Broccoli and Red Pepper Stir-Fry
I have a foolproof method to guarantee your success in the kitchen. My method is easy and effective; once you start using it, your friends will be fighting for a seat at your kitchen table. In addition, this method can help you avoid ordering take-out too often. A few years ago, J. and I were on a first-name basis with our local Thai food delivery guy. Our addiction to curry got so bad that our delivery guy got us a Christmas present one year for being his best customers. Don’t be like us.
So how can you avoid take-out temptation? Just use one of these three forbidden ingredients:
1. A bottle
2. A can
3. A package
I know what you’re thinking. A food blog is supposed to be about how to make food! You didn’t come to SemiVeggie to learn about how to reheat a pre-packaged frozen burrito. I’m pretty sure you know how to do that on your own. And honestly, most days I love to make food from scratch. I often make my own pizza dough and salad dressing, and I’ve even gone so far as to attempt making my own mayonnaise before. Cooking from scratch is fun and rewarding, when I’m in the mood. But why is there a weird bias in the food world against using pre-made items? You’re viewed as virtuous when you make cookies from scratch, but seen as weak when you succumb to the tube of chocolate chip dough. Yet both scenarios involve you standing in your kitchen, creating food for loved ones. Yes, I know that prepackaged food is full of sodium and chemicals. I realize that it’s healthier to make everything from scratch. I can even promise you that it’s way more fun to make your own salsa rather than buying it. But sometimes, a bottle can make the difference between cooking dinner and ordering greasy Chinese take-out. I’m telling you right now that it’s ok to use “the forbidden three” in the kitchen every once in a while.
For example, last year I attempted to make lemon meringue-topped cupcakes for a friend’s birthday party. I spent over an hour making the lemon curd filling from scratch, melting butter and stirring the creamy custard. The lemony end result was incredibly delicious, and my kitchen smelled like summertime. Yet by the time I had finished scrubbing out the crusty yellow glaze from the pot I realized I wasn’t having fun anymore. I just couldn’t face the thought of whipping egg whites for meringue, and I was dreading creaming the butter for the cupcake batter. I was sick of cooking, tired of standing, and was about ready to pour the lemon curd down the drain. I was dangerously close to leaving the kitchen, cupcake-less. Then, I spotted an old box of yellow cake mix in the back of my pantry. I’m pretty sure it was full of hydrogenated fats and high fructose corn syrup, but it saved my cupcakes and my sanity. I added lemon juice to the cake mix and poured the batter into a cupcake pan. After cooling the cupcakes, I spread the pale yellow lemon curd on top instead of icing. Success! No one ever knew about my original meringue ambitions, and my friends were thrilled with the sugary treats.
Let’s say it together: “It’s ok to use forbidden ingredients”. This recipe uses bottled stir fry sauce. You can make your own sauce, if you want – throw some chopped ginger, soy sauce, water, cornstarch, honey, and garlic together and simmer. Or, you can use some pre-packaged help. Sometimes, chopping veggies is all I can manage after a long day of explaining to fourth graders why it’s a bad idea to use violin bows to stage a swordfight. So, on days like that, I chop my veggies, and I let the bottle do the rest. Dinner is served in ten minutes, and it’s even faster than take-out. Just make sure to tell your usual delivery guy that you won’t need his services tonight.
Broccoli and Red Pepper Stir-Fry
Two tablespoons of olive oil
Two cloves of garlic, minced
One head of broccoli, chopped
Two red peppers, diced
One block of extra-firm tofu
Preparation: Take the tofu out of the package. Place a heavy bowl on top of the tofu. Let drain for twenty minutes.
8 oz. stir fry sauce
Optional additions: cashews, peanuts, or sesame seeds
Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add minced garlic and cook for two minutes. Add red peppers and broccoli. Toss to combine ingredients. Cook for five minutes, stirring to make sure the veggies don’t burn.
Meanwhile, cut drained tofu into cubes. Heat up a dry skillet over medium heat. Place tofu cubes on skillet and cook for one minute. Flip the tofu cubes and cook another minute. Continue to flip tofu until the cubes are browned all over. Sprinkle tofu with salt and pepper. Add the browned tofu to the veggies. Pour stir fry sauce on top, and mix to combine. Add nuts or sesame seeds, if you want to be fancy.