Vegetable Fried Rice

I have finally mustered up the motivation to lose the last bit of chub I’ve been holding onto since the India trip.  I’ve been fully intending to lose the weight for a while now but last week it donned on me that our India trip was seven months ago and I could no longer put it off.  What finally kick started me into action was the opportunity for Hubby and me to participate in a photo shoot in early July.  A friend of a friend is working on a portrait book of “mixed-culture couples” (is that the right P.C. term?) and my friend contacted us about being in the book.  Well, I didn’t need to be asked twice about doing a professional photo shoot! Needless to say, I am now full of motivation to eat clean and get lean.

The main culprit to a leaner-meaner-me is sugar.  I’m sure many of you already know about me.

Hubby, who is as thin as a rail, has been trying to help me change my thought process when it comes to sweet temptations. He told me,

“You shouldn’t even need think about it.  If a sweet is around, have one, enjoy it and then move on.”  Yes.  Very sage advice.

Another piece of advice came from my good friend, who tells me,

“why not just accept it! You love sweets, you love making sweets and you make great sweets!  Just embrace it”.

I particularly like this advice.  I wish I could live this way and not grow horizontally over the years.

So, until July, it’s sugar free for me.

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To take my mind away from the last batch of cardamom cookies that are still in my freezer, I started to search for a healthy one-pot meal I could whip up for the weekends when we stay down at my Dad’s house.  My Dad’s house is a haven of temptation.  The atmosphere is just like it was when I was growing up.  There’s always ice cream in the freezer, apple pie on the counter and boxes of cereal in the pantry. Having grown up around all this, is it any wonder I have a hard time controlling myself as an adult?

I figure a vegetable fried rice is my best option for an all-in-one meal. Instead of using our typical white basmati rice, I went to the Indian store and picked up a bag of brown basmati rice. I’ll admit though, I’m not a fan of brown rice and never have been.  The flavor is just too…”earthy” for me.  However, this particular brown rice veggie dish is so good, I’ll willingly eat it every day of the week.  It’s PACKED with flavor, mainly because of dousing the whole dish with an intensely flavored sauce. I don’t even notice the brown rice.  I’ve also discovered that brown rice benefits from an overnight soak, a technique I recently discovered, which results in a much lighter flavor and fluffier rice.

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This vegetable fried rice is inspired by a recipe I found on America’s Test Kitchen, a site which I adore and am particularly addicted to.  The original dish calls for shrimp and fish sauce, neither of which I eat, so I adapted it with loads of vegetables and a vegetarian version of fish sauce called mushroom sauce.  Mushroom sauce is every bit as flavorful as fish sauce and is a great alternative for us vegetarians.  I located it at our local Vietnamese market.

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It’s this sauce that really makes this dish stand out and I take no credit for it.  It’s straight from the original recipe at America’s Test Kitchen. I simply adapted it for vegetarians.  If you are inclined to make a cleaner and leaner version of the sauce – which I’ll be doing until July – you can omit the brown sugar and add an extra half spoon of molasses.

VEGETABLE FRIED RICE RECIPE

adapted from America’s Test Kitchen recipe for Nasi Goreng

Feel free to use regular white rice in place of brown rice if you like.  You can also use whatever vegetables you enjoy. I’ve found a new appreciation for bok choy and celery with this recipe.  The celery gives a great crunch.  I’ve also used bean sprouts and bell peppers.  It’s a great dish for using up leftovers at the end of the week.  I wonder how it would taste with kale…

This dish takes some time, mainly due to the amount of prep work. I average about an hour and a half. Because it is so time consuming, I like to make a large batch of this when I make it. The recipe below is a regular sized batch, enough to serve between 4-6 people. I typically double this recipe and cook two batches of the recipe at the same time, using two different pots.

A note on ingredients:  when I go shopping, I can only buy large bundles of celery and bok choy.  So rather than using only a fraction of the veggies and then having leftovers to deal with, I just use it all up in my big batch.  Use the ingredient amounts as a template, but no need to be too specific.  It’s better to use up what you’ve bought.

SERVES: 4-6

TIME: Prep time: 1 hour    Cooking Time: 30 minutes

INGREDIENTS

Veggies & Rice

3 cups rice (brown or white)
1 tablespoons of salt
 1/2 a head of celery, chopped
1 head of bok choy, chopped
3 large carrots, peeled and chopped
1 head of broccoli, chopped (or 2 cups precut broccoli)
1 cup of peas (fresh or frozen)
1 large onion
4 garlic cloves
4 thai chilies (substitute: 2 jalapeños or serrano chilies)
3 tablespoons of oil

For the Sauce

3 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons molasses
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons mushroom sauce

PREP THE RICE

1. Wash the rice three times to get rid of any extra starch (it helps make the rice less sticky).  Then cover it in fresh water and set it aside to let it soak. For fluffy rice with a lighter flavor, do this the night before for an overnight soak, otherwise just let it soak while you prep the veggies.

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PREP THE VEGGIES

2. Fill up your sink with cold water and wash all the veggies. Just submerge them in the water and shake ‘em around.  Dirt can be wedged into the heart of the vegetable, so with the celery and bok choy I peel each stem off and give it a good wash.  You can see why I like to make a big batch of this dish, as it takes some time to prep.

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3. Chop the celery.  I wasn’t sure at first if I should use the heart of the celery, but I discovered it is very sweet, so I love to use it.

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4. All of the bok choy is also used in cooking. Chop it just as you would a head of lettuce. Take a stack of two or three stems, cut the leaf down the middle, then do a quick chop, leaves and stems are all used.

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5. Dice the carrots the same size as the celery and bok choy.  I’m way too slow at dicing carrots, so I turn to my handy food processor and use the slicer attachment.  Two seconds and it’s all done.


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6. Chop the broccoli. I buy a bag of pre-cut broccoli to help quicken things up.  If you are using regular broccoli, cut them into bite size florets.  Then put them in a bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and with a knife, poke three holes in it.  Microwave it for 5 minutes on high to steam the broccoli.  This is great shortcut and helps speed up the cooking a bit.

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COOK THE RICE

7.  Vegetable fried rice was traditionally a way of using up day old rice. If you don’t have any leftover rice in the fridge, then you are basically going to create it now.  Freshly cooked rice ends up sticking together a lot once added to the veggies.

This is the method I use for fool-proof rice.  It’s much easier than the traditional method of making rice. Check out the full recipe for rice here.

  • Fill up a large pot with water, it doesn’t matter how much water, just make sure it’s enough water to completely cover the rice while it’s boiling.  Bring it to a boil.  Once it’s boiling add enough salt to flavor your rice.  I usually use 1 teaspoon of salt per cup of rice, so this recipe uses 1 tablespoon (1 tablespoon = 3 teaspoons).   Then add the rice.
  • If you are using white rice, it should be cooked after about 7 minutes. If you are using brown rice, let it boil for about 15 minutes.
  • While the rice is boiling, check it from time to time by eating a few grains and seeing how chewy they are.  I usually start checking white rice after five minutes and brown rice after ten or twelve minutes.

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 After the rice is cooked, strain it and spread it on a baking sheet, casserole dish or plate and place it in the fridge for it to cool while you cook the vegetables.


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MAKE THE FLAVOR BASE

8. In the bowl of a food processor or blender, add 1 onion, 4 garlic cloves and 4 thai chilies (substitute: 2 jalapeños or serrano chilies). Blend into a smooth paste.

Food Processor Tip: Pulse fourteen times to form a thick paste.  Don’t just let the food processor run, it creates an uneven and watery paste.

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MAKE THE AMAZING SAUCE

9. In a bowl, mix 3 tablespoons each of brown sugar, molasses, soy sauce and mushroom sauce. Stir till all the sugar is dissolved.

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START COOKING

10.  Over medium heat, heat 3 tablespoons of oil till the surface of the oil starts to simmer, a few minutes. Then add the onion, chili and garlic mixture.  Cook for 3-5 minutes, until light golden brown.

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11. Add the peas.  I just add some frozen peas, cover the pan and cook for 5-7 minutes. Fresh peas are a great choice if you can find them. Fresh peas should only be cooked a minute or two.

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12.  Add the celery and carrots.  Cover and cook for 5 minutes.

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13. Add the bok choy, don’t cover.  Cook for three minutes.

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14. Add the broccoli, cook for two minutes.

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15.  Now, fluff the rice with a fork or your fingers, breaking up any clumps. Add the rice and the bowl of sauce. Give the whole thing a good stir until completely coated in the sauce.

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Now the last, most important step…eat.

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We love to mix scrambled eggs into each serving for a complete meal.  I recommend only adding freshly scrambled eggs to your plate when you’re read to eat.   The eggs won’t taste very good if you add them to the whole pot and keep them in the fridge.  Fresh eggs are much better.

 

 

Read Full Recipe

VEGETABLE FRIED RICE

adapted from America’s Test Kitchen recipe for Nasi Goreng

Feel free to use regular white rice in place of brown rice if you like.  You can also use whatever vegetables you enjoy.

This dish takes some time, mainly due to the amount of prep work. I average about an hour and a half. As it is so time consuming,  I like to make a large batch of this when I make it. The recipe below is a regular sized batch, enough to serve between 4-6 people. I typically double this recipe and cook it in two pots simultaneously.  Basically, I cook two batches of the recipe at the same time, using two different pots.

 

SERVES: 4-6

TIME: Prep time: 1 hour  cooking: 30 minutes

 

INGREDIENTS

Veggies & Rice

3 cups rice (brown or white)
1 tablespoons of salt
 1/2 a head of celery, chopped
1 head of bok choy, chopped
3 large carrots, peeled and chopped
1 head of broccoli, chopped (or 2 cups precut broccoli)
1 cup of peas (fresh or frozen)
1 large onion
4 garlic cloves
4 thai chilies (substitute: 2 jalapeños or serrano chilies)
3 tablespoons of oil

For the Sauce

3 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons molasses
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons mushroom sauce

 

PREP THE RICE

1. Wash the rice three times to get rid of any extra starch (it helps make the rice less sticky).  Then cover it in fresh water and set it aside to let it soak. For fluffy rice with a lighter flavor, do this the night before for an overnight soak, otherwise just let it soak while you prep the veggies.

 

PREP THE VEGGIES

2. Fill up your sink with cold water and wash all the veggies. Just submerge them in the water and shaking ‘em around.  Dirt can be wedged into the heart of the vegetable, so with the celery and bok choy I peel each stem off and give it a good wash.  You can see why I like to make a big batch of this dish, as it takes some time to prep.

3. Chop the celery.  I wasn’t sure at first if I should use the heart of the celery, but I discovered it is very sweet, so I love to use it.

4. All of the bok choy is also used in cooking. Chop it just as you would a head of lettuce. Take a stack of two or three stems, cut the leaf down the middle, then do a quick chop, leaves and stems are all used.

5. Dice the carrots the same size as the celery and bok choy.  I’m way too slow at dicing carrots, so I turn to my handy food processor and use the slicer attachment.  Two seconds and it’s all done.

6. Chop the broccoli. I buy a bag of pre-cut broccoli to help quicken things up.  If you are using regular broccoli, cut them into bite size florets.  Then put them in a bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and with a knife, poke three holes in it.  Microwave it for 5 minutes on high to steam the broccoli.  This is great shortcut and helps speed up the cooking a bit.

 

COOK THE RICE

7.  Vegetable fried rice was traditionally a way of using up day old rice. If you don’t have any leftover rice in the fridge, then you are basically going to create it now.  Freshly cooked rice ends up sticking together a lot once added to the veggies.

This is the method I use for fool-proof rice.  It’s much easier than the traditional method of making rice. Check out the full recipe for rice here.

  • Fill up a large pot with water, it doesn’t matter how much water, just make sure it’s enough water to completely cover the rice while it’s boiling.  Bring it to a boil.  Once it’s boiling add enough salt to flavor your rice.  I usually use 1 teaspoon of salt per cup of rice.   Then add the rice.
  • If you are using white rice, it should be done after about 7 minutes. If you are using brown rice, let it boil for about 15 minutes.
  • While the rice is boiling, check it from time to time by eating a few grains and seeing how chewy they are.  I usually start checking white rice after five minutes and brown rice after ten or twelve minutes.

After the rice is cooked, strain it and spread it on a baking sheet, casserole dish or plate and place it in the fridge for it to cool while you cook the vegetables.

MAKE THE FLAVOR BASE

8. In the bowl of a food processor or blender, add 1 onion, 4 garlic cloves and 4 thai chilies (substitute: 2 jalapeños or serrano chilies). Blend into a smooth paste.

Food Processor Tip: Pulse fourteen times to form a thick paste.  Don’t just let the food processor run, it creates an uneven and watery paste.

 

MAKE THE AMAZING SAUCE

9. In a bowl, mix 3 tablespoons each of brown sugar, molasses, soy sauce and mushroom sauce. Stir till all the sugar is dissolved.

 

START COOKING

10.  Over medium heat, Heat 3 tablespoons of oil till the surface of the oil starts to simmer, a few minutes. Then add the onion, chili and garlic mixture.  Cook for 3-5 minutes, until light golden brown.

11. Add the peas.  I just add some frozen peas, cover the pan and cook for 5-7 minutes. Fresh peas are a great choice if you can find them. Fresh peas should only be cooked a minute or two.

12.  Add the celery and carrots.  Cover and cook for 5 minutes.

13. Add the bok choy, don’t cover.  Cook for three minutes.

14. Add the broccoli, cook for two minutes.

15.  Now, fluff the rice with a fork or your fingers, breaking up any clumps. Add the rice and the bowl of sauce. Give the whole thing a good stir until ever bite is coated in the sauce.  Now eat!

 

 

Dear Reader,

Do you have any favorite on-pot meals you always turn to?

 

3 Comments

  1. 6-10-2013

    I think I know these wise people in the conversation you recap above ;)

    You are beautiful and I can’t wait to see you both in the “mixed-culture couples” photo shoot!

    By the way – thanks to you, I made myself a batch of cardamon cookies last week. They were tasty. I also have some in the freezer now and the other half has gone to my hubby’s work. I don’t think the veggie friend rice will need any freezing.

    • 6-10-2013

      Well that’s a fun error….”friend” rice sounds interesting, but I meant “fried” rice. :) Ha!

      • 6-10-2013

        Ha! A funny coincidence :)
        Yes, I thought you’d enjoy that story!

        Glad to hear you made the cookies! I hope you love the rice as much as we do.

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