.  Add chicken and cook each side for 1.5 minutes. Remove and place on paper towel.

Step 4

Reduce the pan to medium heat and add the mushrooms. Cook until soft but not steaming. Add garlic, onion and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 2 minutes and then add basil and wine. Lets the wine bubble off and cook based on the amount of liquid you want. I cooked for 30 seconds until no actual liquid was draining but the rice was still moist. Add butter if you want a shimmering look and a silky texture.