Three-Dinner, Low-Cal Stir Fry

imagesToday, I want to tell you the story of a stir fry.

When I started this stir fry, I had no idea that it would be ongoing and evolving, providing dinners for two people for three nights. Without going limp! Without losing its flavour! Without a photograph! It was just a simple stir-fry. Who knew?

imagesI am likely a latecomer to what I’ll call the “add-on” cooking method, but being a blog writer means I can’t wait to share it with you anyway.

Now, like most stir fry dishes, this one was easy. The two tricks that kept it going and going were the following:

  1. COOKING ONLY UNTIL CRUNCHY
  2. ADDING FRESH INGREDIENTS

green-onionsNow, for the sake of the story, I’m going to assume that you know how to make a stir-fry with very little or no oil. (See Quinoa Vegetable Stir-Fry if you’re not sure about the no-oil method.) Secondly, your favourite vegetables and condiments may differ from ours so substitute to your heart’s content. And thirdly, your quantities may vary because the spouse and I don’t eat large dinners or meat portions.

So here goes! Once upon a time there were some vegetables…

Dinner #1: Just Veggies

images-3To cook only until crunchy means starting with the vegetables which will take the longest to cook and adding the faster-cooking ingredients at the end. Hence, put ingredients #1 to #6 in a heated pot:

  1. 2 zucchinis, sliced
  2. 20 pea pods (roughly, I wasn’t counting) with the tips trimmed off and halved
  3. 1 leek, sliced thin
  4. 1 bunch green onions, sliced
  5. ½ bag broccoli slaw
  6. 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  7. ½ head of Savoy cabbage, chopped
  8. 1 bag of sprouts

leekCover the pot, wait 1-2 minutes, stir, and repeat the sequence until the zucchinis are just starting to look translucent but are not fully cooked. (5-7 minutes? Unfortunately, I wasn’t watching the clock.)

recipe-4359Add #7 and #8 and cover the pot, etc., until the sprouts are warm but still firm and barely cooked. (2 minutes?) Everything should be crunchy except for the cabbage which wilts quickly (Savoy cabbage leaves are thinner than regular cabbage and cook faster).

We served this initial stir fry over rice as an accompaniment for fish.

Important tip: After cooking, remove the pot immediately from the heat and leave it uncovered. If you put the cover on while eating, the vegetables will continue to steam-cook.

Dinner #2: Chicken Breast and Shirataki Noodles

“Beef up” the vegetables with chicken and noodles:

  1. Sautée 1 chicken breast, cut into cubes, with 1 tbsp. minced garlic and 1 tsp. minced ginger.
  2. shiratakiAdd the leftover veggies from Dinner #1 into the pan with the chicken, turn off the heat, and stir. (If your pan doesn’t hold heat well, cook as little as you can.)
  3. Mix in 1 bag of Shirataki noodles, rinsed well with hot water so they don’t require heating. (Learn more about Shirataki noodles if you’ve never used or heard about them before.)

peasDinner #3: Last But Not Least

Cook more veggies to “crunch” status and then add the leftovers from Dinner #2, turning off the heat and mixing.

  • images-22 leeks, sliced thin
  • 2 zucchini, sliced
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed

And the moral of the story? Eat your leftovers! Bon appetit!

Quinoa Vegetable Stir Fry

In this dish, you get the crunch and snap of lightly steamed asparagus, zucchini, and carrot plus the nutty flavour of quinoa—all subtly highlighted by ginger and soy sauce.  

This stir fry is a great way to use leftover quinoa and to take advantage of whatever vegetables happen to be seasonal and cheap at the moment.  This version was inspired by specials on yellow and green zucchini as well as cheaper, spring asparagus.

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Makes 8 1-cup servings

 Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. chicken broth powder and ½ cup water
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1½ tbsp. minced ginger
  • 1 bunch scallions/green onions, sliced
  • 2 yellow zucchini, sliced
  • 2 green zucchini, sliced
  • 1 bunch asparagus, woody ends removed and spears cut into 1-2 inch lengths
  • 1 medium carrot, halved lengthwise and cut into thin slices
  • 1½ cups cooked quinoa
  • 2 tbsp. gluten-free soy sauce
  • Salt to taste

This recipe requires a skillet or wok with a lid.

Directions  

  1. Using a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat, cook chicken broth powder-water mixture until bubbling hot
  2. Stir in garlic, ginger, and scallions and cook for 1 minute.
  3. Add zucchini, asparagus, and carrot.
  4. Turn heat to medium and cook covered for 12 minutes (stirring occasionally) or until carrots are tender.  The zucchini gives of liquid as it cooks so you shouldn’t have to add water but, if your pot dries, add ¼ cup of water.
  5. Stir in cooked quinoa and soy sauce.
  6. Remove from heat when ingredients are uniformly hot.
  7. Add salt if necessary.

For Weight Watchers: 1 point per 1-cup serving on both the Points and PointsPlus plans.

Nutritional Information for a 1-cup serving:

Note: the chicken broth powder is not included in the nutritional information as it is not on the database that I am using.  It contains no sodium or MSG.

  •  Calories 135 (8 from fat)
  • Fat 1 g
  • Carbohydrate 28 g
  • Fiber 11 g
  • Protein 11 g
  • Sodium 1020 mg

This food is low in saturated fat, and very low in cholesterol.  It is also a good source of protein, vitamin E (alpha tocopherol), niacin, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc and a very good source of dietary fiber, Vitamin A,  Vitamin C, Vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, Vitamin Bb6, folate, iron, potassium, copper, and manganese.

Sweet and Sour Cabbage Stir Fry

This dish dresses up the dieter’s friend—the humble cabbage.  It’s filling and tasty—lightly sweet, lightly sour—and very low in calories. I’ve made this dozens of times, using different types of cabbage, but I find that regular cabbage gives it the best texture, slightly crunchy.  Sometimes, I add onion to give it extra bite; sometimes I add carrots to provide additional healthy substance.  And it works for me hot or cold.

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Note on the amount of cabbage: This recipe is great when you have extra cabbage on hand, because you can vary the amount you use.  However, too little cabbage will make the sweet and sour taste too intense; too much cabbage and you’ll lose flavour.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. chicken broth powder, mixed with ½ cup of water
  • 1 tsp. minced ginger
  • 1 onion, sliced (optional)
  • 5-7 cups cabbage, sliced into thin strips
  • 1 carrot, shredded (optional)
  • 1 tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. artificial sugar
  • 1 bunch scallions, sliced
  • Salt to taste

 Directions:

  1. In large skillet, heat chicken broth-water mixture over medium-high heat.
  2. When bubbling, add ginger and cook for 30 seconds.
  3. Add cabbage and carrots.
  4. Cook for 8-10 minutes (uncovered) until cabbage is wilting, stirring occasionally.
  5. Take off heat.
  6. Mix in vinegar, artificial sugar, and scallions.
  7. Salt to taste.
  8. Serve hot or cold.

For Weight Watchers: 0 points on either the Points or PointsPlus plan.

(Adapted from a Weight Watcher’s recipe that I no longer have.)

Sesame Asparagus with Carrots

Heighten the flavour of fresh, spring asparagus with carrots and the light application of soy sauce, sesame oil, and sesame seeds.

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Ingredients

  • 1 large bunch asparagus, about 3-4 cups
  • 2 large carrots, peeled
  • 2 tbsp. of chicken broth powder mixed with ½ cup of water, or ½ cup of liquid chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp. minced ginger
  • 1 tbsp. wheat-free soy sauce
  • 1.5 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp. sesame seeds

This dish requires a skillet that has a lid.

Directions

    1. Mix soy sauce and sesame oil in a bowl and put to one side.
    2. Break off woody ends of the asparagus and cut remaining spears into pieces about 1 inch long.
    3. Cut carrots into thin slices (about ¼ inch).
    4. Pour chicken broth-water mixture to skillet and place over medium-high heat.
    5. When bubbling, add minced ginger.  Cook for 30 seconds.
    6. Add carrots and stir-fry for 30 seconds.
    7. Lower heat to medium. 
    8. Cover skillet and let carrots steam until crisp (about 15 minutes).  If the pan gets dry, add ½ cup of water.
    9. Add asparagus and mix with the carrots.
    10. Cover and let all vegetables steam until tender (about 10 minutes).
    11. Uncover and let water boil off.
    12. Remove from heat.
    13. Add soy sauce-sesame oil mixture and toss vegetables to coat.
    14. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and mix.

For Weight Watchers: Overall point value in both the Points and PointsPlus is 2.5 points for the entire dish.

Dieter’s Pad Thai

Look, Ma, no oil!

Look, Ma, no oil!

This lower-calorie, delicious version of Pad Thai includes the spicy peanut sauce but avoids the use of oil, doesn’t use an egg, cuts back on the amount of noodles, and adds vegetables. 

The trick here is to prepare all the ingredients in advance before the last step, which involves combining everything together—it only takes about 2 minutes!  Here’s how to do it.

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Makes 4 servings

Step 1: Make the Sauce

Sauce Ingredients

  • ¼ cup wheat-free soy sauce
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ cup peanut butter
  • ¼ cup artificial sugar
  • ¼ cup rice vinegar
  • Chili paste to taste (I use 1 tsp. but we’re conservative)

Sauce Directions: Mix together all ingredients.  The peanut butter will not mix in completely but break up into small bits.

Step 2: Cook the Rice Noodles

 You can use any type of rice noodle.  My choice is rice vermicelli, which has two qualities: one good and two bad. 

  • The good quality is that it cooks in about 1-2 minutes in boiling water. 
  • The bad qualities are (1) it is packaged in incredible long strands that will clump into a ball into your Pad Thai, and (2) if you try to break up the dry vermicelli, you will have pieces of it all over your kitchen. (You can trust me on both of these!)

 Noodle Ingredients: 80 grams or 3 oz. rice vermicelli, weighed dry

 Noodle Directions:

  1. Bring water to boil in a pot.
  2. Put in rice vermicelli
  3. Cook for 1-2 minutes until soft.
  4. Drain water.
  5. Using kitchen shears, snip cooked vermicelli into small lengths.

Step 3.  Prepare the Vegetables

 You can vary the vegetables and the amounts.  However, it’s important not to add so many vegetables that you don’t have enough sauce to go around.

Vegetable Ingredients

  • 1 bunch scallions, sliced
  • 1-2 cups bok choy, chopped finely
  • 1-2 cups mushrooms, enoki, shitake, or king oyster
  • 3-4 cups bean sprouts

 Vegetable Directions

  1. Prepare scallions, bok choy, and mushroom and put into a bowl.
  2. Put bean sprouts in separate bowl.  It will be added to the dish at the end of cooking.

 Step 4: Make the Garnish

 Garnish Ingredients:

  • ½ cup peanuts
  • ½ cup cilantro

Garnish Directions: Put peanuts and cilantro into a food processor.  Mix until chopped.

 Step 5: Sauté the Meat

 When it comes to the meat content, you have three choices:

  1. You can use chicken, pork, shrimp, or firm tofu. 
  2. The amount you choose depends on how many calories you want from meat. 
  3. You can start with the raw meat or used leftover meat.  If you use leftovers, just add the meat at the end of the recipe when you’re combining all the ingredients.

In this example, I start with raw pork tenderloin.

 Meat ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. chicken broth powder mixed with ½ cup water
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp. minced ginger
  • 1 lb. pork tenderloin, cut into small pieces

 Meat Directions

  1. Using medium high heat under a large skillet or wok, bring chicken broth-water mixture to a boil.
  2. Add garlic and ginger and sauté until fragrant (about 30 seconds).
  3. Add meat and cook, stirring, until cooked through (about 3 minutes).
  4. Remove meat and put into a bowl.

 Keep heat under pot in preparation for the vegetables. 

Step 6.  Cooking the Vegetables

  1.  Add ¼ cup water if your pot is dry.
  2. Add scallions, bok choy, and mushrooms.
  3. Cook, stirring frequently, until tender but crunchy (about 2-3 minutes).

Step 7. Combining All Ingredients

 As you add each ingredient, stir to ensure that it is distributed evenly in the pot.

  1. Turn down heat to medium.
  2. Add cooked meat to vegetables and stir.
  3. Add rice vermicelli to meat-vegetable mixture and stir.
  4. Add bean sprouts and stir.
  5. Pour over peanut sauce and stir.
  6. Take pan off the heat.

Step 8. Sprinkle on the garnish

Garnish directions: I use a large skillet with straight sides so when I take the pot off the heat, I flatten down all the ingredients so that the surface of the pad thai is even.  I then spread the garnish over the surface.  Finally, I divide the pad thai into four parts. 

If you’re using a wok, you will have to measure the quantity, e.g., 8 cups, and divide by 4.  You may decide to divide the garnish among the four individual servings.

For Weight Watchers: For ¼ Pad Thai, without meat, on the Points plan, the point value is 6 points and on the PointsPlus plan, the value is 9 points.  To reduce the point-count, you could

  • Cut down on the amount of peanut butter in the sauce
  • Go vegetarian and not add tofu, meat, or shellfish
  • Not have any noodles
  •  Eliminate the peanuts in the garnish and just use cilantro

The breakdown of the point-value per serving is as follows: 

Per ¼ serving Sauce Rice noodles Meat Vegetables Garnish
Points 2 1 your choice 0 3
PointsPlus 3 2 your choice 0 4

 (Adapted from “Chicken Pad Thai” in Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking by Kelli Bronski and Peter Bronski.)

 

“Free Spirit” Fried Rice

"Free Spirit" Fried Rice with Asparagus and More Carrots

Tasty, nourishing, and filling—this rice and vegetable dish is for “free spirits” who like to experiment.

You'll like us in your stir fry!

You'll like us in your stir fry!

It can be expanded indefinitely with other fresh vegetables (I’ve provided a list of those I’ve used below) as well as firm tofu (cubed), or cooked shrimp, chicken, or turkey if you want a main meal.  In the picture above, I added leftover Sesame Asparagus with Carrots to the basic recipe.

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Cooking tips:

  • This dish cooks quickly so you should have all your ingredients prepared and measured beforehand.
  • If you add additional vegetables, you may have to increase the amount of soy sauce if your pan gets too dry.

Makes 4 servings of 1 cup each

Basic Ingredients

  • Cooking spray
  • ½ cup liquid egg substitute (equivalent of two eggs)
  • 1 cup carrots, shredded
  • 1 cup scallions, sliced
  • 3 cups cooked white rice
  • ½ cup frozen green peas, thawed
  • ¼ cup low-sodium or other no-wheat soy sauce
Other Vegetables You Can Add
  • ½ pound daikon, chopped
  • 2 cups bok choy (any type), shredded
  • 2 cups napa, Chinese, or regular cabbage, shredded
  • 1 cup enoki mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh bean sprouts
  • 1 zucchini, sliced and quartered
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard
  • 1 bunch asparagus

Directions

  1. Spray large non-stick fry pan with cooking spray.
  2. Warm pan over medium-high heat.
  3. Add liquid egg substitute, tilting pan so that the liquid covers the bottom.
  4. Scramble the eggs and then break them into pieces (2-3 minutes).
  5. Remove eggs onto a plate and set them aside.
  6. Take pan off heat and spray again with cooking spray.
  7. Put back on medium-high heat.
  8. Add carrots and scallions (tofu and other fresh vegetables should also be added at this time).
  9. Cook until crisp-tender (2-3 minutes).
  10. Stir in rice, peas, and soy sauce.
  11. Cook until heated through, stirring once or twice (1-2 minutes).
  12. Stir in egg (and any cooked meat or shellfish).

For Weight Watchers: The basic recipe yields 4 servings of 1 cup each.

  • Points plan: The total count is 15 so each cup is worth approximately 4 points.
  • PointsPlus plan: The total count is 18.5 so each cup is worth approximately 4.5 points.

Notes:

  1. If you add more vegetables, you will add quantity but no other points.  Therefore, you’ll be lowering your point count per cup.
  2. If you add tofu, meat, or shellfish, you will have to add on its value to each serving.

Nutritional Information for a 1-cup serving:

  • Calories 200 (13.5 from fat)
  • Protein 10 grams
  • Fat 2 grams
  • Carbohydrate 42 grams
  • Fibre 3 grams
  • Cholesterol .3 mg
  • Sodium 1106.5 mg

(Adapted from “Easy Fried Rice” in the 2010 Weight Watchers Points Plus Getting Started booklet.)

Simply Stir Fry

A stir fry is a really easy and delicious way to fill up with vegetables.  You can eat the dish as is or, if you want to add carbs, you can serve it over rice or noodles.

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Count Me In!

Count Me In!

Tips to superb stir frying:

  1. Use fresh ingredients.  Unlike soup where you can get away with vegetables that have seen better days, a stir fry  requires vegetables at their best.
  2. Peel, core, chop, dice, and slice all vegetables in advance.  This dish cooks so quickly that you won’t have time to prepare them as you go.
  3. Use chicken, beef, or vegetable broth/bouillon rather than oil.  
  4. Start with the vegetables that will take the longest to cook (onions, cabbage, green zucchini) and end with those that hardly need cooking (bean sprouts). 
  5. Be creative.  The wonderful thing about a stir fry is that you can use any vegetables that you want. 

 Ingredients

  • ½ cup chicken broth
  • 1 yellow onion, diced, or 1 bunch of green onions, sliced (or both if you love onions!)
  • 2 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp. minced ginger
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • ½ head cabbage, diced  (I prefer napa cabbage but any cabbage is fine)
  • 2 green zucchini, cut in half length-wise and sliced
  • ½ lb. mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cups bok choy, chopped
  • ½ lb. firm tofu cut into small cubes (optional)
  • 2-3 cups bean sprouts

Sautéeing Tip: Many recipes call for onions, garlic and other spices to be sautéed in oil to release their flavours.  I mix 2 tbsp. chicken broth powder and ½ cup of water as a replacement for oil.  This mixture will thickens as the onion and garlic cook. 

 Directions

  1. Put ½ cup chicken broth (see tip above) in a wok or large fry pan (that has a cover) over medium to high heat.
  2. When broth is bubbling, add onion or green onions, garlic, and ginger.
  3. Sauté until onion is soft (add a little more broth if onion starts to stick).
  4. Add soy sauce, cabbage, zucchini, mushroom, and bok choy.
  5. Mix and cover for 1 minute, then mix and cover again (this allows the vegetables to cook by steaming)
  6. Continue until vegetables are soft.
  7. Add tofu, if desired, and mix well.
  8. Add bean sprouts as a top layer.
  9. Cover and cook for approximately 2 minutes.  Sprouts should be hot but crunchy.
  10. Serve with a slotted spoon (you may have more liquid than you need).
  11. Salt your serving to taste or add more soy sauce.
  12. Enjoy!

For Weight Watchers: 0 points on both the Points and PointsPlus plan, unless you add tofu.  If you do, calculate the total tofu points and divide by number of cups of stir fry you have made.