No ordinary stir-fry

I have a favorite go-to meal when I want something simple, healthy, inexpensive–and tasty. Actually, if it’s not tasty who cares whether it’s any of those other things? But the other day, I made two changes to this old favorite that sent it over the top.

It’s nothing fancy, so if you’re into gourmet or unusual, this wouldn’t be for you. But it’s so darn good, and so pretty to look at, I think it would satisfy both those who like to cook, and those who like to eat. It’s a stir-fry. Just a simple stir-fry–with attitude.

The meat is always a cut-up boneless, skinless chicken breast–or half a one, if they’re big. I sauté the pieces in a healthy oil, which has always been olive or grape-seed, but this time I tried coconut oil, and what a difference that made! I used good, extra virgin coconut oil that I got at the health food store, which means it was a bit more expensive than the cheaper varieties. I knew it was worth the price, though, when I opened the container and smelled–coconut. The last, cheaper brand I bought had no aroma at all.

The coconut oil added a special underlying flavor to the whole dish without overpowering it, and I know I’ll never make this again using any other kind of oil.

Over the chicken I sprinkled a healthy dose of coarsely-ground black pepper, a generous amount of garlic powder, and my new favorite spice, turmeric. Why I’ve never cooked with it before is a mystery, but I love the slightly sweet, mild curry-like flavor, and the delightful yellow color it adds to foods. (And to your kitchen counter if you’re careless with where you lay your stirring utensil, so be careful.)

Once the chicken was cooked through and just a bit browned, I remove it from the pan, and then, after adding a bit more coconut oil, I dumped in the veggies to soften a bit. These vary each time I make the dish, depending on what I happen to have in the house.

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The stir-fry while still in the pan. Photo by George Sawyn

On this day, it was chopped onion, broccoli broken into small pieces, carrots halved and sliced very thin, and chopped red, sweet peppers. When the veggies were tender, I added some water, a bit of corn starch to thicken, and just a light splash of soy sauce, since that’s very salty and we’re watching our salt these days.

After the mixture thickened, I added some chopped swiss chard, stirring until it was nearly wilted, and then put the chicken back in to warm. I served the whole thing over organic basmati brown rice. Now, if you think you can substitute white rice, or even regular brown rice, and still have the same tasty meal, you’d be wrong. Basmati has a wonderful, almost nutty flavor that’s so good I can eat the leftover rice cold, all by itself. You do have to give it 30-40 minutes to cook, though, which means it takes longer than the meat-and-veggie mixture.

Dish up some rice on a plate, top it with the stir-fry, and there will be enough color and flavor to please even the most discriminating taste. Best of all: the whole meal is entirely healthy. We had this for New Year’s Day, and tomorrow we’re eating the leftovers. I can’t wait.

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About Monica Sawyn

I'm a retired newspaper reporter/columnist, and although I still freelance, I miss the weekly column I used to write. I still "see columns" in everyday life and need a place to put them after they're written--thus, this blog. I'm Catholic, have been a Benedictine oblate since 1977, and live with my husband and our beagle in Sturgeon Bay, Wis. When I'm not writing, I'm probably reading, sewing, taking photos or walking the dog.
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2 Responses to No ordinary stir-fry

  1. blb1 says:

    If I use anything coconut flavor my husband won’t eat it. I tried to slip it in a recipe and he got down right sick. Not sure if that is psychological or what. After 55 yrs. marriage there is no changing what he will eat. 🙂

    • Monica Sawyn says:

      That’s too bad, since coconut oil is very good for us. It should be a good quality, though; and if you use actual coconut, it should be the unsulphured kind, without the sugar coating.

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