Recipe: Love fried rice? Try stir-fry quinoa

I love fried rice, but the sodium content and fat to carbohydrate ratio work against my waistline, so I’ve become the girl who always asks for steamed rice and then sneaks bites of fried goodness from my husband’s plate. Healthy attempt = Epic fail

Yesterday afternoon found me more tired than usual, and I didn’t feel like going to the grocery store. I rummaged through our fridge and pantry for dinner options only to find we had a little of this and a little of that, but not a lot of anything. Such a predicament always means one of three things in our house: we’re having 1) omelets (throw everything in with eggs), 2) soup (throw everything in with broth) or, 3) stir-fry (just throw everything in).

Lo and behold (an idiom best said with a British accent), my evening mix-up turned into a healthier replacement for my long-lost indulgence, fried rice.

The nutty flavor and slightly crunchy texture of quinoa in this recipe act more like fried rice without the need for a ton of oil – whereas sometimes rice gets too soft without it.

Feel free to play with this recipe in terms of what veggies you like (carrots, snow pea pods, and red peppers would be delicious, too). Keep in mind that I was working off of what I had on hand. The main things you’ll want to keep the same are the amount of quinoa, oil and soy sauce.

DO NOT add any salt or pepper to this recipe. Remember, we are trying to keep the sodium count as low as possible with respect to the fact that we are using some soy sauce. You don’t want to wake up all swollen and bloated wondering why you can’t get your rings on.

Quinoa Stir-Fry Recipe

  • 2 cups quinoa (cooked – so, 1 cup dry + 2 cups water, or according to package)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 chicken breast diced
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 cup garbanzo beans
  • 1/2 onion chopped
  • 1 1/4 cups of frozen peas
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 2 Tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp fresh cilantro
  • Optional: sprinkle or red pepper flakes and toasted sesame seeds

In a large skillet/wok, cook chicken in oil over medium heat. Once you can no longer see any pink, throw in garlic, beans and onion. Cook for 3 mins, stirring frequently so as not to burn garlic. Add in frozen peas and cook for another 3 mins. Scoot ingredients to one side of the pan and add egg to the other side. Scramble egg and mix the ingredients together in the skillet. Stir in sesame oil and ginger. Next, add in quinoa and mix well. Add soy sauce and cilantro, and any other remaining ingredients (red pepper, seeds), stir well and serve hot.

I like to eat asian dishes with chopsticks because it forces me to eat more slowly, and because we own really cute chopsticks.


Healthy substitutes for some favorite cravings

Plain yogurt (I prefer greek) is a fantastic substitute for sour cream and mayonnaise. You can use it as a direct swap for sour cream, and as a substitute for mayonnaise just mix 1/4 of mayo to 3/4 strained yogurt for whatever amount the recipe calls for. You’ll save a ton of fat and calories, but even my husband can’t tell the difference in the taste. Just make sure you get the plain yogurt – trust me when I say that accidentally getting using vanilla yogurt in place of sour cream or mayo will make for an interesting (errr…) flavor sensation.

Cauliflower is a healthy, yummy alternative to mashed potatoes. Steam/boil cauliflower and add in your usual potato seasoning (milk, butter, salt, pepper, cream cheese, horseradish, etc.) for a light alternative that does not taste “diet.”

Quinoa is a grain that acts like a protein. Sound too good to be true. It’s not. I use it in place of rice in all my mediterranean and asian dishes, and it gives a lovely nutty flavor that is nice without being overpowering. I’ve made quinoa cakes by adding egg to cooked quinoa and then frying patties in a bit of olive oil. Last week I even used prepared quinoa in place of breadcrumbs in meatloaf.

I recommend these substitutes with the disclaimer that they should not be used as an excuse to overeat. They aren’t calorie free, they are simply good alternatives to less nutritious/higher calorie options. I hope you try them and like them.

As always, I believe you should play with your food and enjoy your food. The more you pay attention to what goes in, the better understanding you’ll have of what you get out of your body.