The Lazy Psychologist in the Kitchen: Asian Beef with Green Beans

Welcome to another installment of The Lazy Psychologist in the Kitchen. For any newcomers to my blog, you may be wondering why on earth I’m sharing recipes on my mental health blog. The answer is quite simple: food affects mood. Research is letting us know that what we put in our body directly affects how we feel, both physically and emotionally. Did you catch my blog on the “second brain” in our gut? If not, now worries. You can check it out here to learn more about the important role gut health (and what we put into our gut) plays in mood. And did you know that there’s even a new field in psychiatry called “nutritional psychiatry?” Here’s an interesting article on just this very topic from the Harvard Health Blog.  Yep, folks, there’s a lot of established evidence showing the overlap between food and mood.

There’s ample reason to eat plenty of minimally processed, clean food as a way to care for your emotional self. So, let’s all eat good food and be happy, right? Some of us, though, get a teensy bit overwhelmed when thinking about shopping for and making complicated meals. Some of us may feel so busy and pulled in so many directions that it seems almost painful to consider adding ONE MORE THING like cooking to our to-do list. Sound familiar? Yep, this is my life. I attended years and years of graduate school but cooking a simple meal at the end of the day often seems incredibly daunting. As such, I am always looking for ridiculously easy ways to put healthy food into my body and have compiled a few recipes that serve me well in this regard. An important disclaimer for all of my recipe posts: I am not a nutritionist, dietician, or physician, so don’t take my recipe posts as golden advice based on the most recent nutrition science. In sharing some of my personal recipes, my goal is to inspire you to find easy ways to incorporate healthy eating as one way to cultivate healthy mood.

img_3065A few words about this recipe before we get to the tasty action. This one is so simple, I don’t think I’ve ever messed it up. Ok, hang on. As I typed this out, I just had a flashback of scorching the green beans once so let me amend my initial statement: I have made this recipe dozens of times and only messed it up once. Phew, it feels good to be honest, doesn’t it? Where was I? Right, this recipe is quite simple, quick (about 15 minutes), and hard (but not impossible) to mess up, which adds up to major bonus points for this lazy chef. Another bonus: almost everything is cooked up in one dish—a wok. If you’ve read my Lazy Psychologist blogs before, you know I have a major complex about not wanting to wash a ton of dishes after cooking. I believe that characteristic may be part of the actual definition of “lazy.” Look it up in your dictionary and let me know. This recipe gets even more “lazy chef” bonus points because you can eat on the leftovers for a few days. I am a big fan of leftovers because that means I get to conserve some energy that I can invest in other, lazier pursuits.

Now, on to the stir-fried goodness!

*Are you a vegetarian? You can make this with tofu instead. I’ve done just that and it still works well.

Ingredients:

3 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce (I use Bragg’s Liquid Aminos)img_3059
2 tbsp rice wine (also called mirin)
1 tbsp raw honey
1 tsp arrowroot powder (or cornstarch)
1 pound fresh green beans, washed and trimmed (Lazy Tips: sometimes, you can even buy them already washed and trimmed. You can also use frozen, just thaw for a bit in the microwave)
3 tbsp water
1 tbsp chopped garlic (Lazy Tip: you can buy this in a jar, already chopped and ready to use!)
1 tbsp chopped ginger (Lazy Tip: you can also buy this in a jar!)
3/4 lb round steak, sliced into thin strips (Lazy Tip: you can often find this pre-sliced in the meat department. Bonus point from this lazy cook because I hate to handle and cut raw meat.)
Oil for stir-fry (I recommend sunflower, coconut, or grapeseed, which can all handle high heat. I do not recommend olive oil for stir-frying as the high temps can damage the healthy fats).
1 cup cooked brown rice

Serves four.

Instructions:

Combine the soy sauce, rice wine, honey, and arrowroot powder in a small bowl and mix well. Put aside, and congratulate yourself on being able to manage four ingredients at the same time—you are rocking this cooking stuff!

img_3060Heat up about a teaspoon of oil in a wok or large, deep skillet at medium-high heat. Toss the green beans
into the wok and stir-fry for about a minute. Add two tablespoons water to wok and cover for 5-7 minutes. This is steaming your green beans, so you can check tenderness after about 5 minutes and cook to your preference. Personally, I like mine a bit crunchy so I cook mine about 5-6 minutes. If you like yours a bit softer, please empower yourself to cook them a bit longer. Learn from my mistakes: if you fail to set a timer and let your green beans cook for so long that all the water dries up, your house will smell like scorched green beans for a while. And somehow life will go on.

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Once the green beans are cooked to your satisfaction, empty them into a bowl and put aside, once again giving yourself a pat on the back for your cooking aptitude. Heat up another teaspoon of oil in the wok at medium-high heat. Add garlic and ginger and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add slices of beef to wok and stir-fry 2-4 minutes until just done (I like mine a bit pink in the middle, so mine is done in about 3 minutes.

img_3063Turn heat up to high and immediately add the sauce bowl you made up earlier. Stir constantly until mixture comes to a boil. The sauce should have thickened quite a bit. Remove from heat and toss in green beans.
Serve over brown rice and enjoy! If you are too lazy to cook up rice, this dish tastes great on it’s own.

May you be healthy, happy, and well-fed,
Dr. Jen