Life is busy, no question about that. But it doesn't mean you have to scrimp on meal preparation. When quick is the order of the day, think stir-fry.

Stir-Fried Beef and Noodles is a complete meal that can be prepared and served in 30 minutes.This one-dish meal is made with broccoli pieces and thinly sliced carrots to add both color and nutrition. The beef is marinated using the seasoning packet in ramen noodle soup to provide traditional Oriental flavors for the stir-fry. The finished dish can be enhanced with a bit of grated orange peel, if desired.

Because ramen noodles cook in about 5 minutes, they are cooked first and then transferred to a warm platter to keep ready while you stir-fry the meat.

For dessert, if you want to carry out the Oriental theme, serve almond cookies or fortune cookies and fresh fruit.

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RECIPE

STIR-FRIED BEEF AND NOODLES

1 1/4 pounds beef top round or boneless sirloin steak, cut 1 inch thick

Two 3-ounce packages Oriental flavor instant ramen noodles

2 cups water

1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 pound (about 4 cups) broccoli florets

2 medium carrots, cut diagonally into thin slices

1 teaspoon grated orange peel (optional)

Total preparation and cooking time: 30 minutes

Cut beef steak lengthwise in half; cut crosswise into 1/8-inch-thick strips. In medium bowl, combine seasoning packets from noodles, 1/2 cup of the water and cornstarch. Add beef, tossing to coat.

In large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add broccoli and carrots; stir-fry 1 minute. Break noodles into several pieces; add to skillet with remaining 11/2 cups water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Cover and simmer over low heat 3 to 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender and almost all liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally to separate noodles. Transfer to warm platter.

In same skillet, heat remaining oil over medium-high heat until hot. Remove beef from marinade; discard marinade. Add beef (1/2 at a time) and stir-fry 1 to 2 minutes or until outside surface is no longer pink. (Do not overcook.) Spoon beef and pan juices over noodles. Sprinkle with orange peel, if desired. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

Note: Two cups frozen broccoli may be substituted for 1/2 pound fresh broccoli; cook as directed.

- Nutrition facts per serving using beef top round steak: 476 cal., 37 g pro., 22 g fat, 33 g carbo., 5.2 mg iron, 1,019 mg sodium, 83 mg chol.

- Nutrition facts per serving using beef sirloin steak: 486 cal., 35 g pro., 24 g fat, 33 g carbo., 5.8 mg iron, 1,024 mg sodium, 84 mg chol.

- Recipe from: National Cattlemen's Beef Association