Economical cooking is made easy when you use your wok.
Just 12 ounces of meat or poultry can be stretched to feed four people when combined with vegetables and other tasty ingredients.
"Wok cooking is a thrifty way to feed a family," says Shelli R. McConnell, associate editor for Better Homes and Gardens. She developed one of the Des Moines-based company's latest cookbooks, "Wok Cuisine: Oriental to American" (1991 Meredith Corp.). The cookbook pulls together stir fry recipes from a variety of cuisines, including Vietnamese and Thai.
"Add a side order of rice or noodles and you've got a one-dish meal that's easy to prepare and easy on the pocketbook," she says.
Ms. McConnell says convenience products, such as sliced vegetables from a salad bar, may actually be cheaper than slicing and dicing yourself. The cost per pound is higher, of course, but unless you have plans for the rest of that bag of carrots or celery you might end up wasting food and money, she says.
On the other hand, stir frys are a great way to use up leftover, uncooked vegetables. Slice a bunch of broccoli into florets for one meal, peel and slice the stems the next night for your stir fry.
Fledgling cooks may be put off by the sometimes long ingredient list, she says. A pre-packaged dry mix, especially made for stir frys, can be used. Simply substitute the mix, prepared according to package directions, for the sauce ingredients in the recipe, Ms. McConnell says. Don't change the other ingredients.
Kikkoman International Inc. makes several stir-fry mixes, including "Broccoli and Beef." The mixes sell for about 60 cents for a 1-ounce package.
This recipe has been adapted from Kikkoman International Inc.:
Oriental beef and vegetables
Serves three to four.
1 1-ounce package stir-fry seasoning mix or broccoli and beef seasoning mix
3 tablespoons oil
3/4 pound beef top round steak
1 cup carrots, thinly sliced on the bias
6 cups chopped broccoli
2 cups cooked rice, approximate
Prepare mix as directed on package. Set aside.
Partially freeze meat. Thinly slice meat across grain into bite-size strips. Set aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in hot wok or large skillet over high heat; add beef. Stir-fry one minute; remove.
Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in same pan. Add broccoli and carrots. Stir fry four minutes, sprinkling with 1 tablespoon water after two minutes.
Return beef to pan with seasoning mixture. Cook, stirring until sauce boils and thickens and beef and vegetables are coated with sauce.
This recipe has been adapted from "Wok Cuisine: Oriental to American" (1991 Meredith Corp.)
4 medium boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, 12 ounces total
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon rice wine or dry white wine
1/2 teaspoon instant chicken bouillon granules
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic, approximate
6 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced, about 2 cups
1 medium leek or 4 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 of an 8-ounce can sliced water chestnuts drained
3 cups hot cooked rice
Rinse chicken; pat dry. Cut into 1/2 -inch pieces. For sauce, stir together the water, soy sauce, cornstarch, wine and chicken bouillon granules. Set aside.
Pour cooking oil into a wok. Add more oil as necessary during cooking. Heat over medium-high heat. Stir-fry garlic in hot oil for 15 seconds. Add mushrooms and leek or green onions. Stir-fry about 1 minute or till vegetables are tender. Remove vegetables from the wok. Add the chicken to the hot wok. Stir-fry for 2 to 3 minutes or till no pink remains. Push the chicken from the center of the wok. Stir sauce. Add the sauce to the center of the wok. Cook and stir till thickened and bubbly.
Return the vegetables to the wok. Add water chestnuts. Stir all ingredients together to coat with sauce. Cook and stir about 1 minute more or till heated through. Serve immediately over hot cooked rice.