Thursday, April 3, 2014

What Did I Make Tonight? Stir-Fry Noodles and Vegetables

When you need a very fast meal from prep to table, try this one on for size. I watched the clock while I prepared this, and it was about 20 minutes, certainly less than 30. And it's a crowd-pleaser, too.

As all my dishes, this one is very versatile. I'll offer suggestions for substitutions or variations as I go along. Some of the variations or substitutions may make this take a bit longer, but it's still a very quick meal.

  • 2 tbsp. oil - I used a combination of sesame oil and canola. Olive would also be fine. Or whatever you have.
  • 2 or 3 packages Yakisoba Stir-Fry Noodles - I find them in my supermarket's produce section with the tofu products. They were on sale 3/$5 so I picked up a bunch.
  • 2-3 carrots
  • 2-3 ribs of celery
  • Half a small head of purple cabbage or 1/4 of a large head of purple cabbage (Or use any other cabbage you have on hand, or if you have bagged shredded cabbage, so much the better. Napa cabbage is fantastic in this if you want to get fancy.)
  • 1 small onion or 1/2 a large onion (I used a white onion, but yellow or purple would be fine. Even a few green onions instead would be fine!)
  • 1 16oz. bag of frozen peas
  • 1 bag of MorningStar Farms Grillers Recipe Crumbles (or other veggie meat, or a block of tofu diced, or real ground beef, or ground turkey, or diced chicken breast or thigh - if you're doing tofu or meat, you'll need to brown it first)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. lemon, lime, or orange juice (I used a small blood orange we got from our CSA. It gave it a slightly tart-sweet flavor that I really enjoyed)
  • 1 tbsp. rice vinegar (or more citrus juice, or other kind of vinegar, whatever you have on hand)
  • 2 tbsp. brown sugar (or honey, or white sugar, or whatever other sweetener you like to use)
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • black pepper
  • salt

  • Knife
  • Cutting board
  • Juice glass or measuring cup
  • Skillet
  • Stirring spoon
  • Fork
  • Put your skillet on the stove, add the oil to the skillet, and turn the burner to MEDIUM

  • Chop your veggies. The smaller the pieces, the faster they'll cook and the faster your meal will be ready.

  • Add the veggies to the pan

  • Add a pinch of salt and stir everything around to make sure everything gets exposed to the hot oil.
  • Make your sauce: mix together the soy sauce, citrus juice and/or vinegar, brown sugar, garlic powder, a grind or two (or shake or two) of black pepper, and about half a cup of water in a measuring cup or juice glass or whatever. Stir it up so the sugar dissolves. Set aside.

  • Allow the veggies in the pan to cook for about 7-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent and the carrots are softened.

  • Add the bag of peas and the veggie meat
  • Stir.
  • Now prep your noodles. The directions on the package should give you two ways to soften the noodles. Typically, you remove them from the outer package but leave them in their plastic bag and either run them under hot water for a few minutes or pop them in the microwave for a few seconds. Do whatever your package says. (If yours came with a seasoning packet, we're not using that in this recipe. Keep it to use some other time or just toss it out.)
  • When noodles are softened, add them to the pan and break them apart with a fork as best you can. As they heat and cook, they'll separate more.

  • Add the sauce to the pan and turn the heat up on the burner to HIGH to bring the sauce to a boil. Mix everything around so the noodles get into the sauce so they can cook. Once the sauce is simmering, turn the burner back down to MEDIUM.
  • Let everything cook for another 3 or 4 minutes until the noodles are ready, stirring occasionally.
  • Serve!
I tried to include the oven clock in a few pictures so you could see how much time really passed while I made this. The first picture shows the time as 4:47, and the final picture shows 5:09. I served it just a few minutes later.

As always, this is a method not a firm recipe. Add or subtract vegetables according to what you have and what you like. Add in bell peppers, for example, or asparagus, or broccoli, or green beans. Use rice or pasta or quinoa instead of the yakisoba noodles (if you do this, you'll have to cook your starch separately and then add it in at the end. I'd use about a cup of rice or quinoa or half a pound of angel hair pasta. See my Basics article for tips on making pasta and rice.). If you want to use meat, brown it in the pan first, then remove it, cook the veggies as above, and then add it back in after the veggies have cooked. If you want to use tofu, cube the tofu and brown it first, maybe tossed in some cornstarch before browning, remove it from the pan, do the veggies, and then add the tofu back in before the sauce.

You can do a lot with this basic dish, and the idea is to kind of use up vegetables you have in your fridge and make a quick meal on a busy night. You could even prep the veggies earlier in the day or week and just throw them in the pan once the oil is hot to speed up the process even more!

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