A bridge over a beautiful waterfall

A bridge over a beautiful waterfall
Nature brings magic

Friday, January 21, 2011

Freaky Food Friday - RICE


Hello my lovely foodies!  If you're a food snob, turn away.  This is going to get ugly.  If you're like me - a food snob forced to live on a tight budget - then stick around.  I've got a few recipes for you today.

Today's food of choice: RICE

Rice is such a versatile ingredient.  You can replace pasta with it in several recipes, giving them a whole different quality.  Now, I don't recommend changing rice for pasta for spaghetti.  But you can still use it for so many dishes.  And a 20+ lbs. bag of rice will last a long time.  Unless you eat rice for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and every snack in the day.

The rice I'm talking about is not Minute Rice or Uncle Ben's or any of those other quick or instant cook rices.  I'm talking about Thai Jasmine rice...sushi rice...long grain rice...short grain rice...any of the rices that actually require EFFORT to cook.

A tip about cooking rice: it's tricky.  I know I've either overcooked or undercooked it enough over the years.  Unless your rice cooking instructions tell you something different, the ratio for cooking rice is generally 1.5 to 1 or 2 to 1 water to rice.  As in 1.5 c water to 1 c rice or 2 c water to 1 c rice.

When you cook your rice, make sure you're putting the water and rice in the pan at the same time.  Wait for it to hit a full rolling boil and then turn it down to low.  Slap a lid on that pan and DO NOT TOUCH for at LEAST 15-20 minutes.  Usually by the end of 20 minutes, your rice should be done to perfection.

Or, if you're luckier than me, you may have a rice cooker.  I don't know anything about those, so for those just follow the directions on your rice cooker.

Onigiri (or Japanese rice balls)
4 c. cooked short grain rice (sushi rice really works best for this)
--scrambled egg
--peanut butter (creamy)
--cooked fish
--tuna fish mixed with soy sauce and lemon (do NOT use mayo with this)
--pieces of fruit
--cooked veggies
--whatever you want that'll fit
Nori (seaweed) and/or sesame seeds are optional but are really good with these too

Take a small shallow bowl and line it with plastic wrap.  Sprinkle a tiny bit of salt onto the plastic wrap.  Take a large scoop of the cooked rice (still warm) and drop it into the bowl.  Push it down a little.  Put a teaspoon of your chosen filling inside.  Using the plastic wrap, push the sides of your rice up a little.  Take another smaller scoop of rice and cover the filling.  Wrap the whole thing in the plastic wrap and use your hands to shape it into a ball.  Twist the plastic wrap closed and set aside.  Repeat as many times as you have rice to make them.

You can make all sorts of fun shapes with this.  I tend to do weird things with mine.  You can make it without the shallow bowl, but if you're just getting started, I recommend sticking with the bowl.  It makes the onigiri easier to shape.  I usually end up with baseball sized onigiri.  I've seen them made smaller.  I've also seen bigger.  Fit the size to what you need.  These are great to take to work for lunch.  They make people's eyes bug out when they realize what you're eating.

I've experimented with a lot of different fillings.  The ones mentioned up there are the ones that worked best texturally.  The fruit needs to be of a soft consistency, so things like apples and pears don't work.  Bananas, berries, and citrus are good.

Rice Stroganoff
4 c. cooked rice
1 lb. ground beef (or 2-4 c diced leftover beef roast)
1 chopped onion or 2 tsp onion powder
1 can Cream of Mushroom soup (the big family sized cans...2 cans if you're buying the smaller cans)
Garlic powder, chili powder, black pepper to taste

Brown the meat and onions together.  If you're using the onion powder, wait until you drain the oil off the beef.  Once the oil is drained off, toss in your cream of mushroom soup and the spices.  DO NOT ADD WATER.  Stir together until the mixture is well mixed.  Dump on top of the rice and stir.

(Okay, okay, it's not EXACTLY stroganoff.  But I thought that sounded better than rice, beef, and mushroom glop...which is the name it has in our house.)

Spanish Rice
2 T oil
2 T chopped onion
2 c cooked rice
1 small can chicken broth
1 c chunky salsa

Cook the onion in the oil until soft.  Throw in the rice and cook until the rice starts to brown.  Add the chicken broth and cook down until the liquid is almost gone.  Then toss in the chunky salsa.

This is a cheap, fast way to make Spanish Rice.  I modified the recipe from something I found on allrecipes.com.  The original recipe called for the rice to be uncooked but I found I kept massacring the stuff if I did it their way.  So I adjusted it to fit my cooking style.

Rice and beans
1 package dried beans, any type (we stick with navy beans or black beans)
4-6 strips of bacon, 2 c ham chunks, or 1-2 small ham hocks
2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, smashed but not chopped
4 c. cooked rice

Soak your beans overnight.  In the morning, rinse the beans and cook them based on the directions on their package.  Make sure you toss in the meat, onions, garlic, and bay leaves so the beans soak up the flavors.  When the beans are done fish out the bay leaves and serve the beans over rice.

This gives you a perfect protein.  Beans and rice are an awesome dinner.  They're very filling, and if you're like us and love hot sauce this meal gives you a chance to dig out your favorite hot sauce and use it to help flavor your beans as well.

Other favorites include making rice pudding out of leftover rice; having rice, milk, and cinnamon & sugar for breakfast; rice, melted butter, cinnamon & sugar for a snack or for breakfast...the list is endless. Rice is a very versatile ingredient I highly recommend for folks on a budget.

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