If you're tired of ordering heavy takeout night after night, take matters into your own hands. The next time you're craving Asian food in the comfort of your own home, try making one of these healthy twists on the classic restaurant dishes you love. Click through to see what's for dinner tonight.
Busy weeknights are made for a quick and easy stir-fry, but before you heat up a wok, make sure your stir-fry is healthy by following these five tips.
- Don't go overboard with oil: Even a vegetable stir-fry can rack up calories if you keep pouring in the oil. Make sure you use a discerning eye when adding oil, and pour conservatively (if you want to know exactly how many calories you're using, measure your oil out by tablespoon). If you feel like your stir-fry is getting too dry, add a few drops of water and cover for a minute or so to steam veggies and keep them from soaking up too much oil.
- Choose your sauce wisely: You may think that store-bought sauces are more convenient, but you can actually make a quick homemade sauce with condiments you may already have in your pantry — one that will have less sugar and preservatives than that shelf bottle. Try this healthy ginger stir-fry sauce using low-sodium chicken stock or this low-calorie sauce using orange juice.
- Load up on veggies: Even if you're adding meat, make vegetables the stars of your stir-fry. The variety of flavors and textures from different types of vegetables will keep your taste buds happy while keeping calorie counts low.
- Serve atop these: You may think that nothing could be better than a bed of white rice to go with your stir-fry, but the blood-sugar spike may not be worth it. Opt for brown rice or soba noodles for a fiber-full, healthier side or use low-calorie shirataki noodles instead.
- Drink tea: Asian stir-fry and tea often go hand in hand, so use this opportunity to brew a pot of fat-burning, antioxidant-boosting green tea. Not only will sipping clean-flavored green tea help clear your palate and slow you down while you eat, but the metabolism-boosting properties of green tea are an added bonus.
The first thing I learned to cook was scrambled eggs, followed by macaroni and cheese. I'm pretty sure the third thing I learned to cook was beef and broccoli stir-fry. My best friend growing up (who, 22 years later, is still my best friend) is Chinese, and her dad would make the most incredible stir-fries using very simple ingredients.
Growing up, we'd beg her father to tell us exactly how he prepared his beef and broccoli. How much soy sauce did he put in? For exactly how long did it need to marinate? And what's the trick to stir-frying so swiftly with chopsticks? He always shrugged at our questions and responded with ambiguous answers, so we resorted to watching him intensely to understand the process. Years later, every time we munch on our attempted beef and broccoli dish, we taste a glimmer of her father's famed flavors, but we've decided it may require a lifetime before we've mastered it.
Even this rendition is a far cry from her father's. When I called my best friend for exact details to the recipe, I realized she has inherited her father's fashion. She vaguely replied, "Oh, you could add a little of this and a pinch of that. These ingredients are optional, of course. It's whatever you feel like."
What I felt like creating is the most basic marinade, but three simple ingredients magically transform into a rich, flavorful sauce for the beef. The standout ingredient has to be oyster sauce. Despite its somewhat repulsive name, it gives dishes a salty, earthy, almost mushroom-like flavor. I adore it. Also worth mentioning is peanut oil. Although a bit more expensive than canola oil, it is so worth the splurge. Unlike neutral oils, peanut oil imparts a subtle, nutty flavor to the stir-fry. If you're allergic to peanut oil, use a neutral vegetable oil to stir-fry and splash a few dashes of roasted sesame oil into the finished dish to achieve a similar effect. Click here to see the beef and broccoli recipe.
- Prep the ingredients. Before you begin, you should wash, cut, and prepare the foods you plan to use. Try to make the pieces as close to the same size as possible so that they take the same amount of time to cook.
- Heat the pan. The amount of heat may vary according to different recipes, but you should generally be cooking between medium to high heat. If things seem to be cooking too quickly, remove the pan and lower the heat.
- Add oil, then herbs. Once your pan or wok is hot, add some cooking oil (we recommend peanut or canola) and swirl it around to coat the bottom of the pan.
- Start with protein. Meat will need to cook for the longest amount of time, so add meat before anything else. To make sure it cooks through, let the meat sit and brown rather than constantly stirring or flipping it.
- Toss in vegetables. If you hope to separate the flavors, you may choose to remove the meat before cooking any vegetables. Otherwise, you can just push the meat to the side as you heat the vegetables. Start with the foods that need more time to cook (carrots, broccoli), then add any quickly cooked veggies (water chestnuts, leafy greens) later.
- Pour in sauce contents. Slowly add any broth, sauce, or vinegar that's needed for your sauce recipe. Stir in the ingredients and let the mix simmer until it thickens.
If you're stir-frying a lot, it's probably worth investing in a good wok. Do you have any special stir-frying tips? Share them in the comments below!
Here’s a nice vegetarian entrée with a healthy dose of fiber and tons of antioxidant-rich veggies! Inspired by a recipe I found in Shape Magazine a few years back, it’s really tasty and makes great leftovers for lunch. If you’re on a budget, peanuts can be substituted for macadamia nuts – no one will think any less of you. And if your preference is meat, swap out the tofu for some chicken breast. Serve with steamed broccoli and you have yourself a taste of the Far East in the comfort of your own home, minus the MSG. And I made this with Mara's Pasta — quite possibly the best-tasting whole wheat pasta on the planet. It's brand new and doesn't taste like cardboard. Pretty awesome.
Use organic ingredients when possible, particularly if you’re going meat-free with the tofu. Look for a quality brand that is organic and GMO-free. It’s worth the extra money.
Read on for the recipe.
Here's a healthy stir-fry to cook this weekend — FitSugar reader sprint2thetable's recipe for a shirataki noodle stir-fry that she posted in our Healthy Recipe group. For those of you watching your weight, shirataki noodles make a great swap for traditional pasta since they're made from tofu!
This was one of the best quickie meals I've done in a while. I love the way peanuts pair with spicy ingredients and the way the creamy sauce coats the noodles. The crunch of the raw carrots and almonds make the texture, and the earthiness of the mushrooms is perfect with the nutty, amino-laced sauce.
I posted this recipe a few weeks ago at Dara & Co./Minnesota Monthly magazine. As lovely as lighter fare was sounding then, it is even truer now — right? No worries, this dish still packs a big flavor punch.
Feeling weighed down? Yeah. I offer this palate cleanser of a dish. I like this recipe for the tips on dry-frying the tofu, imparting a nice chewiness and intensifying the quick marinade. The original recipe calls for asparagus, but I substituted broccoli since my kids prefer it. You'll be glad to know that this dish comes together quickly enough to satisfy tired, hungry family members.
Enjoy a traditional Chinese stir-fry combination — shrimp and scallions — tossed in a smoldering wok with garlic, hot peppers, and a squeeze of lemon juice for acid. Serve over a bowl of steaming rice with soy sauce on the side for dipping; from pan to plate, you'll only need 15 minutes. Ready for dinner? Then get the recipe.
Yesterday, I read an article in the New York Times about making a vegetarian stir-fry with quinoa replacing the rice. It just so happens I was planning on a veggie stir fry for dinner and also had a little bit of red quinoa already in my pantry. The stir-fry I made was pretty basic with onions, carrots, celery, broccoli, yellow squash, bell pepper, soy beans and bok choy (I had a lot of veggies that needed to be used)! So while I cooked up the veggies, I prepared the red quinoa which takes less time than brown rice. The dinner was delicious and simple, not only does the quinoa add a nutty texture but also great crunchy texture too. I think quinoa stir-fry in my house will become a staple! Have you ever replaced rice with quinoa?
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