Cauliflower fried rice, and the beauty of mixing things up

There was a benefit of going through our recent kitchen renovation that I wasn't expecting.  It forced me out of my routine and, surprisingly, I kind of liked it!
Cauliflower fried "rice", with chicken, peas, and scrambled eggs, makes a great hot lunch
I'm big on routine and I'm loyal to things I like; basically, I'm pretty cautious and unadventurous.  Even when it comes to food, I stick to much of the same things. I generally eat the same things for breakfast and lunch (a bit less so when it comes to dinner but even that can be predictable) but when the kitchen was out of commission and I had to wing it, I was forced to mix it up.  Instead of a big roasted sweet potato and veggies for lunch on repeat, I was eating a sandwich, or having a soup & salad, grabbing sushi, or digging into some Vietnamese spring rolls I picked up.  I was at the Whole Foods prepared food buffet a lot but I still got variety and, overall, I nixed the old routine and ate different things.

It was good to change things up and I realized I didn't need to eat the same things all the time.  In fact, it's fun to do otherwise!  So I'm making a conscious effort to mix things up a little - particularly my lunch, which means eating something other than roasted sweet potatoes and veggies - at least 2-3 times a week.  To that end, we come to this recent lunch I made for myself: cauliflower fried rice!   
Okay...let's talk about this phenomenon of subbing carbs with non-carbs.  Cauliflower has been out there - think mashed "potatoes" and pizza crust.  While I love cauliflower and cook it (either steaming or roasting) often, I haven't been attracted to this idea of using it for fried rice and whatnot.  Maybe to my mind, you don't mess with something like fried rice, which is a sacred comfort food to me.  Plus, it sounded like a lot of work!  I don't know about you but the whole idea of processing a big cauliflower before even getting down to making the dish isn't all that appealing.

So there were 2 reasons why I decided to make and try cauliflower fried rice after all. One, I discovered prepared riced cauliflower.  You can now find it in the grocery freezer aisle, though you might have to dig around in a few stores (so far, I've had luck finding it at Whole Foods and only one other supermarket.)  And knowing I have this shortcut is a huge motivation because even if I do take the time to make my own cauliflower rice by breaking it down in a food processor, it would likely be something I'd only do once.
Secondly, I was watching The Kitchen last weekend when I saw Katie Lee make this fried "rice".  She started with ginger and garlic and that is exactly how I love to start my fried rice - I think the grated ginger totally makes it.  The dish looked delicious and I saw how easy it would be with the prepared cauliflower so I was on a mission to find it and make the dish.
I'll finally cut to the chase.  Not only does this look like "real" fried rice, it tastes like it.  Is the cauliflower rice exactly like actual rice?  No, it's not.  It's a bit more moist and holds a bit of a crunch (though it's tender) than rice would but the flavors you associate with fried rice - in my case, the ginger, garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil... - are all there and frankly, it is all very similar and familiar in your mouth.  The fried rice was delicious!  It made a great lunch and I can tell you that I will definitely be making cauliflower fried rice again and often.  I simply used leftover rotisserie chicken this time and I have been craving shrimp fried rice so that's up next.
If you've been on the fence about trying cauliflower fried rice like me, pick up a bag at the supermarket and give it a try.  This turned out to be a great food/ingredient discovery for me in 2017!  There is definitely a beauty, and benefit, to mixing and shaking things up a bit.


I've always intended to post a recipe for fried rice but I realized I never got around to it.  Maybe that's because, to me, fried rice is something you can really cook on the fly and it's almost never the same twice!  I start with aromatics in the form of grated ginger, garlic, and the white parts of scallions, then build on with cooked rice, eggs (must have scrambled eggs!), and whatever fillings I have around. 

It often seems like the more things you throw into a fried rice, the better!  I love adding chicken, ham, beef, roast pork (any or all of that), plus some kind of vegetable. Frozen peas are the easiest and I love them but if you have time, finely chopped bits of green beans and asparagus tips add a great crunch in fried rice (as I first discovered from a restaurant).  And for seasoning, it's as simple as soy sauce and sesame oil (which to me is like the savory equivalent of almond extract - I love it!).  
This recipe from The Kitchen is a lot like that - very simple.  I did scale down the amount of soy sauce and sesame oil in the dish; start low, then taste and adjust to your liking.  Fried rice is flexible.  Add what you like and season depending on the ingredients you add into your fried rice and your preference.  Personally, I like a splash of Maggi for an extra boost of flavor.
You can make this exact fried rice using actual rice (it's basically how I do it) but now that I've had this cauliflower version, I'll be enjoying this version often.  It's great to have an option of enjoying a classic comfort food in a more healthful way that doesn't feel like a big compromise.  So I'm loading up!

And here's to happy and healthy eating in 2017!  It's all about balance and joy and for me, I find a lot of joy in discovering healthy and tasty eats like this.

Update: My eleven year old had a taste of this rice and he couldn't believe it was made with cauliflower and there was no actual rice involved! 

Recipe

Cauliflower Fried Rice
Adapted from Katie Lee via The Kitchen 

- Approximately 4 servings - 

Approximately 4 cups of cauliflower rice*
1 tablespoon canola oil, divided
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
One 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated (about 1 tablespoon)
3 cloves garlic, grated
1 cup frozen peas (or frozen vegetable mix)
2 scallions, thinly sliced, whites and green parts separated
2 tablespoons soy sauce, or to taste
1 scant tablespoon sesame oil
1 rounded cup cooked chicken, diced (I used rotisserie chicken; you can substitute with other proteins)
Maggi seasoning, optional

* Look for packaged bags of cauliflower rice or "riced" cauliflower in the frozen food aisle of your supermarket.  In general, a bag will be 12 oz., or about 3-4 cups.  I use an entire bag for this recipe - straight from frozen into the pan.  If you can't find the prepped cauliflower and want to make your own, cut a stemmed cauliflower into chunks and process in a food processor into a coarse texture, resembling rice (don't over-process or it can turn mushy).

Heat a large skillet (or wok) over medium-high heat.  Add 1 teaspoon of the canola oil, then eggs, and quickly scramble.  Transfer eggs to a plate and set nearby.

Heat remaining 2 teaspoons oil in the pan.  Add grated ginger and garlic as well as the white parts of the scallion, cooking, stirring around the pan, for about 1 minute.  Add the cauliflower rice and spread evenly around the pan.  Stir-fry for 3-4 minutes, then add peas and continue to cook for another 1-2 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. 

Add chicken, soy sauce, sesame oil and scallion greens.  Stir together for 1-2 minutes to incorporate.  Add scrambled eggs back into the pan and stir together into the rice. Taste, and season with additional soy sauce, if needed (I like to add a splash or two of Maggi seasoning for additional flavor).  Scoop into bowls, serve hot, and enjoy!



26 comments:

  1. Yum! I love cauliflowers so much that I eat them almost daily. This low carb rice stirfry looks very inviting!

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    1. Thank you, Angie. I was so pleasantly surprised! It's a keeper.

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  2. I love cauliflower fried rice! Trader Joe has both fresh and frozen riced cauliflower. I like the frozen only because I can buy it and store it as long as necessary, whereas the fresh needs to be consumed before it goes bad. When I had to rice the cauliflower myself, I didn't make this nearly as often as I do now! (lazy?) I'm excited to try your version. :) Honestly, I am more than impressed that you cook lunch! Grabbing left overs is my lunch routine. (again, lazy?) How wonderful that the stress of kitchen remodeling had a shiny silver lining!Wishing you lots of balance, peace, and joy in 2017!

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    1. I remembered seeing it at TJ so that's the first place I looked...but they are out of stock and I think it's been that way for a while. Just glad I found it elsewhere but it'd be great if TJ has it again. I don't make a "big" lunch like this for myself often but I'm going to try once in a while to mix it up this way. Really loved this...so happy to have tried it. Wishing you a wonderful 2017, too!

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  3. I didn't even know you can but it already prepared! Awesome because like you, I thought it would be a whole lot of trouble. Love your fried rice recipes - sounds and looks great!

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    1. I vaguely remembered seeing it at Trader Joe's Tricia but now it's more and more common, I think. The new Green Giant is the one I tried here and I really like it...the size is just right, not too tiny. Hope you can get your hands on it and give it a try. : )

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  4. Hi Monica, I love everything about this dish in fact I am making this for dinner tonight, went to the farmers market this morning and picked up some cauliflower. Sounds like your remodel was a wonderful experience in many ways.

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    1. Thank you, Cheri and how awesome! I'd love to know what you think. This cauliflower rice surprised me and even my husband (who doesn't really care about subbing carbs) loved it and thought it was very similar to the real deal. : )

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  5. Even I was not attracted to the idea of cauliflower rice until my daughter actually made it with eggs and stuff and I really liked it.This is actually a great non carb dish. Love your idea of adding leftover rotisserie chicken.

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    1. Hi Bal! I wasn't into the idea for so long but then it clicked and my, it is good! I'm so glad I tried it and I'm on the lookout to stock my freezer. : ) Your daughter sounds like a great cook!

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  6. This looks delicious and yummy!! Thanks for sharing! <3 - http://www.domesticgeekgirl.com

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  7. We love cauliflower rice and I was so happy when our local grocery store started carrying them in their freezer too. Yours looks perfect! Love the fresh ginger and yay that your son couldn't tell it was cauliflower either :)

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    1. I need to get a couple of "emergency" bags in my freezer. It's a great product. I love cauliflower but I don't enjoy "processing" it. My son was in shock that it was all cauliflower and no rice at all! haha

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  8. Such a great way of using cauliflower! I am so making this. And I have actually planned to make cauliflower puree for lunch today, a first time as well, I hope it will be good. :)

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    1. I bet that cauliflower puree was tasty. This totally beat my expectations. Hope you try it like I did!

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  9. I bet this tastes so good. I'd love it as an alternative to rice for my lunch.

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    1. It's a great alternative to throw in the mix. You can eat huge portions and just load up. I love that!

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  10. What an awesome sort of benefit to doing your kitchen reno! I love that! I am definitely a routine person and I'm with you - it can be great to shake things up! I actually tried cauliflower rice for the first time a week or two ago and loved it. This sounds delicious!!

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    1. Thanks, Ashley. Sometimes I need to be reminded that I don't have to follow a "script" quite so seriously. It's been good to change it up a bit. That said, I still have to have my sweet potatoes often! ; ) And glad you also tried and liked cauliflower rice...I just found one more bag today...literally just 1 at the very back of the freezer.

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  11. Cauliflower rice is in my to-make list for so long, but haven't tried it yet. Absolutely loving your version. And after seeing this, I just want to try this right now. Yumminess overloaded.

    Anu
    http://www.mygingergarlickitchen.com/

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    1. I definitely recommend trying it. It's very convenient to get the prepped kind!

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  12. I got a bag of cauliflower rice from TJ and made pizza crust which I plan to post next week and next thing I see is your cauliflower fried rice...
    I yet have to try to mimic rice using cauliflower, but I will definitely give a try...it looks delicious Monica!
    Have a wonderful week ahead :)

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    1. I was telling my husband that now, with the shortcut of the prepped cauliflower, I would like to try the pizza crust! Can't wait to hear how it went for you. Thank you!

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  13. I've made cauliflower rice before in the past, and it's definitely one of my very favorite things I have ever made!

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    1. I'm 'in' on the secret now and have several bags of cauliflower rice in my freezer to show for it...I now see why everyone raves about it. : )

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