Chicken in Almond-Yogurt Sauce

Yesterday at the gym, I had yet another disappointing conversation about weightlifting with a fellow female. She’s a gym class junkie and probably has been for at least 20 years. In fact, we only ever speak in the locker room, because I never see her on the gym floor. Regardless, I’d say she’s dedicated to exercise and in very good shape. Our conversation went like this:

GCJ (Gym Class Junkie): what have you been doing lately?
Me: Same old, weightlifting and stuff.
GCJ: Is that all?
Me: Well I still do some other cardio and running here and there, but mostly lifting.
GCJ: You know what you should try? Pilates. It’s sooo good for you. I love it.
Me: Yeah.. I dunno… I’m really into the lifting. I know pilates is supposed to be great but I kind of want to be one of those girls deadlifting over 200lbs and doing 10 chin-ups.
GCJ: (you should have seen the horrified look on her face!)
Well, be careful. I’m just saying, I used to do a lot of high-intensity stuff when I was younger and it really screwed up my back.
Me: Well, yeah, I mean, you have to be careful with form, and work up gradually to higher weights…
GCJ: Really, though, I used to do tons of high intensity aerobics and it gave me sciatic problems.

I pause to think. She is thinking “high intensity aerobics” is somehow like “heavy lifting.” Now, I know that both can be risky business, and I need to be careful with my lifting and all that. But at this point I am also realizing she’s one of those women who’s been totally afraid to strength train. As a result, she probably  has very little muscle in her hamstrings, lower back, and core. And that’s why she had those sciatic issues from the high impact aerobics.

Me: Oh, really? I used to get a lot of back pain / sciatic problem when I was running a lot and not doing much lifting. But ever since I started strength training and working on my core, I don’t get that at all. Did you know that a lot of women don’t have nearly enough muscle on our back sides and that’s why we are prone to those sciatic problems?
GCJ: Yes, that’s true, but… (I think she didn’t know what else to say!) Well, just be careful!
Me: Thanks!

Just to clarify, I have nothing against pilates or high impact aerobics. I’m sure they’re great for some people, but those aren’t the kinds of activities that are going to help me reach my goals right now.

My frustration here is that we have yet another female totally out of the loop on lifting. And I believe that when you don’t know what you’re talking about, you should be quiet and refrain from giving unsolicited advice. Better yet, shut up and be willing to listen. (This same woman has asked me in the past what she can do to pump up her routine. Apparently she has not ordered her copy of New Rules yet.)

I think I know a lot about food, so I’m eager to advise about it. I have a special talent for picking out the tastiest things on a menu so quite often my friends and family members will ask for my approval before ordering – or even appoint me to order for the table. But one thing I admit I don’t know much about is Indian food. Don’t invite me out with you and expect me to know what to order. For once in my life, I’d give up that control.With one exception. If there is something on the menu resembling this Chicken in Almond-Yogurt Sauce, I’d say we have to get it. Joanne says it’s authentic, and she’s a smartie so I trust her. It intrigued me enough to run out and buy whole cardamom pods as soon as I could – that was a first. And now that I’ve made it, I know it’s delicious and a must-try next time I’m out for Indian food (which, shamefully, would be the first time.)

Chicken Cooked in a Yogurt-Almond Sauce (Murgh Korma)
Adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s Climbing The Mango Trees
via Eats Well With Others

2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, peeled, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 2.5-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
5 coves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 oz slivered almonds
1 1/2 cups (12 oz) nonfat plain Greek yogurt
1 1/2 tsp garam masala
1 tbsp ground coriander
1/2-1 tsp cayenne pepper, to taste
1 1/2 tsp salt
two 2-inch cinnamon sticks
8 whole cardamom pods
2 bay leaves
4 pieces of boneless, skinless chicken breast, about 5oz each
2 tbsp (25gm) golden raisins
3 tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a dutch oven or large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions. Cook for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions are a deep reddish brown.

Meanwhile, place the ginger, garlic, and almonds in a food processor with 1/3 cup water. Blend until the mixture becomes a smooth paste.

Whisk together the yogurt, garam masala, coriander, cayenne pepper and salt. Set aside.

When the onions are cooked, remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil, keeping a medium heat level. When hot, add the cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, and bay leaves. Stir once or twice. A minute later, push the contents of the pan to one side and add the chicken pieces in a single layer. Let them cook, undisturbed, for about 3-4 minutes or until lightly browned; flip and cook the other side.

Add the golden raisins to the pan, then the ginger-almond paste from the blender. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring. Stir and fry for 2 minutes. Now put in the contents Finally add the yogurt mixture and return the onions to the pan. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer, still on medium heat. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook for 25-30 minutes, stirring gently every now and then, until the chicken pieces are tender. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.

Nutritional Info
Servings Per Recipe: 4
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 358.5
Total Fat: 12.5 g
Cholesterol: 82.2 mg
Sodium: 132.1 mg
Total Carbs: 16.3 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.6 g
Protein: 44.0 g

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13 Responses to “Chicken in Almond-Yogurt Sauce”

  1. 1

    megcjones — October 21, 2010 @ 5:57 pm Reply

    don't let that lady get you down – lifting is fantastic, and good for you for having goals of being able to deadlift like a champ :)also, this chicken looks absolutely delicious. thanks for sharing this recipe!-meg

  2. 2

    Dawn — October 21, 2010 @ 6:23 pm Reply

    GAH! I have this one on my list from Joanne's blog too! I have got to make it.I am in complete agreement about the weight lifting. I happen to love weights and don't get quite as much from the heavy cardio. In fact I weigh less now than when I was running constantly. At this point I try to mix in as much cardio as I can but my heart is in power yoga and weights.

  3. 3

    Lisa — October 21, 2010 @ 6:42 pm Reply

    That story was so funny! I hate that people at the gym always think they're experts. I've had so many people come up and think they're helping me by giving me tips when they're really just making me upset and half the time they're wrong. Everyone does their own thing…and that's what (smart) trainers are for!

  4. 4

    Notes from the Fatty File — October 21, 2010 @ 7:57 pm Reply

    a) That chicken sounds amazing and I am thinking I need to go out and get cardamom. My husband would go bananas if I made him something like this.b) I am SO ordering NROLFW because I want to be badass, too. I've been doing strength training stuff twice a week but my focus has really been on running. I don't want to just be a cardio chick, though. I love your goals!

  5. 5

    Bonnie — October 21, 2010 @ 8:45 pm Reply

    I totally agree with your frustration around women and weight training. People make comments to me all the time, especially since I'm doing all low-rep/high weight exercises right now. Plus, I feel a million times better when I'm getting in a good lift regularly. I did New Rules twice and have now switched over to 5/3/1 and I LOVE it. I'm making big gains in the main lifts and I feel really cool lifting more than some of the guys! 🙂

  6. 6

    Joanne — October 21, 2010 @ 11:59 pm Reply

    Yay! i'm so glad you made it and liked it! That dish is a miracle, I swear. You think it can't possibly work. Put the cover on. And then voila! Magic.I am totally a girl who hates weight lifting but I do it because if my legs are stronger, my knees won't hurt as much when I run. I try to do a total body conditioning class at least once a week so every part of my body gets some weight lifting action. But yeah, it frustrates me when girls think that they're going to get TOO muscley from lifting. It's actually impossible to do unless you specifically set out to do it. And even then, it's hard.

  7. 7

    Shannon — October 22, 2010 @ 4:04 am Reply

    ooh, this sounds fabulous, i must try it!!i love that you want to do 200lb deadlifts and 10 chinups 🙂 i just started getting back into bodypump and love it so… now i just need to find more time to get into the weight room myself when it's not too busy!

  8. 8

    carascravings — October 22, 2010 @ 4:17 am Reply

    Looks like a great recipe!And I agree with the weights thing…a lot of people are just uninformed about it.I love incorporating weights and strength routines into my workouts…I love to be able to see my progress.

  9. 9

    Jess — October 22, 2010 @ 6:54 pm Reply

    Someone rec'd your blog to me last night at a blogger event and I love it. You have some fabulous recipes! They rec'd your blog b/c you are a worcester blogger? if so me too! (well, sort of… central MA)Anyway I'm glad I stumbled upon it and look forward to reading more!And many women are misinformed about weight lifting. As a formerly employed personal trainer, so many of my clients were worried about getting "man muscles." If they only knew that it's impossible to look like a female body builder for 99.9% of the population and that lifting makes you burn more fat and more importantly, makes you STRONG!

  10. 10

    Barbara — October 23, 2010 @ 1:00 pm Reply

    Variety is what I like at the gym…weights, step and pilates. I get bored doing the same thing.

  11. 11

    marla {Family Fresh Cooking} — October 24, 2010 @ 3:02 pm Reply

    I am with you on the weight lifting. I have never felt better or looked better. When I can I fit in pilates – but not nearly as often as I lift. Moderation for me in everything these days. I LOVE having muscles though :)This Chicken recipe sounds amazing & I always trust you and Joanne.

  12. 12

    Kerstin — October 24, 2010 @ 7:28 pm Reply

    I really enjoy weightlifting too but I'm always the only girl at our gym doing free weights – it makes me sad. This chicken dish looks so flavorful with all those spices – yay for yummy Indian 🙂

  13. 13 — October 25, 2010 @ 6:04 pm Reply

    boo to rude, ignorant snobby gym girls, and yay to you for knowing what you love and sticking to it no matter what anyone else thinks! this meal looks super delish – and so healthy too.

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