A Cup of Rice and…

Fried Rice 

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

 This week I had the pleasure of working with a group of Nutrition Assistants to develop culinary and food demonstration skills at the Seattle Culinary Academy.  These women have an important role in society.  They are first-line educators, whose job is to teach the women receiving food assistance [as part of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)] about nutrition and how to use the supplemental foods to nourish themselves, their babies and children. 

Part of their job is to demonstrate recipes using WIC foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dried beans, eggs and cheese.  It’s no secret that when people taste delectable recipes made with fresh, wholesome foods they are more likely to purchase and use those foods at home and feed them to their children. 

 In my role of “teaching the teachers” I was asked to demonstrate a recipe for Pineapple Fried Rice.  I was happy to oblige as fried rice is a recipe that rescues me on days when the fridge looks bare and I’ve no time for shopping or involved cooking.   There’s always brown rice in the pantry, and a few eggs and vegetables in the refrigerator to spice it up with color and flavor.  With lots of veggies and lean protein it’s a nutritious and budget-friendly one-dish meal. 

 Generally I plan ahead, cook the rice early in the week and chill it.  I prefer fragrant brown jasmine rice cooked in my 30-year-old rice cooker.  It doesn’t have a “brown rice” setting like some of the new, “fuzzy logic” rice cookers, so I soak the rice in the cooking water for one hour before turning it on.  The rice turns out perfectly.

 Fried rice can be dressed up for parties, too!  Curried fried rice is one of my favorite variations using brown basmati rice, curry powder or other Indian spices, colorful vegetables, diced fresh pineapple and garnishes of fresh cilantro and toasted cashews. 

 Rice is a key food in many cultures, providing about half the calories for up to half the world’s population.   Go beyond Asia with Greek fried rice using fresh spinach, tomatoes, dill or oregano, chopped kalamata olives, red onion and a handful of crumbled feta as a garnish.  Serving Italian? Season the rice with fresh chopped rosemary, sun-dried tomatoes, black olives, bell peppers and cooked chick-peas. Or try Mexican-Style Fried Rice with chili powder, cumin, minced fresh garlic and jalapeno pepper with bell peppers and corn kernels.

 Got a cup of rice?  Let your culinary imagination run.

 WIC Note: A main difference between WIC and other assistance programs is that participants receive nutrition education along with vouchers for food. Wikipedia describes WIC as one of the most cost-effective government programs.

 Eat Brown (Nutrition Note):  Brown rice is a whole grain with more fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals (substances beyond vitamins and minerals that may promote health and prevent certain diseases) than white rice.  The Whole Grains Council  says studies indicate that whole grain brown rice may cut diabetes risk, lower cholesterol and help maintain a healthy weight.  And according to the American Rice Federation,   “The bioactive components of whole grains appear to work synergistically, which explains why whole-grain consumption provides health benefits beyond what would be predicted if the individual compounds were simply additive.”

 Fried Rice

 To use tofu instead of meat, drain a package of firm or extra-firm tofu and pat dry on a clean towel.  Cut it into cubes and brown in 1 tablespoon oil in a nonstick skillet.  Cook 1 1/2 cups dry rice to make sure you have enough cooked rice for this recipe.  You can  substitute cooked bulgur or another grain for the rice.

 1 tablespoon canola oil

1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onion

1 1/2 cups chopped red or yellow bell pepper or combo

1 cup chopped peeled carrot

2 to 3 teaspoons grated ginger

1 cup cooked chopped chicken, ham, pork, beef or shrimp (optional)

1 cup frozen, thawed petite peas (optional)

1 tablespoon dry sherry, orange juice or water

4 cups cold cooked brown rice or other grain

2 to 3 teaspoons sodium-reduced soy sauce, regular soy sauce or tamari

Sea salt, to taste

Ground white or black pepper, to taste

Omelet strips, recipe follows

1 1/2 teaspoons Asian sesame oil

1/2 cup thinly sliced green onion or chopped cilantro

Heat large deep skillet, wok or Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add oil, onion, bell pepper, carrot and ginger. Cook, stirring often, until onion is soft.  Stir in chicken or other meat, peas and sherry. Stir for 30 to 60 seconds to warm.  Stir in rice. Add soy sauce and salt and pepper to taste.  If rice appears dry or begins to scorch on the bottom, reduce heat to low and stir in 1 to 3 tablespoons water. Cook, stirring often, until rice is hot. Stir in omelet strips, sesame oil and green onion or cilantro.  Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Omelet Strips:  Heat nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add a teaspoon or two of canola oil. Lightly beat 2 large eggs. Pour in eggs and rotate pan if needed to make a thin even layer; cook for a few minutes, until dry on top. Turn out onto cutting board, cool and cut into strips.

lorelle About lorelle

Crazy about cooking, eating and sharing good food – my work and leisure revolve around the kitchen. As a culinary dietitian my professional life encompasses nutrition counseling and education, recipe development, product development, food and nutrition writing, marketing communications, corporate test kitchen and consumer affairs management, food styling and work as a product spokesperson.


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