ONE WEEK OF PANTRY STAPLE MEALS THAT ARE MOSTLY HEALTHY AND USE LESS THAN TEN INGREDIENTS. ALSO INCLUDES A SHOPPING LIST TO MAKE DINNER PLANS EVEN EASIER!Continue reading “7 Pantry Staple Meals with 10 Ingredients or Less!”
VEGETABLE FRIED RICE WITH BROWN RICE, SOY-BASED SAUCE, FROZEN VEGGIES, AND RUNNY EGGS. A DELICIOUS AND HEALTHY DINNER WHEN YOU DON’T FEEL LIKE COOKING OR HAVE MINIMAL INGREDIENTS!
Back in college, I went through a major Chinese food obsession. I still do occasionally, but I would say my peak happened sometime around late freshman/early sophomore year. When I felt like taking myself on a date, I would get cute, go to a coffee shop, visit my favorite local book store, and finish the day with Chinese food at one of my two favorite spots. I would always end up ordering way too much food and wanting to roll my ass out of the restaurant. But, under no circumstances could I leave without ordering egg drop soup (with lots of Sambal Oelek!) and a side of fried rice. At the very least, those leftovers fed me for a solid three days.
Anyways, I miss my college-era metabolism, but I still get hard cravings for fried rice. As much as I prefer it in my usual takeout order, unfortunately Marc likes steamed rice better than fried rice (which ???). But, he still loves my homemade version as a meal, and with it being so easy, we have it quite often! It’s not my go-to greasy version with BBQ pork, but it’s soooo good for a healthy weeknight dinner!
Some key details about this vegetable fried rice
Vegetable fried rice is a meal I make when I have no ingredients and no patience. It’s my “I don’t feel like cooking” meal or my “I forgot to buy three ingredients for dinner tonight that I swore we had in the cabinet” back-up dinner. It requires only basic pantry ingredients by using rice, frozen veggies, and basic condiments from the Asian aisle at the grocery store! Oh, and eggs, because that’s the best part of fried rice!
To make it a bit healthier, I swapped brown rice for white and added a ton of extra veggies. I like runny eggs on top, but you could always scramble them as well! And the best part is that the dish takes thirty minutes to make from start-to-end. (I know a million recipes say they take “30 minutes”, but it’s actually true in this case).
These are the ingredients you’ll need
Hopefully, you have most of these ingredients on hand, but if not, I would highly recommend stocking up! This is the perfect meal to have as a back-up, and almost all of the ingredients will last in the pantry or freezer. Make sure you have:
- Brown Rice: White also works. Just make sure it’s long grain, such as jasmine. You will want this pre-cooked and cooled, preferably overnight. I usually always have leftover brown rice in the fridge which is perfect. We’ll discuss what to do if you don’t have leftovers/pre-cooked rice!
- Frozen Broccoli: Fresh would work as well but it will take longer to cook.
- Frozen Mixed Vegetables: I use the frozen veg with carrots, peas, corn, and green beans. Whatever you like (or have in your freezer) will work.
- Neutral Oil: I use grapeseed.
- Garlic: Fresh is best but ground will do in a pinch.
- Brown Sugar: You only need a little, but you can sub with honey or maple syrup if you prefer.
- Ginger: Again, fresh is best but ground will do.
- Low Sodium Soy Sauce: Regular would probably be fine, just expect a saltier flavor.
- Sesame Oil: Toasted or un-toasted both work!
- Rice Vinegar: I use unseasoned.
- Scallions/Chives: I usually use chives, because I almost always have them either fresh or dried. However, scallions are also great!
- Eggs: At least one per person.
- Salt and Pepper: To taste, always.
Now let’s make vegetable fried rice!
To start, make sure that you have cooked + cooled the brown (or white) rice and defrosted the frozen veggies! I just microwave the frozen broccoli for two minutes and drain out extra water. Then, I repeat these steps with the frozen veggie mix.
Next, you’ll whisk together some brown sugar, low sodium soy sauce, ginger, sesame oil, and rice vinegar. Set aside.
In a large pan, heat a few tablespoons of neutral oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the broccoli and let it cook undisturbed until the broccoli is slightly charred and crispy on the edges, about 4-5 minutes. Do not stir! You want everything to get brown and charred.
When the broccoli is nice and brown, add the mixed veggies cooking until warm, about another 2-3 minutes. Then, add the garlic and saute until fragrant.
Next, add the rice and the sauce, stirring until everything is well mixed. Taste, and add salt if necessary. Press the rice into an even layer, and let cook another 5 minutes, until the rice is crispy. If the pan seems a bit dry, you can add a little more oil. Either way, the rice may stick a little, and that’s ok! More crunchies for you.
While the rice gets crispy, fry your eggs however you like. I recommend sunny side up or over easy!
When the rice is crispy, divide between four bowls, and top with scallions and an egg. Enjoy yolk-y, crispy rice bliss forever.
Um, I don’t just have cooked + cooled rice laying around?
On one hand, I don’t understand because I almost always have a tub of rice in the fridge. On the other hand, I totally understand because I almost never have cooked rice when I actually need it. Here’s what I do in those cases:
- Microwave Rice: Ok, I know microwave rice isn’t the best thing in the world, and I hate that the containers are not recyclable. But, if there’s one thing that microwavable rice does really well, it’s being too dry. Which, coincidentally is what we need for fried rice! So, if you’re in need of a quick fix, just use two packets of microwavable brown rice and everything will be A-ok.
- Quick Cooled Rice: Just make rice as usual, spread it around on a sheet pan in an even layer, and place it in the freezer until it’s cold and dried out (about 10-15 minutes). You can also place it in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
- Fresh Rice: Worst case scenario, you can just make fried rice with fresh, hot rice. It might get a bit mushy since it has extra moisture. But, if the craving is real, it will still work.
Use long grain instead of short grain rice
For vegetable fried rice, or any fried rice for that matter, you should go with long grain! Short grain rice has a lot of extra starch, which will make the rice a bit more sticky and mushy when you mix it with other things. However, long grain rice doesn’t have quite as much starch, so it will dry out nicely and keep the vegetable fried rice from getting mushy. Rinsing the rice with cold water prior to cooking will also help keep the rice from getting sticky by removing extra starch.
Making a perfect sunny side up egg
I finally learned the secret to a perfect sunny side up egg, and I am pleased to discuss it here today. It’s actually v easy! First, heat a little oil in a non-stick pan. Olive oil or grapeseed oil are both great choices. Crack the egg in the pan, season with salt and pepper, and cover the pan with a lid (preferably glass so you can see what’s going on). Let the egg cook until the whites are set but the yolk is still runny. Remove with a spatula. The bottom will be nice and crispy, and the yolk will be perfectly runny!
Keep leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-5 days. When reheating, add a little water to the rice, stir, and microwave for a minute or so. I would not recommend storing leftover eggs, because they get a little weird in the fridge, and they’re hard to reheat. Just make as many as you plan on eating, and make eggs fresh if you have leftovers!
However, if you cannot make fresh eggs, go the scrambled route. Just make a few scrambled eggs like you usually would, stir them into the rice, and enjoy the leftovers later!
Vegetable fried rice variations
Vegetable fried rice is completely customizable, so you can pretty much use whatever you have in your fridge. Here are a few variations that would be delicious:
- Scrambled eggs instead of fried
- Adding protein such as chicken, beef, pork, or prawns
- Switching up the veggies with cauliflower, asparagus, peppers, or bean sprouts
- Adding hot sauce such as Sriracha!
- Mixing in some sliced kimchi
- Adding a bit of diced pineapple
- If you’re going for a no-rice route, you can always use cauliflower rice instead!
A few tips and tricks
This is truly a basic recipe, but there are a few things you can do to make sure it tastes just like fried rice from the hibachi instead of fried rice that has been sitting in a condensation-infiltrated takeout container!
- Rinse the rice with cold water prior to cooking to make sure that there’s no extra starch! The rice is properly rinsed when the water runs clear and no longer looks murky.
- For perfect fried rice, always use cold rice. Hot rice will get sticky and clumpy when it hits the pan.
- Don’t be afraid of high heat. The high heat will crisp everything up and make sure the ingredients don’t simply steam together.
- Fresh ingredients are always best, of course, but dried spices and herbs always work! Garlic powder, ground ginger, and dried chives are always great subs in a pinch.
- I use frozen veggies, but fresh is always good too! You will just have to saute the veggies until they are completely cooked, which will likely take 10-15 extra minutes.
- Don’t be afraid to let things char/crisp up. Letting the rice get crispy is what will help vegetable fried rice taste like it came straight off the hibachi!
Dishes To serve with Vegetable Fried Rice!
Vegetable Fried Rice with Runny Eggs
Vegetable Fried Rice with Runny Eggs
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 2 tsp ginger, grated
- 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
- 2 tbsp sesame oil
- 2 tbsp rice vinegar
- 2 cup frozen broccoli
- 1 cup frozen mixed vegetables of choice
- 3 tbsp neutral oil (I use grapeseed) + more as needed
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- 3 cup cooked brown rice, cooled and chilled (preferably overnight)
- 2 tbsp scallions (or chives), sliced
- 4 eggs
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- In a small bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, ginger, low sodium soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice vinegar until combined. Set aside.
- Next, defrost the broccoli by microwaving it in a heat-safe bowl for two minutes. Drain any water, and set aside. Repeat these steps with the frozen vegetable mix.
- Heat the oil over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the broccoli, and cook undisturbed (seriously, don’t touch!), for about 3-4 minutes. The bottom of the broccoli will be slightly charred and crispy on the edges. Stir, and add the vegetable mix, cooking another minute or two until the veggies are all warm. Next, add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds (add more oil if necessary).
- Add the rice to the vegetable mix, and stir. Pour the sauce over the rice, and fold everything together until nice and mixed. Press the mixture until it’s flat, and let cook undisturbed (again, don’t touch!) for about 5 minutes, until the bottom of the rice is crispy. (You may have to scrape the bottom of the pan a bit to get everything off, but don’t worry. Crispies are a good thing).
- While the rice gets crispy, cook your eggs as desired. I like sunny side up or over easy!
- To serve, divide the rice between four bowls. Top with the scallions or chives and a runny egg. Enjoy!
xo Sara Lynn
*Song of the day: Rainy Days by Culture Abuse
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I feel like I don’t have any good stories to share with you guys lately. I just work and cook and do a little yoga. Is this what post-grad life is?? I get a degree, and I become someone who looks forward to coming home on Fridays and eating takeout pupusas in my sweatpants while watching Arrested Development reruns? Because that’s exactly what I did this past Friday, and it was kind of amazing. Although Saturday I went to a party and had two whole beers sooooo…yay? Raise the roof? I don’t know how to be young anymore. Help!!!
In other exciting news, we also got a new Indian restaurant in town, and it’s the best one yet! And this weekend, I’ll be in Seattle hopefully going to lots of fun bars and coffeeshops. So, things are looking up in the ‘cool department’!
On another note, may I introduce you to one of my new favorite recipes? I didn’t know it was possible to like veggies this much, but omg this carrot salad is sososo good!! I don’t think we appreciate carrot salad enough in the states, because I’ve never seen one here unless I was at an authentic-European deli of some sort, but I’m starting a petition to make it a thing.
I made this salad for Easter, and it was perfect with ham and scalloped potatoes. Then, I used the leftover dressing to make more carrot salad for work lunches the next few days. I’m pretty sure I ate like, 8 servings of vegetables a day that week. I hope this obsession lasts and eventually upgrades to a spinach obsession.
For this salad, you can peel the carrots into long, pretty ribbons like I did. Texturally, it’s my favorite, but peeling carrot ribbons takes a long time, and you end up with weird little carrot pieces once you can’t peel anymore. In this case, I just turn them into carrot sticks and snack on them alone. When I was being lazy with it, I just used grated carrots which is way faster and can be done with a food processor. Either way, the real star here is the shallot dressing. It’s slightly-spicy and creamy from the yogurt. I would dip anything into it. If you don’t like carrots, at least make the dressing and put it on some kale or something.
Also! This salad can be made a day in ahead, but put the pistachios on right before serving or they will lose their crunch. Ok? Ok!
Carrot Salad with Pistachios + Queso Fresco + Shallot Dressing
Ingredients for the Salad
2 lbs. carrots, washed, trimmed, and peeled
4 oz. queso fresco, or feta, crumbled
1/2 c. pistachios, toasted
2 Tbs. Italian parsley, chopped
Ingredients for Dressing
1 small shallot, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 Tbs. white wine vinegar
3 Tbs. plain Greek yogurt
1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. honey
1/3 c. olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
Using a vegetable peeler, peel carrots into long ribbons. Alternatively, you can shred them in a food processor. Cover carrots with a wet paper towel to keep fresh.
To make the dressing, add shallot, white wine vinegar, Greek yogurt, Dijon mustard, and honey to a food processor. Pulse until combined. Drizzle in olive oil until emulsified. Add salt and pepper to taste.
To prepare salad, add the queso fresco, pistachios, and parsley. Toss with the shallot dressing, to taste. Start with half the dressing and add more as needed. Serve immediately. To make the recipe ahead, combine everything but the pistachios. Add the pistachios right before serving.
xo Sara Lynn
*Song of the day: Sleep Apnea by Beach Fossils