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Recipe of the Week: Stir up dinner with adaptable meals


Gone are the days when most homemade suppers featured a standard serving of meat, vegetable and starch.

Those still happen, of course, but interspersed with them are pasta dishes, hearty soups, burgers, dinner salads and stir fries. Added to that is the need to accommodate the growing number of reasons that people can’t or don’t want to eat some foods.

Not every meal can be quickly adapted to satisfy those who are vegetarians, vegans, have food allergies, can’t eat gluten or have other medical limitations. The increased availability of vegetarian and gluten-free products makes this easier, but we still keep an eye out for basic dishes that can quickly be adapted so we don’t have to prepare a second meal to satisfy everyone.

Baked goods can be tricky to adapt because alternative flours such as almond, rice, chickpea or blends rarely bake the same as wheat flour, while egg substitutes just can’t mimic the power of a real egg. The best butter substitute I’ve found is Country Crock Plant Butter, which bakes so well you can barely tell the difference in cakes or cookies. The olive oil version works best, although there also are avocado and soy options.

Adapting dinner recipes can be easier than it sounds. When I make a recipe for the first time, I try to follow it as written, then make changes the second time around. For the stir-fry recipe below from, I often use the vegetables I have in the house. You don’t need specialty Asian ingredients to make this dish such as baby ears of corn or water chestnuts. It’s equally good with the frozen kernel corn and loose peas I have in the freezer. And if you want to add some crunch, a handful of unsalted cashews will do just fine.

I also adjusted the amount of brown sugar; 1 ½ tablespoons works well instead of the suggested 3 tablespoons.

I add meat or tofu, depending on what I have on hand, browning it before I begin adding vegetables. By adding meat, I have a balanced meal, while tofu does the same for a vegetarian option. It’s also good with no added protein. I serve it over rice or cooked pearl barley for a quick supper dish.

Easiest Vegetable Stir-Fry

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 red bell pepper, sliced

1 yellow bell pepper, sliced

1 cup sugar snap peas

1 cup carrots, sliced

1 cup mushrooms, sliced

2 cups broccoli

1 cup baby corn

1/2 cup water chestnuts

¼ cup soy sauce

3 garlic cloves, minced

3 tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1/2 cup chicken broth

1 tablespoon cornstarch

Chopped green onions and sesame seeds for (optional garnish)

1. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add bell pepper, peas, carrots, mushrooms, broccoli, baby corn, and water chestnuts. Sauté 2 to 3 minutes until veggies are almost tender.

2. In a small bowl whisk together soy sauce, garlic, brown sugar, sesame oil, chicken broth and cornstarch.

3. Pour over veggies and cook until the sauce has thickened. Garnish with chopped green onions and sesame seeds if desired.

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