Cooking Healthy Stir Fry

Broccoli Shrimp Stir Fry
Image by JeffreyW

Stir fry is one of my favorite dishes. Cooking healthy stir fry requires no particular expertise – you just have to be willing to take the time to chop everything (it is worth it). It is delicious and filling – a wonderful complete meal that is perfect when you are tired and hungry. And . . . almost everyone enjoys stir fry – even the picky eaters will be happy with a colorful, tasty stir-fry for dinner. (Hint – chop everything in advance; then, all you have to do is put it together and cook. Dinner will be ready in less than 15 minutes.)

Equipment Needed

Stir fry is traditionally made in a wok. This is the preferred choice because you can cook the food easily without having to add a lot of oil. Heat builds up evenly in a wok so that the ingredients cook quickly.  Meats sear nicely, and vegetables are cooked to perfection (not overcooked) – and everything retains nutrients to the max.

Never fear . . . even if you don’t have a wok, you can still prepare a delicious stir-fry. Use an ordinary frying pan – cast iron skillets are excellent (and not too expensive), or you can also use non-stick or hard anodized cookware as well, but, be sure they are very hot before adding the ingredients.

Use Healthy Oil

Always use healthy oils to cook your stir fry – this is critical for heart health.

Healthy cooking oils include canola, grape seed and olive oil. Canola oil has a high smoke point which is (required for high-heat cooking), a neutral flavor, and the lowest amount of saturated fats. If olive oil is your choice (as it is mine), use pure olive oil, which has a high smoke point (avoid virgin or extra-virgin for high-heat cooking). Chinese cooks normally use peanut oil, which has a pleasant nutty flavor, but not as healthy as the others mentioned.

Canola is always a good choice as it has only 7% of unhealthy saturated fats; and it is also rich in omega-6 fatty acid, linoleic acid, and has the highest amount of omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) than any other oil except Flaxseed oil.

WORD OF CAUTION: Use only as much oil and salt as absolutely necessary – in other words use a light hand when adding these ingredients.

Ingredients

Start with fresh vegetables, which are low in calories, have no fat, and can be eaten in abundance. You can choose almost any vegetable that appeals to you – some popular choices include: cabbage, broccoli, peas, green beans, mushrooms and peppers. They are high in fiber, fill you up, and keep you full longer.

Add Lean Protein

To make stir fry even more appealing you can add lean protein. Good choices are:  white meat chicken or turkey breast, or even ground turkey in your stir fry. Shrimp is also a popular choice. These choices keep the calorie count down and the health benefits up.  Be creative . . . experiment with different ingredients to create a finger-licking good stir fry full of healthy goodness.

Below are some good recipes to get you started.

Stir Fry with Basmati Rice

INGREDIENTS
•    1 large onion, peeled and diced
•    1 tablespoon salt
•    2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
•    1 cup brown Basmati rice
•    ½ cup diced carrots
•    1 cup boiled red beans
•    ½ cup bell pepper, cut into thin strips
•    ½ cup diced tomatoes
•    1 small bunch fresh cilantro, washed and finely chopped
•    ½ tablespoons red chili powder
•    Canola oil
•    Optional: chicken, beef, shrimp or turkey

DIRECTIONS

  1. Place 2 cups of water and a tablespoonful of salt in a large pot and bring to a boil.
  2. Add brown rice, cover, and cook until done (following directions on the package). If you prefer, cook the rice in a rice cooker.
  3. Remove from heat and set aside (with cover) as you prepare the vegetables.
  4. Crush the garlic and allow it to stand for a few minutes for production of allicin, which provides antiviral and antibacterial properties that strengthen the immune system.
  5. In a large pan or wok, heat oil and add the onions – sauté until soft.
  6. Add the crashed garlic and sauté until it turns light brown.
  7. Add cubed carrots – cook for ~3 minutes.
  8. Add tomatoes and cook for 1 minute more.
  9. Add bell peppers and toss lightly as you enjoy the delicious aroma in your kitchen.
  10. Add red powdered pepper.
  11. Reduce heat and gently stir in the cooked brown rice.
  12. Add chopped cilantro and turn off the heat.
  13. Let mixture stand for one minute and serve this delicious complete meal.

Chicken and Spaghetti Stir Fry

INGREDIENTS
•    2 boneless/skinless chicken breasts, cubed
•    1 tablespoon of healthy cooking oil (Canola & pure olive oil – both good choices)
•    1 tablespoon salt
•    1 cup boiled fresh peas (or defrosted frozen peas)
•    1 pound dry whole-grain spaghetti
•    1 ripe pineapple, cubed
•    2 small plantains, peeled and thinly sliced
•    2 large tomatoes, sliced

DIRECTIONS

  1. Cook spaghetti as directed on the package – until tender.
  2. Strain pasta, return to the pot, cover, and keep warm.
  3. Heat oil in a wok or large heavy-duty frying pan.
  4. Add chicken pieces and brown on one side – then, flip and cook 2nd side.
  5. Add tomatoes and mix well. (Juices from the tomatoes will prevent chicken from drying out and sticking to the pan.)
  6. Add plantains and cook for one minute.
  7. Add peas and diced pineapple – cook for 3 minutes.
  8. NOTE: Keep the pan covered when you are not stirring to ensure maximum absorption of flavor in the chicken.
  9. Stir in the spaghetti and mix gently.
  10. Remove from heat and serve on warmed plates.

Cook and ENJOY in good health!

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