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Prairie Fare: Stir-fry Your Way to a Healthier Diet

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Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist
When I began stir-frying ginger, garlic and chicken, my children gathered in the kitchen to enjoy the pleasant aroma.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

Years ago, before a husband and three children were part of my daily life, I took various community education cooking and baking classes. I learned to decorate cakes, cook Italian food and make various soups. I had a lot of fun in the process.

The Asian cooking class was my favorite. We learned to wrap egg rolls, make wonton soup and tried various stir-fry recipes.

While reminiscing about cooking classes and fewer responsibilities is kind of fun, daily cooking is a reality. The other day, homemade Chinese food sounded good.

When I began stir-frying ginger, garlic and chicken, my children gathered in the kitchen to enjoy the pleasant aroma. When my husband made Asian steamed rolls with ginger, cabbage and pork wrapped in dough, our children raved.

They actually ate cabbage and asked for more broccoli.

I was happy to hear them be excited about eating more colorful vegetables. Not only are veggies low in calories and high in fiber, but they also may reduce our risk for heart disease and certain types of cancer.

Preparing and chopping vegetables takes a little time up front, but stir-frying is one of the fastest food preparation methods. If you don’t have time to chop the veggies, consider buying a package of frozen stir-fry vegetables.

You also can buy prepared vegetables from a grocery store salad bar to save time, although that’s generally a more expensive option.

Stir-frying is a healthful cooking technique because you just add a small amount of fat. Some people skip the fat altogether and stir-fry in broth.

I used canola oil because it’s high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fat and it doesn’t add a particular flavor. Some people prefer peanut oil or sesame oil, which add a touch of their characteristic flavor.

If you never have attempted a stir-fry, try it with these tips. You can start with raw meat or poultry or you can use leftover chicken, turkey or beef. Your family won’t recognize they are eating leftovers. You can think of them as planned-overs.

While we have invested in some special equipment, including a bamboo steamer for making steamed rolls and a wok for stir-frying, you really do not need special equipment. A nonstick frying pan or electric fry pan works just fine for stir-frying. Consider these tips:

  • Get everything ready before you heat the pan because stir-frying takes just a minute. Set the table, too, because dinner will be ready soon.
  • Cut meat into bite-size pieces. To add flavor, marinate the meat in a small amount of a favorite marinade while you chop the vegetables.
  • Wash and chop the vegetables in bite-size chunks, cutting at an angle to expose the most surface area for faster cooking.
  • Preheat oil in a nonstick frying pan or wok. You can flavor the oil and your dish by adding some ginger root and/or garlic. Keep a close watch on the stove to be sure not to burn the ginger or garlic.
  • First, stir-fry the meat, moving it quickly around the pan until cooked thoroughly.
  • Add the vegetables and stir. Add the most tender vegetables last so they are not overcooked.
  • Broccoli, carrots and onions take longer to cook than snow peas and peppers. Add water, broth or stir-fry sauce and cook until crisp-tender.

Here’s an easy recipe that makes use of planned-over chicken or turkey. You can substitute marinated raw poultry, but allow a little extra cooking time. The recipe is courtesy of the Oregon State University Extension Service.

Vegetable-Chicken Stir Fry

1 Tbsp. canola or sunflower oil

2 thin slices fresh ginger root, * minced

1 garlic clove, peeled and minced

1 c. cooked chicken (or turkey), cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1/2 tsp. sugar

4 c. chopped vegetables of choice (broccoli, carrots, onions, peppers)

1 to 2 Tbsp. water (or chicken broth)

Stir-fry sauce of choice (optional)

Heat the oil in a pan on high-moderate to high-heat setting. Add ginger, garlic, cooked chicken and vegetables. Stir-fry about one minute to coat with oil. Adjust heat to prevent scorching. Add sugar. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water or broth, cover and cook for two minutes or until tender. If desired, add stir-fry sauce as directed on the package and cook an additional minute or two.

  • Note: Ginger root is available in the produce section of most grocery stores.

Makes four servings. Without the added sauce mix, each serving has 310 calories, 5 grams (g) of fat, 16 g of carbohydrate and 420 milligrams of sodium.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)


NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187, julie.garden-robinson@ndsu.edu
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136, richard.mattern@ndsu.edu
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