#SundayCookingAdventures: Chicken and broccoli stir fry

2014-06-22 14.07.26

Last week someone I work with who follows this page (Hi, Rosa!) asked me how I come up with the recipes I post, how I plan and how I shop. Basically, she wanted to know how I do it.

I said, wow, that’s an interesting question. I’ve been “doing it” so long I don’t even think about it. But yes, I do have a system.

For the most part, I don’t create my own recipes from scratch. REALLY good cooks can just look in the pantry or fridge and come up with a brilliant meal. I am not one of those people.

Instead, I have many cookbooks and cooking magazines from which I usually adapt a recipe to fit our family’s dietary needs. That might mean reducing or eliminating salt or high salt ingredients, adjusting fat, changing proportions of vegetables and meat, and it often includes adding herbs, spices and other flavors. I have favorite recipes, favorite chefs and authors and favorite web sites and food blogs. I also have favorite ingredients. It all comes together somehow.

Below are some tips on cooking for the coming week. Stay with it and you’ll find a recipe at the end, too:

Plan your menu before you shop. Late Friday night and early Saturday morning before I go grocery shopping, I’m looking for something new to eat online and in print. This way, we don’t get bored eating the same things over and over again. That’s not to say we don’t have some dishes that rotate through on a regular basis, but I’m always looking for something new. My favorite magazines are Cooking Light, Fine Cooking and Food Network Magazine. I like the Moosewood series of cookbooks, and I like cookbooks by Ellie Krieger and Ina Garten from Food Network. I like Ellie because as a nutritionist, she creates healthy, lower calorie, tasty dishes. With Ina, I have to really adjust her recipes. She uses a lot of butter and salt, but she’s also good with herbs and spices. What I like about Ina is she cooks simply and with pretty basic ingredients.

I also update many of the recipes I learned to cook from my mother, and I watch a lot of cooking shows. I’ll often try a technique or combination of ingredients based on something I might have seen on TV that I haven’t considered before. So overall, my recipes come from a lot of sources.

Make a shopping list. Once I know what I’m going to prepare, I make a list of ingredients, for every meal through the week. For me, I have to double or even triple a recipe because I’m cooking enough for a meal and leftovers for me, my husband, son and father. Yes, it’s a lot of food. But it’s far cheaper than eating out several times a week, and you have better control over your ingredients and food preparation.

Search the Web. It’s easy and fun to Google the ingredients you have and see what recipes pop up. There are a lot of recipe sites and food blogs out there, and you will develop your own favorites. I like,,, and

Don’t cook too much. This seems obvious, but if you’re cooking in bulk, it’s easy to over do it, or to screw up your proportions. You don’t want to end up throwing food away because everyone is tired of it or they just don’t like it. (Yes, it has happened to me.) I like to see a practically empty refrigerator by Friday, and then I know I did it right. If you do cook too much, freeze it for another day. If it doesn’t taste good, get rid of it. Sometimes recipes just don’t work.

Start small. If you aren’t used to planning your meals and cooking ahead, start with one or two dishes. For example, double your recipe for almond green beans and you’ll have enough to take you through a few days. Put extra steaks on the grill, more than enough for one meal. Work up to preparing more dishes, slowly. It can be overwhelming to have a lot of food to cook and not have the energy or time to deal with it. Believe me, I’ve been there.

This week I made chicken sausage, hamburgers (broiled, with onions), oven fried fish coated in whole wheat bread crumbs and whole wheat flour, green beans, and mushroom ravioli with tomato sauce. I bought a bunch of frozen vegetables to have with. There are also potatoes and rice, both of which my family will cook as needed.

I also cooked something relatively simple, and I did it without a recipe. I knew I wanted chicken and vegetables, so I bought some already cut up chicken, some bell peppers, got some soy sauce, oyster sauce and low sodium chicken broth out of the refrigerator, and made a chicken and vegetable stir-fry. Not complicated.

I don’t make this often, because it’s higher in sodium, but because most of the time we keep our sodium in check, I feel ok with it once in awhile. For those of you on low sodium diets, I’d cut back on the oyster sauce. The beauty of this recipe is you can sub in any vegetables you want and it will work, including frozen vegetables. (If you use frozen, you might have to cook a few more minutes).

Chicken broccoli stir-fry

1-2 pounds skinless chicken breast, cut into strips (I used 2 pounds; my men like meat)
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 onion, cut up vertically
1 red bell pepper, cut into large dice
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into large dice
4 small cloves garlic (or 2 large)
2 bunches fresh broccoli
1-1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons cornstarch or flour
1-2 tablespoons oyster sauce


1) Heat a large skillet or wok over medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil. When oil shimmers, add chicken. Sprinkle with garlic powder and pepper and stir. Cook until done, about 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove chicken from pan onto a plate, and keep warm.

2) Discard any liquid. Add another tablespoon of oil. Add onions. Cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add red and yellow bell peppers. Cook one minute, stirring. Add garlic and broccoli. Cook until broccoli is tender, stirring occasionally.

3) Combine chicken broth and soy sauce in a small bowl or measuring cup. Stir in cornstarch or flour until dissolved. Add oyster sauce to chicken broth mixture. Put chicken back in pan with vegetables and combine, then add sauce. It should thicken immediately. If not, bring to simmer then reduce heat. Heat through until all food is warm and serve with cooked rice. This makes a huge amount of food. You can easily half this; or freeze what you don’t need.

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