Recipe Connection: Fried Rice a la Leftovers

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Simple Veggie Fried Rice (with any veg you have on hand) - waste less food and spend less time in the kitchen. Easy quick dinner idea



Leftovers night.


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.)

As much as we enjoy just eating our leftovers straight up, sometimes three bean soup for three days in a row starts to get a bit old.

What’s in There?

Simple Veggie Fried Rice (with any veg you have on hand) - waste less food and spend less time in the kitchen. Easy quick dinner idea

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:

  1. You plan ahead and cook some rice well before suppertime so you’re ready to put this together.
  2. You plan way ahead and schedule a meal that uses rice for the day or two before, then make a double batch.
  3. 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).

Simple Veggie Fried Rice (with any veg you have on hand) - waste less food and spend less time in the kitchen. Easy quick dinner idea
(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.)

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. SmileSimple Veggie Fried Rice (with any veg you have on hand) - waste less food and spend less time in the kitchen. Easy quick dinner idea

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.”

Recipe: Fried Rice with Any Vegetables
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: side dish
Serves: 4-8
  • 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
  1. Press the garlic and set aside to maximize health benefits.
  2. 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).
  3. 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.)
  4. Saute until limp/cooked.
  5. Add the vinegar and garlic and saute for one minute.
  6. Add all the other ingredients and cook over low to medium low heat, stirring often, until everything is heated through.
  7. Serve warm with optional soy sauce.
* Just about everything except the rice is optional, including the sesame oil, vinegar, spices and veggies. Switch out to your heart's content!
* 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.

Simple Veggie Fried Rice (with any veg you have on hand) - waste less food and spend less time in the kitchen. Easy quick dinner ideaYou 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?

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19 Bites of Conversation So Far

  1. Carol says

    I needed to use up some organic potatoes that were going bad and chard that I’ve had around forever… diced the potatoes, spring garlic, onions, morel mushrooms and the chard, threw it in a cast iron pan on the grill with bacon grease and cooked it all up…DELICIOUS!

  2. says

    I love mish mash meals like that, that I can create out of “nothing”! My absolute favorite quinoa recipe (my extremely picky dad will even eat it!) is Southwest Quinoa Salad from No substitutes necessary, except I do trade out the very salty adobo seasoning for a homemade taco seasoning or even just some mild chile powder.

    • says

      Someone else mentioned egg here, and you’re right, it usually has egg. ??? Shaina’s recipe didn’t, and I was jumping off from hers. I wonder how the egg would change it – might try next time! Or maybe it just needs a new title: rice-n-veg side. :) Katie

  3. Cait says

    I can never get fried rice at restaurants because I hate eggs (wish I loved them! It would make healthy breakfast so much easier) so I need to make this soon! Love transforming leftovers. One of my favorite things is if I have extra pastry crust trimmed off of making a savory tart, and coming up with some tiny dinner side with it another night. It’s like convenience food since I don’t buy frozen dough!

    Another topic kind of, but I had a total DUH moment the other day when I realized I should roll out my extra pizza dough before freezing it, again like a storebought, ‘pop in the oven’ version. I was freezing it in a ball and would have to thaw it first! I can’t believe I hadn’t been doing that before.

  4. Kathleen K says

    We rarely have leftovers, and on the ever-so-seldom occasion that we do, it is because there is a sticky note on the top saying “No–DO NOT EAT, upon penalty of starvation.”

    You see, we have 1 teen boy (a.k.a. bottomless pit), a 12yo boy (a.k.a. very deep pit), and an 8 yo boy (eats normal until just before a growth spurt, then watch out!). I estimate I will once again enjoy a leftover or two in about 10 years.

    Perhaps I can make some fried rice then!

    • caroline says

      when my brother was a teen he ate like that. he also would bring friends over that ate like that, you’d go into the fridge a day after a sleepover and then would. be. nothing. left. One of his friend’s even ate the ‘dog’ ice cream once!

  5. Bethany W says

    Katie – when we were growing up as kids, my dad made “goulash” (which has nothing to do with real goulash, btw). It was his version of CORN. But instead of rice based with an asian flare, he did it with diced/chopped potatoes (instead of rice) and italian salad dressing (homemade). It was AMAZING. Brings back fond memories. :) I can pass along our italian salad dressing mix recipe, if you want. It almost perfectly mirrors Good Seasons Italian Salad Dressing packets.

  6. Brittany says

    Sometimes I’ll throw extra veggies in a fritatta or soup. With four growing boys, leftovers are becoming a rarity at our house too! :)

  7. says

    Make mashed potatoes into potato cakes :)
    Mashed potatoes with a lil flour, salt and pepper added to it, smooshed onto a hot buttered flat top griddle or cast iron skillet til browned. Sprinkle w salt and serve with ketchup. Perhaps not the healthiest re,ake, but sure is good with the leftover meatloaf sandwich. :)

  8. Rebecca says

    Mmmm, reading all these “use up extra food” recipes are making me hungry!

    I do the mashed potato pancakes too. I add a couple eggs for extra protein and a handful or two of brown rice flour, some seasoned salt and fry in olive oil.

    I also make “latkes” like my mom did. My mom is the queen of thrifty! Shred up a bunch of potatoes (peel first) and drain them dry in a colander, pressing out all the liquid. Add a little egg, some flour, salt and shredded onion. Fry in olive oil until crispy and serve with sour cream and applesauce–yummy!

    If we have leftover meat, I sometimes like to chop or shred it up and serve it on top of salad with cheese for lunch.

  9. says

    Want to hear a sad story? Don’t worry…it’s not that sad. I made the rice and had the veggies sitting on the counter and was excited to mix them all in (they included some that my kids don’t like). My husband took kitchen initiative while I was upstairs, which I was excited about because he doesn’t usually do that. Except that he gave the kids a bowl of rice with soy sauce and no veggies. Oh well. They had a few vegetables in their second helping, so it wasn’t all delicious, salty starch for dinner. And tomorrow’s another day.

  10. says

    Thanks for the recipe. You’ve saved my family who was complaining about having plain rice with the teriyaki pork tenderloin I have scheduled for later in the week.

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