Why is it that at the start of every semester we think, “Gee, this school term is going to be different”?
I’ll manage my classes and homework schedule better, not be as stressed and definitely carve out more quality time for outside interests and friends.
While this hope burned bright during the first week of school, I hit the wall last Saturday when I woke up early to get a jump on some class reading and realized that at 5 p.m. I was still in my sweats and still doing homework.
When it came time to cook for this column, I think I could have pondered an analysis of the Big Mac or another plug for the chocolate chip pancakes at IHOP. What happened to all those plans about carving out more time?
Then it came to me. Stir-fry.
I own a wok but have only used it a few times. However, I knew this type of cooking was fast, cheap and tasty. In fact, even when I’m eating out, I often seek out Asian cooking because of its convenience and affordability.
Even if you don’t have a wok, consider buying up the ingredients listed below and trying out this meal. You can always substitute nearly anything in wok cooking, including chicken, meat, seafood or just veggies.
On my way home from work (did I mention I’m also working a ton of hours at a professional job in addition to classes and food writing?), I stopped at my local market, walked very briskly among the aisles and grabbed a package of pre-sliced strips of chicken breast from the meat and poultry area and then cruised produce, where I found tofu near the fresh herbs.
From the cold aisle, I grabbed a bag of “stir-fry” frozen vegetables and found spaghetti noodles – well, those are easy to find. On the “ethnic” aisle, I found a liquid stir-fry sauce containing soy sauce, sugar and ginger in addition to other minor ingredients.
In less than 10 minutes I was done shopping and headed home. Dinner would take about 20 minutes from start to finish.
I pulled out my wok and a large pot to boil water for the noodles. I started with the sauce and browned my chicken in it. Since it was pre-sliced, not only was there no prep time but also the chicken doesn’t take as long to cook. In with the chicken I tossed in the tofu, cut into half-inch squares, to brown as well.
After my chicken had lost its raw pink color I tossed in my bag of frozen veggies and another cup of the stir-fry liquid. Generally I would use fresh veggies and scoff at the frozen or canned types but saving time was the plan.
Once the veggies were warmed through, dinner was basically ready. In the background of all of this I had water boiling just waiting for my pasta.
Right before I was about to plate the meal, my friend Aubrey (Remember her from last semester? How shall we say it? Aubrey is a discriminating eater.) came into the apartment carrying wontons that made a perfect appetizer as we waited for two other friends, Justin and Jeremy.
We ate, talked about our days and temporarily forgot about the stacks of work piling up.
If you’re not serving a lot of people, this meal can offer a lot of leftovers. If you save these in the fridge, I would suggest eating around the tofu because it just doesn’t microwave well.
L’Chaim and B’tay Avon (To life and eat well).
Staff writer Liz Sunshine can be reached at email@example.com.
Super Fast Stir-Fry
1 pound chicken breast strips
1 bag frozen stir-fry vegetable medley
1 1/2 cups stir-fry sauce (in the same place as soy sauce)
1 container extra firm tofu
In a saut/ pan or wok brown chicken and tofu in 1/2 cup of stir-fry sauce. Add frozen vegetables and last of the sauce and let cook until veggies are warmed through. Cook pasta according to package. Either toss veggies and chicken with the pasta or serve on top and enjoy!