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Stir It Up!

Spices can be purchased at Indian, Asian or international markets.
Spices can be purchased at Indian, Asian or international markets. MICHAEL BRYANT/PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER/MCT

Now that the days of holiday festivities and food are over and you have time to get on the scale, the majority of us have the same rude awakening: Year after year, we cannot believe we consumed that many calories in just a few weeks! So it’s time for some serious thinking, alterations in food habits, diet and exercise, which are approached with a renewed zest!Changes in food intake and exercise go hand in hand, neither gets the needed results without the other. Since my forte is food, of course that’s what I am going to talk about.

My personal experience is that fad diets or drastic changes in food intake do not work unless they are for a therapeutic reason. In fact, with those diets when you stop them, at times you rebound with even more weight than you started with. Instead, a more gradual and permanent change in food habits will help much more in the long run.

Stir-fries are very helpful as you can pretty much control all the aspects that go into it and mold it the way you like. What I mean by this is that you decide on the amount of oil, spice, type of vegetables, cheeses, sauces, etc. You can make it as exotic or as simple as you like and you can get most of the ingredients at any grocery store. But if you are a food adventurer like me, head for the International Super Market at the corner of Tryon Street and Sugar Creek Road. It’s a treasure trove of Chinese, Thai and Indonesian ingredients. Whether it’s sauces, vinegars, oils, noodles or vegetables, this is the place you will find it.

To help you get started, here are recipes for three different stir-fries:

Chinese vegetable stir-fry

1 tablespoon oil

½ -1 teaspoon minced ginger

½ -1 teaspoon minced garlic

2½ cups of assorted vegetables, cut into strips

(green beans, baby corn, onions, bell pepper, carrot, broccoli, etc.)

¼ cup pineapple chunks

2 teaspoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon tomato ketchup

1 teaspoon chili sauce

1 teaspoon vinegar

½ teaspoon sugar

¼ - ½ teaspoon chili flakes

2 tablespoons corn flour (dissolved in ½ cup water)

1 cup vegetable stock

Salt to taste

Heat the oil in a non-stick pan. Stir in the ginger and garlic. Add the vegetables and sauté until al dente.

Add the pineapple, soy sauce, vinegar, ketchup, chili sauce, sugar, salt and chili flakes.

Add the corn flour mixture; cook until the sauce coats the vegetables. Enjoy stir-fry by itself or on a bed of boiled noodles or rice.

Massala stir-fry

1 teaspoon butter

1/3 cup sliced onions

1/3 cup sliced tomatoes

1/3 cup sliced bell peppers

1/3 cup sliced boiled potatoes

1/3 cup sliced and blanched carrots

1/3 cup boiled peas

½ -1 teaspoon chili powder

¼ tsp turmeric powder

1 teaspoon cumin powder

1 teaspoon mango powder (amchur)*

½ -1 teaspoon pav bhaji masala or garam masala*

1 tablespoon cilantro

1 lime cut into pieces

For the paste, grind the following ingredients together:

1-2 green chilies

1 inch piece ginger

3-5 cloves garlic

*Spices can be bought at Indian grocery stores

Melt the butter in a non-stick pan. Add onions and sauté until soft. Add peppers, tomatoes and the paste and stir.

Add all the powdered spices except the pav bhaji (or garam masala); stir constantly for a few minutes.

Add rest of the vegetables and the pav bhaji (or garam masala).

Stir everything together add ½ cup water and cook until water is absorbed.

Garnish with chopped cilantro, add lime juice as desired. Serve with any flat bread.

Mexican stir-fry

1 tablespoon oil

2 tablespoons chopped onions

2 tablespoons chopped bell pepper

2 tablespoons chopped tomatoes

½ can fat free refried beans

½ can condensed tomato soup

½ can enchilada sauce

1 teaspoon taco

½ teaspoon cumin powder

½ teaspoon chili powder

1 bag baked tortilla chips

2 green onions, chopped

1 cup shredded lettuce

1 sliced avocado

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

Salt and sugar to taste

Heat oil in a sauté pan. Add onions, sauté until soft. Add bell pepper, tomatoes.

Add taco seasoning, cumin powder, and chili powder. Add the soup, enchilada sauce, and the beans, salt and sugar to taste. Cook until it starts bubbling.

Take the pan off the heat, immediately top with some tortilla chips, lettuce, green onions, avocado, cilantro and serve.

Those not watching their weight can add ½ cup of shredded cheddar.