I’ve got a new series for you today!
I have been actively trying to lose weight now for over a year. I’ve made some progress, almost fifty pounds, and over that time I’ve been trying to find delicious recipes that fit into my daily calorie range. Sometimes a recipe sounds so good that I just can’t ignore it, and I have to skimp on other meals to fit it in. So I wondered, if I tried, could I cut the calories in these heavy recipes in half?
Once a month I’ll be taking a recipe on and tweaking it, hoping to get the calories down by half without sacrificing taste. (Oh geez. I just noticed that Can I halve it sounds like Can I have it. I’m feeling punny now.)
This weeks recipe is Baked Sweet and Sour Chicken with Fried Rice from Life in the Lofthouse.
Here’s the original recipe. I slotted it at 4 servings since it wasn’t specified.
The original recipe was delicious. It tasted just like take-out, and was more than enough for dinner. I was borderline uncomfortably full, but it was so good. The hubs said we don’t have to order out anymore, since I can make this. My only issue was that the sweet and sour sauce was sweeter than I wanted. I wanted more sour.
Now, here’s my calorie-cutting version.
The biggest difference was in the amount of chicken. I made half the recipe, using 1 lb of chicken, since a serving of chicken is only 4 ounces.
I made additional changes as noted below:
3-4 boneless chicken breasts (2 pounds) – changed to 2 boneless chicken breasts (1 pound)
Salt and pepper
1 cup cornstarch – reduced to ¼ cup cornstarch (I used a plastic storage bag to shake it onto the chicken)
2 eggs, beaten – omitted
1/4 cup canola oil – reduced to 2 tbsp avocado oil (what I had on hand, and reduced to what I needed)
Here’s how I reduced the sauce:
3/4 cup sugar – reduced to 1/4 of a cup(less than half to reduce the sweetness issue I had)
4 Tablespoons ketchup – reduced to 2 tablespoons
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar – reduced to 1/4 cup
1 Tablespoon soy sauce – reduced to 1 1/2 teaspoons
1 teaspoon garlic salt – reduced to 1/2 teaspoon
I made the sauce in a saucepan, using 1 tbsp cornstarch dissolved in 2 tbsp water to thicken since I had cut the sugar so much. I wanted to make sure it still developed a sauce consistency.
With the fried rice, I reduced the rice by a cup, the sesame oil by half, and the soy sauce by a tablespoon, and left everything else as it was.
In terms of calories per serving, my version clocks in at only 554 versus 1,094 for the original recipe. Just barely more than half the calories.
In terms of flavor, my version was a hit. The breading had a slightly different texture, but I couldn’t describe it, and we actually preferred the cornstarch-only coating. The sauce was more even in sourness versus sweetness, which I liked, and there was still plenty of it. There wasn’t a noticeable difference in the fried rice. We couldn’t tell that there was less rice in it, and it tasted the same.
Last thing I’d like to mention: my version took almost half the time to make. Having to coat the chicken in cornstarch, then egg, and pan fry it in batches took me a while, and then it took an hour in the oven. Making the sauce on the stovetop before combining it with the chicken for baking (which I did while pan frying the chicken), reduced the bake time to about 40 minutes versus an hour.
Verdict: Win! This calorie cutting totally worked. It made the recipe quicker and more calorie-friendly, without sacrificing the flavor.
Let me know in the comments below if you liked this post, and if you have any recipes you’d like me to try to halve. I’d love to hear from you!
Here’s my modified version.
Baked Sweet and Sour Chicken with Fried Rice
2 boneless chicken breasts (1 lb)
Salt and pepper
¼ cup cornstarch
2 tbsp avocado oil(or whatever oil you usually cook with)
¼ cup sugar
2 tbsp ketchup
¼ cup distilled white vinegar
1 ½ teaspoons soy ssauce
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 tbsp cornstarch dissolved in 2 tbsp water
2 cups cooked brown rice (day old or leftover rice preferred)
1 ½ Tablespoon sesame oil (or vegetable oil)
1 cup frozen peas and carrots
1 small onion, chopped
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 eggs, slightly beaten
3 Tablespoons soy sauce
Preheat oven to 325°. Cut chicken breast into cubes and season with salt and pepper. Coat cubes in cornstarch (I put the cornstarch and chicken in a plastic storage bag and shook it).
Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, and pan-fry chicken pieces until browned but not cooked through. Place chicken in an 8×8 baking pan.
To make sauce, add sugar, ketchup, vinegar, soy sauce, and garlic salt to a small pan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, and add the cornstarch slurry. Stir until thickened slightly, remove from heat, and pour over chicken. Bake chicken for 40 minutes, uncovered, turning gently every 10 minutes.
For fried rice, heat oil in a large skillet or wok over high heat. Add onion and frozen peas and carrots. Stir fry until heated through. Add garlic, and stir fry one minute or until fragrant. Reduce heat to medium low, and push vegetables to the side. Add the beaten eggs to the clear side of the pan, and stir fry until scrambled. Add the rice and soy sauce and combine well. Stir fry until heated through. Serve with sweet and sour chicken.