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Satisfy Chinese takeout craving with Kung Pao Cod

By Melissa d'Arabian, Associated Press
Associated Press
Kung Pao Cod will satisfy your craving for Chinese food. Using pan-seared cod reduces calories and fat.

Eating healthy doesn't mean there isn't room for occasional treats like Chinese takeout or a drive-through for our favorite one-of-a-kind cheeseburger. As long as we keep these kinds of meals reserved for true cravings, not convenience, then I can probably keep our healthy eating in check.

For regular weeknights, building up a repertoire of fast, tasty and healthy versions of the family's favorite dishes is the best strategy to avoid ordering fast food simply because I'm so hungry I no longer care what I eat as long as it's quick. (Nothing worse than scarfing down a pizza that I didn't truly enjoy!)

What if there was a way to incorporate some of these drool-worthy indulgences into a normal weeknight menu? Kung Pao Cod scratches the itch of the Chinese takeout craving, but for a fraction of the calories, fat and cost. I keep the main flavors of traditional Kung Pao, but swap out fried chicken or shrimp for pan-seared cod, which means lots of protein comes with healthier fat. I keep the cod in whole fillet form, which means the fish stays together better, and no time is lost on cubing meat. I pan-sear the fillets and then pour the sauce over the fish just before serving. The mild fish takes on the complex flavors readily, even without the typical marinating of Kung Pao.

To add even more nutrients, I bulk up the dish with quick-cooking and healthy mushrooms and peppers. And the sauce is simplified to save time: I whisk all the ingredients into one bowl and dump it all at once into the pan, cooking it only for a minute or so. Small tweaks make this recipe weeknight-speedy and weeknight-healthy, too.

Food Network star Melissa d'Arabian is an expert on healthy eating on a budget. She is the author of the cookbook "Supermarket Healthy."