Our ideas about eating and cooking evolved pretty dramatically this year. Up until this point, things had been pretty willy-nilly/do as you please in the kitchen, and for the most part, we were totally okay with that. Our lives were filled with carbohydrates and dietary fat (beautiful, beautiful carbohydrates and fat) through the forms of heaping noodle dishes, creamy pastas, pizza, and indiscriminate amounts of grilled cheese sandwiches made on home-baked bread and cooked in quantities of butter only attainable through the accurate method of eyeballing it—"Is that a good amount?” I would say. "Yeah. That’s good. Real good,” he would say.
You can probably guess where this story is going.
It didn’t take long for us to realize that something was amiss, well, ahem, heavier. Luckily, Nate knew exactly what to do to help solve the problem. You’d never guess, but he’s about eighty pounds lighter than he used to be. At his heaviest, his doctor told him that he was pre-diabetic and had high cholesterol and fatty liver disease, and as you can imagine, this forced him to consider some changes. Like with all other problems he’s faced with, what did he do?
He analyzed the hell out of it.
He started exercising regularly and completely rebooted his diet through lots of painstaking and determined research, losing the weight in a matter of months. He knew that if he did it once, he could do it again, so we started counting our calories in an attempt to eat a more balanced diet. Since then, between the two of us, we’ve lost over 50 pounds (of body fat, not counting the muscle we’ve put on). Putting our heads together, we strove to fit some of our favorite flavors into the parameters of our food goals, and have actually created quite a few outstanding meals that have become go-tos for us. This is one of them.
We’ve come to a conclusion: healthy food that’s bland is unacceptable. Period. If it doesn’t taste good, then you won’t keep eating that way. Cooking uninteresting healthy food isn’t a sustainable strategy for healthy living—leaving out carbs, one of the biggest dieting hacks that’s cropped up in the last ten years or so is most often counter productive as well. One of the ways that we’ve tried to make our meals more delicious is making them look less like a healthy shopping list and more like a complete meal with inspiration and flavor. Everything on the menu should work together; tailor all of your ingredients to directly correlate with each other, and the meal you’re making will be nutritious and satisfying. This is what separates diet from cuisine.
This meal is inspired by a simple Southeast Asian staple: chicken and rice. We’ve transformed it into a hearty, easily made to be on-the-go meal known simply to us as “The Bowl”; packed with flavor coming from well seasoned protein and quinoa, avocado, fresh herbs, and a remarkably addictive sauce. While it isn’t the most photogenic thing in the world, don’t let this sauce’s humble appearance fool you. It’ll brighten up any savory dish it meets. While we heartily recommend using a mortar and pestle to make the sauce, it will still be delicious if you use a blender or food processor.
⅓ cup peeled fresh ginger, cut into thin rounds against the grain
⅓ cup fresh garlic, peeled, stem nubs removed
4–6 Thai chilies (or 2–3 serranos), stems removed
¼ cup white shiro miso
⅓ cup Thai light soy sauce
¼ cup white distilled vinegar
Juice of half a lime
If making in a mortar and pestle, pound the ingredients in succession according to the order listed above. The more fibrous aromatics will take more work, so starting with them first allows them to get more attention. Once the ginger, garlic, and chiles have been pounded into a thick paste, stir in the miso, soy sauce, distilled vinegar, and lime juice into the mortar and pestle and stir gently.
If making in a food processor, add the ingredients in the same order. Pulse the ginger, garlic, chilies, and miso together until it resembles a thick paste. In a liquid measuring cup (or something with a spout) mix the soy sauce, vinegar, and lime juice together, then pour through the top of the food processor or blender while the blade is running. Blend until smooth.
Keep refrigerated in an airtight container for about a week, if it lasts that long.
½ cup quinoa
1 tablespoon curry paste of your choosing (optional)
1 cup chicken broth
Salt to taste
Wash the quinoa in a strainer under running water and drain well. On medium heat in a deep sauce pan, toast the quinoa until it begins to give off a nutty aroma, giving it a stir from time to time. Add the curry paste if you’re using it and chop it with a spoon, making sure it’s well incorporated among the quinoa, then pour in the chicken broth. Bring the heat up to high and wait for the broth to boil. Once it has, put on a lid and bring the heat down to low.
Cook for 15 minutes, lidded and undisturbed on low, then turn the heat off and allow it to rest for five minutes. Remove the lid, fluff, add salt to taste, and set aside to cool.
1 cup cooked quinoa
8 ounces chicken breast, seared and seasoned with salt and pepper
2 cups greens (we like spinach)
Half of a large avocado
Divide the quinoa, chicken, greens, and avocado into two bowls and serve sauce on the side. Garnish with cilantro and cucumber slices.