Call it what you want, but everyone needs to get rid of some leftovers sometimes, right?
We eat a lot of leftovers here at the Kimball house. In fact, when we have fewer than three different options for leftovers to grab for lunch, we feel deprived, and if we are all home on a weekend and don’t have any leftovers for lunch, we’re a bit lost (and hungry). I even ended up making a whole new meal like I’d make for dinner at lunchtime on Sunday, a rarity.
Typically we have the opposite problem: We need to use up some stuff in the fridge to make space for new stuff.
(C.O.R.N. is an acronym for “Clean Out the Refrigerator Night,” by the way.)
What’s in There?
I love recipes that can help me look into the fridge, say, “What’s in there?” and then make something new out of it. In this case, veggie fried rice is also an excellent way to get something to eat when I have practically nothing on hand, as long as there are some frozen veggies to tap into.
And better yet, it’s super, super, fast. Almost faster than just steaming broccoli and adding salt and pepper, I kid you not.
The only caveat is that you need to start with cooked rice, which means one of three things:
- You plan ahead and cook some rice well before suppertime so you’re ready to put this together.
- You plan way ahead and schedule a meal that uses rice for the day or two before, then make a double batch.
- You start a new habit – anytime you make rice, make a double or triple batch and freeze the leftovers in two or four-cup servings. You can put a bag of frozen rice on the counter for half an hour and easily get it out into the pot for dinner.
When Rice is Ready…
…lots of things come together easily and quickly. Number three up there has been a new habit of mine, and I rather enjoy it.
I’ve been testing out a Vitaclay Smart Cooker, which is a rice cooker and slow cooker in one, and it makes it really easy to make 3 or 4 cups of dry rice at a time (it can do up to 8, but I haven’t gone farther than 4 yet).
(The Vitaclay is not my favorite, if you’re wondering – other than being a fine rice cooker and being made of safe materials, I can’t find much more good to say about it, unfortunately. It’s definitely no substitute for a real slow cooker. If I was in the market for a rice cooker alone, I’m sure this less versatile Vitaclay would be great if other brands didn’t use safe materials for less money, but I would shop around first.)
Update 2016: My new favorite kitchen tool is a rice cooker, slow cooker and “fast cooker” all in one. The Instant Pot can do all of that in one awesome gadget!
The point is that when I make 3 or 4 servings of rice, I end up ready for many of our meals throughout the week. I can do a quick stir fry or this fried rice side dish if I haven’t planned well, and I can plan all sorts of things that call for rice while I’m meal planning dinner, knowing that I won’t have to soak it the night before or be home an hour before dinner in order to get the brown rice started.
I haven’t done it yet, but I could even make a quick rice pudding dessert or rice-based porridge for breakfast. I always think I make more than we’ll really need, but then I rarely even end up with any to freeze.
My next goal is to branch out to other grains: I need to convince my husband to give quinoa a chance, and I might try spelt and see if the gluten content is tolerable for my husband, who also doesn’t like the texture of little grains like millet, sadly. Any other whole grain ideas for me that are versatile enough to use like rice? I should check the KS group at Plan to Eat – have you seen that there are over 60,000 recipes to tap into there? If you’ve been avoiding trying PTE because you don’t want to input all your recipes, you can at least give it a try with the 30-day trial and all these new recipes.
This fried rice recipe was inspired by Shaina’s beautiful spring fried rice over at Food for my Family – she is a much better chef than I am, so her version is more culinary (a real wok, fresh ginger, for example) and uses veggies you’ll bump into precisely at this time of year (garlic scapes, pea pods). Mine is just quick and simple because I did it without taking the time to pull up her recipe! I’ve re-tested it a few times since then, though, don’t worry, and it’s gotten good reviews from friends when I served it for this “company meal.”
- 1-2 cloves garlic
- 1 Tbs. sesame or olive oil
- diced red pepper, about ½ cup
- ~1 c. frozen peas
- ~1 c. frozen corn (organic)
- ½ c. frozen green beans
- 1 c. frozen broccoli
- 1 Tbs. rice vinegar
- 2 c. cooked brown rice
- ¼ tsp. turmeric
- ¼ tsp. powdered ginger
- ½ tsp. salt
- ⅛ tsp. black pepper
- Press the garlic and set aside to maximize health benefits.
- Heat the oil over medium heat in a pot or deep pan large enough to fit everything (or a wok, if you've got one).
- Add the diced peppers and any other vegetables that are not already cooked. (Frozen veggies are blanched and will do fine added in the next step.)
- Saute until limp/cooked.
- Add the vinegar and garlic and saute for one minute.
- Add all the other ingredients and cook over low to medium low heat, stirring often, until everything is heated through.
- Serve warm with optional soy sauce.
* It's the turmeric that makes it yellow.
* If you use raw green beans, mushrooms, or broccoli, etc., you'll want to put the lid on during the sauteing time so that they actually get cooked through.
* All my frozen veggies are from Costco lately, since they have great prices on organic and the green bean quality is like no other frozen green bean I've ever met. (Did you see my awesome list of what I buy at Costco?) Unfortunately, I learned the broccoli is from China. Not ideal.
EDIT: We’ve found that we love throwing in a few eggs after everything else is cooked, and the recipe is even part of the Kids Cook Real Food eCourse! Find a way for your kids to help you make this dish – which can be a simple main course or hearty side – next Monday and join the Kids Cook Monday initiative!
You really can use any veggies you have on hand, from a bag of mixed frozen veggies to half a carton of mushrooms that will go to waste if you don’t use them, from any greens you can chop to broccoli, fresh or frozen. I’ve used anywhere from 2-4 cups veggies, depending on what other sides I have going (i.e. do I need a grain side dish or a veggie side?).
What’s your favorite “use it up” recipe?
Disclosure: There are affiliate links in this post to Thrive Market and Vitaclay, from which I will earn some commission if you make a purchase. Plan to Eat is a KS sponsor receiving their complimentary mention. See my full disclosure statement here.