Did I read ‘A healthy recipe challenge’? Wow, now that’s the kind of thing that gets my attention! And a challenge hosted by dear Angie of Fiesta Friday? Now that is one that I cannot ignore, can I? Especially considering the fact that for the last 18 months I have been scouring for knowledge combing through the vast ocean of information available (internet, books, case studies etc. etc.) to really understand what constitutes a healthy diet.
Is a plant based vegan diet the best for you? Or is it best to follow the Paleo route? What about GAPS? If you don’t know what this, look it up…you will be surprised! What about just going gluten free? or just avoiding sugar? Some say eggs are good for you some say they are bad. Some say good fats like coconut oil and ghee are good while there are others who believe that oil-free is the way to go! As you can imagine, instead of becoming well-enlightened, I am now in a state that is somewhere in the middle of being overloaded with information and slightly confused 🙁
Unfortunately, there seems to be no clear, concise answer. But there is one thing that is common among all these diets and that is …eating fresh vegetables and fruits! And lots of them – eat them raw in salads, in smoothies, freshly squeezed juices or cooked as in sautéed, roasted or steamed!. Also, stay away from processed foods which includes white sugar and processed meat. Processed foods are bad for you since they have artificial chemicals, sweeteners, GMOs etc which are the cause of many autoimmune and other diseases. Cook fresh, eat healthy that should be your mantra. Do not pick anything from the store (even if it says organic on the label) that lists more than 5 ingredients! And then one final piece of advice I have for you based on all my experiments with the different diets thus far is this: Choose one that you think you can live with. One that does not make you feel as if you are being deprived. Because at the end of the day a healthy mind is necessary for a healthy body ! Eat fresh, be happy 🙂
As for me, I have finally settled on a Paleo diet since I think that’s one that I am able to sustain and since the Paleo Autoimmune version is where I have seen good evidence of it working for reversing autoimmune diseases.
Hence for Angie’s challenge, I decided to make these wraps using Swiss Chard leaves. Angie’s challenge requires use of any greens and pineapple. Pineapple offers a ton of benefits – including their ability to improve respiratory health, cure coughs and colds, improve digestion, and reduce inflammation, fight off infections and parasites.
For the green, Why did I chose Swiss Chard? Nutrition experts believe that Swiss chard and other chenopod vegetables, like beets, can be a highly renewable and cheap source of nutrients for many populations. Swiss chard nutrition is so prized because not only can the plant can be grown in a range of soils and require little light and water, but it also provides such a high amount of nutrients (1).
Swiss Chard has an extremely high nutrient-density. It has a high range of antioxidants which are powerful at fighting free radical damage, inflammation, and disease development. Swiss chard is also one of the best sources of betalains, water-soluble plant pigments that have a wide range of desirable biological activities, including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties. (2) On top on this, Swiss chard packs an impressive amount of potassium, magnesium, calcium, copper, and even more vitamins and minerals. And with high levels of vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, and many trace minerals, there’s almost no health condition that Swiss chard can’t help.(3) In fact, Swiss chard is now even being grown in space! Swiss chard is among the first crops being grown in planetary space stations for astronauts and was chosen due to its extremely valuable nutrient profile, as well as its ease of being harvested. (4)
I was initially going to use shrimp for the stuffing but then decided that chicken would be a healthier option. The idea came from lettuce wraps and I decided to use the swiss chard instead of lettuce and to make the chard more edible I thought of making wraps and cooking them slightly. I also added some more greens additionally – spinach when I cooked the ground chicken adding the traditional Indian spices used for making chicken kheema and then for toppings – pineapple and coconut pieces!
The wraps were delicious – the pineapple providing a refreshing tang and sweetness to balance the spicy chicken and the coconut pieces providing a nice crunch! And for me that was a complete meal. However I can easy see myself serving these as an appetizer or a side dish for a gathering.
Chicken and Pineapple Stuffed Swiss Chard Wraps
For making chicken Kheema:
- 1 lb ground chicken, thawed completely
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 cup chopped spinach
- 1 tbsp chopped ginger
- 1 tbsp chopped garlic
- about 1 tsp sea salt (or as needed)
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1/2 tsp kashmiri chilli powder (or us black pepper powder)
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 6-8 Long Swiss Chard leaves
- finely chopped red onions
- fresh pineapple chopped into tiny pieces
- thinly sliced coconut pieces (I used fresh frozen pieces after thawing)
In a wok style pan or kadai, heat the coconut oil. When hot add the cumin seeds and when they begin to toast (about 30 seconds), add the ginger, garlic and the spinach. Stir for a minute or so. Then dump all the ground chicken into the pan. Add all the spices too and keep stirring well as the chicken starts cooking. Make sure you mix to coat all the spices well into the chicken mixture. Continue stir frying for about 10 minutes on medium heat until the chicken is well cooked. Add the lemon juice and Turn heat off and keep aside.
Now wash and dry the swiss chard leaves and cut the stems off all of them. Also run your knife through the thick vein on the middle of the back of each leaf. Then cut each large leaf vertically (through the middle vein) to get two pieces.
For making the wraps, stuff a little bit – about a tablespoonful of the chicken mixture into the bottom of one piece. Then top with the onions, pineapple and the coconut pieces. Then slowly roll each leaf piece carefully like how you would roll a bedding. Make similar rolls with the rest of the leaves.
To cook the rolls/ the wraps, heat a non stick pan lightly brushing with some coconut oil. Then slowly and carefully place the wraps in the pan by placing the side where the ends meet face downwards. Cook for about 1 minute on medium heat (this should seal the edges together) then carefully turn to the other side and cook another minute. Transfer the wraps to a serving dish.