Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Frying Up Rice in a Wok.

When I wrote up my article about Hoisin sauce, I promised to also share a recipe for making Fried Rice.  Fried rice is exactly as named, the rice, whether cooked or raw, is “toasted” or fried up in oil before mixing in additional ingredients.  The rich brown color though comes from the addition of soy sauce which flavors as well.

The origin of this dish dates back to the Sui dynasty (589–618 CE), of course being cooked in a traditional Chinese cooking pot, or the Wok.  There are many advantages of cooking with a Wok, and the primary ones are: #1 – Quick, #2 – Easy.  The Wok is a deep pan with a rounded bottom and slanted sides; usually made of stainless steel, aluminum or cast iron.  The metal, while hot, is continuously rolled and pounded out to the desired depth, width and shape.  The shape of this pan allows one to cook food at high, evenly distributed, heat with very little oil.  Besides the traditional stir fry method, Woks can be used to stew, braise, steam or deep fry.  Depending on the dishes you intend to create, a meal can be prepped and cooked in about 30 minutes if using a Wok.

Back to fried rice’s origin which was a simple question of, “What to do with leftovers?”  Leftover rice, meat and vegetables from the day before are still edible, have lost some flavor, but are too good to throw away, or feed to livestock.  Wok-ing them up, adding soy sauce, garlic, ginger, scallions reawakens those flavors, and creates an entirely new meal to enjoy.

Do you need to purchase a Wok to create Asian cuisine?  Of course not; a standard skillet will work just as well; as will everyday kitchen utensils.  However, if you are feeling the creativity bug bite, well, scratch the itch, and get yourself a complete Wok set.  When I said Asian cuisine, I meant it!  Woks can be used to create Japanese dishes, such as tempura (to die for!), Thai, Indonesian, Korean, and even Indian recipes such as curry; it is not just for Chinese recipes.


Fried Rice


2 Tbsp. canola oil if using Wok; 4 Tbsp. for skillet

3 cups uncooked long grain rice

¼ cups each diced onion, bell peppers (red, green, yellow combined)

1 (12 oz.) package frozen peas and carrots, thawed

1 cup soy sauce

5 cups water

½ tsp ground black pepper

1 tsp ground ginger


Heat oil, on high heat, in Wok or skillet; add rice, onion and bell peppers and “toast” the rice for 5 minutes.

Saute' Chicken; Set Aside to Add Later.


Add remaining ingredients, bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 20 minutes.   Turn off heat, uncover, and allow to rest for 5 minutes before fluffing up with a fork.  If adding any cooked, chopped protein (2 lbs.), carefully add in to not make clumps, or serve rice as a side to the protein.  Want a complete vegetarian meal; add grilled vegetables or tofu.

Completed Fried Rice; Chicken Added In.


Makes 6-8 servings

Note:  2 eggs, cooked scrambled, can be mixed in after rice has completely cooked.

Now this is a simplified recipe and can be adjusted to include other seasonings, such as chili flakes and/or garlic.  If adding a protein, season up the pieces that are being precooked, and their flavoring will meld with, and enhance, the fried rice.  For example, when I use chicken, I season the pieces with a little sea salt, ground black pepper and paprika.  It turns the chicken from bland to wow, and the paprika will give a little smokiness to the flavor, like hoisin sauce would do.  Mix in chopped and steamed, or grilled, broccoli and it is a whole new view of a favorite take-out dish, chicken and broccoli.

If using precooked rice, the water part, plus half the soy sauce, will be skipped.  Instead of letting the rice cook for 20 minutes, first add the rice (6 cups cooked), onion and bell peppers to the oil and keep it moving around the Wok, or skillet.  The rice and vegetables will begin to fry up, but you do not want to burn any of it.  5-7 minutes until the oil is absorbed, and the rice looks like it will begin to dry out.  Add in the peas and carrots, ½ cup soy sauce, black pepper and ginger, and keep it moving for another 5-7 minutes, or until the rice and vegetables are uniformly hot.  If you want the color of the rice to be darker, add, one tablespoon at a time, more soy sauce until it is the color you desire.  But keep it moving, as burnt rice is bitter!

Mary Cokenour

Friday, September 10, 2021

The BER Months are to RememBER.

I have been seeing many references to the “BER months are here!” which means the last four months of the year: September, October, November and December.  Why do these months have the same ending?  In ancient Rome, the calendar had only ten months, all named after various gods or emperors.  The ninth month had two months jammed into it, September and October.  The tenth month was unnamed, but contained November and December.  Seems like those four months were an afterthought, and not very important, doesn’t it?  Their names were simplified by using the adjectival suffix “ber”, while the prefix indicted the number of the month.  March was the first month of the ancient calendar, and September, October, November, and December were months 7 (from septem, Latin for seven), 8 (octo, Latin for eight), 9 (novem, Latin for nine), and 10 (decem, Latin for ten).  Thanks goes to Julius Caesar for creating the Julian calendar, and allowing those last four months a free reign of their own.

In more modern times, the “ber” took on a weather related meaning.  When spring and summer have been hot and humid almost the entire six months, the start of the “Ber” months signals the start of cooler weather.  Agriculturally related, it signals the time for final harvesting of fruits and vegetables; or time to plant and harvest the winter wheat.

I believe it has a more profane meaning though.  Spring brought blooming trees and flowers, and a time for animals to bear their young.  Summer, even if hot, was fun in the sun, barbeques, and vacations.  Now, with the start of the “ber” months, it is time to begin to RememBER.  It is now time to begin to look back at the year, as its end will be here soon enough.  It is time to begin reflecting on what we experienced, accomplished, created and shared.  2020 was hard on us all, and remembering it did not bring the best memories to mind.  2021 has also been a hard year on us all, but, at times, eased up and gave us time to relax and breathe.

So, as we begin to crave apple cider, pumpkin spice and the last taste of fresh-from-the-garden vegetables, remember!  Remember your dearest friends and family members.  Remember the good times, and how the bad times were overcome with hard work and endurance.  Remember your neighbors!  Did they share with you their garden’s bounty, but you forgot to share yours with those who needed?  There is still time to make amends, still time to pay-it-forward.  Come December, wishes will be made upon gifting lists.  Remember though, whether it is God, another Deity worshipped, even Santa Claus himself; they are all making their own lists of who has been greedy, and who have been giving.

Now, as much as I love a cold glass of crisp and spicy apple cider, attempting to make it from scratch has not been on my to-do list.  I admit it, I was spoiled by being able to buy it at a farmers market; or even the fruit section of a supermarket.  On a cold night though, heating it up, adding a dash of rum or brandy, and a cinnamon stick to act as a stirrer, is a lovely option.

Who knows though, if the price on apples gets back to being reasonable, I just might take on the challenge!

Until then, let me share with you a recipe from another food blogger, Sally’s Baking Addiction.  Her recipe allows for apple cider to be created in either a crock pot, or a stock pot; and she gives directions for storage as well.  Oh, and let’s RememBER to share, and be grateful to those who shared with you.


Homemade Apple Cider

(From Sally’s Baking Addiction:



1 orange

10 medium apples (use a variety– I use Honeycrisp and Granny Smith)

3 cinnamon sticks (or 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon)

2 teaspoons ground cloves

granulated sugar*



1 - Peel the orange and place the segments in a 4 quart or larger slow cooker. (Pictures show unpeeled- we prefer peeling it for a less bitter flavor.) Wash the apples, cut into quarters, and place in the slow cooker. Add the cinnamon sticks, ground cloves, and sugar. Add enough water to cover the fruit.

2 - Cook on low heat for 6-7 hours. (Or high heat for 3.)

3 - After 6-7 hours, the fruit will be very soft. Use a large spoon to mash the fruit and release its liquids. Allow the cider to cook on low for 1 more hour.

4 - Very slowly strain the chunky liquid though a fine mesh sieve into a large pot or pitcher. You can discard the solids. Strain the cider one more time to rid any other solids. Serve the cider warm.

Leftover cider keeps well in the refrigerator for up to 5-7 days. Warm up on the stove before serving or enjoy it cold.  Yields about 1 and ½ quarts.


Freezing Instructions: Cider can be frozen up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator.

*Sugar: Adjust the sugar to your taste. We usually use 3-4 Tablespoons of granulated sugar for a spicier cider. If you prefer your apple cider on the sweeter side (like the kind you buy at the store), use 1/2 cup (100g) of granulated sugar.

No Slow Cooker? No Problem! In step 1, place all of the ingredients into a large stock pot instead of a slow cooker. Turn the stove up to high heat and bring everything to a simmer while stirring occasionally. Once simmering, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 2 hours. Mash the fruit as described in step 3. Then, allow the cider to cook for 1 more hour. Continue with step 4.

Special Tools: Slow Cooker (4-quart or larger) & Fine Mesh Sieve

…and once you have made that cider, go back to the November 17, 2020 issue of the San Juan Record, and look up my recipe for Apple Cider Donuts.  The smile on your face will just get bigger as you indulge in those.  Or click on Here to go directly to the recipe, on this food blog.

Mary Cokenour