Stir it Up|
Fast and Easy Cooking
by Deborah Taylor-Hough
On busy days, it's often more than a little tempting to get an
expensive drive-thru dinner just because the ingredients you have at home will
take too long to make into a meal. But I've found that if I keep ingredients
handy in the pantry and refrigerator for simple meal prep, I can have dinner on
the table in a flash -- and protect my pocketbook from that ravenous Fast Food
Monster at the same time!
One of my favorite quick fix meal preparation methods is stir-
frying. Including the prep time of chopping up meats and veggies, I can usually
have a stir-fry meal on the table from start to finish in about 15 - 20 minutes.
It's just a simple process where you rapidly cook meat and vegetables in a small
amount of oil. Stir-frying is similar to sauteing, except you use less oil,
hotter temperatures, and usually a wok. I do most of my stir-frying in my large
heavy skillet on the stovetop because I don't have enough storage in my kitchen
to keep my wok handy. I'm usually just too lazy on a hectic day to walk to the
cupboard down the hall to grab the wok.
You can find basic stir-fry instructions in almost any good
general cookbook or browse through books at the library on Asian cooking. With a
quick search online, you'll discover that the Internet's full of stir-fry
recipes -- and all for free! Don't you just love that price? It warms my little
Here are few simple tips to keep in mind when you pull out your
first wok recipe:
1) You want the oil in your wok or frying pan hot enough that
it's slightly smoking, otherwise the stir-frying will be too slow and your
vegetables will be limp.
2) Cut your ingredients into thin, bite-sized pieces so they'll
cook evenly and quickly.
3) It's helpful to choose vegetables and meats that will all
cook at about the same speed, otherwise you have to keep track of when to add
the different ingredients so everything's cooked, but nothing's overcooked.
4) Cook the meat first, remove from the pan, and then cook the
vegetables. Add the meat back into the pan at the end of cooking. This keeps the
flavors distinct and separate, and also keeps the meat from overcooking.
5) If you have ingredients that need to be added at different
times in the cooking process, chop them up ahead of time and put them onto
separate plates. Then you can just pick up the plate and dump the contents
directly into the wok or frying pan as needed.
6) When stir-frying, you want everything chopped and prepped in
advance because you can't stop stir-frying partway through the process to cut up
vegetables or slice meat.
7) Once you start cooking, keep stirring and tossing constantly
or things will burn or cook unevenly.
8) Fresh vegetables are wonderful in stir-fry meals, so when
your summer garden really starts producing, you're in the middle of stir-fry
To make stir-frying easy as can be, you'll want to keep stocked
up on some pantry staples. Keep watch for the following items when they go on
sale -- then you'll be ready to stir-fry at a moment's notice: fresh garlic,
crushed red pepper, sesame seeds, red chili paste, fresh ginger, water
chestnuts, bamboo shoots, chopped peanuts and cashews, Chinese spice blend,
sesame oil, peanut oil, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, rice vinegar, beef broth,
cooking sherry, cornstarch, rice, and Asian noodles.
Happy fast and easy stir-frying, everyone!
Deborah Taylor-Hough is the author of five books including the newly
released Frugal Living For Dummies(r) and the popular, Frozen Assets: How to
Cook for a Day and Eat for a Month. Visit Debi online, browse her articles
and books, and subscribe to a free e-newsletter or two at: http://hometown.aol.com/dsimple/