Go to recipes take one! Time to use what you have on hand!

Alors. C’est la vie. Life’s hard. As a student, I find myself coming home from school too exhausted sometimes to make anything. I want to throw together a whole meal, but who really has the time for that. Over the last couple of days/two weeks, I’ve come to realize some great go to meals that I love. The pledge to eat healthier is difficult I admit. Sometimes I just want to grab a slice from my school’s cafeteria and call it George. And I do. And with a slice of plain cheese pizza running just shy of four dollars, that’s saying something. The recipes below are designed out of leftovers, or if you aren’t using leftovers you can use the same item a few times. Oh and bonus! Every dish gets a trip in the oven. So, first up is the Hawaiian Fried Rice. A very favourite basic fried rice recipe of mine was generously given to me quite a few years ago by my friend Ste. I still cook this recipe often when I don’t have a lunch plan, but of course make my additions and modifications to it. This is a twist on that recipe.

Hawaiian Fried Rice

Sounds exotic, doesn’t it? Really, it’s a marriage of leftovers. It’s true then, if I throw pineapple in something, I can call it Hawaiian? No? Well, I don’t care – it’s Hawaiian to me. I first start out with some leftover turkey meatballs. These are the same turkey meatballs slathered in honey garlic sauce that I can get from my local M&Ms. They’re the same meatballs that are so mouth-watering at our (my closest friends and I) parties. Shame, my family doesn’t seem to like them. Too bland. I agree, but with the sauce, they’re too flavourful? Seeing as I’ve already kind of put them all in the sauce, you can’t make anything else with it right? You’re destined to finish them, making faces all the while? I think not. I am not a bad cook, and the one thing I pride myself on is being able to create things with what’s in the fridge. Tight budget because of economic times or not, throwing food out is horrible (there are plenty of starving people out there, people), and by using what I have on hand, I need to prepare less (laziness in check!) and I can exercise my creativity (mind of an arts student, check!). By the way, you don’t need to use turkey meatballs for this. Any kind will do, really any meat will do as long as it’s cooked and chopped in a dice.

The next thing you’ll absolutely need for this fried rice is well, the rice. But I really don’t see why you can’t use pasta or any other grain – just don’t call it fried rice. Check. Any kind of rice will do by the way, but since the point is to use leftovers, and cold rice works best for fried rice anyway.

Now, raid your fridge. What vegetables can you use? Onions are a given. I don’t believe food can be made really without onions and garlic. They are the two staples I can make anything out of. They are a versatile base. It also helped that my mother bought about six pounds of peeled garlic (on sale), so now we have tons of it. We’ve pureed it and have put half in the freezer. My mother is a very seasoned chef (where did you think I got my skills), so garlic is used in great quantities at home. If you use less garlic, use an ice cube tray, freeze the garlic and then use how much you need when you need it (like ice, put it in a large zip lock bag). Please remember (I can’t stress it enough), don’t use this for your ice. As much as I love garlic, I really don’t want my drink to reek of it… unless, that is, you’re making a garlic drink (not about to contemplate what that would taste like).

I also normally have mushrooms on hand (they’re my weak spot when it comes to vegetables), and spinach is great for salads and cooking. I like it way better than lettuce and it serves two purposes. Not to mention sandwiches. I guess that makes it three. Vegetables down, what kind of fruit is there? I have a sweet tooth and love including fruit in my cooking, be it apple and pork, apple and chicken (I really don’t like apples by themselves), pear and spinach, and the list goes on. Guess what? I still had pineapple left in my fridge from the cake. So now, that goes in. don’t have pineapple? I don’t think that that’ll be a problem. Raisins? Throw them in! I think mandarin oranges (even if they are from a can – after all, my pineapple is from a can) would make a nice add in too. Don’t like sweetness in your savoury mains? Skip it then.

The other thing I’m using is now used in a great base for a lot of my dishes. I was recently gifted a jar of roasted red peppers and olives. All chopped up! Can you say score?! AND it is preserved in extra virgin olive oil! I think that’s a three pointer in basketball lingo.

All ready? Ingredients all together? Okay, well done. Now all you have to do is chop everything up into equal pieces. An easy way to do this is to look at what is pre-cut the smallest if anything. For me, this is the peppers and olives. Next, I will chop everything into equal pieces, going by this so that they all come out looking like the pepper and olive goodness. If nothing is pre-cut, I suggest a small dice. Now, here’s the important part. This INCLUDES the meatballs. What do you mean you ask? I think you mean, how can you ask me to cut up meatballs? Simple; chopping board, knife, a little bit of hand and wrist power and voila. Cutting them up uniform to how the veggies will be cut keeps everything neat.  Now remember to keep everything in separate bowls. Also, see if you can get your hands on an egg. If not, skip.

Flavour profiles: Flavour profiles are a new term I’ve learned when it comes to cooking. I will be happy to explain it in my next posting as I want to do a posting that is entirely about that. In any case, flavour profiles are figuring out what kind of flavours go together. I used garlic, ginger, chilli, pineapple juice (the pineapple that went into the cake was drained), and soy sauce.

Let’s go over the ingredients quickly.

2 cups cooked, cold, separated rice or other grain

1 cup of vegetables, whichever you like or have on hand – includes onions in this, but keep them in a separate bowl. Remember to chop all your vegetables evenly.

2 tbsp. garlic paste

1 tbsp. ginger paste

1 tsp. or more crushed red chilli flakes

¼ cup pineapple juice

1 egg beaten in a bowl seasoned with salt and pepper

¼ cup reduced sodium soy sauce

1 cup of chopped meat (approx. size of the veggies)

Now comes the fun part. Get a pan and put it on the stove. Turn on the stove to high. At this point make sure you have all the ingredients out and in separate bowls. Is the pan really hot? You don’t know? Okay, then, take a few drops of water and put it into the pan. Is it sizzling and disappearing? No, then wait until it does. Once the water has all disappeared add a bit of oil to the pan. If you do it while the water is still there, it will spatter. Remember – water and oil don’t mix (simple chemistry? Though I hate science, it is a part of cooking). I did not add any cooking oil to mine since I added the herb pepper and infused oil to the pan from the jar. Immediately add the garlic and ginger. Hear that sizzle? That’s good. Now throw in the onions. Keep the onions separate from the other veggies. Stir. Keep stirring. Keeping the food moving in this dish is essential. In case it starts to stick, keep a cup of water nearby and add a little so that there is always some liquid in the dish. When the onion is a bit softened, add the red chilli flakes. Add a pinch of salt.

When the vegetables have softened, and this will take a few minutes, add the meat. Remember, keep it moving. Also add water in SMALL quantities if the food starts to stick. When it’s all coming together, and you have just a bit of liquid left, add the rice. To this, add the pineapple and soy sauces. Now stir quickly to incorporate everything. Add the pineapple or other fruit that you’re using, if you’re using it. Stir, stir, and stir. When it looks about done (the rice is heated through and everything, add one tablespoon of oil. Since regular oils bore me these days, I added chilli oil. When it gets to the bottom, it will sizzle; stir it. That’s good. Turn off the stove and take it off the heat. Working quickly while it is still hot, add the egg. Now stir vigourously. This is so important. Keep stirring. And voila, Hawaiian fried rice. You can serve it with additional soy sauce or chilli sauce or lime wedges. Enjoy and stay tuned for go-to recipe two!


Where does the oven portion come into this recipe you ask? In the reheating process. The rice is best reheated in the oven. That being said it doesn’t freeze well (rice becomes mushy once it’s frozen). Now I know that this isn’t a huge baking portion in this but my next recipe (Salted Caramel Chocolate baked porridge) will have a lot of fun in the oven. Hang in there!


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jason Reynolds
    Jan 20, 2012 @ 17:49:55

    Here’s a link to a website that has some great low sodium recipes: http://www.lowsodiumcooking.com/free/Archive.htm

    They have a recipe for home made, low sodium soy sauce, among other things. I have used the soy sauce to make a low sodium chicken wing recipe…it works great.


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