I love a 'before and after'. I love the big ones. I love the small ones.
Think one of those old, classic Doris Day movies where there's a dilapidated old house. There are cobwebs of course, curtains ripped and hanging off the rails, dust ... so much dust and generally, stuff - always ugly stuff - piled high. Then bring on lively music, much singing (of course), a jolly disposition, probably protective clothing in the form of a jaunty headscarf and a frilly apron, plenty of brooms, a carpet beater (ALWAYS a carpet beater), stacks of rubbish that mysteriously disappears off-camera and before you know it you have sparkly, clean, tidy, calm order. A perfect 'after'.
But modern-day 'before and afters' float my boat just as much. 'Makeover Your Wardrobe', 'Clear Out Your Junk', 'Look 10 Years Younger' - I have to admit that I have a penchant for them all. It's the transformation, it's making something great out of something mediocre.
I'll take a 'before and after' on a smaller scale too. I often leave my car until it's embarrassingly mucky before I get it cleaned. Gross maybe, but the satisfaction of the transformation from 'I can barely see out of the windows' to 'Wow! I could eat my dinner off this car', is ridiculously satisfying.
And today I realised that there was a 'before and after' opportunity right under my nose. Literally. My computer keyboard had got seriously dusty. So dusty that if each key had been bigger, I'd have been able to write my name on them. It hadn't gone unnoticed but I'd put it firmly on the 'too difficult' pile - after all, I couldn't exactly stick it in the sink. Then, this morning, the urge took me. Armed with wet wipes and a blunt knife (lots of awkward crevices you know), I unplugged the keyboard and got to work. 5 minutes later - bish, bash, bosh - a sparkling good as new keyboard. A sensational 'after' to make me feel good every time I sit down at the computer.
Because it's the things that we see and do EVERY day that make the difference.
So here's a foodie 'before and after' that we're currently enjoying - not every day - but certainly very regularly. Pretty much without exception, I serve vegetables with dinner. It stems from my own love of all things green (I am that person who will eat salad with fish and chips, I'll always top beans on toast with something green and there will definitely be vegetables with a plate of pasta or a dish of curry). My 'go-to' when hot vegetables were in order was to steam them, and to be honest, it was dull. Dull, dull, dull. And there was much family feedback to support that.
Then one day the stir fry inspiration struck ... do the same prep beforehand (albeit smaller pieces) and throw the vegetables into a hot wok a couple of minutes before we are ready to eat. Crunchy, vibrant, slightly caramelised - a vegetable transformation. An everyday vegetable 'before and after'.
And here's why you too might feel the love for some Everyday Stir Fry Vegetables -
- This is quick cooking. Get the wok super hot, drizzle in a touch of oil and throw in the vegetables. You can almost do it in the time it takes to boil the kettle for steaming.
- But don't forget the golden rule of stir frying - get all your preparation done beforehand. Things happen SO quickly that there's no time to still be chopping.
- Use up any odd bits of veggies in your stir fry. Broccoli, kale, carrots, bean sprouts, peppers, leeks, onions, courgettes, beans, mange tout, mushrooms. In an ideal world, you would put the things with a longer cooking time in first and then follow with the quicker ones. But this is everyday cooking, so to be honest, I mostly chuck them all in at once. Except for peas. I often throw a handful or two of frozen peas in at the very end. After all, everything tastes better with peas in it.
- Add some flavourings if you like ... garlic, ginger, chilli, soy sauce ... but unless dinner has a more oriental feel, I generally stick to salt and pepper.
- As a side dish, it looks great and that counts - particularly with more reluctant eaters.
- Any leftovers will form the base for my lunch the next day. Leftover steamed vegetables just don't do it in the same way.
So there you go ... woks at the ready. Ready, steady, stir fry ...