As I was recently thinking back to a previous post of mine, my thoughts turned to tip #2 where I gave an example of making more than you will eat so that you can use the extra for a future meal. I specifically mentioned rice and encouraged freezing it and using it in future meals with a quick reheat in the microwave. That was a mic drop moment for a few of you, and it inspired me to expand upon my rice suggestion and open your world up to the endless possibilities of this grain.
How many of us “just add water” when making rice? It’s ok to raise your hand here, I was totally with you a few years ago. What if I told you that you could raise your #ricegame to epic proportions with a few easy change-ups? “No way,” you say. Yes. Way. Because, after all, rice is really versatile and you can add just about any liquid or any vegetable to it to change the flavor. I’m going to show you five different ways to get out of the just-add-water zone. It is also important to note that this will work for any variety of rice (white or brown, long or short grain) as well as quinoa. Just be sure to follow the cooking directions on the package because rice can be temperamental.
So, let’s get to it.
Rice Recipe #1 – Chicken stock (or vegetable stock) instead of water. Yup, just a simple change of liquid takes your rice game up a notch. Following the directions on your package, measure out the appropriate liquid-to-rice ratio. For example, if the package says “For 1 cup of rice, add 2 cups of water,” simply swap out the 2 cups of water for 2 cups of chicken stock. Cook according to the package directions. Note: If you have a bouillon cube in the pantry, you could also use that to make your own stock.
Rice Recipe #2 – Toast the rice with veggies and/or fresh herbs (also known as aromatics). Veggies could include onion or garlic and herbs could include thyme, basil, or anything you have hanging around. Toasting it gives a huge flavor boost to the dish. All you have to do is put about a tablespoon of oil or butter (your choice) into the pan and melt on medium heat. Add 1 cup of rice along with your choice of veggies or fresh herbs. Stir everything around and your kitchen will begin to smell heavenly. Keep stirring until your rice turns a toasted color and your veggies have softened. Add the liquid (water or stock) according to the package instructions for 1 cup of rice. I also like to add some thawed frozen peas, corn and carrots at this point, but that is certainly optional. Cook according to the package directions for length of time and whether to cook covered or uncovered. When the rice is done (all liquid is absorbed), stir with a fork to make sure you bring up all the veggies that tend to settle at the bottom. Note: If you do not thaw the frozen vegetables beforehand, your rice will take longer to cook because you will bring down the temperature of the pan when you add them frozen.
Rice Recipe #3 – Make it a one-pot meal. This recipe comes from my mother-in-law who is the master of making something out of nothing. I’m not sure that there is an actual name for this dish, but we call it “chicky rice” in our house. This recipe is a riff on recipe #2 above but includes leftover rotisserie chicken to turn a side dish into a flavorful and delicious meal. For this meal you will need 1/2 onion chopped, 1 green pepper chopped, 1 clove of garlic minced, 1 tbsp butter or oil (your choice), leftover rotisserie chicken cut up, and 1 cup of rice. Begin by melting the butter or oil in a medium-size pot over medium heat. Add 1 cup of rice along with the onions, peppers and garlic. Stir everything around and cook until your rice turns a toasted color and your veggies have softened. Add the liquid (water or stock, your choice) according to the package instructions for 1 cup of rice. Add the leftover rotisserie chicken and stir everything together. Cook according to the package directions for length of time and whether to cook covered or uncovered. When it’s done (all liquid is absorbed), stir with a fork to make sure you bring up all the veggies and chicken that tend to settle at the bottom. Serve and enjoy this one-pot wonder!
Rice Recipe #4 – Just add… milk? Not just any milk, coconut milk. Ok, hear me out because this really is delicious. When I was on vacation long ago, I ate at a restaurant that served this rice as a side to my entrée. It was love at first bite. I became obsessed and I had to figure out how they made it. So I got to work in my kitchen and realized that it is actually really easy to replicate. All you need is rice, a can of coconut milk, and fresh rosemary. Measure out the rice. Assuming the rice-to-liquid ratio on your package is 1:2, measure 1 cup of rice and add it to the pot. For the liquid, I have found that using half water and half coconut milk works best. With that said, add 1 cup water and 1 cup coconut milk to the rice and stir everything together. Bring to a boil together. Add 1 sprig of rosemary to the pot and cook according to package directions. There is no need to remove the rosemary leaves from the stem because they fall off all by themselves during cooking. When it’s done (all liquid is absorbed), simply remove the stem from the rosemary sprig and discard. Mix with a fork and serve. Enjoy the deliciousness. No need to thank me. This recipe is far too yummy and far too easy to keep to myself.
Rice Recipe #5 – Fresh herbs and a microwave are all you need. So, there you are, reading through all of these recipes thinking, “Girlfriend, I don’t have time to wait on a pot of rice for 20 minutes (or more). My kids are hangry and I need dinner on the table. Stat.” I hear ya and this last recipe is for you. When you are doing your grocery shopping, grab a small package of fresh herbs in the produce section (I suggest cilantro or parsley or basil) and a bag of steamable rice (in the same spot as the frozen vegetables). While you are microwaving the bag of rice, according to instructions, chop up a handful of the fresh herbs. When it’s done, dump it into a bowl and add the chopped fresh herbs. Mix to incorporate and serve. You will have an awesome, flavor-infused side dish for the table. Note: If you are using cilantro as your herb of choice, I recommend squeezing in the juice of half a lime, too. The result will be similar to the rice served at Chipotle!
If you have followed any of these recipes along with tip #2 from my previous post, you will likely have leftovers. Instead of throwing them in the garbage, here are a few ideas:
Freeze it! Rice freezes well, so simply put the leftovers in a container and pop it in the freezer to use as a side with a future meal. When you are ready to use it, simply defrost, add a little bit of water and microwave until heated.
Add it! I also like to add my rice leftovers to soup. If I am making a basic chicken soup, I just add this grain instead of a noodle. The result is a tasty chicken and rice soup.
Fry it! Why not make your own version of your favorite takeout dish with your leftovers? Fried rice is one of that curl-up-with-a-movie kind of foods and there are plenty of recipes for it online. I just try and keep it simple with a frying pan, some olive oil, a bit of soy sauce to taste, and my leftover rice. Just heat up your frying pan over high heat with the oil in it. When the pan is hot, add the rice and soy sauce. Stir for a few minutes until warmed through and serve. While this is very basic, you can certainly get way fancier by adding diced onion, garlic, egg, etc. I encourage you to find a recipe you like and give it a try!
Do you have any favorite rice recipes? Feel free to share in the comments!