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2014-06-05

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June 4, 2014 - 9:56pm

Eat, Cook, Love: Chicken stir-fry

BY MICHAEL SCHRAMM

Michael Schramm/Daily

Chicken stir-fry was one of my first cooking escapades this summer, and I chose it for good reason. It’s delicious, potentially health-conscious and relatively straightforward. Just keep in mind that there are a lot of little things to keep track of.

Essential Ingredients:
-A package of boneless chicken breast (these are literally everywhere in Meijer)
-Snow peas, carrots, red pepper and onions (enough to have about 1.5 cups each)
-Soy sauce
-A package of spaghetti or whatever rice you’re using (whole-grain if you’re trying to be healthy)
-Vegetable oil

Instructions:
1) 24 hours before cooking, move the chicken from the freezer to the refrigerator. Chicken must be frozen until 1-2 days prior to use or it can contract salmonella.
2) Fill a large pot with water, place an oven burner on high, place a lid on top of the pan and the pan on the stove. We’re not doing anything with this yet, but keep an eye on the water until it’s boiling.
3) Take the chicken and cut it into bite-sized pieces. I know; it’s mushy and gross. That’s how it’s supposed to be.
4) Grab a small bowl and fill it with 4 teaspoons of soy sauce. Then, take the chicken and mix it into the soy sauce until the pieces of chicken have been fully covered. If each individual piece isn’t at least lightly coated, add more soy sauce until they are.
5) Once you’re almost done cutting the chicken, start another burner on high and put a frying pan (skillet) on top. Once the skillet is warm, add the chicken.
6) The goal is to make sure that the chicken’s fully cooked. This is estimated to take 5-6 minutes, but it could be longer given your stove’s quality. Make sure that you’re switching which sides of the pieces are facing down every few minutes so they cook thoroughly. A good way to tell that they’re done is by cutting a piece in half to see if its center has a pink tint. If it does, they need more cooking time, but if you check 4-5 pieces and they’re all white, congratulations! You won’t suffer from food poisoning tonight!
7) While the chicken is cooking, grab all your veggies and begin chopping them on a cutting board. Chop every vegetable into bite-sized pieces. (I’ll trust that you can chop vegetables, but if you’re confused about any of them, there’s always YouTube).
8) Have you been keeping an eye on that pot with water? Is it boiling yet? If so, take your chosen pasta and add it to the pan. Cook for 6-8 minutes unless you know that your stove doesn’t heat well. You can always test to see if they’re done by taking one out to eat.
9) If the chicken’s done, add the veggies and let them cook on high for 2-3 minutes, and if you’re feeling it, mix in some more soy sauce until each veggie is lightly coated. If you’re not sure whether they’re done, you can always taste one to see if it’s at the stir-fry hybrid between cooked and crunch. (Some recipes encourage each type of veggie to cook individually. You’re more than welcome to do that, but I think it’s a lot of intricate work for an effect that isn’t super taste-able.) After 2-3 minutes, turn the burner on a low heat so the veggies and chicken cook together.
10) Have 6-8 minutes passed? You should check on the noodles! Here’s a site that gives some solid advice about when noodles are done When they’re done, make sure to drain them with a strainer, turn the burner off and let the pasta relax until everything else is done.
11) After this, you can get a plate out, add whatever proportion of noodles to stir-fry that you want, and enjoy! (Make sure to also dump the rest into a container to save for later. Also, if you notice that you have too many noodles for the amount of chicken and vegetables, dump the excess into a separate container and save them for another recipe.)

Substitutions/Advanced Options
Stir-fry is a recipe that can easily be switched up. Here are some substitutions and advanced options for when you’ve gotten the basics down.
1) Adding other vegetables
-Mushrooms
-Broccoli
-Those precious baby corns

2) Making a more advanced stir fry sauce
-I kept the sauce simple by making it only soy sauce, but if you can make it anything you want! Here’s a website with 15 different soy sauce recipes.

3) Substituting chicken for tofu or pork

Quick Food of the week: Oatmeal
Each week, I’ll also be giving you a food that can become a variety of easy breakfast/snack/lunch options. This week’s guest is oatmeal. Yes, oatmeal. I know that it’s frequently associated as bland, but it’s actually a solid and tasty option. It’s easy to make and can be combined with various items to create distinctive flavors. Some possibilities:
-Brown sugar and raisins
-Honey and any fruit
-Peanut Butter and Craisins (a personal favorite)
-Yogurt and blueberries, strawberries or bananas.
-Feeling even more adventurous? Try one of these 50 more intricate oatmeal recipes

Michael Schramm can be reached at mschramm@umich.edu.