Most of us could benefit from increasing our intake of fresh, whole vegetables. If the cancer-fighting properties of vegetables aren’t enough incentive, then take into consideration that they contain a ton of micronutrients that fill nutritional voids, they have small quantities of healthy fats such as omega-3’s, they counteract high acidity produced by high protein diets, and they give us a big dose of fiber.
Getting ample vegetables sounds great in theory, but in practice many of us fail utterly in finding ways to consistently consume our photosynthesizing friends. Let’s face it, the world is full of veggie haters. As the famous and sometimes gruff 20th century archaeologist Francois Bordes used to say when asked if he would like a salad with his meal, “What do I look like to you, a rabbit?”
Sure, vegetables can be downright repulsive, but given the correct method of preparation, even the most finicky of eaters can reap the benefits of these wonder foods, sow good eating habits, alleviate any seeds of doubt, and harvest superior nutritional properties. Now that the puns are out of the way, let’s move on to the recipe.
Asian stir-fry is one of the best ways to eat vegetables in both quantity and variety. Cooking the vegetables quickly over high heat keeps them crisp (no more mushy cafeteria mystery vegetable), and slightly caramelizes their surface, dramatically enhancing flavor. Another bonus is that you can cook stir-fry in bulk, storing tasty vegetable-laden meals for days at a time.
After messing around with varieties of this recipe, we finally discovered a great combination of vegetable variety, healthfulness, texture, and taste. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to significantly increase your vegetable intake with just this one recipe.
This is a stand-alone dish that needs no rice. Just pile it high on a plate and enjoy. There is enough variety that it can even be cooked and eaten without meat, as a side dish for us omnivores, or as a main dish for a vegetarian.
1 lb chicken breast, sliced thin 6 cloves garlic, chopped 2 whole dried chili peppers, chopped 2 tbsp white cooking wine 2 cubic inches fresh ginger, peeled and chopped 2 tbsp corn starch, mixed together with 4 tbsp water 1 cup fresh shitake mushrooms 2 stalks celery, diagonally sliced 2 bundles scallions (green onions) (15 total), diced 1 red bell pepper, sliced 1 yellow bell pepper, sliced 2 medium carrots, sliced 2 handfuls snow peas (25-30 pods) 1 can sliced water chestnuts, rinsed and drained 1 can slivered bamboo shoots, rinsed and drained 1 head Napa cabbage, sliced 3 cups fresh bean sprouts 1 bouillon cube (chicken or vegetable), mixed with 1 cup hot water 4 tbsp soy sauce ½ cup whole roasted and salted cashews
First slice the chicken breast and marinate it in a large bowl together with half of the chopped garlic, crushed chili peppers, white wine and a dash of salt.
Chop all of your vegetables and get them ready before the cooking process starts. Also, make your cornstarch solution in a small bowl or cup by stirring 2 tablespoons of cornstarch into 4-5 tablespoons of water. Stir until thoroughly mixed into a thick solution.
Heat a large nonstick wok over medium-high heat, and then add the sliced chicken together with the marinade. Stir-fry for a few minutes, until browned. Push the chicken up to the sides of the wok, lightly coat the surface with cooking spray, and then add the remaining garlic and chopped ginger. Stir-fry for a couple of minutes, and then add vegetables, two at a time, stir-frying about 4 minutes each batch. When the wok gets too full, place the contents into a large bowl and continue stir-frying the remaining vegetables. If the wok gets dry, you can coat it again with cooking oil, or add some soy sauce.
After you’ve worked your way through the vegetables down to the cabbage and bean sprouts, push the vegetables to the side of the wok, add the broth, and bring to a boil. Thicken the broth by stirring-in the cornstarch solution (stir it again before slowly adding).
Return all of the vegetables and chicken to the wok, and toss together with the soy sauce and cashews. Don’t add the cashews until the very end to ensure a crunchy texture. Mix thoroughly and serve.
This recipe requires a lot of chopping, so to ensure you don’t get bits of finger in your meal, let’s discuss how to chop vegetables quickly and safely. It’s very important to have a good knife. Sharp knives are actually safer because you don’t have to use so much force to cut the vegetables. The knife should also have a broad blade, such as a chef’s knife or a cleaver. The blade needs to be broad so that you can place the side of the knife on your knuckles as you chop. Holding the vegetable with your fingertips on the cutting board, fold your knuckles over and lightly move the knife across them while chopping, being careful not to raise the knife above the level of your knuckles (never let the side of the knife lose contact with your guiding hand). As long as you keep your fingers tucked away, then no worries.
Food Fact: Cabbage, the forgotten veggie
Cabbage is one of those veggies that is often overlooked in western diets. The good news is that it tastes great in this stir-fry, and the better news is that cabbage has great health properties. Cabbage contains a beneficial phytochemical called indole-3-carbinole (I3C), which has powerful cancer-fighting properties. I3C also helps to break down estrogen in the body, which further decreases cancer risk, particularly breast cancer in women.