Better Than Chinese Takeout

Junk Food to Joy Food

When I interviewed for my job at Nourish Snacks over two years ago, I remember feeling intimidated to meet the company’s co-founder, Joy Bauer. I knew her from her gig as the TODAY Show’s nutritionist and when I found out that I’d have to put a presentation together for her and the team, I had a major freak out. Then I met Joy, and my fears melted. She was one of the sweetest, smiliest, and least intimidating people I had ever met. Over the course of my time at Nourish, she became something of a mentor to me, always encouraging me to pursue my dreams… even when I was working for her!

Over the last year, I was lucky enough to be around to watch her write her latest book, From Junk Food to Joy Food, which features over 100 healthy makeovers for crave-worthy recipes like Cinnamon buns, BBQ ribs, and ice cream. It was so inspiring to see her write a book while getting up at the crack of dawn for the TODAY Show, running her website, and creating snacks for Nourish, but the best part was that the she would often bring in recipes for us to taste test. They were always mouth-wateringly delicious so I wasn’t surprised when I made two of them from her book and they didn’t disappoint.

My husband loves ordering Chinese takeout but neither of us love the way that it makes us feel when he does (Heavy, full, sick to our stomachs). I made Joy’s healthier versions of General Tso’s Chicken and Cold Sesame Noodles, our two favorite Chinese dishes, over the weekend and Anel said it was the best meal I had cooked in months. The funny part is, I messed up two of the ingredients in the chicken, so as you can see, the thick General Tso-type sauce, didn’t quite happen. Joy’s actual recipe has a thick, sweet (but not too sweet) sauce that tastes exactly like this classic dish. But even with my mistake, the flavors were on point.

Scroll down for both recipes and buy Joy’s book, From Junk Food to Joy Food, for even more healthified favorites.

I made a few slight changes to her recipes- I subbed in tamari for soy sauce when it was used, honey in place of sugar, and Soba noodles for spaghetti in the second recipe.

Healthier Chinese Food

General  Joy’s Chicken (Serves 4)

260 calories per serving

Marinated Chicken Ingredients:

  • 1 egg white
  • 2 tblspns tamari
  • 3 tblspns brown rice wine or dry sherry
  • 1.5 lbs chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes

Sauce Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup pineapple juice (no sugar added)
  • 3 tblspns tamari
  • 1 tblspn rice wine or dry sherry
  • 3 tblspns chicken broth (I used my homemade bone broth for this!)
  • 1 tspn toasted sesame oil
  • 3/4 tspn garlic powder
  • 3/4 tspn ginger
  • 1/4 tspn red pepper flakes
  • 1 tblspn cornstarch or arrowroot flour (this is the ingredient that I forgot. It’s important because it thickens the sauce so don’t leave it out!)
  • 6 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 tblspn sesame seeds (optional)


Whisk egg, tamari, and rice wine in a medium bowl. Add the chicken and stir so the marinade evenly coats each piece. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it marinate for at least 30 minutes.

To make the sauce, heat the pineapple juice in a small pan until it comes to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until it reduces to about 1/4 cup and has thickened. This should take about 7 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.

Mix the tamari, rice wine, chicken broth, sesame oil, spices, and cornstarch in a small bowl, Mix until there are no lumps.

Spray a large skillet with oil spray. Pour the chicken and leftover marinade into the skillet and cook on medium-high until chicken pieces are done, about 7 minutes. Remove chicken from the pan, set it aside.

Pour the sauce mixture into the skillet and cook until it thickens, about 1 minute. Add the cooked chicken to the pan and toss to coat. Cook for another 2 minutes, stirring continuously until sauce thickens even more. Garnish with scallions and sesame seeds.

Cold Sesame Noodles

Cold Sesame Noodles (Serves 4)

407 calories per serving


  • 12-oz box Soba noodles
  • 2 tspns toasted sesame oil
  • 3 tblspns natural peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth (or veggie)
  • 1/4 cup tamari
  • 1 tblspn honey
  • 1 tblspn rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tspn hot sauce (optional)
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced (0ptional)
  • 6 baby carrots, chopped (optional)
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced (optional)
  • Ground black pepper to taste


Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the noodles according to package directions. Drain the noodles and transfer them to a large mixing bowl. Toss with sesame oil.

In a smaller bowl, whisk peanut butter, broth, tamari, honey, vinegar, and hot sauce, until smooth.

Pour the peanut-butter sauce over the noodles and toss well. Add the cucumbers, carrots, and half of the scallions. Toss to combine and season with pepper. Spoon into a serving bowl and top with remaining scallions. You can serve this dish hot, cold, or at room temperature.

Pick up a copy of From Junk Food to Joy Food here for more healthy makeovers of your favorite recipes!

Joy Food Book

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  1. Guest Poster said:

    It would be helpful if you put the nutritional information on as well

    3.8.16 · Reply
    • Julia Dzafic said:

      Good point! Just added calories but let me know if you’re looking for more 🙂

      3.8.16 · Reply
  2. Maggie said:

    Yum!! Those look so delicious!

    3.8.16 · Reply
  3. Dana Mannarino said:

    Definitely bookmarking this – looks delicious!

    Pink Champagne Problems

    3.8.16 · Reply
  4. Lauren Anne said:

    I love Joy’s recipes from TODAY, her healthy cream of broccoli soup was a godsend for a quick weeknight dinner during the winter. I’m definitely going to try the cold sesame noodles but I think I’ll sub in zucchini noodles, totally hooked on them!


    3.8.16 · Reply
  5. said:

    This recipe looks so delicious and fresh and it doesn’t appear to be too salty, based on what I see from the ingredients. You have a lovely blog and a great sense of style! I’m a 48 year old blogger from the SF bay area who always enjoys your posts. So happy to hear that you have found a wonderful work life balance! Tell Anel he is doing a fabulous job with your pictures!

    3.8.16 · Reply
  6. Emily said:

    Both of these look amazing! Yum! I am going to have to try them both. My husband and I both are big fans of Chinese food, but like ya’ll, hate the feeling an hour or so later with a cranky tum. Thanks for these recipe ideas!


    3.8.16 · Reply