Quick Veggie Stir-Fry Recipe & Back-to-Schoolishness

So pretty it breaks my heart.

Now that I’ve raised it, how should I cook it up and get it into my family’s bellies?

Here’s a puzzlement for you, gentle reader: if you are a farmer (raising hand) or a serious gardener (same) and you spend self-indulgent (ha) amounts of time during the growing season raising lovely veg and fruits, how do you actually find/make the time to prepare and eat them yourself? You know–for example–that a quick veggie stir-fry using those goodies that you’ve raised might be so lovely, but the deets on how to accomplish that in just thirty minutes or less (that’s about what you’ve got most days, between schlumping into the house in your work clothes at the end of the day, and greeting the hungry hoards that you know will descend on your kitchen, forks in hand) might be lost on you.

Possibly the temptation to just stuff that fresh veg into the ‘fridge washes over you, as you know that there is a calcified pizza in the freezer. Somewhere. (You saw one in there a few days ago, *sigh* . . . )

But wait! Here’s a suggestion for these days: Keep uppermost in your lexicon of favorite recipes a few standards that are full of fresh garden veg, recipes that are delicious and yet easier to make than, say, pulling out that tired frozen pizza and popping it into the oven. This quick veggie stir-fry recipe is definitely one of these, so in my book it’s golden.

This recipe is easy, savory goodness sizzling in a wok (or a good heavy skillet) and I’ve been thinking all summer that I needed to share it with you, dear gentle reader. It takes very little thought, only some mindless chopping which, c’mon, is about all we’ve got the energy for at the end of the day. And a really amazing sauce.

I’ve been making this quick veggie stir-fry for dinner at least once a week ever since my garden was producing this spring, and each time it’s a different meal. You can use whatever is fresh from your garden (or market) in it: early spring spinach, peas and kale, to mid-summer green beans and squash, to autumn tomatoes and peppers. Also, you can stir in whichever grains or noodles you have a hankering for; and you can even vary the sauce, though you might want to start with this easy sauce because it’s so totally, amazingly yummy. 

I’ve been trying to decide what to call this sauce: Yummy Sauce? Easy Yum-yum sauce? Sauce Delicioso?

Even with all these marks in its favor, this stir-fry takes as much thought and energy to make as I have at the end of most days, which is to say: NOT. MUCH. Hallelujah!

I love this! I think you will love it too. And: you can add meat to this easy veggie stir-fry, if you have somebody in your environs who doesn’t count a meal a true meal unless it contains meat. *whistling*

But before we start chopping veg, I mentioned the S word in the title . . . school. So I will deliver on a bit of school news, as promised.

Adventure is just . . over . . there!!

I’ve been thinking about using this as our “Back to School” photo. Whaddya think . . . too pretentious??  “Excelsior! Academy: Ever Higher!”

Mack and I have started school again, after prolonging the start date just about as long as a couple of fallen humans possibly can. Our daily morning routine for the past couple of weeks belies the fact that we both have been feeling guilty about not starting yet . . .

Our morning routine, as of late

Mack: (nervy, glancing at me out of the corner of his eyes) (muttering, *oddly* extra-helpful)  . . . After I take care of the dogs, I might do some mowing this morning . . .

Me: (relieved) Yes, good idea! The grass is long and shaggy out there . . . and I’ll get on the watering and harvesting . . . (darting out, avoiding eye contact) . . . see ya at lunchtime!

I would imagine that there are children who, by the end of summertime, miss school and long for the books and the structured time inside, but I’ve never known one of those strange birds in my environs. The apples, so to speak, don’t fall far from the tree, in this case. And THIS old tree prefers to grow OUTDOORS.

In fact, I was one of those children (eons ago, but the memory is still fresh) who sat near the window in my own elementary school and looked longingly out . . . side . . . I even liked school, but I would have loved it if I could have been learning outside, instead of sitting at a desk!

You may ask . . . so why don’t you just do school outside, Mrs. Outside-Lover Teacher-Lady? And I would reply: we’ve tried it. Mack and I have moved out onto the deck, or the picnic table in the yard, and no sooner do we begin reading, than we see a flurry of blue in the air, and then we start discussing Eastern Bluebirds, or Western Jays, and then we have to run in and find our binoculars and watch the bits of blue and identify them. We grab the WILD BIRDS OF NEBRASKA guide book, and–just like that!–our study of WWII is totally forgotten. Doing schoolwork outside always backfires, and we end up trudging back inside at last, where we can concentrate, for pity’s sake. Both of us grumpy and wishing things were somehow more interesting inside.

Depressing subjects like WWII need an inside venue for study, methinks. They can’t compete with Eastern Bluebirds. Or Western Redbirds. Or anything delightful.

In Our Defense: Three Items

First: Though the local public school starts up in early August (Child abuse! I cry, Summer is still on!) I refuse to even think about school until after Labor Day weekend. I have principles. I’m thinking about the children here. (What’s the point? I screech. Children can’t concentrate while the cicadas are still making all that racket!?) And then. Just as I’m thinking schoolish thoughts, just then, gentle reader, our extended fam takes our annual glamping weekend at a state park, and it takes a week to pack for it (you think I’m kidding: it’s mostly food and the proper utensils and tools for the cooking of such), and then a second week to unpack from it (and rest up!) so we can’t even think about starting anything regimented until all that nonsense is over and done with and recovered from. (I’m only one person, I whine. These things are important, and they take time!)

Dogs are funny.

One non-food-related photo from our recent camping weekend.

Second: My life is a delightful, fruitful disaster right now. A disaster!! <—(that wasn’t easy to do) It’s okay. I’m okay with it. After all, it’s harvest season! I’m loathe–sooo loathe, gentle reader, and I never use that word casually–to ignore the apples on the trees in the orchard, the honey that begs to be harvested, the tomatoes that are ripe and delicious and ready to be put into jars for the winter–in order to start school according to some random (and–let’s just say it–too-early for us farmer types) date on the calendar. These things must be taken care of. Lest we . . . lest we are forced to buy canned tomatoes, (dubious) store-bought honey, applesauce! You’re with me, right? Oh, yes, and apple cider! Wild plums! The list is a long one.

Third: We have a bullsnake in a huge terrarium on our dining room table, this very moment. Mack spent a good portion of a day this week, learning all about bullsnakes and searching for food for him.

His name is Hugh. This, so we can have these sorts of entertaining conversations: Me: Has Hugh been fed yet today? Mack: Who?? Me: Hugh! Hugh!! Mack: You?? Have YOU been fed today, Mom? Me: NO! The snake. The bles-sed snake: HUUUUGH! (running screaming from the house)

Where did Hugh come from? (Noooo, not YOU, but HUGH. See the potential “hugh-mor” in this name?) I found Hugh tangled up in the deer netting that I draped over the pepper plants to keep the bunnies from eating them this spring. Do you follow? Mine is a complicated life, you know, rich in chaos events of learning like this one. Mack and I spent thirty minutes gingerly cutting Hugh free while he struck at us, rattled the end of his (rattleless) tail menacingly, coiled himself up and back, up and back, all in attempts to intimidate us into letting him go. Which he didn’t. And we didn’t. Because we didn’t want him to die a humiliating, ironic, painful death tangled up in deer netting.

Though, perhaps, he might have deserved it, with that attitude.

My point to this third item? . . . ah yes . . . Learning goes on all the time around here, whether we want it to, or not. Sometimes my brain threatens to explode from all the learning. (QUIT WITH THE LEARNING, ENOUGH’S ENOUGH! it groans) And. It goes without saying (so I’ll say it, ha) that if Mack and I would have been sitting indoors at the moment that Hugh was tangling his long beautiful aggressive self up in my deer netting, instead of my going out to harvest and Mack going out to mow, reading from books, say, like normal people, I would not have found Hugh, and we wouldn’t have learned that bullsnakes–though kind of aggressive and scary–are a valuable ally to gardeners, in that they eat lots of bugs and injurious rodents from garden spaces, actually contributing very favorably to a farm. In fact, they are beginning to be regarded as one of the most valuable snakes in the U.S.!

By the way, if you are interested in wild animals and how to care for them if you run across an instance like this one, I’d heartily endorse buying this book (if you can find it!). It’s delightfully informative and interesting and you can learn about everything from how to take care of an orphaned baby squirrel to what to feed to a bullsnake . . .

But it is out of print, so if you find it, snatch it up!

But anyway: Mack and I started school this week. We are easing in until the weather cooperates. It’s starting to feel more autumnal here in Nebraska, as I write this, though the cicadas are still making a racket = summer. So we are doing French, Science, Literature/Writing, History, and, of course Math and Music. The rest of the subjects will follow when we are successful at these. That is to say, about when the snow falls.

And that’s okay.

Quick Veggie Stir-Fry Recipe

Nom nom. Time to eat!

Here’s the finished product: yum!

Yes. Here we go. You knew I’d get here eventually, right? Here’s how to make this quick veggie stir-fry, this version made with noodles.

Here’s the sequence of events:

1. Make your sauce. (Make a double batch and it will last for several meals). (I keep mine in a mason jar, lidded, in the ‘fridge. It’s great to use as a marinade, a stir-fry sauce, or a dipping sauce.)

YUMMY Sauce

  • ⅓ cup soy sauce
  • ⅓ cup broth or water
  • 2 TBS brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch

Directions: Combine all the above in a medium saucepan; cook over medium heat until thickened, whisking vigorously, for around 5 minutes or until nice’n’thick. Saucy. Remove from heat and cool.

2. Cook your noodles as directed on the package, drain, stir in 1 Tb olive oil, and clamp the lid back on the pot to keep them warm.

  • 8 oz. dried noodles (or use steamed rice, quinoa, etc.)
  • 1 Tb olive oil
chop chop chop!

Here’s my mise en place. I always want to take a photo; it’s so pretty! It’s not supper: it’s art!

3. Chop your vegs, herbs, and leftover meat, if you’re adding it. (Note: a broiled chicken breast, chopped, is very good stirred in with the noodles.) This process of getting everything chopped and laid out ahead of time is called mise en place and if you’ve never done it before, it will make you feel very clever indeed. I love me some misen’ & placin’, don’t you?

Quick Veggie Stir-Fry

  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed and minced (look here to see why to smash!)
  • ½ cup thinly sliced spring onions
  • 1½ cups fresh snow peas (trimmed) or green beans (same)
  • 1 cup sweet bell pepper (red, orange or purple or whatever you love and/or have) strips
  • ½ cup thin, bite-size carrot strips
  • ½ cup chopped fresh chives
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • Freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste
  • hot pepper flakes (optional)

4. Heat a large skillet (or a wok: woks are definitely more fun!) over med-high heat to high heat, depending on how attendant you are to your wok. Heat your olive oil until it’s sizzlin’, baby. Add onions and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add peas, beans, pepper strips and carrots; cook and stir 3 minutes or until everything is steamy hot and tender-crisp. Add mushrooms and stir-fry for another 2-3 minutes. Stir in Yummy Sauce; cook 2 minutes or so, until heated thoroughly, stirring occasionally. Finally, stir in hot drained noodles, chives, parsley, and toss carefully to coat. Cook 1 minute more. Season with freshly-ground pepper, and (if you like a bit of heat!) hot pepper flakes. Add more sauce if necessary.

5. Call the troops, if they aren’t already underfoot, salivating all over your kitchen.

Bon Appétit!

By the way . . . over on my Facebook page (if you’ve not joined it, please do! We have some very exciting, entertaining and important discussions over there!), we’ve been discussing the merits of various woks. I am intrigued by this one, a cast iron beauty made by Lodge, as I am a True Fan of cast iron pans and own (and am devoted to) several. What do you think? Do you use a wok often? And if so, which one is your favorite? I’d especially love to hear from any of you who may be fortunate enough to own this one, and hear your experiences.

(My primary concern is that it weighs 11 pounds, and so would that be an onerous fact for me, with my not-so-strong hands?)

Or is it so cunning and beautiful and useful and all the rest, that it would be worth the weight? Do you have an opinion about this particular wok? If so, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

That’s all for now! Thanks for popping in, gentle reader. I love you. I mean it!

*hugs*

8 thoughts on “Quick Veggie Stir-Fry Recipe & Back-to-Schoolishness

  1. Janet Dugan

    Love the stir-fry,but it has hot competition from a juicy delicious BLT with a REAL ripe tomato!
    I hope you find time someday to read “A Tarantula in My Purse, and 172 other wild pets” by Jean Craighead George. It is a short, delightful and information-packed collection of stories about raising 3 children and 173 “pets”. Those of a certain age will remember the Craighead family nature programs long ago.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Janet, I agree about the BLT. YUM. I love them too. I’m going to add that book to my reading list, as it keeps popping up on my recommended books list! ha! Thanks for the recommendation!

  2. Diane Young Decker

    Love the recipe and will be using it ASAP. (When I learn to eat with dentures!)
    My concern with the cast-iron wok would be in getting it clean. Stir-fry sauces are usually sticky and I would be inclined to wash the sticky out. Which, eventually, would destroy your seasoning.
    You are probably better at cooking with cast iron than I appear to be. I’ve temporarily ruined several CI pans and had to start the seasoning all over again. I tend to avoid them for just that reason. I have a great CI Dutch oven and never use it.

    1. Kay

      Diane, if it’s mostly greasy with some “bits”, just a goodly amount of kosher salt and lots of paper towels (or a cloth you don’t mind tossing afterwards) and scrub away. Throw salt & towel(s) in trash and quickly rinse under hot water. Dry well and reheat on stovetop. Rub all over with small amount of oil.
      If something is really stuck on, I’ll boil water in the pan and then scrub with a green scrubber. Never soap. You might have to reseason or you can just make home fries a few times, wiping the pan out with a paper towel each time.

    2. dramamamafive Post author

      Diane, one quick note: the sauce is added in at the end, and while you are correct that it could be sticky if left in the wok, I don’t leave it in there for long. I add the sauce, stir it in and let it heat up for just a moment or two, and then I’m serving dinner. I would never leave it, say, to simmer on the stove for long. Please take note of Kay’s excellent comment about caring for cast iron. Once you get that well-seasoned surface, you no longer have to worry about sticky sauces, etc. It’s just so slick and nice. It takes time but is not at all unattainable! Keep trying. My cast iron pans are just about the only ones I use any more!

  3. Gene Gage

    As a fellow veg farmer, we – the little woman and I – have exactly the same practice at our house – veggie stir fry with pasta – at least once per week for probably 5-6 months of the year. Just last night, we had it with chunked up pieces of Italian sausage and lots of fresh rosemary, thyme, oregano and fennel seed, and grated parmesan cheese on top. And with the salad plate doubling as a bread plate (store-bought ciabatta rolls) we had tomato-cuke-onion-basil salad with my home-made herbed vinaigrette. And peach/rhubarb cobbler topped with a scoop of Trader Joe’s vanilla ice cream for dessert. A truly “locally sourced” meal, most of it sourced less than 100 yards from the kitchen. I feel sorry for the city-dwellers who don’t have garden space to do (and eat) stuff like this!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      YUM. Gene, you ought to write a blog post for me on how to make a delicious meal incorporating as many locally-sourced ingredients as possible! You do this so well!

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