Once upon a time, when we didn’t know what to make for lunch/dinner, we made spaghetti or some variation on the spaghetti theme. Quick, easy: open carton, open jar, heat/boil, serve. Though by a twist of irony I could eat that meal now that my dietary stuff is straightened out, the truth is that I no longer want to. Too much tomato still makes me a bit off, and pasta straight-up never leaves me full. Honestly, if I don’t get vegetables on a regular basis, I get very cranky, and if I’m not careful with my protein I start eyeing the cats funny. This is how the Cullinan Standard Stir-Fry came to be.
It has many, many incarnations, but the general gist of my stir-fry is a lot of vegetables, some greens, some protein, some spices. Occasionally I make it with rice, but when I do that I either use meat, faux meat, or beans.
The version pictured here has quinoa, my very favorite grain in the whole wide world. I’m not sure how much protein is in it, but I can tell you that if I eat it regularly, three times a week or so, I feel fantastic and never really want much in the way of meat. Plus it allows me to be lazy: it’s grain and protein in one, and it cooks up fast. I prefer rainbow quinoa because it’s pretty, but really any of it is fine.
This version also has chopped kale, but I’m known to use spinach too. Just depends on what I have in the house. I love both greens, but I favor kale because I feel it is the more super of the two superfoods. The other vegetables vary, though I’m partial to carrots, onions, peppers, and zucchini.
Anna will eat this dish with us–it’s not her favorite, but she’ll eat it because it’s not spicy and doesn’t have anything too bizarre, plus she’s very good about vegetables. When she eats with us I usually put broccoli in it as well, as it’s her favorite vegetable. I also chop the mushrooms finer because she doesn’t care for them, so I hide them away.
I’ll give the recipe for what I made above, but remember it’s very versatile.
Cullinan Standard Stir-Fry
- 3/4 cup tri-color quin0a
- three small potatoes, peeled and diced
- two carrots, peeled and diced
- two stalks celery, chopped
- one zucchini, diced
- 3/4 cup chopped crimini mushrooms
- 1/2 red pepper, chopped
- 1/2 green pepper, chopped
- 1/2 yellow pepper, chopped
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- 1/2 cup grape tomatoes, cut in half
- 1 cup chopped kale
- 1/8 cup nutritional yeast
- 2 tsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
- salt, pepper, turmeric, & summer savory to taste
First order of business is to get all that stuff chopped. It takes forever, and if you’re not used to cooking whole foods, it will be annoying. I simply consider it part of cooking now, and I like it, especially if I have NPR to listen to while I work or am taking to Suede on the phone or something. You also want to sort things into bowls so that you can cook them for different times. For this I had three bowls, though I accidentally screwed it up a bit and put the carrots in the wrong bowl.
I always have a “cook long” bowl and a “cooks little” bowl, and sometimes like today I have a bowl that is in the middle. Potatoes, carrots, onions, celery, and peppers are all “cook long” in my book because I hate them crunchy. Kale, tomatoes, garlic are all “cook little.” Mushrooms and zucchini are in the middle for me, so it kind of depends. Basically kale you need a minute or so to soften, and garlic burns crazy early, as do tomatoes, so they’re last. I do spices last too.
So first you rinse the quinoa and put it in a cup and a half or so of water to boil. Save the strainer because you’ll need it in a bit. The quinoa will basically cook there on the back burner while you fry the other stuff, and it’ll be ready right about the same time as the last of the veggies are done. Works out great. Once the water boils, put in the quinoa and turn it down to medium/low.
Use a large skillet and heat up some oil. When I’m using potatoes, I use olive oil because I found with coconut oil they stick. Don’t know why. Basically you need a few tablespoons of something, or if you want to be all uber-healthy you can use water and stir fry that way. I figure this is about the only garbage I eat anymore, oil, so I use whatever I want. Once that’s hot, put in you “cook long” bowl and get it softened up. About five minutes in, add the middle-range bowl, and about five to ten minutes later, or whenever everything seems mostly cooked and nothing is harder than you want, add the last bowl. Toss it all together, add your spices and the yeast. Drain the quinoa and add it too, stirring it all together.
If you don’t like how dry this is, you can add some white wine, broth, or even water to add a kind of sauce. If that gets too thin, you can add flax seed to thicken the whole business up. Personally, this is pretty flavorful to me, and there’s always a bit of water carryover from the quinoa, so I call it good.
You can eat a huge heaping plate of this stuff too, and it fills your belly and stays with you all afternoon. I like to make a pile so I have leftover, and I have eaten it for breakfast. I love getting busy writing, find I’m hungry, and I can have a pile of good veggies and quinoa just by heating it up. And because you can vary the veggies, it always feels a bit different. You can change out those spices too–thyme is good, so is garlic, and fresh basil can be very fun. Different kinds of onion, no onion, more tomato–you name it. Bok choy can be the green instead, or there can be many different greens.
We famously eat this in front of the TV while we watch Warehouse 13. You may eat it wherever you like.