sausage and egg fried rice

One of my favorite things to order at our neighborhood Chinese restaurant is chicken fried rice.  Even better, wrap it up in a soft tortilla and call it a Chinese burrito.  Either way, it’s comfort food through and through.  But we all know the fried rice at your favorite carry-out is, while incredibly delicious, not exactly scoring high marks for health food.  Also, we don’t eat out that much – have you seen the portion sizes?  And, frankly, we get a healthier meal at home.  Which is why I’ve always been curious about making my own fried rice.

Last night was the perfect night.  My people had gone off to have dinner with relatives.  Earlier in the day, in anticipation of dinner-for-one, I cooked up some rice (halving the recipe below) and set it aside to cool.  Fried rice is a great way to use up leftover rice from a previous dinner, but since I’m apparently so good at portion control, I rarely have leftover rice on hand.  Note to selves:  If you’re ever just hanging out with an hour to spare, make some rice and tuck it away in the fridge for dinner later that week.

The original recipe called for diced ham, but I used an organic turkey sausage, instead, since it’s what I had on hand.  I think it’s a perfectly good substitute, lower in sodium and fat, while still adding a nice boost of protein.  Since it’s a recipe that loans itself to personal adaptation, pick your protein for what suits your lifestyle.

I wasn’t sure what to expect since I believed it would be nearly impossible to recreate the goodness of Chinese carry-out in my own kitchen.  But this recipe came pretty darn close.  I thought it was delicious…and much, much healthier.  The green beans added crunch and a pretty burst of color.  Onion and garlic gave it nice, heady flavor in combination with the soy sauce and sesame oil.  Prep first and it all goes together really fast, as a stir-fry should.  Can’t wait to try the leftovers after the flavors have a chance to mingle, a bit.  Definitely a keeper on the first run, though.  Enjoy!

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Sausage and Egg Fried Rice (recipe adapted from Cooking Light, September 2008)

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups cold cooked long-grain rice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 cup thinly horizontally sliced green beans
  • 3/4 cup diced turkey kielbasa (about 4 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup (1-inch) slices green onions

Preparation:

  1. 1. Break up rice with hands to remove large clumps, if necessary.
  2. 2. Heat a 14-inch wok over high heat. Add canola oil to wok, swirling to coat. Add 1 1/2 cups onion and garlic to wok; stir-fry 1 minute or until onion begins to brown. Add beans and ham; stir-fry 2 minutes or until ham begins to brown.
  3. 3. Reduce heat to medium-high. Add cold rice to wok; stir-fry 2 minutes. Stir in soy sauce, sesame oil, and black pepper. Push rice mixture up sides of wok. Pour eggs in open space in center of wok; cook 30 seconds or until set, stirring to scramble. Gently stir scrambled eggs into rice mixture. Sprinkle with green onions.

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pumpkin pie smoothies

October is here.  That means pumpkin pies, spice breads, pumpkin soup, pumpkin cookies, and…the pumpkin smoothie!

This recipe appears in so many places all over the internet I don’t even remember where I found it.  Frankly, there are so many variations on this recipe, it’s hard to say where it was first conceived.  Again, it’s a recipe that takes well to adaptation.  This one is dairy-free and vegan friendly.  You can easily make this gluten-free, as well, by using a gluten-free rolled oat (i.e. Bob’s Red Mill).  I thought it was delicious.

My child, however, did not.  She tried it, rolled it around over her taste buds, and then promptly handed the glass back to me and asked for an alternative snack.  I’ll give her credit for actually trying it, though.  My husband refused it outright.  He never even tasted it.  Something about the color!  Admittedly, he saw it a few hours after I’d made it, and anything with banana in it is susceptible to discoloration.  Bananas turn brown pretty quickly once you peel them, and this smoothie is not exception.  Make it, drink it.  Don’t save some for tomorrow.  Enjoy!

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Pumpkin Pie Smoothie (recipe adapted from all over the internet)

Ingredients:

  • 1 frozen banana
  • 3 ice cubes
  • 1 C almond milk
  • 3/4 C pure pumpkin
  • 1/4 C rolled oats
  • 1/4 tsp flax seeds, ground (optional)
  • 1 tsp all-natural maple syrup
  • dash of cinnamon, nutmeg, or pumpkin pie spice
  • fresh grated cinnamon or nutmeg for topping

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth.  Add whipped topping (optional) and a sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice,

Dive in!

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parmesan crusted tilapia

While putting this post together I realized we eat an awful lot of tilapia.  In fact, in 2012, the U.S. imported about 500  million pounds of it.  That’s a lot of fish considering tilapia is generally considered, despite being high in protein and low in fat, to offer the least return on investment if you’re trying to eat more Omega 3s.  For example, salmon has 10 to 15 times the amount of Omega 3 fatty acids as a serving of tilapia.

Overall, though, a serving of tilapia will go a long way in replacing a cheeseburger and fries in terms of healthy choices.  The key seems to be to rotate your fish selections to make sure you’re getting enough Omega 3s, and make sure you know the source of the fish.  Generally, if you’re eating farm raised tilapia (which seems to be about all that’s out there), U.S. farm raised is superior.  An article I read came down pretty hard on farm raised tilapia from South America and China, noting the lack of aquaculture regulation and poor habitat conditions.

On that note, a tilapia recipe.  Honestly, I do serve it a lot for the reasons noted in almost every article I read:  it’s plentiful, relatively inexpensive, easy to cook, and has a neutral taste – which is especially important if you’re cooking for kids who have…sensitive noses?  But I’ve also enlightened myself a little bit about broadening the types of fish I’ll serve to make sure we’re fully benefiting from the addition of more fish in our diet.  So, find yourself U.S. sourced fish and pop an Omega 3 supplement after dinner, because this recipe was a keeper.  Or, try it with halibut, walleye, or whitefish (can you tell I’m a Great Lakes girl?).

Calling this recipe  “crusted” was a bit of a stretch.  This really is more of a sauce, but an additional sprinkling of parmesan a few minutes before the fish is finished under the broiler might give it a bit more crunch.  Nonetheless, the end product was really flavorful.  It was quick to prep, making it perfect for a mid-week meal when most families find it hectic to sit down for dinner.  I served it with some broiled asparagus and a side of pearl couscous and the grown ups gave it two thumbs up.  I’m still working on expanding the culinary horizons of the little one, though…slowly and steadily.  Enjoy!

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Parmesan Crusted Tilapia

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened (I used less)
  • 3 Tbsp mayonnaise (I used Reduced Fat Mayo with Olive Oil)
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp dried basil
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp onion powder (I used 1 tsp fresh onion, finely minced)
  • 1/8 tsp celery salt
  • 2 pounds tilapia fillets
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Directions:
  1. Preheat broiler.  Line baking pan with aluminum foil.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together the Parmesan cheese, butter, mayonnaise and lemon juice. Season with dried basil, pepper, onion powder and celery salt. Mix well and set aside.
  3. Arrange fillets in a single layer on the prepared pan. Broil a few inches from the heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Flip the fillets over and broil for a couple more minutes.
  4. Remove the fillets from the oven and cover them with the Parmesan cheese mixture on the top side. Broil for 2 more minutes or until the topping is browned and fish flakes easily with a fork. Be careful not to over cook the fish.

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Cook’s Note:  Reduce the butter.  You don’t need that much.  I think I used a little less than 3 Tbsp.  Also, I’d suggest heavy duty foil to line the baking pan to resist tearing with the spatula when you flip the fish.

pork and brussels sprouts stir fry

I’m a huge fan of the Brussels Sprout.  It’s probably my favorite vegetable of all time, or a close second to….hmmm (long pause while I think about what might be a close second).  Nah, it’s the Brussels Sprout, hands down!  Sadly, though, for lovers of these delicious orbs of savory goodness, the season is quickly coming to an end.  Yes, spring vegetables are on the way.  There will soon be bunches upon bunches of young, firm spears of vibrant green asparagus, which I also adore.  But I’ll miss the Brussels Sprouts clear through to next winter.

I found this recipe on Pinterest, yet again.  It seems to be where I’m finding a lot of really good recipes these days.  The only adaptation I made was to reduce the amount of chili pepper paste from 2 tablespoons to just a smidgen over 1 tablespoon given a seven-year old was eating and I’d rather have not quite enough heat than too much.  Reduced heat means increased odds of the kiddo actually trying what I’ve cooked for dinner.  It turned out to be just the right amount for us and it’s clearly an ingredient, like the garlic, you can add/subtract according to your palate.  I never reduce garlic, though.  That would be a travesty!

This dish got thumbs up around the table.  It’s super easy to put together and calls for just a handful of ingredients.  I served it with Jasmine rice – which is very aromatic and flavorful on its own, but didn’t overpower the great flavors of this dish.  I’d say it’s probably even better for lunch the next day but I didn’t get the chance to find out.  No leftovers.  That’s a winner at our house.

So gather ye sprouts while ye may, right?  Indulge in the best of winter veggies before it’s too late.  Enjoy!

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Pork and Brussels Sprouts Stir-Fry (recipe courtesy BetsyLife – A Sunny Perspective)

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 pound boneless pork loin chops, cut into 1/4-inch thick strips
  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, halved and loose leaves removed
  • 2 scallions, whites and greens sliced separately
  • 2 Tbsp Gourmet Garden garlic paste
  • 2 Tbsp Gourmet Garden chili pepper paste
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/4 c bean sprouts, fresh

Directions:

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; add pork and cook until golden; transfer to plate.

Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil and sprouts to pan; cook, stirring occasionally, until brown and tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Add scallion whites, garlic and chili pepper; cook 1 minute. Add soy sauce, brown sugar and 1/4 cup water; cook until sauce is slightly thickened.

Return pork to pan and toss to coat. Top with scallion greens and bean sprouts and serve immediately.

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Cook’s Notes:  The first time I made this recipe I used the designated amount of pork (1/2 lb), but I have to admit I felt cheated on the meat.  This time I doubled the pork to a full pound and found that to be a better proportion, especially with a full pound of Brussels Sprouts.  Also, I used Earthbound Farm Organic brand for the garlic and chili pepper paste.  The brand of your choice will do.