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Fast and easy meals: Why not try a stir-fry tonight?

Published March 24. 2010 05:00PM

It's been a crazy week. Between work and family responsibilities, I've had little time to cook.

On days like this, I rely on fast, easy meals to get through the week. One of our favorite meals is stir-fry. While there is some prep work involved, it takes less than 20 minutes to put together once you turn on the stove. Why order out when you can prepare a healthy, inexpensive meal in the same amount of time it takes to order a pizza?

Beef Stir-Fry

Beef blade steak, approximately lb. per serving

1-2 carrots, peeled and cut into thin strips

Vegetables, cut into medium-sized pieces (we like onions, green and red peppers, snow peas, and garlic, but any vegetable will do)

Cooking wine or soy sauce

Beef broth

Rice as side dish

Trim beef of visible fat. Slice beef thinly and across the grain.

Using a large, heavy pan, sauté beef strips in a small amount of cooking wine or soy sauce. Use wine for a flavorful, lower-sodium meal.

Boil the carrot and other vegetables in a small amount of water. Cook until slightly tender, but not soft. Do not drain. (If you're in a hurry, microwave vegetables for 2 minutes on high in a covered dish with a small amount of water.)

Add cooked vegetables and vegetable water to pan with beef. Add enough beef broth to completely cover the bottom of pan. Bring to a simmer.

Simmer 5-8 minutes, until veggies are tender or cooked to taste.

Serve with brown rice and soy sauce on the side.

Many of these ingredients should be in your pantry, refrigerator or freezer already. The beauty of stir-fry meals is that you can add or omit ingredients without changing the basic character of the recipe. If you don't like garlic, don't include garlic. While we don't eat mushrooms in our house, your family may love mushrooms. Feel free to mix and match ingredients to make this meal your own.

I haven't added many measurements to this recipe because precise measurements aren't needed. Add enough vegetables to equal twice the amount of meat, or add even more veggies to ensure leftovers. I usually double the recipe for our family so that we'll have lots of leftovers for lunch the next day.

You can find blade steak for about $2 to $3 per pound, which means that the meat for this meal costs less than $3 for four people. Cutting back on meat, or finding ways to use less expensive cuts of meat, is one of the easiest ways to trim your grocery bill.

While this meal comes together quickly, it will take a few minutes to prep the veggies and meat. If you know ahead of time that you'll have just a few minutes to prepare dinner, take time to chop and peel the vegetables and beef ahead of time or use frozen vegetables. I prefer to use frozen peppers and snow peas because they're less expensive but still just as healthy as fresh veggies.

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