Simple, flexible “stir fry”

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Back with another recipe that’s more of a framework than a recipe because of how flexible it is. It’s a great way to eat veggies because they’re automatically included in the meal. It’s also an easy way to eat veggies that you might need to use up before they go bad. It comes together fairly quickly – even quicker if you use frozen veggies, and makes good leftovers.

Please note, this is the way I have found easy for stir-frying. Certainly it is not an authentic Asian stir-fry – I don’t even use a wok. But it makes edible, nutritious, and pretty tasty food.

Update September 2020: If you want to learn how to make an authentic stir-fry, I suggest you learn from The Woks of Life . This blog, written by a family of four excellent cooks, is an encyclopedia of Asian cooking. Super informative and interesting to read, I haven’t even made a dent in their content and I’m learning so much. The link above will take you to their post on how to make stir fry.

The ingredients you will need:

stir fry ingredients: garlic, ginger, cooking oil, veggies, soy sauce
  • Garlic cloves, or minced garlic
  • Ginger, or minced ginger
  • Veggies (whatever veggies you would like to have in a stir fry. Some ideas include: broccoli, cabbage, carrots, green onions, sugar snap peas, peas, mushrooms, green beans, mushrooms, zucchini or Italian squash, turnips. You can even use frozen veggies to save chopping time)
  • Cooking oil that can withstand a fairly high heat, like canola, grapeseed, or avocado oil
  • Soy sauce
  • Some sort of protein (Check out a list of protein foods here in case you need ideas. I often like to use chicken, pork, or scrambled eggs. In the pictures I’ve used shrimp and tofu)
  • Optionally but recommended, some grains to serve your stir fry with
bowl of brown rice

I recommend preparing some whole grains to serve with your stir fry – I usually use brown rice, but you could use noodles, or even quinoa if you want. The stir fry cooks pretty fast so you will probably want to cook them beforehand.

First you will need to mince your garlic and ginger. Unless you’ve purchased pre-minced garlic and ginger (hooray! one less thing to do!)

chopped cabbage

Next, you will want to chop up your protein and vegetables into bite-size-ish pieces. Make sure you wash your hands, knife, and cutting board with soap and water after cutting raw meat. If you are using frozen vegetables, they are already probably chopped so you can skip this too! (There are broccoli and carrots under that cabbage, just so you know).

Note, some proteins are already in bite-size pieces, like shrimp or beans

If your protein needs to be cooked (raw meat, poultry or fish, or egg) you will cook the protein first, and then the vegetables. If your protein just needs to be warmed through (tofu, cooked beans, pre-cooked meat) you will cook the vegetables first and then just add the protein for the last few minutes to warm them through.

ginger and garlic in a cast iron pan

Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add a few tablespoons of oil. Once the oil is warm (it shimmers or moves easily when you tilt the pan), add half your ginger and garlic and stir around. Let cook for just a few minutes to flavor the oil

slighly overcooked ginger and garlic

Here I’ve accidentally cooked this a little too long – those brown bits toward the top will taste a little burnt and bitter. It’s fine to eat, just try not to get to this point.

shrimp cooking in cast iron pan

If your protein needs to be cooked, add it to the pan now and stir occasionally until it’s cooked through. Click here for the minimal internal temperatures for different types of meat. Once the protein is cooked, remove it to a separate bowl while you cook the veggies. If you’re not concerned about overcooking your protein, you can also just leave it in the pan while you cook the veggies.

carrots, broccoli, and cabbage in a cast iron pan

Now, add the other half of the garlic and ginger (and a little more oil if you think it needs it). Then add all your veggies. Look at all these pretty colors! To be honest, that’s sometimes how I pick what to include in my stir fry – how many colors can I include. Stir these veggies around so the flavorful oil, garlic, and ginger is well mixed and so they cook.

carrots, cabbage and broccoli in cast iron pan with glass lid - steamy

Sometimes to help the veggies cook a little faster with less stirring I will add 1/4-1/2 cup water and then cover the pan so that they steam a little bit. I only do this sometimes, but since I don’t have a wok and I put a ton of veggies in here, they aren’t getting as exposed to the direct heat of the hot pan. Again, this isn’t necessary, just helps them get tender faster. Stop cooking once the veggies are your desired tenderness. I like mine pretty crunchy still – especially because they’ll get less crunchy when I warm it up for leftovers

bowl of stir fry with tofu, shrimp and veggies

Once your veggies are cooked, add your protein back in along with soy sauce (as much as you want). Stir and cook until your protein is heated through. Serve over your preferred grain!

Enjoy!


Just the instructions (no pictures)

  • Cook some grains if you like (rice, noodles, etc.)
  • Mince ginger and garlic, set aside
  • Chop vegetables into bite-size-ish pieces (skip for frozen vegetables)
  • Cut protein into bite-size pieces if needed. Wash hands, cutting boards, and utensils with soap and water after touching raw meat, fish, or poultry
  • Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan
  • Once the oil is shimmery, add half the ginger and garlic and cook for a just a few minutes (don’t let it turn brown)
  • If your protein needs to be cooked (not just warmed), add it now and stir occasionally until it is fully cooked (minimal internal temperatures here)
  • Remove protein to a separate bowl (or leave it in if you’re not worried about it overcooking)
  • Add the rest of the garlic and ginger and the vegetables. Stir occasionally until veggies are the tenderness you like.
  • (Optionally to cook faster without stirring, add 1/4-1/2 cup water to the pan and cover with a lid to let the veggies steam for a few minutes)
  • Add protein back in along with soy sauce to taste and stir until warmed. Serve over your preferred grain
  • Enjoy!

Simple, easy tomato soup recipe: Only 5 ingredients

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Why should you make this tomato soup?

  • It’s a great way to get a serving (or two) of vegetables
  • It goes really well with grilled cheese.
  • It can be a great throw-together-from-the-pantry dish
  • If you make it yourself, you can control the flavor, texture, and the nutrition!
  • This recipe is really flexible so you can make it how you like it
  • Think of how accomplished you’ll feel as you sip that nutritious soup!
grilled cheese and tomato soup in a mug
I always like grilled cheese with my tomato soup. This one is slightly burnt but it was still good.

Just a heads-up: this is not a particularly quick recipe. It requires time for the onions and tomatoes to cook down, probably 30 minutes at minimum to get a nice flavor. But it does not require a lot of active time. Most of the time you can be doing something else you want to do as long as you’re making sure the kitchen isn’t burning down. Anyway, if you’re still here:

The minimum ingredients you will need are:

can of tomatoes, chopped onions and garlic
  • Canned tomatoes
  • Chopped onion
  • Minced garlic
  • Salt (not pictured)
  • Cooking oil or butter or margarine – some sort of fat to cook your onions and garlic in

There are some extras you can add to change the flavor or texture to your liking: spices like basil, oregano, chili flakes, chili powder, cumin, pepper, etc.; sugar, broth, milk, or cream. But these aren’t necessary to make a basic soup. I’ll let you know when these would come into the recipe.

To make this recipe even easier, you can buy frozen, pre-chopped onions and minced garlic in a jar. (Not sponsored, just want to make your life easier)

onions cooking in oil

Heat a little oil (or your preferred cooking fat) in a pot over low heat. Add your onions and a pinch of salt. The salt helps build the flavor of the soup and helps draw out the water from the onions so they cook to where we want them faster. (Learned that from SORTEDfood)

cooked onions for tomato soup

Cook those onions on low heat for a long time (like 10-20 minutes) until they are nice and golden and soft. Stir occasionally, but not that often. While you’re waiting for them to cook, you can mince your garlic or wash dishes or read a book (just don’t forget about them)

onions and garlic and herbs

Once your onions are nice and cooked, add your garlic and any herbs or spices you will use. I used a generous sprinkle of dried basil and a bit of oregano here. Let them all cook together for just about a minute. If you cook garlic like this too long it will burn and get bitter.

Add your canned tomatoes and stir to combine everything. Then turn up the heat to high and put a lid on. Let it heat up until it starts simmering (occasional bubbles), then turn it down again and keep the lid on.

At this point, the longer you simmer it, the longer the flavors will meld together. I simmered mine for probably around 20-25 minutes. You can simmer longer if you like (just don’t let it cook so long that all the liquid goes away and it burns), or shorter if you like. The tomatoes are already cooked – they just need to be heated up.

Once it’s simmered, you have options. If you like a chunky tomato soup, just taste it to make sure it doesn’t need more salt, sugar, or spices of your choosing and it’s ready to eat!

tomato soup

If you want a smooth, creamier soup, puree it with an immersion blender or a regular blender (careful, HOT), adding water or broth or cream to get it to the thickness you like (I used water for this one).

Adding milk can be more tricky as the acid from the tomatoes might curdle it. Warm your milk up separately, then add a little tomato soup to the milk, stir it in, then add a little more tomato to the milk. Repeat this until no more tomato will fit in your milk container, then slowly add the milk and tomato mixture back to the pot.

I’ve also read you can add 1/2 tsp baking soda to the tomatoes to neutralize the acid so it won’t curdle the milk, but I haven’t tried that.

Finally, taste! If it’s too sour, you can add a little more salt (believe it or not it helps balance out the sour taste) or some sugar.

Enjoy!


Just the instructions (no pictures)

  • Chop onion and mince garlic (I used a small onion and 1 large clove garlic)
  • Heat a bit of oil/butter/margarine over low heat in a pot
  • Add the onions and a pinch of salt and let cook until the onions are very soft and yellow (at least 10 minutes)
  • Add the garlic and any spices you are using and cook for 1 more minute
  • Add canned tomatoes and stir (I used two 14-oz cans)
  • Turn the heat up to high and cover the pot with a lid, but stay there and watch!
  • Once it starts to simmer (occasional bubbles), turn the heat down to low again. Keep the lid on.
  • Let it simmer for as long as you want, but at least until the tomatoes are heated through (I recommend 20 minutes)
  • If you like chunky soup – taste and add more salt, sugar, spices as needed!
  • If you like smooth soup, blend until it’s as smooth as you want, adding water, broth, or cream until it is the thickness you want (see note about adding milk above)
  • Taste and add more salt, sugar, spices as needed!

Roasting Winter Vegetables

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I realize it’s almost spring, but it is still the time for winter vegetables – at least in the northern hemisphere. I’m thinking of squashes: butternut squash, acorn squash, kobacha, and delicata squash. I’m also thinking of those hearty root vegetables: potatoes, turnips, carrots, and onions to name a few.

I’m here to tell you that if you have an oven, or even a toaster oven, roasting vegetables is highly recommendable. Why?

  1. Out of the total cooking time, only a small portion actually requires you to be in the kitchen. The rest is done by your oven while you read a book or wash your dishes or make the rest of your dinner or scroll through Instagram. I am writing this post while Brussels Sprouts roast in the oven
  2. It brings out the natural sweetness and tenderness of these veggies – sometimes this can make them more palatable to kids (or adults) who aren’t vegetable fans
  3. Roasted vegetables are versatile: they can be a side for meat or eggs, stirred into pasta or cooked grains, cooled and put in a salad, or pureed to go in a soup or sauce.
  4. Everyone needs to eat vegetables. Roasted vegetables is a delicious way to eat vegetables that is adaptable to almost any diet pattern
  5. It’s a flexible and pretty forgiving method for cooking
  6. It will warm up your house and make it smell good

Imagine half your plate full of delicious roasted vegetables, either tender and sweetly-flavored or savory, browned, and crisp.

Instructions

1. Preheat your oven so it can be heating up while you prepare your vegetables. Preheat to 350 F if you want slow-cooked, tender and sweeter vegetables. Preheat to 500 F if you want crispy, browned vegetables that will roast faster. Or go for something in the middle. If you have something else you are baking (meat, fish, bread) and it needs a certain temperature, you can roast the vegetables at that temperature so it can all be in the oven at the same time. It’s flexible 🙂

2. Wash and cut your vegetables so they are pretty evenly sized (or skip this step altogether by using frozen vegetables, which are already washed and cut for you). It doesn’t really matter what size the pieces are as long as the size is fairly consistent. This is important so they will cook at the same rate. If they’re not exactly the same, it’s ok; they’ll just be cooked to slightly different levels. Watch this video from America’s Test Kitchen for instructions on how to cut vegetables safely. (Have a butternut squash? Here’s a video specifically on how to cut this sometimes tricky vegetable)

3. Put your veggies in a bowl and toss with oil. I like to add oil because it helps the seasonings stick, and it helps the vegetables not stick to the pan.

From a nutritional perspective, using a vegetable oil like olive oil, canola oil, or avocado oil can add some healthy fats, which are important for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, like vitamin A (which you’ll be getting from those yellow and orange veggies). Use a small amount if you are aiming for a low-fat or low-calorie diet (a teaspoon will go a long way). If you prefer to avoid adding oil altogether, I will refer you to the Minimalist Baker who has written this great post about oil-free vegetable roasting; it’s not an area where I have much experience.

4. Add seasoning and toss some more. This can be as simple as salt and pepper or a seasoned-salt. You can also get creative – use curry powder or garlic powder and oregano or taco seasoning – whatever sounds good to you. For a lower-sodium option, use only spices for flavor – no salt. Go light on seasoning at first. You can add more after it’s cooked if it’s too bland.

5. Roast! Spread the veggies out on a baking pan. You can line the pan with parchment paper, foil, or a silicone mat to help with clean up, but it’s not necessary (especially since you added some oil to your veggies). Now put them into the oven! Set your timer for 15 minutes.

6. After 15 minutes, shuffle the vegetables around on the pan by pushing them around with a big spoon or spatula and check to see if they are done by poking them with a fork to see how tender or crisp they are.

7. Keep roasting for 5-30 more minutes, (unless they are already done) until they are the texture you like. The amount of time will depend on which vegetables you are using (harder vegetables will take longer), the temperature of your oven, the size of the cut, and the texture you want.

Eat and enjoy!

What vegetables do you like to roast? How do you like to eat them? Share in the comments, or on instagram or facebook with #nutritionforrealhumans