simple peanut sauce stir fry with chicken and vegetables

The basic recipe for this stir fry came from a great recipe on Williams-Sonoma's website, for stir-fried beef with noodles and peanut sauce. I have made this at least six times since the first time I made the original, and it is such an easy dinner. I beefed up the sauce with a little more vinegar for tang; eliminated the spaghetti and replaced it with spaghetti squash, added a few more veggies, and swapped out the beef for chicken breast. I also added some more zing to the marinade for the meat, with a bit more soy sauce and a hearty helping of minced fresh ginger.

We had this for dinner twice in the last week. That's how delicious it is. Plus, it's a pretty healthy meal that's very filling and satisfying. You can get all the ingredients prepped in the morning or even the night before, and then throw everything together when it's dinner time. The whole meal (after everything is prepped) only takes a total of 5-10 minutes in front of the stove. Win-win in my book. 

Rich and I have been focused on healthier meals and getting more exercise, and since January we've been eating lots more vegetables, lean meats, and fresh fruit. This meal totally fits in with our low-calorie goals but is so, so satisfying! 

If you've never cooked spaghetti squash, don't worry. It's very easy to prepare. I'm not going to tell you it tastes like spaghetti, because it doesn't. It does add a different texture and a really mild flavor, and it's delicious in the peanut sauce. 

I like to get the veggies cooked very quickly in a hot pan, so they char a bit on the outside but still stay crisp. One of the keys to making this the best weeknight dinner ever is adding the sauce after you pull the veggies from the pan- otherwise it mixes with the liquids in the pan and gets diluted. Pull out the cooked vegetables with kitchen tongs, top with the peanut sauce, then add the chicken on top. This would also work beautifully with thinly sliced beef, cubed firm tofu, or sliced pork. It's up to you! I've found the marinade is best after about six-eight hours; overnight is too long and the chicken gets too salty.

Here's how it's done:

First, make your marinade. Then slice up your chicken into thin strips on the bias. Budget one chicken breast per person served. Preheat your oven to 375- for the spaghetti squash.

When you have it all sliced, slip it into the marinade and toss gently to coat. Set aside. This step wants to happen 6-8 hours before you plan on eating.

Next, make the peanut sauce. Combine all the ingredients for the sauce in a food processor, and blend well to combine.

Set the sauce aside.

With a very sharp, heavy knife, cut the top off of your spaghetti squash. Then slice it in half lengthwise. Be careful! They are very hard, so you will need to use a serious amount of force to cut through the skin. 

Scoop out the seeds and discard.

Coat the squash very well with olive oil, then season very liberally with salt and pepper.

Place the squash cut-side down on a baking sheet and cook 40 minutes, or until the skin is easily pierced with a fork.

Leave the squash on the sheet for about 30 minutes to cool while you chop up the peppers, carrots, and broccoli. Add more/different veggies to your hearts desire!

Once the squash has cooled, use a fork to pull the flesh out of the skin into a bowl. It will come out in noodles- like magic!

Each squash will yield about 2 cups of noodles.

At this point, once everything is prepped, you can set the vegetables and the chicken in the fridge to wait until dinner time.

When you're ready to cook, heat up the olive oil in two pans over high heat until it's almost smoking. Drop the carrots and broccoli in first, and let cook without stirring for about two minutes.

Toss the broccoli and carrots once, then leave them to cook without stirring another minute more. Drop in the peppers.

Once you drop the peppers, add the chicken in a single layer to the other hot pan.

Let both pans cook without stirring for two minutes. Stir the vegetables occasionally for another minute or two.

When the chicken is halfway cooked and nice and brown, turn with kitchen tongs and lower the heat to medium. Let cook without stirring until the vegetables are done.

Right after you turn the chicken, add the squash to the vegetable pan. 

Cook another minute or two more, until the squash is heated through and the chicken is fully cooked. Plate the vegetables out of the pan, leaving any excess liquid behind, top with a few tablespoons of sauce, and then a few pieces of chicken.

Enjoy! The vegetables will be nice and crispy, the chicken moist and flavorful, and the sauce is just divine. Here's the recipe!