a healthy alternative

As much as both Brian and I LOVE to cook, there are still nights when we get home from the office and dread stepping into the kitchen.  Sometimes we’re lucky enough to have some leftovers floating around in the fridge, other times we resort to ordering steamed veggies and tofu (and maybe some crab wontons, ahem) from the Chinese restaurant down the street.  Even though this happens every few weeks, it has been years since I’ve ordered fried rice.  I think I had a few too many disappointments with too-old, slightly crunchy, oddly clumping take-out fried rice in the past, and have stuck with steamed for as long as I can remember.  Plus, steamed is healthier, and it makes me feel a little less guilty about the crab wontons I shove in my mouth the minute we close the door behind the delivery boy.

rice 1

But recently, we discovered how easy it is to make fried rice.  And that really, when you make it at home, its not that bad for you. Yes, you throw a couple of tablespoons of peanut oil in your pan, but we all know that the right oils in moderation are actually good for you, and when you divide this dish up into four hearty servings  you’ve got nothing to worry about.  Add the fact that we used brown rice instead of white and threw in some colorful veggies loaded with vitamins and you’ve got yourself a healthy alternative to take-out.  And I guarantee that you can make it faster than the delivery boy can get the bad stuff to you.

rice 2

It does help to have some forethought – you want to have rice already made in order to enhance the texture of the dish and cut down on preparation time.

Several Saturdays ago we picked up a couple of beautiful pork chops at the farmer’s market from Double H Farm (no website) along with some of their gorgeous eggs.  Pork chops on the grill seemed like the perfect accompaniment to the veggie fried rice I’d been thinking about, so I cooked up some brown rice that weekend and one night after work we put this meal together.  It was quick, simple and incredibly delicious, not to mention colorful.  I briefly thought about healthify-ing the rice even further, by using only egg whites, but when it came time to discard those beautiful orange yolks I just couldn’t do it.  I’ll leave that up to you, if you wish.

rice 4

The flavor of the pork was very good, I’m just not a big pork chop fan.  I ate a few bites and then passed my chop over to Brian, whom I knew would enjoy it far more than I would.  For me, the vegetable fried rice was the star of the show.

Vegetable Fried Rice

adapted from Gourmet Magazine, via Epicurious

makes 4 large servings


  • 2 tbsp peanut oil
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped finely
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped finely
  • 2 tsbp fresh chives or scallions, minced
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 4 cups steamed brown rice, cold (ideally, leftover from the night before)
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1-2 tsp Asian sesame oil


  1. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a wok or large nonstick skillet (12″) over medium-high heat.  Saute’ the carrot and bell pepper until tender, then remove to a separate bowl and set aside.
  2. Wipe skillet clean, then heat over high heat, until a drop of water vaporizes instantly upon contact.  Add the remaining 1 tbsp peanut oil, swirling to coat pan evenly, and heat until hot and just starting to smoke.
  3. Add eggs, tilting pan and swirling eggs to form a thin, even layer and cook for 30 seconds.  Add rice and stir-fry, breaking up eggs and letting rice rest several seconds between stirs, until rice is hot, about 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add the carrots, peppers, chives or scallions, salt and sesame oil to taste, stir-frying until well combined.

Pork Chop Marinade

from Weber’s Big Book of Grilling, by Jamie Purviance and Sandra S. McRae

enough for 4 pork chops, about 1-1/4 inches thick


  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp light brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper


  1. Whisk together all of the ingredients.
  2. Place the chops in a large resealable plastic bag and pour in the marinade.  Press the air out of the bag and seal.  Turn the bag to distribute the marinade over the pork chops.  Refrigerate for 20-30 minutes.
  3. Remove the chops from the bag and discard the marinade.  Allow to stand at room temperature for 20-30 minutes before grilling or baking.
  4. Cook as you wish.  We grilled them, over direct high heat for 12-15 minutes.  Turn them over halfway through.

rice 3

We also whipped together a cucumber salad, to help with our abundance.  It was nice and refreshing on the side, but you really need to like sesame if you’re going to enjoy this salad.

Asian Cucumber Salad

from Vegetables Every Day, by Jack Bishop


  • 3 medium cucumbers – peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, and cut on the diagonal 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted in a dry skillet until golden brown (we left these out, and the sesame flavor was still really strong)


  1. Toss the cucumbers with the salt in a colander.  Set the colander in the sink and let the cucumbers sit for 30 minutes to 1 hour, to drain excess liquid.
  2. Whisk the vinegar, oil, sugar and pepper flakes together in a small bowl and set aside, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves.
  3. Thoroughly rinse the cucumber slices under cold, running water and pat dry with paper towels.  Toss the cucumbers with the dressing and sesame seeds.

other stuff

If you live in or near Charlottesville, the 5th Annual Farm Food Voices Virginia event is this Sunday, August 2nd, from 2:00 – 7:30pm.  Come out to Monticello High School to learn more about current agricultural and local food issues in Virginia.  I’ll be there!

Food, Inc. has finally opened in Charlottesville!

Also, follow me on Twitter!


21 responses to “a healthy alternative

  1. Could you use a different oil? Also, would omitting the sesame make too much of a difference, do you think?

    (I have neither in the house as I never use them & don’t want to buy to get dusty in a cabinet :] )


  2. Andrea this meal is over the top! I just showed my husband and he commented “you need to make this tomorrow night”!!!! I much prefer homemade fried rice, as like you Im often let down with restaurant or take out fried rice. Its so hit or miss. I’ve never made the asian cucumber salad at home either, something I really enjoy! I am going to make this too! Thanks so much for sharing such an inspriational dinner again 🙂

  3. Errign – You could probably use a vegetable oil, but I would stay away from olive oil because it smokes too quickly. I’m sure that is why peanut oil was specified, it handles higher temperatures well. Also, I don’t think that omitting the sesame oil in the fried rice would be a big deal. Just add some soy sauce to punch up the flavors.

    Jen – Thank you! It really was so simple. Enjoy!

  4. That looks so yummy!! I also never order fried rice. I agree with you, I would keep the yolks I think it is important for the flavor.

  5. Lovely colors in the rice! I love making fried rice at home… and I agree that whole eggs are necessary ;).

    The cucumber salad sounds so refreshing!

  6. This looks super delicious. I love anything with rice.

  7. everythign looks awesome – I LOVE cucumber salad – I’ve got to try this recipe 🙂

  8. Love this meal! Everything looks superb!

  9. I just came across your site – it is awesome! This recipe looks great.

  10. Wish I could join you for Food Inc and the Farm Voices!

  11. Cannot wait to try that rice!

  12. Everything looks wonderful! I especially love the rice and the cuke salad–I’ll have to give these a try.

    Thanks for choosing my photo on Healthy Yum, by the way–I was very flattered!

  13. I just came across your site and I have to tell you…your pictures are BEAUTIFUL!!!

  14. traveleatlove

    That rice looks so fresh and delicious and not like takeout rice!

  15. eatingmachine

    I was planning on making fried rice this week, and wondering how one cooks the eggs in it! Just what I needed!
    (and yum! looks good!)

  16. These pancakes are adorable. I love how you have included fruit in the batter as it cooks. Great idea. Good luck with the running. I’ve just entered my first 10km run. Really a novice. A big novice. But my partner just ran a half marathon (in 1.38 with NO training) and I was inspired. He’s an athletic freak but I can also give it a go, too! Maybe I can finish the race and look forward to some pancakes like this??

  17. That is GOOD. I always forget to make fried rice! And you’re right, so healthy. With the eggs in it, you could even eat it as a very simple meal all by itself. Thanks for the reminder!!!

  18. lookin’ real real good!

  19. 1st of all, what gorgeous photography!
    2nd, I’ve never made fried rice at home, but we love it. Will have to give it a try!

  20. delightfullysweet

    Going to have to try the fried rice!
    Your photography is gorgeous!

  21. Thanks for the recipe, I tried it and loved the results. Your photos are amazing!

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