Baking & cooking with an enthusiastic amateur
One of my weaknesses is my enthusiasm for buying ingredients. All too often, I end up using half of them and then forgetting about the rest. When working with perishable but healthy ingredients like fruits and vegetables, it’s understandable, but it’s still a poor modus operandi for a tight budget.
In my fridge, half a lemon, half an onion, a bag of carrots, and some scallions were all crying out to be used, and I had to find a way to do so quickly, or let them go to waste. Digging through my freezer found some chicken breast and half of a bag of Trader Joe’s melange a trois bell peppers. As I always have soy sauce on hand, I resolved that my best option was a stir-fry. A quick trip to the store yielded some fresh broccoli and ginger root, and from there, the rest fell into place.
Having never made a stir-fry marinade with citrus juice before, I was quite happy with the result. The lemon really brightens the rest of the sauce, and pairs nicely with fresh ginger. I think I timed my vegetables fairly well, so they were neither raw nor overcooked. When making it at home, you’ll need to make some judgement calls about exactly how many minutes to cook it each step, but just keep an eye on the vegetables and be aware of what you still have left, and you’lll be fine. The most important part is to keep an eye on is the chicken; while two minutes excess won’t affect your carrots too much, but it could make your chicken somewhat dry.
Serving the stir-fry with some rice, as suggested in the recipe below, brings this together for a filling, balanced meal. If you do feel the urge to flesh out dinner a little bit more, veggie spring rolls would make a good appetizer, and fresh fruit (such as pineapple or oranges) would be a perfect dessert. One of the keys to making a successful meal is to focus on the main dish. You don’t need to make a fancy fried rice, homemade egg rolls, or a fruit salad for this to be a great meal. There’s nothing wrong with any of those things (in fact, I’d love to make all of them!), but after a long day at work, focusing on the main dish and pairing it with an easy, reliable side is often the best solution.
Juice of half a lemon
One inch of ginger root, peeled and grated
One or two cloves garlic, minced
One teaspoon sesame oil
One teaspoon brown sugar
One teaspoon sherry (optional)
⅓ cup soy sauce
Three chicken breasts, roughly 14 ounces, cut into strips
Half a pound of carrots (six medium-small carrots), peeled and cut into thin strips
Half of a sweet onion, cut into thin, quarter-circles
Five or six scallions, white parts thinly sliced, green parts chopped
Three to four ounces of broccoli, cut into pieces
Half a pound of bell pepper, cut into strips
One tablespoon vegetable oil
One tablespoon of cornstarch, mixed with a tablespoon of cold water
One cup of rice, prepared according to package directions (should yield three cups cooked)
Combine lemon juice, ginger, garlic, sesame oil, brown sugar, sherry, and soy sauce. Pour over chicken. Marinade for at least half an hour, and up to twenty-four hours.
Put oil in a frying pan and bring to medium heat. Add the onion and bell peppers, stirring frequently for five to six minutes. Add the carrots and cook for another two to three minutes, continuing to stir, until the onion is translucent. Pour in the chicken and marinade, and after another two to three minutes, add the broccoli and white parts of the scallions. Cook for three to four minutes, until the chicken is no longer pink at all, and add cornstarch with water and the green parts of the scallion. Cook for another minute to thicken the sauce. Serve with rice.
Cost per serving: $1.81
Calories per serving: 436