Island-Inspired Chicken & Pineapple Fried Rice

If you follow me on social media, you may have seen my announcement a few days ago: we are headed to Hawaii at the end of the year! I’m still getting used to this military life. I can’t believe it’s been almost two years in California and that it’s already coming to an end. But, if you have to leave, Hawaii is a pretty darn good place to head to.

I mean, so I hear. I haven’t actually been yet. House hunting trip is already booked though… look out for that soon!

So I’m going to cut to the chase. My husband finally said it was cool to share the moving news (even though pretty much all my friends already heard) and I got super excited and I saw a pineapple at the market and I said I’m going to buy that pineapple and it’s going to be my Hawaiian celebration! (Exhale.)

I don’t need to defend my love of a good theme meal to you. Especially when it’s this delicious. This recipe is a little more complicated than some of my others, but I have some shortcuts for you at the end as always. Let’s dive into my island-inspired pineapple fried rice!

Hello, gorgeous

For the chicken:

  • 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 2 cups cornstarch
  • vegetable oil for frying
  1. Whisk together soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, sesame oil, ginger and red pepper flakes until combined. Add the chicken and refrigerate for at least an hour up to overnight.
  2. Remove the chicken from the marinade (save the marinade) and use a shallow pan or plastic bag to toss with the cornstarch until evenly coated. Heat oil on the stovetop to 350 degrees. It should be deep enough in the pan to just cover the chicken when it’s added. Cook the chicken for about 5 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through. Remove from oil and let drain on a paper towel.
  3. In a small saucepan, heat the marinade to a boil, stirring consistently as to not let it burn. You have to let marinade that has been on raw chicken come to a couple boil for about a minute. Remove from heat and toss with the fried chicken pieces to coat.

For the fried rice:

  • 2 cups pineapple, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 Tbsp mirin or rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 bell peppers, red and yellow, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/2 large red onion, finely chopped
  • 4 green onions, sliced (white & light green parts, save tops for garnish)
  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 large egg
  1. Skewer the pineapple pieces. On the grill or a stove-top grill pan over medium heat, sear the pineapple for 2-3 minutes on each side. Set aside.
  2. In a wok or extra large skillet over medium-low, add the mirin, garlic and the chopped bell peppers, carrots, red onion and green onion. Stir often for 3-4 minutes, until the veggies become slightly tender.
  3. Add the cooked rice and soy sauce, stirring to mix with the veggies. Make a well in the center of the pan and crack open the egg. Once it is cooked through, break it up and incorporate it into the rice.
  4. Add the cooked chicken and grilled pineapple, continuing to stir and toss all the ingredients together. Serve immediately with sliced green onion tops for garnish and a drizzle of sriracha sauce, for added heat.

OK, I’m not going to lie. This took me a while to put together. It was worth it though, and this recipe easily makes 4-6 servings. I like challenging myself a little bit, so I executed it all from scratch to prove a point or something stupid like that. Now that that’s done, here’s all the shortcuts!

Oh this old thing? It was no trouble at all

If you are in a rush, don’t make a pineapple bowl. It was time spent on watching YouTube how-to’s and cleaning up a sticky mess. If you want to make it fun or take a nice photo, give it a try though, because it is fairly easy and looks awesome. I’m not going to lie, I thought it was super fun to eat out of the shell, but you could just buy some pre-cut pineapple and get this show on the road.

Next big thing is the chicken. If you are vegetarian, leave it out! Easy. If you don’t want to fuss with an extra pan by frying it, you can cook it in the wok with the marinade and set it aside before you start the fried rice. Again, I do recommend the cornstarch/frying method because it adds a nice texture to the dish, but I understand it’s extra work.

You know, this could be a great way to spice up some Chinese take-out left overs. If you have some sesame or general tso’s chicken in the fridge, cut it up and throw it in. My next tip was going to be that fried rice is an awesome way to use up leftover rice, because even it’s a bit dry or clumpy, you can bring it back to life in the wok.

It’s like skittles, but, you know, like not at all

If you don’t have leftovers and are starting from scratch, you can always save yourself some time by prepping the rice, the chicken and the vegetables a day in advance. If you do that, this recipe will take about 10 minutes to dump in the pan and toss together.

The one thing I don’t want you to skimp on is the pineapple. Cooking it in the wok, the pineapple can fall apart and make the the whole thing mushy and too sweet. You need to lock in all those juices, so when you get a piece of pineapple it’s like a little flavor bomb. If you don’t have a grill or grill pan or griddle or anything, just sear it in a skillet if you have to.

Grilled pineapple is severely underrated, if you ask me

I kid you not, while typing this, my husband stopped in for lunch and reheated a bowl of this and it smells so good. I need to wrap this up and get in that action.

The second half of 2017 is going to be full of travel and new adventures, and of course, food. I’m pretty excited, so I’ll be back soon with more updates and more recipes!

Cauliflower Rice Sushi

Hidden vegetables is a huge, healthy trend that’s been floating around for a while. I’ve done posts before about using spaghetti squash and zucchini in place of pasta, but even more creative ways have started popping up. For example, veggie tots are becoming a big trend… essentially tater tots made from healthier options like broccoli or sweet potatoes.

What’s the point? Well, if you have kids, I don’t need to explain why sneaking extra vegetables into meals is important. But I am not a mom. I am just trying to get some better stuff inside my system, without compromising the things I like.

I started with cauliflower. It’s very popular right now to use in place of things like pizza crust to mashed potatoes to a multitude of rice dishes. Cauliflower is low in carbs, calories and it’s a good source of protein, fiber and vitamins. Sounds super to me, as long as it tastes good!

I decided making cauliflower rice would be a simple jumping off point for myself. I initially had the intention of making some kind of stir fry or couscous type dish, but the day I was going to, something caught my eye in my catch-all kitchen drawer: my rarely used sushi kit.

Lightbulb moment. One of the steps to using cauliflower in things like crusts or mashes is that you have to remove as much of the moisture as possible. Since sushi rice needs to be little sticky, I figured this would be a more fool-proof kitchen experiment.

Yup, this comes from that!

And I was right. Here’s how to make the rice:

  1. Take a whole head of cauliflower and cut it into small florets, removing any thick stems.
  2. In batches, grind the cauliflower in a food processor until it looks like cooked rice.
  3. If you want to save some, you can bag it and freeze it at this point. (For example, I used about half of the “rice” I made, approx. 2 cups, and ended up with enough for about 2-3 sushi rolls.)
  4. Place the cauliflower into a microwave safe bowl or container. Cover it, but keep it vented so some steam can release. Microwave for 3 minutes, stirring once halfway through.
  5. When it’s cooked, drizzle the cauliflower with 1 Tbsp of rice vinegar or mirin per cup of rice. Stir and set aside to cool for at least 20 minutes.

Seriously, that’s it. It’s almost easier than making real rice. Now all you need are some nori sheets and your favorite sushi roll ingredients.

I went for a classic, the California roll, with imitation crab, avocado & cucumber and a shrimp tempura roll with avocado & mango. Save the shrimp, the prep is the same for all these ingredients. Slice them in long, matchstick style strips.

I actually went back and cut them even smaller once I had my nori sheets and rice ready

The shrimp was a slightly more ambitious venture:

  1. The batter starts with mixing 1 cup of sifted flour and 1 Tbsp of baking powder. Then add one large egg to a cup of water, whisking it together. The key here is super, super cold water. Slowly pour the water/egg mixture into the dry ingredients while whisking. You want the batter to be a little clumpy, so don’t over mix. Once the flour is absorbed, you are good to go. FYI, this made a nice amount batter, so get some vegetables and extra shrimp involved as a side dish if you want.
  2. Peel and devein the shrimp if you need to. You want them raw and clean but with tail still on. Sometimes you can find them that way, but my Whole Foods only had raw, uncleaned shrimp or cooked, cleaned shrimp. To make them easier to stretch out straight, make shallow cuts on the inner curve of them.
  3. Heat up 2-3 cups of vegetable oil in a small, deep pan. Once it hits 325 degrees, dunk the shrimp in the batter and then into the oil. Don’t over crowd the pot, so work in batches if you need too, removing any floating bits of batter between. The shrimp only need about 2 minutes to get golden and crispy.
  4. Let them drain and cool before using them in a sushi roll, because you don’t want excess oil mucking it all up.

They can still curl slightly when they cook, but you can gently stretch them out again while they are warm

So once you have all your components prepped and cooled, whatever they may be, all you have to do is roll the sushi. Having a bamboo mat helps greatly. I haven’t ever tried rolling sushi without it, so it’s worth the minor investment if you are a fan.

Place a sheet of nori on the mat and spread the cauliflower rice over about 60% of it, close to three edges. Pile on your fillings, as evenly and compactly as possible, and roll it tight like a cigar. Using a very sharp knife, slice the sushi into pieces, about an inch long.

Seriously. That’s cauliflower?

And don’t forget the soy sauce for dipping. Because guess what, this idiot did. Sigh.

But honestly, it didn’t matter too much. I’m a very light “dipper” of foods. If I order fries, I don’t want a mouthful of ketchup, and if I order wings, I don’t want a mouthful of blue cheese. Just like I don’t saturate my sushi with soy sauce, only a little bit to get that extra salty kick.

I found some sweet chili sauce in my fridge just in case, but when I sat down to eat it, I tried the sushi naked first. It was great. Frankly, I was expecting to cringe a little, but the taste was spot on. The cauliflower rice texture was slightly more grainy than normal rice, but other than that, it’s on par with flavor. I don’t claim to be some sushi master, and my rolls could have been a little prettier, but I don’t mind if it’s yummy.

Even though one of my rolls had some fried shrimp in it (and let’s be honest, I ate the extras behind the scenes), I feel really good about this as a healthy veggie substitute worth adding to my repertoire. Not that sushi was unhealthy to being with, but 1 cup of cooked white rice has about 200 calories, 40+g of carbs, and 550+mg of sodium. 1 cup of cauliflower rice has about 45 calories, 3.5g of carbs and 20mg of sodium. So why not?

Have you tried using cauliflower rice or any other fun veggie trade-outs? I think this is one fad I’m going to really get behind.

I’ll see you guys again in two weeks! Happy cooking until then!

Shrimp Fried Rice

First things first everyone, who is psyched for Leo finally winning an Oscar? I love award shows and yesterday I went all out making fried chicken and waffles. My kitchen is a wreck! So today I thought I’d share an easy recipe that is a great make ahead dish for the upcoming week. No, not chicken and waffles, even though they were great. (I promise I’ll share that one eventually.) Today it’s all about shrimp fried rice!

This is a fast recipe that can yield a lot of food out of one pan. Clean up is easy, you can have leftovers for days and everyone loves it. You know when you go to those hibachi steak houses and they are spinning the egg and tossing shrimp into your mouth? Who isn’t a fan of that? This is all that great flavor without the tricks and having to share your dinner table with strangers.

Yields 4-6 servings

  • 2 cups brown rice
  • 1/2 lb large or jumbo shrimp, cleaned & deveined
  • 1/2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1/2 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 Tbsp mirin or rice vinegar
  • 12 oz bag frozen veggies (I used carrots, corn, green beans & peas)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice
  • parsley for garnish
  1. Cook two cups of brown rice according to package directions and set aside.
  2. Heat mirin or rice vinegar over medium heat in a wok or large sauté pan. Add shrimp to the pan and sprinkle with chili and garlic powder. Cook for about 4 minute, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp start to become pink and opaque. Remove from heat with a slotted spoon or tongs and set aside, reserving the liquid in the pan.
  3. Add frozen veggies to the pan. Stir constantly until they are thawed. Make a well in the center of the veggies and add the egg, directly onto the surface of the pan. After a minute when the egg has begun to cook through, scramble and toss it with the veggies until combined.
  4. Add the rice to the pan and mix into the veggies. Evenly pour the soy sauce and sesame oil over the contents of the pan, and cook for another minute until rice is warmed through, stirring occasionally.
  5. Reduce heat to medium-low, add the shrimp back into the rice and toss until incorporated into the rice. Add the lime juice, stir it in and cook for about a minute until the shrimp are warm. Serve with a garnish of fresh parsley.

Like a lot of my other recipes, this is great because you can use whatever you have in your kitchen and make your own variation. You can do chicken or tofu as the protein, you can use whatever frozen veggies you and your family like, and it’s an recipe that’s  easy to taste as you go and adjust flavors.

Season the shrimp with whatever spices you love, I just happen to like a bit of heat. Some people may like a little more soy sauce but I prefer a less salty taste than what you would expect from take out fried rice. Sesame oil isn’t necessary but I think it’s the secret ingredient that really brings together that hibachi flavor. Try the rice before and after adding it, you’ll see what I mean. Lime juice also isn’t necessary. That’s my signature at the end, because I like the bright, fresh flavor it adds.

My husband loves when I make this. Whatever we don’t eat is always enough for two or three lunches for the rest of the week. I portion it out into Tupperware and he grabs it on his way out the door. He also likes to drizzle a little sriracha on top. Highly recommended if you are a spicy food fan.

Try this one out a few times until you find your perfect combination. Once you get it down, I guarantee it will be a weeknight winner. And it’s a lot easier than having to fight a bear! See what I did there? Huh!? Sorry, I’m still fan-girling over Leo. I’ll try and control my corny jokes in the future. Maybe.

Blue Cheese Arancini with Honey Hot Sauce

I’m back in the comfort of my own kitchen again! I had a great week traveling home to Massachusetts, and to Florida for a couple days too. Talk about a strangely packed suitcase- I had winter boots and sweaters next to flip flops and swimsuits. It was fun, but I’m really glad to be home.

The downside of my week away was the fact that my husband is not the best at grocery shopping. There was not a lot to work with in my fridge and pantry when I got back, and I wasn’t in the mood to run right out to the store. So I threw together this hearty little snack from what I could find- blue cheese stuffed arancini with a honey hot dipping sauce!

Arancini are Italian rice balls. You can use day old rice, like I did, or risotto, but the latter is a lot more work with the constant stirring. Traditionally arancini have ingredients like mozzarella, peas or ham stuffed inside. Mine definitely have a more American twist.

Yields 8-10 rice balls

  • 8.8 oz instant rice (I am going to be honest, I used a bag of good ol’ Uncle Ben’s 90 second rice), cooked and refrigerated overnight
  • 3 cups vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan
  • 2 eggs
  • 3-4 Tbsp blue cheese crumbles
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 1/8 cup sriracha sauce
  • 1/8 cup honey
  1. Heat oil on the stove top in a small pot over medium-high heat. Don’t use a skillet, because you want the rice balls to be completely submerged when you fry them.
  2. In a bowl, throughly mix the rice, the parmesan and the eggs together. In a second bowl, combine the panko bread crumbs, onion powder, garlic powder and oregano.
  3. With damp hands, pick up about an ounce of the rice mixture and place a couple large blue cheese crumbles in the center. Gently mold the rice around the crumbles and into a ball, sealing them inside. (It should be about the size of a golf ball.)
  4. Roll the rice ball in the bread crumb mixture until completely coated and place it on a piece of wax paper. Repeat until you run out of rice.
  5. Fry the balls in small batches, about three or four at a time, for 4-5 minutes, until golden brown. Don’t crowd them in the pot. You can gently turn them once halfway through, but they should be submerged in the oil, so it shouldn’t be necessary. Remove from the oil and let them cool on a paper towel or fresh wax paper.
  6. For the dipping sauce: stir together equal parts sriracha sauce and honey. I made about a quarter of a cup, but you can make as much as you like.

If you don’t have sriracha and honey, you can substitute the dipping sauce for buffalo. I’m a little burnt out on buffalo after football season and I’m really into the spicy sweet sauces at the moment like honey hot, pineapple habanero, Thai sweet chili etc.

This is a great appetizer or party snack. They aren’t too big, but a couple of these are all you need. It’s also a great way to use up last nights leftover rice and turn it into something completely different. They don’t have to be made my way either. You can do them plain or with traditional stuffing, like mozzarella, and some marinara sauce to dip. I love, love, love dishes that use up leftovers.

Another thing I love is seeing people try recipes! I got a couple pictures from people last week, which was so nice to see while I was away from my kitchen. So if you make any of these, please send it to me on Twitter or Instagram!

You can also check out some of the food I ate (but didn’t cook) while I was traveling. I admit it was pretty nice to eat out a lot and not worry about making dinner, but it’s good to be back. I’m sure I’ll have a couple more posts this week because I’ve been inspired and excited to get back to work!