Things to Throw in a Rice Cooker to Make a Yummy, Hands-Off Lunch….

Okay — so this is sort of a pick one from column a, one from column b, and 2 from column c kind of a recipe — and it came about as a result of my hands being a bit of a problem this week.  It was a tough week for opening cans or stirring anything — so I did the next best thing — I dumped stuff into the Rice Cooker.  More pain in the hands –> less chopping and stirring.

Ours is one of those nifty fuzzy-logic things that makes enough for 6 people plus leftovers for the next day — and keeps it warm and perfect all day long.  We’ve had it for several years, and it still works perfectly.  Beware however — even though these are great appliances — tough, well made and all that — the instructions were originally written in some obscure dialect of Klingon, and translated by someone in Finland (who hates sci-fi) into Portuguese before being translated into English from an old cassette tape version as read by a fourth grader in Thailand.  In other words, the instructions don’t make sense, have no relationship to the actual machine, and seem to have no use at all for actual cooks.

So here’s what you need:

RICE — enough for the number of people you intend to serve.  If this is the main course, allow for 1 1/3 cups each of cooked rice.  If rice is just a side dish — allow for 2/3 of a cup of cooked rice per person.

Use whatever kind of rice you want — brown, arborio, basmati, pecan rice, red — you pick.  I’ll include a recipe here that uses by favorite bits….

Use a second grain, legume, or starch for up to 1/3 of the total amount if you like variety. Here are some good options:

a second kind of rice
wild rice
pearled barley
orzo
whole wheat orzo
lentils
split peas
dehydrated pinto bean flakes
white bean flour
black bean flour
whole kernel corn (frozen, canned, fresh, freeze-dried)

LIQUID — Again, there are a lot to pick from here.  The basic is water, but you’ll do well with any broth or stock.  Pick something you like on its own — and you’ll probably like it here.  Use the amount listed on either the rice cooker or the rice packaging that corresponds with the amount of rice you used.

*If you want to add tomato juice or V-8 type vegetable juice, wait and add it after the rice has finished cooking

VEGGIES — Again, trust your taste buds. Use veggies you like, in any combination — and go with this proportion: 2-3 ounces of veggies for every 6 ounces of dry rice/grain/starch.

asparagus, cut into 1″ pieces
spinach (fresh or frozen)
chopped broccoli (fresh or frozen)
summer squash or zucchini, sliced thin
onions, shallots, scallions
caramelized onion
minced garlic
grated carrot
chopped celery
chopped kale
peeled and chopped eggplant
seeded peppers (any variety)
chopped fresh or dried mushrooms, any variety
green peas, limas, pintos, kidney beans etc

*tomatoes — if you use tomatoes, salsa, chili sauce, or pasta sauce, wait to add them until the rice has finished cooking.

PROTEIN — If you use meat (chicken, sausages, browned ground beef, chopped barbecued brisket, scrambled or chopped hard-boiled eggs, etc) you can use up to 1:1 ratio between the protein and the grain.  If you use shredded hard cheese, ricotta, marscapone, queso blanco, crème fraîche, or sour cream etc, use 2:1 rice:dairy.  If you are using one of the pungent cheeses like Parmasan, Romano, or Asiago for flavor, add 1-2T per 6oz dry rice/grain/starch.

OIL/BUTTER —  Use 1T per 8oz of dry rice/grain/starch.  Olive oil and butter are your best choices  Never margarine, imitation-mostly-water-fakeness, or shortning.  Even bacon fat is a better choice than those… but why would you.  Go for the real stuff.  Olive or butter.  I usually add half while the rice cooks, and half just before serving for a fresh, bright flavor.

SEASONINGS — the basic is salt.  Even if you’re on a sodium restricted diet — add at least 1/4t per 6oz of dry rice/grain/starch.  If you’re not watching sodium that closely — just start with the 1/4t, and then salt to taste at the end.  If you’re using salted butter or regular salted stock or broth — forget the 1/4t and just adjust the seasoning at the end.

Here are some other flavoring/seasoning options:

  • sage+thyme+basil+parsley+sour cream=herbed rice
  • chopped bell pepper+caramelized onions+chopped celery+chopped kielbasa+chopped ham+crumbled bacon+whole kernel corn+Tabasco+cayenne+cumin+garlic+black pepper+oregano+bay leaf+[steamed shrimp&stewed tomatoes&Bloody Mary Mixer at the end]=jambalaya
  • cilantro+cumin+garlic+finely minced onion+minced jalapeño+chopped Hatch green chilis+crumbled queso blanco+corn = New Mexico flavors
  • beef broth+chopped mushrooms+caramelized onions+minced (leftover) roast beef+black pepper+dill+parsley+thyme+basil
  • steamed shrimp+chopped stewed tomato (added just before serving)+chopped bell pepper+minced onion+cumin+cayenne+garlic powder+chicken stock+chopped andouille
  • chicken broth+minced chicken+carrots+onions+green peas+mushrooms+french cut green beans
  • chicken broth+shallots+Penzey’s Fox Point Seasoning
  • chicken broth+Pederson’s German Sausage(minced)+dehydrated pinto bean flakes+minced onion+chopped celery+chopped bell pepper+Penzey’s Cajun seasoning
  • chicken broth+shredded cheddar+shredded Monterey jack+ricotta+shredded Asiago+dill+parsley+black pepper (also good with chopped hard-boiled eggs)
  • 1% milk+brown sugar+dash salt+butter+sliced peaches(or pitted cherries)+ground cinnamon+ground cloves+chopped pecans
  • whole milk+canned pumpkin+molasses+brown sugar+ginger+cloves+cinnamon+chopped walnuts+dash salt+butter

You get the idea….

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