Embracing Change Amidst Confetti Fried Rice

Many aspects of my life have changed in the last couple of years.  I spent some time wandering the planet, nailing down life dreams.  I finished my undergrad program and began, got through, and graduated with my masters degree (with sanity)!  I met someone, my new best friend. I’ve gradually started shifting away from (sadly) some of my high school and college buddies.  I met a couple of my greatest friends.  I finally arrived at some downtime in my life in between temporary work after graduation and a real job.  I had time this year to really put great thought into giving Christmas gifts.  I began to volunteer again, something I’ve been longing to do for at least the past two years of finishing school.  I’ve accomplished many things on my post-graduation to-do list.  I just started an exciting new job.  And I’ve embraced Chinese foods.  That’s right.  It’s the singular most-defining aspect of what has changed.

I blame it on him.  That one who comes in like a whirlwind, all quiet and soft-spoken, and all that should be awkward or wrong is just so right in every way.  The one who loves greasy Chinese food in all its glory–and because I love to cook, got me to feel all sweet and giving by making it for him.  Only now he–and I– are embracing how good Chinese food can be when it’s not greasy but home-cooked, with an extra fistful of fresh veggies thrown in, and a little more care in seasoning.  I would have never guessed that I’d fall for soy sauce with honey and sesame oil.  Or long, thin noodles that are missing an accompanying Italian sauce and lovely baguette.  Or rice in all its egg-fried-glory.

I never really thought I’d fall for anything–anyone–at all.  I always thought I’d simply float along.  And be okay with it.  But now, here I am with all this change about me.  With a new outlook on life before me.  And the acknowledgement that even more change is ahead in the coming months.  And that whatever fortune falls my way, it may possibly be the good kind.

Confetti Fried Rice

1 cup rice, uncooked
1 Tbs. + 1 tsp. canola oil
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. ground ginger or 1 Tbs. grated, fresh ginger
1 large carrot, diced
1/4 onion, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
3 brown mushrooms, diced
3 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 cup green peas
about 1 cup diced red cabbage
1 leftover pork loin chop, or similar amount of meat
2 to 3 Tbs. soy sauce
freshly ground black pepper
  • Cook rice and set aside.  (I used a brown rice mix but any type works fine).
  • Heat a wok or large, deep skillet.  When it is hot, add 1 tsp. oil and scrambled eggs. Scramble and then transfer to a plate and set aside.
  • Add remaining Tbs. oil to wok and add onions, carrots, celery, mushroom, ginger, and garlic.  Sauté over high heat until soft, about 5-8 minutes.  Add the peas, cabbage, and pork, and stir-fry for about a minute more.
  • Add scrambled egg, rice, and soy sauce. Heat through about one minute.
  • Add freshly ground black pepper to taste and enjoy!

Black Bean & Vegetable Grain Bowl

I am a sandwich person.  I willingly strive to eat a sandwich every day for lunch.  Every single day.  Mind you, I never make the same sandwich twice.  I enjoy making my own bread, experimenting with different toppings, mixing unusual ingredients.  But I’ve decided to try something new.  Just for a few weeks, mind.

I’ve decided to take the 28-day Whole Living Challenge.  I like the idea of detoxing the body after the holidays, forgoing the things we’ve had until we’re sick of them (sweets) but not sick enough to actively stop eating on our own.  And to try new recipes that we otherwise wouldn’t.  I’m even planning to try things I formally didn’t like.  Such as avocado.  We’ll see how it goes.

For now (at least for a week) I’m giving up sandwiches.  I’m removing wheat, dairy, eggs, coffee, and processed ingredients from my diet.  I feel like I’m in a culinary heaven of vegetables that not only taste delicious, but are good for me.

Which brings me to today’s recipe.  It’s an amazing concoction of grains, beans, vegetables, spices, and flavors.  I was surprised that I gobbled up every bit of it, and was craving more.  It seemed like a simple enough meal.  But let me tell you, it was better than anything I can remember having in grain and bean form.  Try it.  You’ll like it.

This recipe features millet, which I’ve never used outside of baking.  Millet has a mild taste, and reminded me of quinoa in texture, and couscous in flavor.  Feel free to substitute either or any form of rice, if you have no millet on hand.

Black Bean & Vegetable Grain Bowl (adapted from Whole Living)
1/4 cup millet
1 15-oz. can black beans, rinsed
2 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
pinch of salt
1 cup water
2 oz. mushrooms, sliced thickly
1/4 large onion
1 medium carrot, peeled and sliced into rounds
1 small bunch broccoli
1/2 cup shredded red cabbage
Freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbs. toasted sunflower seeds
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. rice vinegar
Place millet, black beans, and ginger in a small saucepan.  Add 1/2 tsp. salt to water. Bring to a boil, stir once, then reduce heat and simmer, covered for 25 minutes.  Allow to rest for 10 minutes, and then fluff with a fork.
Steam mushrooms, covered for 3 minutes.  Add carrots, onions, and broccoli, and steam for 4 minutes more.  Remove steamer from heat.
In a small bowl, whisk together oil and vinegar.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Transfer millet and beans to bowl, spoon vegetables over grain, and garnish with remaining vegetables and seeds.  Toss with dressing.

Cranberry-Pear-Peanut Butter Sandwich

I haven’t always been an adventurous eater.  Somewhere along the line, during late childhood or early adolescence, however, when my activities in the kitchen became a bit more experimental, I discovered the combination of sweet, savory, and to some–just plain odd.

This is one such combination.  A bit of whole-grain mustard really adds texture, and a hint of flavor.  If you’re not feeling adventurous, or don’t have any, feel free to forego using it.  This recipe is perfect for a quick lunch this time of year, with all the holiday festivities and baking going on, and no real time to make yourself something truly good to squelch the midday hunger.

Cranberry-Pear-Peanut Butter Sandwich
2 slices bread of choice
2 tbs. creamy honey-nut peanut butter
2 tbs. cranberry sauce
1 tsp. whole-grain mustard
1/2 pear, thinly sliced
Handful salad greens of choice
Mix peanut butter, mustard, and cranberry sauce together.  Spread on both slices of bread.  Lay thin slices pear over cranberry mix.  Top with salad greens and remaining slice of bread.