We’re at the end of day eight of 30 days of clean eating, and we’re having a good old time. I haven’t found myself craving anything that I’m missing, which has surprised me. Except toast, I wanted toast a lot. So I picked up some killer locally-made bread that is a good option for us. (In full disclosure, we did split a piece of homemade cake at our friend’s graduation party this weekend, and as the sugar surged through my veins and my pulse raced, I was reminded of why I should not do that.)
Some of my other observations so far:
1) My husband says he feels better, that he actually feels great; his cheerful and energetic demeanor makes me believe him.
2) Requires lots of time.
3) Costs a lot.
I haven’t even been buying organic produce or hormone-free, pasture-raised meat because of the sticker shock, and we are spending about 40% more than we normally do at the store than we did a week ago. The price difference between a loaf of bread or jar of nut butter now and the stuff we’d buy before? Double.
Produce, the main staple of our diet right now, really adds up fast, even at the discount grocer. It’s killer. Thankfully, eggs and dried beans are cheap.
So, today’s recipe: fried rice is awesome, right? Not really from restaurants (mushy peas, MSG attack…). But at home, where I can control the ingredients and flavors, I have come to love fried rice. Like an old song that is brilliant for the background of a really good television show, but maybe doesn’t cross my mind when choosing a dinner party playlist, this is an unassuming but satisfying one-pot, one-bowl dinner. Simple, enjoyable. It meets my self-imposed standards for nutrition, frugality and of course, texture and flavor. I love the plump, bright peas, fragrantly fried garlic, slices of scrambled eggs and especially the occasional crisp grains of rice from the bottom of the pan — aren’t those the best?
I feel that I’ve finally landed on a sauce that pleasantly dresses and flavors the rice situation without being soy-sauce-salty-town. It’s fresh and enjoyable. And such a good way to use up any leftovers! Cooked pork, chicken, maybe carrot past their prime or some freezer-burned edamame come to bright, flavorful life in fried rice.
The two most important things you’ll need are a really good non-stick pan (I recently had to retire one of mine, and boy, do eggs shimmy and shake across my new pan!) or well-seasoned wok. Secondly, to avoid clumps, the rice really needs to be cool and dry. If you must cook rice the same day as frying it, try to give it some time to cool, spread out on a cookie sheet in the fridge. My preferred method/the easiest way is to make extra rice one evening when serving it alongside dinner and stow the leftovers just for this purpose.
A splash of nuoc cham has become a favorite way of ours to top a bowl of fried rice, offering heat, brightness and acidity, but it contains white sugar so did not fit our clean eating plan. A squeeze of lime provides the same bright lift to the flavors and really takes it to the next level. Enjoy!
vegetarian fried brown rice
Frying rice is a very quick process once your wok or pan is hot, so begin by prepping, chopping and setting out all your components and mixing your sauce. From there, dinner will be ready in less than 10 minutes.
So many vegetables are happy in fried rice, such as bell peppers, sliced mushrooms, chopped cabbage, sugar snap peas or snow peas, asparagus, water chestnuts, bok choy, kale or other leafy, sturdy greens… use your favorite, use what you have on hand.
(Note on chiles – fresh jalapenos, serranos, dried red pepper flakes, spoonfuls of sambal or Sriracha are all options, or leave the heat out depending on your preference. The two firey Thai chiles we used produce a medium-hot kick for this recipe and plenty of spice for us. Make sure you turn on the hood fan of your stove if using fresh chiles – they produce spicy steam when they hit the hot pan.)
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce (or substitute 1 tablespoon each soy sauce and honey or agave)
2 tablespoons soy sauce, tamari or nama shoyu
¼ cup dry white wine, stock or water
1 tablespoon fish sauce (replace with soy sauce for vegetarian option)
1 tablespoon oyster sauce (replace with hoisin for vegetarian option)
1 tablespoon honey or agave
Grapeseed or other high smoke-point oil
4 eggs, beaten
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1-inch knob fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 Thai chiles, minced
2 large or 3 medium carrots, sliced ¼-inch thick and halved, quartered if large
1 onion, diced
3 ribs celery, sliced diagonally
3 cups cooked brown rice
1 cup frozen shelled edamame
1 cup frozen peas
Whisk sauce ingredients together and set aside. (If using Sriracha or sambal in place of fresh chiles, add them to this mixture.)
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a well-seasoned wok or nonstick pan over medium heat, swirling to coat. Add beaten eggs and tilt pan to coat, making a large, flat omelet. Cook until set, flip out onto a cutting board and slice. Set aside and wipe pan clean.
Heat another tablespoon or two of oil over medium-high. Add chiles, if using, and garlic and ginger. Stir-fry for about 30 seconds. Add onion, celery and carrots and cook until just becoming crisp-tender, 5 – 8 minutes. If necessary, add water, wine or stock to keep things in the pan moving along. Add rice and stir-fry until hot through and beginning to crisp here and there. Reduce heat, add edamame, peas and prepared sauce and stir until warmed through, just 30 seconds or so. Add egg strips and stir to combine.
Divide between bowls and top with scallions and nuoc cham, or a squeeze of lime.