italian fried rice

Isabella has been completely immersed in the world of Harry Potter lately. Her curiosity began just before Mikey passed away. We watched the Sorcer’s Stone as one of our pizza and movie night treats. It whet her appetite, and all she wanted from that point on was to read the books.

Michael had promised to buy her the Sorcerer’s Stone as a reward if she finished her math summer study packet before we left for Cape Cod. They had been working on it together during the weekends when he was off from work. The night Michael died, I walked home to tell Isabella the news. She knew it in her heart, but had held out hope that I would return home to say he was okay. I knew that feeling. I held onto a shred of it as I sat in the ER, wishing desperately that it was all a dream.

After we talked in the hallway, and went back in the house crowded with friends and family, Isabella asked me what would happen with her homework packet. I unapologetically said “screw the homework packet”. It wasn’t the proper thing to say, nor appropriate language for an 8 year old to hear, but that’s exactly how I felt. She worried what her teachers would say, and I assured her they would understand.

She didn’t say anything, but I knew the Harry Potter book was on her mind too. She’d worked so hard all summer. I surprised her with the entire set of books before we embarked on that first family trip without him.

How did I even get on this crazy Harry Potter thread? Well, as I’ve said, I seem to be stuck in Hogwarts. As she finishes each book, I proceed with caution and watch the movies with her. Frankly, the kid has faced the biggest of fears these last six months, so I don’t think Voldemort holds any horror for her. While watching the Order of the Phoenix, I had to step away so she wouldn’t see my tears. It’s the part where Voldemort is taking over Harry’s body, feeding off his scariest and saddest memories. Harry fights back by channeling his good memories, those of his parents and friends. He has experienced moments that Voldemort couldn’t begin to understand, and with that power he casts the evil being from his body.

I don’t know how the series ends, so please no spoilers. What I do know is the sentiment that was being expressed in that moment. Every day we’re faced with challenges. Sometimes it feels like obstacles lurk around every corner, and the good memories are what keep the fire in our hearts and souls alive.

Last week I went on a thawing spree in the freezer. Leftover pantry items were piling up, so I took a bunch of things out to start using them up. Frozen cooked chickpeas provided us with homemade hummus two days later. Red merlot beans became quesadillas, and then there was a huge bag of brown rice. I stared at it for days, knowing all along I wanted to make arancini, Italian rice balls, with it. When I finally set out to do so, the bread I thought was stale actually wasn’t dried out enough to make bread crumbs. I would’ve thrown in the towel, but the memory of freshly fried rice balls left me with a hankering that needed to be quenched. I should also mention I’d mixed all the filling ingredients, so there really wasn’t any turning back.

At that moment, I stared at the cast-iron skillet and decided to do something that might be considered a culinary international incident. I heated some olive oil, dumped the rice mixture into the hot pan and proceeded to make this Italian Fried Rice. The anticipation of the potential this dish had, far out-weighed the fear of wasted ingredients. It wasn’t a life-changing risk, but it was proof that bits of the old me are still in there. I just need to keep choosing to take more risks each and every day because determination and fearlessness are the most important ingredients for any life recipe.


Italian Fried Rice

serves 4

I used brown rice for this recipe becasue that’s all I generally cook. I love Massa Organics. If you prefer white rice, I’m sure it would work well here too.

2 large (100 grams) eggs, lightly beaten

1/4 cup packed (7 grams) fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

1/2 cup (30 grams) grated Pecorino-Romano cheese

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

4 cups (614 grams) cold, leftover brown rice

3 tablespoons (45 ml) extra virgin olive oil

Add the eggs, parsley, cheese and black pepper to a deep bowl. Beat with a fork to mix well. Add the rice and use the same fork to stir the mixture together until it is well combined.

Heat a cast-iron skillet over high heat. Add the oil and tilt the pan to swirl it to the edges. Once the oil is shimmering, about 30 seconds, add the rice mixture. Give it a good stir with the fork, then spread it out into a single layer in the skillet. Cook until the bottom gets golden and forms a crust, 6 to 8 minutes. Use the fork to stir and break it up, then spread into a single layer again. Cook for 2 more minutes, then serve immediately.

Leftovers may be stored for up to three days in a tightly sealed container, and reheated in a skillet over medium heat.



  • Svasti

    The very night that I was assaulted and couldn’t sleep, because the eyes of the man who assaulted me were burned into my retinas? I watched Buffy The Vampire Slayer (the TV series) all night long.
    It was only later that I realised the metaphors of the slaying of demons and evil, with a butt-kicking heroine.
    Metaphors like Harry and Buffy are a balm to the soul. x

  • Kimmy

    Books and tales like Harry Potter give us a mirror into ourselves, and they give us tools in which to fight. J.K. Rowling is one magic person, she allowed her characters to grow with her readers. I’m glad it’s giving your little one some strength. Many **hugs**

  • Tracey

    Hi Jennie,
    Oh you are coming back alright. Good for you. When you need to take baby steps, take them, when you need giant steps, take them. But I love to read your writings. I wish I had something witty to say, but I don’t. I know that cooking is theraputic (and everything else to me as well, I just like to cook– I cook when I am upset, I cook when I am happy, etc) and releasing to me. I love to read too, because I am an escapist at times.A much too-sensitive-at -times type.But I am who I am.Well have a great week and keep writing. Love to the girls and a big hug and smile to you,

  • Maria

    Jennie thank you for the recipe…but when you get time could you do a step by step of the rice balls, I would love to see how they are made. Do you use the peas in them…The only time I have ever had them is when we go into the city for the feast of St Gennaro in Little Italy…they are a culinary delight…

  • Tracey

    Hi Jennie
    Just saying good morning to you and hoping your day is a day filled with cooking fun.

  • Ellen (Gluten Free Diva)

    Your sharing is therapeutic for all of us who read it. Thank you for bringing solace to us, thank you for sharing your pain and loss, it helps us to be stronger. I hope that in your sharing, your sadness can begin to morph into strength and hope. And thank you for the lovely rice recipe. And the fact that you dove into your freezer gives me inspiration to do the same:).

  • Liz

    Great post on every level!
    For me, Harry Potter is the story of the power of Love, which for me is also the Gospel and the foundation of my personal faith.
    It will be interesting to see how Isabella remembers the Harry Potter experience as she travels her own path through grief. I hope it helps both of you onward in whatever way you need and want to go.
    The rice salad sounds wonderful and goes on my list to try soon. And thank you so much for the link to Massa Organics. I clicked over and read their story. I know Chico area. What wonderful stewards they are of their family farm and farmland! I am glad to know of them.

  • Marisa

    This is awesome, can’t wait to try it. I haven’t cooked in so long and i’m so inspired by this. I may even try my moms classic ‘arancini’ recipe.
    I’d love to exchange ideas on how you make yours and how my mom makes hers….
    They are famous in our family ­čÖé
    lots of love…

  • Mia

    I just made this tonight and it is genius! Delicious and quick–perfect for a weeknight dinner. Thanks so much for the recipe, I am sure I will make it again. And thanks for your blog in general. I am inspired by you and your strength.

  • Joan Murray

    That almost sounds like our favorite breakfast food – rice and eggs. Heated rice, add eggs, cook like soft scrambled, add salt and pepper. But that’s a neat idea to make it more savory, and let it sit to get a bit of a brown crispy crust (sort of like one does with hashbrowns). I could see that being a dinner food also. I’ll have to remember that idea.

  • Kim in MD

    My children and I love the Harry Potter series. My son read the books over and over until he wore out the binders! The message is love for family and the unwavering love of friends, as well as good prevailing over evil. I am glad that your daughter is enjoying the books. This rice looks so delicious, Jennie! Keeping you in my thoughts and prayers….

  • Y

    I had talked myself into learning to make crepes today, got together all the ingredients, and then freaked out and decided there was no way I could do it. As I was figuring out what to do next, I opened up Instagram and the first picture was the one of the crepes you made& the fact that you were planning on filling your crepes with spinach and mushrooms, which was what I had planned on using too. It was just the push I needed to get into the kitchen and try it all out. And they did not turn out too badly!
    Thanks so much for sharing your writing, your recipes, and your life with all of us.

  • Laurie

    Hi Jennie, thanks for the morning inspiration! You are reaching out down to Texas today. No cowboys, though. Just a mom who has to go wake up her kids in a minute. Take care, Laurie

  • Liz

    I made this last night with a few non-Italian variations: kale instead of parsley and I had a handful of leftover adzuki beans and a bit of cooked pork sausage that I included as well. I LOVE the browned mix. Cooking for 1, I made a 1/2 recipe and had half of that for last night’s dinner and half for breakfast with a poached egg.
    So good and a great addition to my recipe box – thank you, Jennie!

  • Carrie K

    Harry is the perfect person to teach her about her new reality…the love and loss that he experiences is a far stronger message then anything “evil” in the books…the lessons she learns from the books will be with her forever!

  • Karen

    Hi Jennie,
    I found your blog through a link from another blog for a cookie dough recipe. I am so sorry for the loss of your husband. My husband also died suddenly. He was playing tennis like he did almost every day and he had a massive heart attack. He was 54 and we had been married 16 years and 4 months to the day. He died on June 26, 2010. Today, February 26, would have been our 18th anniversary. Our daughter was 14 when my husband died. Five days after my husband died, I lost my brother. He was 48. They were the two best friends I have ever had and I lost them both at the same time. I was devastated. I know everyone’s journey through grief is different, and if I could give you any advice it would be to do what you are already doing. You are trying to find some happiness in every day, you are taking care of your daughters, you are looking toward the future and you cry when you need to cry. Everything you are feeling, all the ups and downs are all a part of healing and it’s different for everyone. Stay strong and take care of yourself. I wish you all the best.

  • Vicki

    Hi Jennie,
    I love your blog, recipes, and photos. It’s one of the very best food blogs out there! I admire all your strength, courage, grace and perseverance given the recent loss of your husband. You are a wonderful example to us all on how to cope and keep moving forward. Like you, my Mom lost her husband (my Dad) while my brother and I were ages 4 and 6, respectively. As a single parent with no college degree, she raised a lawyer and engineer all by herself and put us through college. Today she is my single greatest inspiration. Kudos to strong mothers like you!

  • Denise

    I agree that Harry’s journey is one of finding the strenght in the love and happiness we find in everyday life, because the worst moments of our lifes are condensed pain and suffering, while happiness is in the small things, like a glass filling with water, one drop at a time (although some drops are bigger than others, like your first kiss, the first time you told him you loved him, the first time he said it back, the births of your girls).
    And this message is particularly expressed in the fifth book, and in such a beautiful way it’s heart breaking.
    Keep reading, keep enjoying Harry’s little sarcasms, Ron’s jokes, every gryffindor win in quidditch, and (of course!) every beautiful moment shared with Isabella and Virginia and make that little happiness, those drops of water, carry you through the bad days.
    All my love from Argentina.