I'm all about getting dinner made faster. As much as I love food and I love to cook, sometimes I just don't like the every day, "it's almost dinner time, what are we going to eat" thing! You would think as empty nesters that whole thing would get easier, but in fact I think it's gotten harder. I have gotten out of the routine of meal planning like I used to do when the kids were all at home, so I still deal with that last minute scramble of "What's for dinner?"
One of my least favorite parts of cooking dinner is deciding what to eat. I am happy to cook it, I just want someone else to make the decision. That's half the battle for me, deciding what to serve. When the kids were home they each got to choose what we were going to have for dinner one night of the week from a list of options that I gave them, so with four kids and a husband I had the week pretty much covered. I really didn't even need to ask my husband what he wanted because his usual response was "stir fry."
Stir fry really is a great way to get dinner on the table faster. I especially like it because it is a very flexible style of cooking and fairly health. I can pretty much go to the refrigerator and see what I've got and use it in a stir fry. I grab the veggies I have on hand and some type of meat, do a little chopping, mix up a sauce and I've got a delicious dinner ready in 30 minutes.
I have a basic go-to stir fry recipe that we love. You can substitute in whatever veggies or meat you might have on hand, or make it meatless if you'd like. Throw some rice in the rice cooker while you are cooking the stir fry and you are good to go.
One of our favorite stir fry recipes is for chicken almond stir fry. I love nuts in my stir fry, especially peanuts, cashews or almonds. I love the crunch and texture they add to the meal.
For this stir fry, I used carrots, celery, mushrooms and green onions. At the last minute I found a red pepper lurking in my produce bin, so I used it too. It added in some pretty color as well as flavor.
We are big chicken eaters so my meat of choice was chicken that I let sit in a mixture of egg whites, cornstarch, cooking sherry (found in the vinegar aisle or see recipe for substitute) and some salt.
Put the meat in the mixture first, and then let it sit while you are chopping your vegetables.
You will also be making a sauce to pour over the stir fry which combines water, cooking sherry (or substitute), cornstarch, soy sauce, chicken broth and sugar. This is cooked in a pan until it thickens. Set it aside to pour over everything once it is all cooked.
The meat can be cooked in a wok or a frying pan in oil. I try to use as little oil as possible but usually have about 1/4" depth in my frying pan. The less oil you have, the longer it will take the chicken to cook. Once it is cooked through, move it to a paper towel-lined plate while you stir fry up the vegetables.
Before I add in the vegetables I like to give my nuts a toss into the oil left in the frying pan. Just stir them around a bit until they start to brown. I love toasted nuts.
Remove them to a bowl and add in your veggies. Add in the carrots first, because they are the firmest, with a little minced ginger. When they are crisp-tender, add in your celery, mushrooms, and red peppers. I save the green onions for garnish. As soon as your vegetables are to your liking, add back in the chicken and nuts along with the sauce you made and give it a few tosses until everything is warm.
Serve it over a bed of rice and you have a delicious, fast, and healthy dinner.
Chicken Almond Stir Fry
- 1 1/2 c chicken broth
- 4 tbsp cooking sherry or use
- 2 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
- 4 tsp soy sauce
- 2 large chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces
- 1 egg white
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 carrots, diced
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 6-8 mushrooms, sliced
- 1 red pepper, sliced thinly
- 1/2 c whole, blanched almonds
- 1 tsp minced fresh ginger
- vegetable oil for cooking
For 1/2 cup sherry use 1/4 cup vinegar + 1 tablespoon sugar + 1/4 water OR 1 tbsp vinegar, plus chicken stock or water to make 1/2 cup.
Combine chicken broth, 2 tbsp sherry or substitute, 1 1/2 tbsp of cornstarch, sugar and soy sauce. Bring to a boil in a sauce pan and allow to boil for 5 minutes It will thicken.
Place chicken into 2 tbsp sherry or substitute, 1 Tbsp cornstarch, egg white, and salt. Allow to sit while you chop the vegetables.
Heat oil in wok or frying pan. Add chicken and cook until light brown. Depending on the size of wok or pan you may need to do in batches. You want it in a single layer.
Drain on a paper towel and repeat until all chicken is cooked.
Add nuts into remaining oil and stir fry a few minutes until brown and toasted. Remove and set aside.
Add in carrots (add more oil if needed) and cook until crisp tender. Then add in celery, mushroom, and red pepper and cook until tender. Add chicken and nuts back in and pour in sauce. Stir until everything is hot.
Serve over rice.
This post is part of BlogHer's Dinner, Faster editorial series, made possible by Land o' Lakes.
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