Fast(ing) Food - Garlic and Ginger Beef Stir-Fry

Day 141, Fast Day #56
I will tell you how to make this without creating a fireball in your kitchen.
I got a flat-bottomed wok as a wedding gift so I feel compelled to make lots of stir-fry (Zach is not complaining). I love stir fry because it is fast, simple, and healthy (unless you are adding in a bunch of corn starch for a thick sauce).

Because stir-frying is hot and quick, there is some potential for disaster (smoke & flames). Before I give you the recipe, please note these tips on avoiding setting off the smoke alarm while stir-frying..

1) ONLY stir-fry using oils with high smoke points! I know a lot of folks that try to exclusively cook with unrefined oils, extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and animal fats like lard and butter. Do not use these for stir-fry! Unrefined oils have low smoke points because of the little bits in them. If you try to stir-fry with these you will likely create a burnt mess if not a ball of flames. On the opposite end, never use any hydrogenated (whipped/"spreadable") vegetable-based oils either. They also have low smoke points.

What oils should you use? Traditionally refined peanut oil is used. For those that can't/don't eat peanut products, try refined canola, soy, safflower, sunflower, palm, or avocado oil. Again, unrefined oils are going to smoke at low temperatures.

2) Do not preheat oil in the wok/pan prior to stir-frying. Just heat the wok. This will minimize the breakdown of the oil due to the high heat and helps prevent your cooking oil from it reaching its smoke point while cooking.

3) Add flavoring oils at the end. Sesame oil, chili oil, garlic oil, and other flavoring oils are for flavor, not cooking. They have low smoke points. If you add these too early, you may summon the fires of Mordor in your kitchen.
Now that you are less likely to cause a stir-fry fire, here is the recipe:

Garlic and Ginger Beef Stir-Fry (Yields 3 servings) ~376 kcal/serving
Takes 10 minutes to cook
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil with a high smoke point, divided in half ~240 kcal (I used refined canola)
  • 1 large clove of garlic, minced ~5 kcal
  • 1/2" knuckle of fresh ginger, peeled and minced ~2 kcal (about 1 tsp minced ginger)
  • 10 oz beef, thinly sliced (like fajita meat) ~569 kcal (I recommend using skirt or flank steak cuts)
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped ~30 kcal
  • large carrot, thinly sliced ~52 kcal
  • large bell pepper, sliced ~33 kcal (I used a green one)
  • 2 cups broccoli, chopped ~60 kcal
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar ~6 kcal (white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar are okay substitutes)
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce ~20 kcal
  • 1 tbsp rice cooking wine ~25 kcal (one can substitute this with sherry or a drier white wine, note American cooking wine is salty and not the best substitute)
  • 1/4 crushed red chili pepper flakes ~2 kcal -optional
  • 1/2 tbsp sesame oil ~60 kcal
  • 1/2 tsp hot chili oil ~23 kcal - optional
Once the wok (or large pan) is heating up on your stove, stir-frying occurs at a rapid pace. I recommend having all of the ingredients you need in your reach and to not take your eyes off of the wok. So make sure all of your veggies and whatnot are ready to go.

Heat your wok on the high heat, (not the oil). I have to use the highest heat possible on my electric stove. You know it is hot enough if you put a small drop of water (DO NOT throw a bunch of water in a very hot pan. Hot steam burns flesh.) into the wok and it evaporates within a couple seconds. If the water immediately evaporates, your wok is too hot and there will be smoke once you put in oil. Remove the wok from the heat to cool a bit if this is the case. As soon as it is hot (but not too hot) you want to start cooking.

Carefully remove the wok from the direct heat source and add the cooking oil into the wok and swirl it around to coat the sides. If smoke occurs when you add oil you need to stop what you are doing, turn off the burner, wait until the wok is cool, wipe up the oil, and start over. Only bad things will happen to your food and you if you continue with a wok that is crazy hot.

Add the minced ginger and garlic into the wok first. Stir around for a few seconds. Stir while it cooks. If you are not using fresh garlic, add it in with the vegetables later since it is already soft and will burn quickly.

Add onions to the wok. Stir until onions until they start to break down and become translucent on the edges.

Add the beef to the pan. Let it cook on one side (pause the stirring for a moment) for a minute. Cook and stir for another minute. The beef should not be cooked through at this point, but seared.

Add the rest of your vegetables (carrots, bell pepper, and broccoli) and rice wine. Stir for about 2 minutes or until the carrots and broccoli start becoming tender.

Add the soy sauce, rice vinegar, and chili pepper flakes to the wok and mix for a minute. Add in the sesame and chili oil last and stir. Then serve and eat.

Tip: If you want a stronger flavor and have time, try marinating the beef in the soy sauce, rice wine, rice vinegar, and additional garlic and ginger for 30 minutes to 4 hours prior to cooking.


Return of the Bride

Day 140, Fast Day #55 - First one since August 12

I am BACK after my blogging and fasting hiatus!!!

First off I want to thank all the people that wrote guest posts for this blog while I was away. So thanks again to Becky Clark, Brianna Prigge, Oleg, Sabine, and Sarah Berger.

Since I last blogged, I survived my wedding (and am a lot less stressed now), married Zach, honeymooned on the Oregon Coast, and vacationed in Kona, Hawai'i with the in-laws. The wedding was a lot of fun and it was wonderful to be surrounded by the love of friends and family from all around the country. We were both overwhelmed by emotions and happiness. On that note, it was a lot of fun, a lot of money, a lot of work, and I hope to never, ever *knock on wood* be a bride again.
Mandatory wedding picture.
I am now back home in Seattle to my small apartment that looks like a tornado swept through it, a daunting list of unopened emails, a mass of laundry that needs to be done, and a backlog of work. As one would expect after a month of basically zero rules, zero counting eating and drinking, I put a bit of weight back on. I initially thought I had gained 5 lbs, but it turns out some of that was likely just bloating from the plethora of carbohydrate rich, sugary, processed food I had been eating. It appears I actually gained 3 lbs (1.4 kg) back (6 lbs or 2.7 kg up from my lowest while alternate day fasting) since the wedding, which is not too bad considering what I ate (pie, cake, ice cream, Spam, chocolate-covered macadamia nuts, pizza, and lots of alcohol especially in beer form). To put things in perspective though, I am still 23 lbs lighter than I was this past April and I wore bikinis on the beach in Kona without feeling incredibly self-conscious.

The first day that we got back home there wasn't any food in the house and we ate out, so it was a feast day. Then one of Zach's friends from out-of-town was in town for the weekend, so we feasted again. After the weekend I came down with one of those 24-48 hour colds and had no motivation to resist an extra bowl of turkey chili or leftover gnocchi. It is really hard to get back on the fasting bandwagon (much less off of the wheatwagon) when excuses to eat and drink are everywhere.

Today I am attempting a 500 calorie fast after about a month of gluttony. So far I've had a cup of coffee, a lot of tea, low-calorie can of soup and some left over beef stir-fry for lunch (the recipe and how-to is in the works) and a glass of green juice (with kale, radishes, ginger, lemon, and a couple slices of apple) to get the rest of my calories. The day has been passing by at a snail's pace while my stomach is wondering what happened to the Times of Plenty. I am looking forward to breaking my fast soon!