The Design-Your-Own Dinner: Stir Fry!

Sometimes, around here, dinner is a BIG problem. It’s not that I can’t get dinner on the table, it’s that every single time I do, there is someone at the table who wishes they had something different. This used to frustrate me, and sometimes still does. But, when I started practicing the Design-Your-Own Dinner with my kids…that changed. Last night I made Stir Fry. I got rave reviews from everyone at the table. Why? Because they built their own dinner from the bottom up, and that means they had all the things they love. It’s really that simple. Stir Fry cooks fast, so I can whip up each person’s order in record time, usually a lot less time than I was spending in the kitchen making other dinners. The best part? They don’t even realize how healthy this dinner is. All the vegetables they are consuming are amazing, and the quick cooking time means those veggies are at their peak. Want to Design-Your-Own Dinner? Read on to find out how I do it!

In my house, these dinners really came out of desperation. I was sick and tired of spending hours cooking only to have someone who really wasn’t happy sitting at my table. There are plenty of nights when I ignore their complaints, but once in a while, I want a silent dinner and a family of truly full tummies. It’s a bonus when I can fill those tummies with really good things.

To make Design-Your-Own Dinner Stir Fry, you just need to do a little advance planning. I have lots of options available and always make sure I have at least a few items that each person loves. I simply chop up meat and veggies and place them into bowls.


Protein options might include: Chicken, Shrimp, Beef, Pork, or Tofu

Veggie options might include: Cabbage, Broccoli, Carrots, Celery, Onions, Green onions, Frozen peas, Snap Peas, or any variety of other veggies

Seasoning options might include: Soy Sauce, Teriyaki Sauce, Turmeric, Ginger, Red Pepper Flake, Celery Seed, Chinese Five Spice, Garlic, salt, pepper, and anything else you feel like pulling out of your cupboard.

Finishing sauces might include: Sweet Chili Sauce, Sriracha Sauce, or any variety of flavors that your kids like.

After chopping all the veggies and meats, the kids walk through the veggie area with a large bowl and combine all their favorites, then simply tell me what kind of meat they want, what types of seasoning they want, and if they want any sauces. Then, I go to town. If your kids can cook with you…even better!

Start by placing a small amount of oil in your wok pan (I use olive oil and no one notices, but you can use whatever you like). Then add the meat. Just add enough for that person, specifically with them in mind. You will find that you will not have as much waste if you do this. Saute the meat until almost cooked through.


Now add your “harder” veggies, like carrots, broccoli, and cabbage. Keep this moving in the pan. Throw in your seasonings, and your soy or teriyaki sauce at this point, too. Keep it moving for just a few minutes until the veggies just start to soften.


Now add your softer veggies, like peas and green onions, to the pan and keep it moving just a few more minutes. Everyone likes their veggies different, so while I prefer a little more crispness, I do tend to look it just a bit more at this point if I have a child who doesn’t like crunch.


Lastly, finish with any sauces you might want as a finish. Most kids prefer nothing, but if they like a little spice, now is the time to spice it up. If using sriracha, go easy at first. Stir this well through the pan to combine.


You are ready to serve! I serve this with a side of rice (usually Jasmine or Basmati Rice). Simple, fresh, and full of vegetables, but your kids will feel like they got to order their dinner, just the way they like it. You will have less waste, and they will feel like a part of the cooking.


This meal satisfies my whole family, from my non-meat eater (Sometimes, I make his with just veggies ) to my “sensitive to spice” child. Even my husband enjoys this simple dinner, and often has the leftovers for lunches in the days following! Stir fry is so simple, you can even teach them how to do it…and then they will REALLY love it! Happy Dinner, Everyone!



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