Mad Scientist’s Kitchen: Vegetable Stir-Bake

I love a good stir fry.  No, not some mushy plate of frozen vegetables with teriyaki sauce haphazardly tossed on, but a true stir fry, where the vegetables are a bit charred on the outside, tender on the inside, and full of flavor.  Now, if you are somebody who knows how to make a good stir fry, you know that the number one rule is not to crowd the pan.  This means that in an average-sized wok or frying pan, you can really only make enough for one or two at a time.  I don’t know how many times I’ve made a stir fry at my parents’ house where I’d hear:

Them: “What are you making?”
Me: “A stir fry.”
Them: “Can you make me some?”
Another Them: “Me too!”

This limit of one to two servings also makes things difficult for someone like myself.  I like to cook four to five servings of a meal at once, so I can pack them up in my mason jars and eat them throughout the week. Last week, I roasted some sweet potatoes in the oven, and they came out just the way vegetables should in a perfect stir fry: 1. a bit charred on the outside, 2.tender on the inside, and 3. full of flavor.  So then, if the sweet potatoes came out just like that, why couldn’t I just bake the vegetables to be “stir-fried”?  Thus, I began an experiment.

Question: How can I make more than one batch of a stir fry without a commercial-sized wok?

Our Mad Scientist/Chef

Our Mad Scientist/Chef

Hypothesis: If I bake the vegetables, they will taste just as delicious as stir fried vegetables and without all of the extra cooking oil. Here is what I did: I planned to make a stir fry with broccoli, carrots, bell peppers, and bok choy.  Now, my original plan was to bake the bell peppers too, but because I was making so much food, I did not have room for them on my tiny baking sheets.  The bok choy would get too crispy in the oven, so I stir fried the bok choy with the bell peppers using the traditional method.

The Finished Product

The Finished Product

I chopped the broccoli and carrots into evenly-sized pieces.  This is important because they will cook more evenly this way.  Otherwise, you will get some broccoli pieces that are raw and some that are over-cooked.  I put all of the vegetables into a big bowl, tossed them in just enough grape seed oil to coat them evenly, seasoned with Mrs. Dash (Original Flavor), and placed them in a single layer on a baking sheet.  This detail is important too.  You can not have any pieces of vegetable overlapping.  Otherwise, you will run into the same problem as a crowded pan and that is the problem that we are trying to avoid in the first place.  I baked my vegetables in a 400 degree oven for fifteen minutes.  And that was it!  I tossed them in a little bit of a store-bought teriyaki sauce and mixed them all together.

The result: The vegetables came out perfect!  They tasted just the way they would as if stir fried in a huge wok full of oil.  Then, I made some brown rice, and placed a cup of rice in each jar with a huge portion of vegetables.  Now I have some delicious stir fried veggies to get me through the week.

Shaken, Not Stirred

It’s been a busy day, and for me, it’s only just begun!  I don’t get to my production job until the afternoon, so for me, dinner time feels like lunch and days seem to blur together.  My phone tells me it’s Friday. Good to know.  It’s weird doing performances six days a week.

I woke up this morning to finish preparing my meals for the next few days.  Yesterday, I made a delicious minestrone soup and today I made these delicious Chinese Spring Roll Salads.  Of course, I packed them into my mason jars, so that I could enjoy them through out the week.

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After that, I rushed to Manhattan for a job interview, or at least what I thought was going to be a job interview.  I got to the high rise building fifteen minutes early for my scheduled time.  When I got inside, it was a very high security building.  Good thing I got there early!  I had to have my ID swiped and a name badge was printed with my name and photo and everything.  I was told to go up to the sixth floor, where the production company that I was interviewing for had their office.

I get there and strangely, there were no signs.  I began to peak around the hallways to see if I could find a sign to let me know where I was going.  Instead, I hear a receptionist call out, “Sir, we’re in here!”

I go up to her and say, “I have a 1:30 appointment with Natasha.  Is this the right place?”

“I think so,” she replies, “Just wait in the open room around the corner”.

Okay, that was strange.  I find the open room and see a group of people sitting around a table.  My first thought is that it was a group interview or that I was being interviewed by a group of people.  Turns out the group of people were all applying for various jobs with this production company, from production assistant to receptionist.  They tell me that there is an application that I need to fill out and then somebody will call me in.

I go to pick up the application and notice that it is a lengthy pile of papers, all asking for various items of personal information, such as addresses and social security numbers.  There were also your typical tax forms, the kind of information one gives after being hired.

As I filled out the form, I began to get a really sick feeling in my stomach.  I felt nervous but not in the way I usually do right before a job interview.  Once I finished filling out the forms, I decided to google the company on my phone.  The only research I had done so far was to look at the company’s website, which was “under construction”.  I gave them the benefit of the doubt and decided I would ask about the company when I got there.  After that I googled the company’s name + “scam”.  Well, it turns out that this company, called Storja Productions has several reports of being a hiring scam.  I asked the people at the table, “Did anyone bother to google this company?”

The woman next to me, about 40 with a wiry hair piled high on her head, responded, “Yeah, I did.  I kept reading that it was a scam, but I am an adventurous person and a risk taker”.

Another person chimed in, “Everyone wants to vilify things that are unfamiliar”.

I wish I was making this up.  I’m as much a risk taker as anyone I know, but I am not stupid enough to hand my personal information to a complete stranger.  I asked the girl “running” the interviews how far behind they were.  She said that there were two people waiting before me and asked if  I could please wait in the lobby.

I went back into the lobby and saw about a dozen people, all who had been in there when I arrived.  Surely, they were more than two before me.  I grabbed my bag and my lunch and headed back into the elevator.

On my walk back to the subway, I felt very shaken and uncomfortable.  I was so distracted, that I took a train going in the wrong direction.

The good news is that I got a call this afternoon for a real interview and look–my phone is ringing as I type.  Hope that’s another person calling to hire me!

A Little Update

Hi all,

It’s been a busy week.  On Monday, I began rehearsals for the play I am working on.  There isn’t so much for me to do, but it is great just to be a part of a professional production in New York City.  The cast is really inspirational, and I think I have made some great friends in the stage management crew.

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Chili and a burrito in a jar. Photo by Jaymie Bellous.

On Tuesday, I had a day off from rehearsal, so I cooked up some lunches and dinners to last me through my busy upcoming week.  I learned from this article how to pack salads and other meals into mason jars, where they can be preserved for several days.  It’s a great way to save money too because you buy a bag of groceries and use up every last morsel of food in a meal, rather than letting that leftover half of a carrot waste away in your fridge.  My meals included a Super Food Burrito in a Jar, Sweet Potato Chili with Kale, and a vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie based on this recipe and this recipe.

After that, I saw the Broadway revival of Pippin starring Patina Miller.  An overall really great production with some spectacular circus feats.  Rachel Bay Jones completely stole the show as Catherine, the quirky and spastic ingenue in the second act.  Her performance reminded me of a comedy legend like Carol Burnett or Amy Poehler.  While many of the Broadway regulars in the cast dazzled with splashy circus tricks, Jones is the lone member of the cast that does not partake in the illusions and gymnastics.  Her comedic prowess cuts through the flashy effects, leaving a lasting impression.

And finishing off my week of theatre-going, I saw the new play Stage Kiss at playwrights horizons last night.  But that is worthy of it’s own post–coming soon!