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How to turn Trader Joe’s vegetable fried rice into a perfect healthy dish for busy days

A recipe for all those students who want to cook nutritiously, but are running low on time

Trader Joe's provides all the necessary ingredients for this dish.
Trader Joe's provides all the necessary ingredients for this dish.

With a busy class schedule and a full set of extracurriculars, sometimes it can be hard to squeeze enough time out of my day to cook a healthy meal. But after a quick chat with my roommate, I no longer have to turn to take out. In a few life-changing sentences, she enlightened me with a suggestion for an easy dish that takes under 10 minutes to prep, cook and enjoy.

What is this miracle dish that fits perfectly between RELG 3360 and volunteering, while still providing wholesome nutrients and protein? Where does this new take on quick cooking that doesn’t involve noodles in sauce — no hard feelings, ramen or mac and cheese — come from? I like to call it “Vanessa’s Trader Joe’s Fried Rice,” and as the name implies, my favorite grocery store houses all the necessary ingredients. And a disclaimer, this article was not sponsored by Trader Joe’s, even though I really wish it was.

Super easy and cheap, this dish only requires a few simple elements. The first and most fundamental is a bag of Trader Joe’s frozen vegetable fried rice — these go for just $2.29 a bag, with about two servings in each. Next up, an egg — this is essential to the dish and helps add some protein and a “filling factor” to the meal. Sadly, eggs must be bought in cartons, but if you buy a half carton with six eggs and three bags of rice, you are set for a whole six meals.

Everything else is entirely based on suggestion and wholly open to change, but personally, I like to pick up a bag of frozen, shelled edamame beans, shredded carrots, chopped onions and — when I’m feeling frisky — some bite-size bell peppers to beef up the fare.

With these things in tow, some oil, a wok or frying pan and a functioning stovetop complete my list of necessities. The next step is the scary part — starting the actual cooking — but as you will shortly observe, this meal is super easy to prep and once you get the hang of it, it will quickly become your busy-day go-to. 

To begin, heat some oil in a pan on medium-high heat, and chuck some bell peppers that have been sliced, diced or cut up poorly with some old kitchen scissors into the pan. Soon after, throw in some diced onions. Leave these to brown for a few minutes, making sure to stir and flip when you smell things starting to burn. Then, upend half the bag of prepared frozen rice in with it.

The instructions on the Trader Joe’s bag say to cook the rice for about five minutes. I like to toss in my extra frozen edamame beans — which can also be purchased at Trader Joe’s — with the rice, isn’t that fun? After all this has been in the pan for about a minute, I mix in the diced carrots. Then comes the impressive part — the egg.

Making sure to stir the mixture regularly, I clear out an empty spot on one side of the pan. Then, I crack the egg right into the pan, making sure to poke the yolk so the yellow insides cook too. This part of the prep makes me feel like a boss MasterChef on some Food Network cooking show. 

After leaving the egg to cook fully, I incorporate it into the vegetables and rice that has been cooking off to the side. I let this whole mixture continue to heat for a few minutes until I am sure everything has thawed and thoroughly cooked, and then I turn off the stovetop, grab a bowl and dump my creation in.

From start to finish, the meal takes a meager nine minutes on medium-high heat — broken down, that amounts to a couple minutes for the peppers and onions to cook, five minutes for the packaged rice and frozen edamame to heat up and another minute or two to be sure the egg is all the way done. Now, it is more than just packaged frozen rice — it contains fresh vegetables, with all the vitamins they provide, as well as loads of extra protein from the egg and beans.

This recipe is cheap, quick, delicious and nutritious, and has speedily become my favorite dish for busy weekdays and slow weekends alike. It is also just simple enough for nights when my busy brain forgets to cook dinner until all my roommates are asleep, so I need something that I can cook with enough ninja-like precision stealth to both keep the apartment from burning down and keep my roommates from waking up.

Lindsay Smith is a Food Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at life@cavalierdaily.com

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