Best (OMG!) Fried Rice (Shhhh, Don't Tell My Mom)

cauliflower-fried-rice

My mom has a long, glass dish that she pulls out when it's time to make her famous fried rice. If we're hosting a family get together or joining someone else's, it's always a top request. Seeing that dish on the counter means happy faces at the dinner table. I've been making her recipe for my own kids from the time they could first gnash rice with their gummy smiles. Rice is a staple in our home, and if I had to take one food to a deserted island, I'd pack my rice cooker and a 10lb bag. 

You can understand my skepticism when my sister-in-law texted me to say she'd fed her kids the most incredible version of fried rice, and that it had nothing to do with actual rice. I should say here that my husband isn't as big a fan of this wonder grain as the rest of us. And one of our four kids is in her dad's camp. Last week, I was feeling adventurous and decided to give the recipe a try, to see if we might be able to sub it in for rice now and then. 

I used a version from this wonderful food blogger and added some of my own tricks (outlined below). Even as I was making it, I was cautious in my enthusiasm. But the outcome was well worth the gamble. 

  • 8 ounces of shrimp (I used a bag of frozen salad-sized shrimp and thawed it under cold, running water in a colander while I prepped the veggies)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (the recipe calls for 1/4 tsp pepper, but I don't use pepper in my rice dishes)
  • 2 tbsps of oil 
  • 2 cloves of minced garlic (I always have a tube of pre-minced to minimize time)
  • 3 eggs beaten (I add a pinch of salt)
  • 3/4 cup of diced carrots (I think I'd try the bag of mixed carrots and peas from the freezer next time)
  • 3/4 cup of peas (frozen is great!)
  • 1 head/4 cups of cauliflower shredded with largest holes on a cheese grater (I've since learned you can buy pre-riced cauliflower at Costco, because oh my goodness my wrist was tired!)
  • 2 tbsps of soy sauce (I don't add sesame oil as called for in the original recipe)

I added these two ingredients

  • 2 tsps of fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp of rice vinegar

Add a tbsp of the oil to your large skillet and cook the shrimp with salt for seasoning until pink and cooked through. Move to a plate. 

Reduce heat to medium and cook the eggs like you're making them scrambled. Add them to the plate of shrimp.

Give the skillet a wipe down and add the other tbsp of oil. Add garlic, carrots (if raw, cook for a few minutes) and peas. Cook for approximately a minute.

Add cauliflower and stir to combine at medium heat (on a gas stove). Let the cauliflower cook for about 2 mins without stirring. I added a lid to my skillet to help steam it. Mix the cauliflower and veggies and continue to cook for 5-7 minutes with lid (I lifted it every a couple of times to stir again).

Add soy sauce, fish sauce and rice vinegar and stir to combine. Finally, add the eggs and shrimp.

We were all eating at different times when I first made this, so I left it out for my daughter and husband to eat later. When I came home, I found him standing at the counter gobbling down a bowl with enthusiasm. Is this quinoa?  he asked. He couldn't believe he was eating ground-up cauliflower and is now a huge fan of this new version. There may have been some good-natured bickering about the leftovers, too (yes, it was just as delicious the next day). 

I'll always be a rice gal. I'll still make it at least twice a week for my kids. But this is a great new twist on a well-used meal. I'm glad we tried it.

I hope you like it just as much. 

 Cauliflower fried rice with Chinese broccoli

Cauliflower fried rice with Chinese broccoli

 

 

 

The Big Picture: Reader Giveaway

 Family photo session 2017 by  Lisa Tullet Photography

Family photo session 2017 by Lisa Tullet Photography

When my first daugther was born, I was like any other over-the-top parent and eager to share as many photos of my darling as I could. First, I would turn the scanner on and wait half-an-hour for it to warm up. If I wasn't too bleary-eyed from sleep deprivation, I would start the process of dialing up to the interet while I waited (glerrrrrrrrrb, sputter, click, vrrrrrrroooom, beep). Otherwise, I had to add another 20 minutes to get a connection (at which point, the baby would totally be over the bouncy seat). Then I'd scan and save the photo(s) I wanted to share, before finally attaching them to an email for family and friends. It would often take another 20 minutes for the photos to attach before I could finally hit send. It was an hour long process, but I did it anyway. And I went through all of it again when my son was born two years later. 

Because the rigamoreole of sharing those photos was already so involved, I thought nothing of taking it to the next level by popping the kids into adorable outfits and coaxing them into smiling for a photographer. I scanned those photos, too, and then mailed hard copies to grandparents. 

When high speed internet and smartphones arrived on the scene and social media became mainstream, just before my fourth child was born, I fell into the habit of instant uploading and sharing for its convenience and ability to reach more family and friends. My photos become more candid and less formal, and that was okay. But when I decided to surprise my husband with some professional photos of me and the kids for Father's Day (after our youngest was born), I remembered how much I love a good family portrait. My childhood home was filled with them, and nostalgia is one of my favourite feelings. 

There's something so special about being caputured by someone else's camera. For the last seven years — since that Father's Day photoshoot  — it's become a given that our family will end up in front of a photographer at some point during the year. And the kids look forward to it (mostly) as much as I do. 

I've changed my approach a lot in recent years, when it comes to how I think the photos should come together. The girls choose their own outfits now (though I'm quietly delighted they conspire to compliment one another and weigh in on their brother's options) and we all wear clothes we already have in our closets. We're (read: me) a lot more laid back about the process these days.

I used to get quite stressed trying to find matching outfits in an attempt to make the photo look cohesive (as though that sameness would be what defined our family). But I've gained a lot of perspective as the kids have gotten older and their personalities have made themselves known. Sameness is not what makes a family. Acceptance and celebration of who we are as individuals is what makes us close. 

I don't want perfect or curated photos anymore. I want to look at these photos and remember who we were in that moment. I want to see what someone else saw when we tumbled and stumbled in front of their camera, like our family always does. I want to feel love and pride for the many ways we came through another year of struggles and triumphs together.  

I haven't completely returned to printing our photos (though I have lofty goals of catching up on that someday) but I do make it a priority to print our annual family photo. 

One of my lucky readers will be able to create a print one of one of their favourite photos, too, because I've gratefully accepted an offer from Canvas Factory to give away a 16 x 20 canvas print. This contest is open to both my Canadian and U.S. readers. All you have to do is enter below between today and March 4th. 


 

 

 

 

Why Feeding Kids Matters

 Serving hot breakfast at my son's school 

Serving hot breakfast at my son's school 

It was my middle daughter who first set me on a journey to feeding kids in schools. She'd always been good about packing her own lunch and eating what she brought without complaint. Then, three years ago, I noticed (with alarm) that she was bringing her food home untouched. I wondered how she was making it through the day without any nutrition. She initially gave me excuses about being distracted or not having enough time, but now I know she was trying to figure out how to explain it.

Finally, after I had reached a point of being exasperated and quite worried, she admitted the classmate she sat beside at that time didn't have enough food in his lunch bag. And because of the school policy that prohibits students from sharing food (for allergy safety), she felt unable to eat her lunch beside him. She reached a point that it was so upsetting to her, she would pull out a book instead of opening her bag in front of him.

My heart sank when she first told me, but I also felt determined to help her and her classmate find a solution. Truthfully, I had been so focused on making sure my own child was eating enough at school (like so many parents do), that I hadn't spent a lot of time thinking about children who don't have access to enough food.

We came up with a plan, with the help of her wonderful teacher, to create a box of school-safe snacks that would be available to all students in the class so that no one felt singled out. But it was hard for me to stop thinking about, even after my daughter told me things were better once her teacher was involved. 

Shortly after that experience, I was volunteering in my cousin's classroom and noticed she had filled the shelves in the coat/backpack area with boxes of food. She told me that it made it easy for students to discreetly slip food into their pockets or bags without having to ask. She paid for the food herself, because she said it was hard to teach hungry kids. 

I knew I had to do something to help and was very glad to find out my son's school ran a hot breakfast and snack program every morning. For the past two years, I've been part of a team that helps to feed students before they start their day. We aren't just feeding kids who don't have enough to eat at home. We also feed kids who are responsible for getting themselves to school and appreciate a warm meal, as well as kids who just enjoy eating breakfast with their friends. We are working hard to remove the stigma of in-school food programs and create a sense of community instead. 

 Hot breakfast program at my son's school

Hot breakfast program at my son's school

We know student nutrition is a vital part of a successful learning environment, but it's also an aspect of school life that's easily overlooked unless you are directly affected by it — either as a parent or an educator. At the heart of these programs are volunteers who understand the importance of feeding kids, as well as behind-the-scenes fundraising that helps to make that happen.

Toonies for Tummies is a grassroots program that partners with Canada's grocery, food and consumer industries to raise money for feeding kids. To date, over 1.1 million children have benefited from this program, and 100 per cent of the donations remain in the communities where they are donated. 

It's so easy to make a huge and lasting impact on a child's life, by helping to ensure they are well-fed when they are at school. Not only does it improve their well-being physically, it also creates a sense of community and safety for every child who participates in these programs. 

From February 2nd to the 22nd Longo's grocery stores will be accepting donations for the 2018 #Toonies4Tummies program. On February 3rd, Longo's will dollar match every toonie that's donated. On February 17th, Metro and Food Basics will also be running dollar match days.

You can help by saying yes when your cashier asks if you'd like to add a toonie to your grocery bill this month. You will see signage for the Toonies4Tummies program clearly displayed at participating locations. And if you and your family want to make even more of a difference, you can also make an online donation on the Toonies For Tummies website. 

Once this campaign comes to a close, there is still a lot of work to be done. Perhaps your child's school offers a breakfast program that's looking for donations or volunteers. Or maybe a monthly grocery shop for your community food bank would be a great way for your whole family to get involved in making a difference. 

There are so many families in your community that can benefit from your generosity. You can make a big difference with a small act. I'll always be grateful to my daughter for showing me how to take the first step. 

toonies4tummies

I am honoured to be participating in the 2018 Toonies4Tummies campaign. I have been compensated for writing this post, but also passionately believe in the importance of feeding kids in schools. Thank you for taking the time to read about this wonderful campaign.