Despite the fact that I’ve been making meal plans for YEARS now, there are STILL times when I forget to pull something out to thaw. Then I’m stuck at the last minute wondering what to make for dinner.
My back-up meal tends to be tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches because I almost always have what I need to make it in the pantry, and it’s ready in less than 20 minutes.
These are the same reasons I love kung pao chicken with vegetables, except it’s ready even FASTER!
I have to confess that with the launching of my new course Grocery Budget Bootcamp, these past few weeks have been insanely crazy with our dinner routine. We’re having soup and sandwiches more often than I care to admit. To be frank, if I see another bowl of tomato soup, I’m going to scream.
The issue I keep running into though, is time – there isn’t enough!
I’m sure you’ve felt this way before too, right?
Of course “this too shall pass” and the schedule WILL ease up and we’ll feel a reprieve… But as sure as the sun will come up tomorrow, you can bet there will be another season where time is a hot commodity and there’s never enough to go around.
That’s when you whip out the ace in your back pocket: 15 minute kung pao chicken with vegetables.
I don’t know how authentic this kung pao chicken is, but it’s spicy, has peanuts and it’s REALLY good. Which works for me!
Plus this dish comes together literally while the rice is cooking. How so? Frozen vegetables.
I normally find the process of chopping vegetables to be soothing, but lately it’s taking time I don’t have. If I can find a way to work around it that doesn’t sacrifice nutrition or quality, I’m all in.
I also typically advocate using fresh produce whenever possible, but I have three good reasons for using frozen vegetables right now:
- It’s winter. While I could eat sweet potatoes every day for the rest of my life, my family doesn’t share my enthusiasm. And since Spring is still a couple months away, we’re stuck in the land of winter vegetables and we’re ready for some variety.
- They’re healthy. According to this article, freezing vegetables does not destroy its nutrients. Depending on where you buy your fresh produce, frozen vegetables might even contain more nutrients! (Be sure to read the list of ingredients though, just to be safe. I used Birds Eye mixed vegetables from Kroger and the only other ingredient was salt, which is fine with me!)
- They’re easy. Pulling a bag of frozen vegetables out of the freezer requires zero cooking skills, zero prep work and just a few minutes to cook.
Tip: I like adding a package of frozen vegetables to my homemade mac and cheese. Alongside homemade Italian meatballs and I have school lunches made for a week! Find more real food inspiration using frozen vegetables at Freezer Fresh Ideas.
Kung Pao Chicken with Vegetables – Ready in 15 Minutes
Allow me to share just how fast this dish comes together. Pull out your biggest cutting board and your favorite chef knife and let’s get started!
1. Start the rice (and the timer).
I like to use jasmine rice and it takes about 15 minutes to cook. Add a pad of butter (optional) and get it going.
Going grain-free? Make cauliflower rice instead! It will add time to the meal prep, but it’s equally delicious.
2. Heat up the oil.
Heat up 1 tablespoon of oil in a wok (if you have one) or a large skillet over medium high heat.
3. Make the sauce.
Dump all the ingredients into a large measuring cup (I use this one) and whisk to combine. Set aside.
I almost always have either hoisin sauce or oyster sauce in the pantry – both are really good in this dish. If you don’t have either one, you can omit it from the recipe.
Note: We are a soy-free house because 93% of all soy beans are genetically modified organisms (GMO), so I use liquid aminos instead of soy sauce.
4. Chop the garlic and the ginger. Slice the green onions.
I ADORE the taste of fresh garlic and fresh ginger, and it’s worth the ONE minute it takes to rough chop both of them together. You can use granulated garlic and granulated ginger if you don’t have fresh though, and you’ll shave one minute off the prep time. (Save more time AND have fresh ginger by chopping it ahead of time and saving in the freezer!)
I also slice the white and light green portions of the green onions. Set all this aside to one end of the cutting board and set aside the dark green portions of the green onions for later.
Since we’re using frozen vegetables, you’re done with prepping veggies and you’re free to use your knife on the chicken.
5. Dice the chicken.
We’re using chicken breast in this recipe and we’re going to dice it into just smaller than ½” pieces. Use whatever method is fastest for you, but I like to make long strips, turn the chicken and then cut into pieces.
It’s okay if the chicken touches the garlic, ginger and green onions because it’ll all get cooked at the same time anyway.
Note: If you cook a whole chicken in a slow cooker, you might be able to get away with using shredded chicken instead of chicken breast. You won’t get the sear on the chicken, but it’s definitely do-able and a bit cheaper. If you go this route, rough chop the chicken and add it in with the vegetables.
6. Start cooking.
Add the chicken and the prepped garlic, ginger and onions to the skillet and stir every 10-15 seconds or. It might smoke and that’s fine if it does. When most of the chicken has a golden sear on it, add the frozen vegetables and peanuts and stir well.
Let the chicken and vegetables cook for about 4 minutes, stirring about once a minute.
Whisk the sauce together one last time, and add it all at once. Let the sauce come to a boil and cook for about one minute. Then, turn the heat down to low and the sauce will thicken up as it cools.
7. Serve (and stop the timer).
- 1 lb chicken breast
- 2 garlic cloves (or 2 tsp granulated garlic)
- 1" fresh ginger (or 1 tsp granulated ginger)
- 2 green onions
- 1-2 Tbsp coconut oil
- 1-16 oz bag frozen mixed vegetables (I used Birds Eye)
- ½ cup peanuts, chopped
1/2 cup water
- 6 Tbsp soy sauce or liquid Aminos
- 1 Tbsp cornstarch
- 1 Tbsp honey
- 1 tsp sesame seed oil
- ½ tsp granulated ginger
- 2 pinches black pepper
- ¼ tsp crushed red pepper
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar (how to make apple cider vinegar)
- 1 Tbsp hoisin sauce or oyster sauce (optional, but VERY good!)
- prepared white rice, for serving
- If you're serving this over rice, go ahead and start the rice. Prepare according to package directions.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of coconut oil over medium high heat, in a wok or in a large skillet.
- Whisk together all the sauce ingredients together in a large measuring glass or in a small bowl.
- On a large cutting board, finely chop the fresh garlic and fresh ginger, if using. Slice the white and light green parts of the green onions.
- Dice the chicken.
- Add the chicken and the prepped garlic, ginger and onions to the skillet. Stir every 10-15 seconds or and cook until most of the chicken has a golden sear on it, about 2 minutes.
- Add the frozen vegetables, peanuts, granulated garlic and ginger (if you didn't use fresh) and stir well to combine.
- Let the chicken and vegetables cook for about 4 minutes, stirring about once a minute.
- Whisk the sauce and add it all at once. Let the sauce come to a boil and cook for about one minute. Turn the heat down to low and the sauce will thicken up.
- Serve with rice.
Do you ever use frozen vegetables to help you get dinner on the table faster? What’s your favorite way of using them? Share your ideas in the comments below!
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Kroger. The opinions and text are all mine.