This easy Chinese chicken from the cookbook 100 Days of Real Food on a Budget is so simple and delicious! Prep-ahead directions included to simplify dinnertime!
100 Days of Real Food
I’ve been following Lisa Leake’s blog, 100 Days of Real Food, since the early days. In fact, I think that I started following her blog around the same time that I started mine, so it was one of my earliest inspirations.
When Lisa released the first 100 Days of Real Food cookbook in 2014, I jumped on it. In fact, I had pre-ordered it so it would be delivered to my Kindle on the day it came out. And when her second book, 100 Days of Real Food: Fast and Fabulous, came out in 2016, I was excited to write a review about it. So, of course, when the opportunity came up to review her latest book, 100 Days of Real Food on a Budget, released on Tuesday, of course I couldn’t pass it up!
100 Days of Real Food on a Budget
After Lisa’s family completed the initial 100 Days of Real Food challenge, she heard the voices of readers who pointed out that whole, unprocessed, and organic foods were just too pricy for their tables on a day to day basis. So, she started a second challenge where for 100 days she and her family of four ate off of a grocery budget of $125/week, which she states on her website is less than the full SNAP benefit of $167/week. 100 Days of Real Food on a Budget is a book dedicated to budget friendly “real food” meals.
Lisa’s books always begin with an explanation of what “real food” is (basically, whole foods and/or packaged foods with five or fewer ingredients) and tips for how to shop for a real food pantry. In this book, she also gives tips in the first chapter about minimizing waste, meal planning, and lowering your grocery bill.
Other chapters in the book include:
- packed lunches
- salads and sides
- snacks and appetizers
- simple dinners
- slow cooker favorites
- special treats
- homemade staples.
Each recipe includes a price breakdown showing the cost of each ingredient as well as the cost per serving. Lisa’s prices are based on Publix prices at the time that the book was written, so she didn’t go super-inexpensive with Aldi or Walmart prices but also did not shop at Whole Foods or Earth Fare, which certainly would have yielded much higher prices.
Lisa’s recipes are always approachable. She doesn’t go over the top with fancy dinners that the average person couldn’t (or wouldn’t) replicate at home. She is the mother of two middle school age daughters, so her recipes are also kid-approved. Granted, her kids probably eat more vegetables than the average teens/pre-teens, but she was very candid in the early days of her blog about having a picky eater and gives lots of tips for winning them over.
My favorite feature of Lisa’s books (and her blog) is always the “packed lunch” section. She gives tons of ideas for lunches that are both kid and adult pleasing and don’t involve a sandwich every day (I for one would lose my mind if I had to eat a sandwich every day!). That chapter of this book does not disappoint!
The only (sort of) negative thing that I have to say about the book is that, looking at the cost per serving of some of the recipes, I think that it might still be seen as somewhat cost-prohibitive by a family on a very strict budget. I recognize, though, that this is less of a flaw of her book and more of a flaw of our food system, which sells high-calorie processed foods at a much lower premium, calorie for calorie, than fruits, vegetables, and other unprocessed foods. Still, the book delivers lower cost ways to incorporate whole foods into your diet in an accessible way that can be useful for anyone – even those on a very tight budget – to at least start moving in the direction of eating a little better.
Easy Chinese Chicken
That leads me to this easy Chinese chicken from the book. It is similar to my standard Chinese restaurant order, sesame chicken, except without the cloying sweetness and the overwhelming bloat I always feel after. I prepped this meal ahead by:
- Cutting the chicken thighs into chunks
- Mixing the marinade in a jar
- Mixing the sauce ingredients in a jar (I deviated slightly from Lisa’s recipe, which directs you to cook the garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes in a pan before adding the remainder of the sauce ingredients, by just shaking everything together in one jar)
- Cutting up the broccoli (I cooked the broccoli using the stir-fry broccoli recipe from the book)
- Adding the jar of marinade to the container of chicken an hour or so before I started making dinner
Prepping the meal ahead meant that my time from starting dinner to getting it on the table was cut at least in half. I cooked brown rice in my Instant Pot then breaded and pan-fried the chicken while it was cooking. The sauce reduced quickly and I had dinner on the table in about 40 minutes (cleaning up while I went, taking photographs, and getting a few other things done around the house while turning the chicken and stirring the sauce).
This easy Chinese chicken from 100 Days of Real Food on a Budget was a delicious dinner and a great way to start my foray into meal prepping! I definitely recommend the book. Follow this link if you would like to get a copy of 100 Days of Real Food on a Budget for yourself!
*I received a copy of this book to review and write about on my blog. I have followed and supported the 100 Days of Real Food blog for many years. As always, all opinions are mine and mine alone!
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Yield: 4 servings
15 minPrep Time:
25 minCook Time:
40 minTotal Time:
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (I used the full teaspoon and it was a little spicy for me)
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 2-inch cubes
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 4 tablespoons coconut oil
- To prep ahead: in one jar, shake together the marinade ingredients. In another jar, shake together the sauce ingredients. Cover and refrigerate. Cut the chicken into cubes, place in a storage container, and refrigerate.
- At least fifteen minutes and up to 12 hours before you want to cook the chicken, add the marinade to the chicken.
- When you are ready to cook the chicken, place the whole wheat flour on a plate and roll the chicken pieces around in the flour to coat completely. Move the chicken to another plate.
- Heat the coconut oil in large skillet over medium heat (I used a 12-inch cast iron skillet). When shimmering, add the chicken pieces in a single layer and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side until browned. Remove to a clean plate (I did this in two batches), leaving the browned bits in the pan. Do not remove the pan from the heat.
- After all of the chicken is cooked, give the jar of sauce ingredients a good shake and pour into the pan that you cooked the chicken in. Stir, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan, and reduce until the sauce is thickened. Add the cooked chicken pieces to the pan and stir to coat. Serve immediately with cooked rice and your choice of vegetables.