Szechuan Chicken Stir Fry

Happy 2019, readers!  Welcome to the time of year when many of us make new promises, commitments, and resolutions with the best of intentions.  New year, new you, right?

I’m a fan of choosing a word or phrase to focus on throughout the year.  I’ve done it for the past several years and I’ve found it to be my favorite way to focus, challenge, and improve myself.  This year, my word is fully.  It found me during Michelle Obama’s book event here in Dallas (completely amazing, by the way, especially because I got to go as a chaperone for a select group of high-achieving AP students in my school district).  It wasn’t a word she used with any particular emphasis; it was just there in a sentence as a part of a story.  It jumped right out at me, though, with a force and a weight I couldn’t ignore.  I knew it was my word.  I knew it was exactly what I needed to give myself permission to laugh more fully, love more fully, and live more fully.  It’s the word that will help me be more fully present and fully happy.  

Since choosing the word and starting the new year, I’ve already felt its impact.  I think what I’m going to love and appreciate most about this word is the way I’ll be able to continue exploring what it means.  I’ve already decided part of living more fully and being more fully me includes a recommitment to exercise and a commitment to getting back into the kitchen to create.  Playing with new ingredients and techniques, wading through a few failures and experiencing some culinary successes puts a smile on my face.  Being able to share the winning dishes with those I love gives me the kind of joy I feel in my cheeks and my heart and my soul.  Food, cooking, and love go hand in hand to me.  They always have.

I’m starting with this recipe.  I’ve had it clipped for a while and have found excuse after excuse not to make it.  Thankfully, I’ve corrected that mistake.  I love the simplicity of this dish.  It may look like a lot of ingredients, but it isn’t, really.  Standing in my kitchen–hair pulled up, no make up on, music playing–chopping a rainbow of healthy veggies brings me peace.  I love the rhythm of the knife going through the peppers; its repetition is calming to me.  I also love knowing I’ll get to enjoy a finished dish that’s healthy and bright and bound to leave me feeling full and fully at my best.

Happy 2019, friends.  May this year be our best.

Bright red and yellow peppers combine with green snow peas and a host of aromatics in this healthy, simple stir fry you’ll want to make over and over again.     

Szechuan Chicken Stir Fry
slightly adapted from Cooking Light, January 2012 and November 2017

Ingredients:
1 TBSP sesame oil, divdied
1/2 c. low-sodium chicken stock
2 TBSP low-sodium soy sauce
1 TBSP rice vinegar (I used seasoned, but unseasoned would be fine)
1 TBSP chile garlic paste, such as sambal oelek, plus more for serving
2 tsp. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. salt
2 TBSP canola oil, divided
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces OR
about 3 c. shredded chicken from a rotisserie bird
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into strips
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 c. diagonally cut snow peas
1 small red onion, sliced
1 TBSP peeled, grated fresh ginger
1 TBSP minced fresh garlic
2 c. cooked brown rice, for serving
1/4 c. green onion slices, for garnish
1/3 c. unsalted roasted peanuts, chopped, for garnish

Directions:
1.  Combine 2 tsp. sesame oil with the chicken stock, soy sauce, vinegar, chile garlic paste, cornstarch, and salt in a small bowl.  Whisk to combine and set aside.  Before proceeding, make sure all ingredients are prepped. 

2.  If using raw chicken, heat remaining sesame oil and 1 TBSP canola oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add chicken pieces and stir fry 2 minutes.  Remove chicken from the pan and set aside.  Heat remaining TBSP canola oil.

3.  If using shredded rotisserie chicken,  heat remaining sesame oil and 2 TBSP canola oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat.

4.  Add bell peppers, snow peas, onion, and garlic to the pan.  Cook 1 minute.  Add stock mixture and cook 30 seconds more, until slightly thickened.

5.  Add chicken (whatever kind you used) and cook 4 minutes more, checking to be sure chicken is warmed and cooked through.

6.  To serve, dive rice among four bowls and top with stir fry mixture.  Garnish with additional sambal oelek, green onions, and/or peanuts, as desired.

yield: 4 servings      

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