By Michelle Jaelin, RD.
It has been a long day at work. Before you know it, it’s almost time for dinner. What to eat? You look into the fridge and find a few less-than-stellar leftovers, vegetables and protein from the night before.
But did you know these foods can be turned into a new and delicious dinner?
Food waste is a problem. In Canada alone, our food waste costs 31 billion dollars per year with approximately 40% of food being wasted. While this number includes food from production, distribution, retail and us as consumers, we can all do our part to try to reduce how much food we throw away.
I come from an immigrant family where minimizing food waste was important from a young age. Combined with skills I’ve learned from as an experimental home cook and a registered dietitian, this stir fry recipe is one of my favourite ways to reinvent leftover vegetables and protein into a new meal.
Main Parts of a Stir Fry
Stir frys are easy because they are customizable and you probably already have most of the ingredients in your fridge. Leftovers are great for this! The main components of a stir fry are:
Starch: You can serve your stir fry on top of rice, quinoa or noodles.
Aromatics: Sliced onions, minced garlic and julienned fresh ginger make popular aromatics in a stir fry!
Protein: A protein bumps up the nutrition of the dish and adds lots of flavour. Poultry, beef or pork (sliced thinly) and ground meat (lean pork, beef, turkey) are all great choices.
Vegetables: Most vegetables can be stir fried, though their cooking times vary. For example: broccoli takes longer – about 4-5 minutes, while spinach is quick cooking – under 30 seconds). As long as all the vegetables are chopped to relatively the same bite-sized pieces, they can be put into the stir fry.
Eggs: Usually about 3 eggs work well in a stir fry for a family. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl before adding to the pan. They add a nice texture in contrast to the crispy vegetables.
Recipe / How To Stir Fry
Step 1: Prepare Your Starch. Whether it’s rice, quinoa, or noodles – prepare it as per package directions.
Step 2: Add Your Aromatics. Add canola oil to the pan and sliced onions. Stir fry for about 2-4 mins. Then add garlic and ginger, stir frying for about 30 seconds.
Step 3: Cook Your Protein. Heat canola oil in a skillet on medium-high heat and add your protein to the aromatics. If your protein is already cooked from last night’s leftovers, adjust your cooking time to just reheat it.
If not, adjust cooking time according to what you are cooking. Once done, remove all from heat and set aside your protein to add to the stir fry after cooking the vegetables. If using ground meat, drain the meat on top of paper towels.
Step 4: Cook Your Vegetables. Heat about 1 tbsp of canola oil in the pan. Add your slowest cooking vegetables (ie. broccoli, peppers, cauliflower) first, and your faster cooking vegetables (spinach, mung bean sprouts) last. Cooking time will depend on how long it takes each of the vegetables to cook.
Step 5: Add Your Eggs. Pour scrambled eggs into the skillet with the vegetables. Be sure to break up the pieces with tongs or a spatula.
Step 6: Add Back Your Protein. Heat everything thoroughly in the pan, about 2-3 mins. Remove from heat.
Step 7: Season Your Stir-fry. Salt and pepper are great, as are other sauce combinations of vinegar, honey, and soy sauce. Check out the sauce used for this recipe here.
Step 8: Serve on top of your starch!
Once you get the hang of cooking stir frys, you can use any combination of vegetables, protein and starch. The best part about stir frying is how diverse they can be in terms of different combinations and flavours. Also, it’s the best way to use up leftovers. It’s how my Mom ensured our leftovers didn’t go to waste – by turning it into a brand new meal!
Stir Fried Rice is another great way to use up leftovers. Check out this recipe from my website. Try cooking up a stir fry or stir fried rice on a busy weeknight!