Sweet-Spicy Chicken and Vegetable Stir-Fry

Ah, such is the month of January, when the holiday decadence is over and we look toward exercise and healthy eating once again!

A few evenings after work I go to the gym, which is good and bad; good because I’m getting exercise, but bad because when I get home all I want to do is EAT! This recipe from the September Cooking Light magazine is a frequent supper on those nights; if you prep everything the night or morning before, all you have to do is toss it in the skillet and dinner is ready quicker than if you called out for Chinese! It’s also a healthy option that you make at home with good protein and vegetables.

I hope you’re not put off by the Chinese ingredient list; many supermarkets now sell items such as sambal oelek and fish sauce. Gone are the days of having to go to the specialty Asian markets for such exotic ingredients. And they last forever in the refrigerator, and when I say last forever, I mean years!

The original recipe called to be served over sesame rice; this is how I make it. Add 1 cup of brown rice or 1 ½ cups of boiling water. Turn to low, stir, and when it is done cooking, add some sesame seeds and a little drizzle of sesame oil. I like the hot kind.

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Sweet-Spicy Chicken and Vegetable Stir-Fry
From the September 2012 issue of Cooking Light magazine

3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sambal oelek
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
8 ounces sugar snap peas
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1/2 medium red onion, cut into thin wedges
1/4 cup sliced green onions
1/4 cup unsalted dry-roasted peanuts (These are optional for me)

1. Combine the first 7 ingredients, stirring well; set aside.
2. Heat a large wok or large heavy skillet over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon canola oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add chicken; stir-fry 4 minutes or until browned and done. Remove chicken from wok. Add remaining 1 tablespoon canola oil to wok; swirl to coat. Add sugar snap peas, bell pepper, and red onion; stir-fry 3 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender. Stir in brown sugar mixture; cook 1 minute or until thickened. Stir in chicken; toss to coat. Sprinkle with green onions and peanuts.

Cook’s Notes:
• I frequently can’t find fresh snap peas in the supermarket, so I substitute shelled frozen edamame, green beans, or peas, or you can just add more peppers if you prefer.
For a vegetarian version, you can bump up the veggies and add some tofu. Or just all veggies. The secret is in the sauce!

A Little Bit of This and a Little Bit of That

At least once a week I get asked the question, “What’s for dinner?” with which I promptly answer, “a little bit of this and a little bit of that.” That’s my code for I’m not really sure. I usually cobble something together, which as a rule turns out pretty good. Please note, while I am a good cook, I have been known to make on several occasions absolutely terrible meals, which go directly to the compost pile. (Like the rhubarb pie I recently made. I took lovely photos of it and was so excited to share. Note to self, always use more sugar than you think with rhubarb!) Dinner on those evenings ends up being cereal or eggs.

That was my answer to what was for dinner the other evening. I wasn’t really sure. I had leftover chicken and rice, but without a microwave, reheating these can be tricky. I had a new container of mushrooms, a couple of sad-looking carrots, a cabbage that needed to be used up, and realized I could make a pretty good stir fry. It was ready in about 15 minutes and there were leftovers for lunch!

In a skillet, heat 2 teaspoons of olive or canola oil. Add a little bit of chopped onion and carrot and cook for a few minutes. Add some sliced cabbage and chopped mushrooms  and sauté until they start to lose some of their moisture. (Don’t worry about the veggie measurements, you never can have too much!) Your stir fry is now basically done, just add the cooked chicken and rice to warm. I added a few drops of fish sauce, which is optional. To be honest, fish sauce smells like bad sneakers, but it brings out flavor and I sometimes add it to dishes sparingly, since it is extremely salty. A couple teaspoons of hoisin sauce, stir, and turn the burner to low to heat everything through for a few minutes. I topped mine with some tiny polka dots of sriracha sauce for a little extra spice. A delicious dinner with a bit of protein and lots of vegetables!