On busy days, it’s often more than a little tempting to get an expensive drive-thru dinner just because the ingredients you have at home will take too long to make into a meal. But I’ve found that if I keep ingredients handy in the pantry and refrigerator for simple meal prep, I can have dinner on the table in a flash – and protect my pocketbook from that ravenous Fast Food Monster at the same time!
One of my favorite quick fix meal preparation methods is stir-frying. Including the prep time of chopping up meats and veggies, I can usually have a meal on the table from start to finish in about 15-20 minutes. It’s just a simple process where you rapidly cook meat and vegetables in a small amount of oil. The process is similar to sauteing, except you use less oil, hotter temperatures, and usually a wok. I do most of my stir-frying in my large heavy skillet on the stove-top because I don’t have enough storage in my kitchen to keep my wok handy. I’m usually just too lazy on a hectic day to walk to the cupboard down the hall to grab the wok.
You can find basic stir-fry instructions in almost any good general cookbook or browse through books at the library on Asian cooking. With a quick search online, you’ll discover that the Internet’s full of great recipes – and all for free! Don’t you just love that price? It warms my little frugal heart.
Here are few simple tips to keep in mind when you pull out your first wok recipe:
- You want the oil in your wok or frying pan hot enough that it’s slightly smoking, otherwise the stir-frying will be too slow and your vegetables will be limp.
- Cut your ingredients into thin, bite-sized pieces so they’ll cook evenly and quickly.
- It’s helpful to choose vegetables and meats that will all cook at about the same speed, otherwise you have to keep track of when to add the different ingredients so everything’s cooked, but nothing’s overcooked.
- Cook the meat first, remove from the pan, and then cook the vegetables. Add the meat back into the pan at the end of cooking. This keeps the flavors distinct and separate, and also keeps the meat from overcooking.
- If you have ingredients that need to be added at different times in the cooking process, chop them up ahead of time and put them onto separate plates. Then you can just pick up the plate and dump the contents directly into the wok or frying pan as needed.
- When stir-frying, you want everything chopped and prepped in advance because you can’t stop stir-frying partway through the process to cut up vegetables or slice meat.
- Once you start cooking, keep stirring and tossing constantly or things will burn or cook unevenly.
- Fresh vegetables are wonderful in stir-fry meals, so when your summer garden really starts producing, you’re in the middle of stir-fry days.
To make stir-frying easy as can be, you’ll want to keep stocked up on some pantry staples. Keep watch for the following items when they go on sale – then you’ll be ready to stir-fry at a moment’s notice: fresh garlic, crushed red pepper, sesame seeds, red chili paste, fresh ginger, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, chopped peanuts and cashews, Chinese spice blend, sesame oil, peanut oil, soy sauce, Teriyaki sauce, rice vinegar, beef broth, cooking sherry, cornstarch, rice, and Asian noodles.
Happy fast-and-easy cooking, everyone!
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Posted in cooking, easy
Tagged chicken, cooking, easy, family, frugal living, frugality, home, homemaking, kitchen, saving money, stir-fry, wok
Basic “Use-It-Up” Quiche Recipe
You can use almost any leftover vegetable or meat in this recipe. If you have eggs, milk, rice and cheese, you can practically clean out your fridge right into your quiche pan. I always add the cheese last when making this quiche. The cheese makes a beautiful mellow-brown crust on the top. I usually add a bit of chopped onion to my quiches for flavor, and broccoli makes an especially nice vegetable quiche. And it’s gluten-free, too!
- 2 cups rice, cooked (white or brown)
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 tsp soy sauce
- 1/2 lb any leftover vegetable or meat, chopped (single vegetable or a mix)
- 4 eggs, beaten
- 1 1/2 cups milk, or light cream
- 1 cup cheese, grated (your choice: Swiss, Cheddar, Jack, etc.)
- 1/2 tsp salt (optional)
- 1/8 tsp pepper
- Dash nutmeg, or ground mace
- Mix together cooked rice, egg and soy sauce.
- Spread evenly to cover well- buttered quiche pan or pie plate.
- Bake rice crust at 350 F for 10 minutes.
- Remove from oven.
- Place chopped vegetable/meat onto the bottom of crust.
- Mix together: eggs, milk, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Pour over broccoli.
- Top with grated cheese. Bake at 350 F for 45 minutes, or until set.
- Remove from oven, and let sit ten minutes before slicing, if serving fresh; or wrap pie pan, label and freeze.
- Quiche can be served cold after thawing for a yummy hot weather treat; or heat the thawed quiche at 350 F for 20 minutes.
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Posted in breakfast, comfort food, freezer cooking, frozen assets, gluten-free, leftovers, recipes, vegetarian recipes
Tagged breakfast, cooking, easy, freezer, freezer cooking, frugal living, gluten-free, homemade, homemaking, leftover turkey, leftovers, lunch, OAMC, once a month cooking, quiche, recipes, Thanksgiving leftovers
Here’s one of my family’s all-time favorite chicken recipes. The instructions include directions for preparing ahead of time for the freezer. So if you find chicken on sale at a good stock-up price, you can take advantage of the sale prices and have this delicious meal waiting in the freezer for a busy evening later in the month.
If you want to bake without freezing first, be sure to allow at least an hour or two to marinate in the refrigerator.
MARINATED LIME CHICKEN (from Frozen Assets Lite & Easy)
6 chicken breast portions (about 8 ounces each)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 limes (or 4 tablespoons bottled lime juice)
4 teaspoons white wine vinegar
9 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons basil
Squeeze limes into a medium sized bowl. Stir in vinegar, olive oil, basil, salt and pepper. Place chicken breast portions into labeled freezer bags. Pour lime sauce over top; seal and freeze.
Thaw completely. Pour marinade into small saucepan. Heat to boiling. Place chicken pieces into shallow oven-proof dish. Pour boiled marinade over chicken. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 35 – 40 minutes or until chicken is tender and cooked through. Serve hot, sprinkled with fresh basil sprigs, if available.
I hope your family likes this recipe as much as my family does!
Adapted with permission from Frozen Assets Lite & Easy by Deborah Taylor-Hough (SourceBooks).
Why cook every night when you can cook once a week for seven (or more!) delicious, healthy, family-approved meals? Frozen Assets Lite & Easy shows how to be healthy while saving time and money. Includes shopping lists, recipes, and detailed instructions on how to make freezer cooking work for you. Order your copy today!
Posted in freezer cooking, recipes
Tagged barbeque, chicken, comfort food, cooking, easy, freezer, frozen assets, homemaking, OAMC, once a month cooking, recipes, simple