Rice is Nice

To say these are trying times is more than just an understatement. It's nearly laughable. Between wondering where all the toilet paper went and attempting to work from home (if you're lucky) while getting your kids to do something beyond look at screens (again, if you're lucky), there's that ever-nagging question that somehow doesn't manage to take a break even during the throes of a global pandemic. Now that I have 80 pounds of rice, what do I do with it?

First, know that cooked rice can be frozen for up to 6 months if prepared and frozen properly. Many, but not all, of the recipes below called for cooked rice, so I try to make a big batch, store some in the refrigerator for the recipes I want to make this week and package and freeze the remainder in portions that will suit my family. Then part of the meal is basically done when I'm ready to start cooking! Besides, I think cold rice is nicer for making dishes like fried rice anyway.

Also, rice is one of those ingredients that tends to play well with a few of our favorite kitchen appliances. I've included a few below that use your slow cooker, rice cooker, or pressure cooker. Keep in mind that using these appliances merely reduces the amount of you need to spend tending to your meal and they can be made on the stovetop as well. After all, rice (and kitchens) are versatile.

And when it comes to using rice, everything from soups to the aforementioned fried rice to risottos and gumbos are on the table. Just maybe not all at once! And remember that stir-fries and casseroles often want a bit of rice in the mix too! To get you started or help refresh your menu options, here are 10 great rice recipes from our archives.

Rice Cooker Jambalaya

  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 medium zucchini, chopped
  • 1/4 c. chopped garlic scapes
  • 2 1/2 c. uncooked rice
  • 3 links (about 10 oz.) Andouille sausage, sliced
  • 4 c. chicken broth
  • 2 tsp. cajun seasoning
  • 2 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 2 cans diced fire-roasted tomatoes

Place the butter and veggies in the rice cooker and press cook. After about 20 minutes of cooking, add the remaining ingredients; stir well, and make sure the cook setting on the cooker is set. Cover and allow to cook until the warm setting is achieved. Open the cooker, stir the rice, and cover again to let it sit for 10 minutes before serving.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 40 minutes

Quick Bacon-Mushroom Pilaf

  • 1 T. butter
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 1/2 c. medium-grain white rice
  • 1/3 c. diced red onion
  • 2 c. chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 c. water
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 4 ounces dried shitake mushrooms
  • 1/2 c. cooked, chopped bacon (optional)

Select Sauté or Browning on your pressure cooker and allow to heat.

Add the butter and olive oil to the pressure cooker pot and then add the rice and red onion; stir for three minutes.

Mix in the 3 1/2 cups cooking liquid (broth and water), salt, and mushrooms.

Lock the lid in place and close the pressure valve. Cook at high pressure for 6 minutes. Complete a quick release. Using tongs, remove the mushrooms and slice into bite-sized pieces. Return the sliced mushrooms and add the chopped bacon to the rice and stir well to combine and warm both the mushrooms and the bacon. Serve warm.

  • Yields: 4-6 servings
  • Preparation Time: 14 minutes

Weekday Rainbow Gumbo

  • 1 T. cooking fat (I used bacon fat)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small red onion, peeled and slivered
  • 1 c. diced red and orange pepper
  • 2 tsp. Cajun seasoning
  • 1 - 14 oz. can fire roasted tomatoes with juices
  • 2 c. cooked rice
  • 1 handful yellow pear tomatoes
  • 1 c. diced cooked chicken or turkey
  • 6 oz. raw shrimp, peeled and deveined

Heat the cooking fat of your choice over medium-high heat in a large nonstick skillet. Add the garlic, onion, and diced peppers. Sauté for a couple of minutes before adding the Cajun seasoning and continuing to sauté for another few minutes until the vegetables are softened and fragrant. Add the tomatoes with their juices and the rice. Stir well to combine, cover, and turn to medium-low; allow to cook for another 5 minutes.

Remove the lid and add the remaining ingredients. Replace the lid and allow to cook for another 5 minutes. Stir once more and serve immediately.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 20 minutes

Simmering Rice Soup

The surprise in this soup is that it isn't complete until it gets served to your guests. Make sure the rice is very hot so that it sings when you add the broth to it!
  • 4 c. chicken broth
  • 1/2 c. green peas
  • 1 T. wok oil
  • 2 c. cooked white rice

Combine the chicken broth and peas in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat until steaming.

Meanwhile, heat the wok oil in a medium-sized wok or frying pan over high heat. Add the rice and stir-fry until sizzling and crispy.

Immediately spoon 1/2 c. of the rice into each serving bowl and pour about 1 c. of the chicken broth over the rice. If you've kept your rice hot enough, it will sizzle when you add the chicken broth!

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 20 minutes

Slow Cooker Turkey and Wild Rice Soup

  • 1 cup uncooked wild rice
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onions
  • 6 cups turkey broth
  • 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 1-2 tablespoons instant tapioca
  • 2-3 cups diced, cooked turkey
  • 1 cup shredded fresh carrots
  • 2 cups half & half
  • Additional water as needed
  • Fried onions, for garnish (optional)

Rinse the wild rice. Place the uncooked wild rice, onions, turkey broth, and poultry seasoning in a slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 6-7 hours. The rice should be soft. There will be extra liquid in the slow cooker; do not drain.

Gently stir in the instant tapioca and the diced turkey. Replace the lid and cook for an additional 30 minutes. Add the shredded carrots and the half & half. If the soup is too thick for your liking, thin it as desired with additional water. Season with salt & pepper as desired. Garnish with a sprinkle of fried onions as you're serving the soup, if desired.

  • Yields: 6-8 servings
  • Preparation Time: 8 hours (mostly hands-off slow cooking time)

Fried Rice

Fried rice is a favorite addition to any Chinese based meal. The variations on fried rice are limited only by the imagination. One can base this rice dish on barbecued pork, chicken, bacon, shrimp, or any other combination thereof. I prefer using fried bacon because of the flavor that it provides, and then adding other ingredients that are fresh such as Chinese peas or bean sprouts.
  • White or brown rice (2 cups)
  • Two eggs
  • Sesame oil, and/or bacon grease
  • Barbecued pork, chicken, shrimp, fried bacon, or combination thereof
  • Diced green onions
  • 4 T. soy sauce
  • Fresh or frozen peas
  • Bean sprouts
  • Diced steamed carrots
  • Shredded cabbage
  • Chinese peas
  • Sliced water chestnuts

Steam or boil the rice per the direction on the package (approximately 25 minutes). While the rice is cooking beat the eggs in a bowl, salt and pepper to taste, and fry in a greased skillet over medium heat, turning once after the top begins to get translucent. Remove the eggs from the skillet when fully cooked and dice into pieces. Also, fry the bacon, if you choose to use bacon in this dish, and slice or prepare any other ingredients to be used while the rice is cooking.

After the rice is cooked, heat a large skillet or wok, add oil (or use some of the bacon grease), and proceed to fry the rice, turning frequently. Once the rice has been thoroughly mixed, add the soy sauce and stir thoroughly. Next, add the bacon (crumbled), diced eggs, and any other ingredients that appeal to you. Garnish the dish with the chopped green onions and stir them in before serving.

  • Serves: 8
  • Preparation Time: 35 minutes

Breakfast Fried Rice

  • 3 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into pieces
  • 1 small onion, peeled and sliced into thin wedges
  • 1 yellow pepper, chopped
  • 2 c. cooked, cooled rice
  • 2-3 eggs
  • 1 tomatillo, cleaned and sliced into wedges
  • 1/2 c. halved cherry tomatoes
  • Hot sauce, for serving (optional)

In a large, nonstick skillet, fry the bacon until crisp. When the bacon is nearly done, add the onions and pepper and cook the vegetables until crisp-tender, which should take about as much time as it does to finish cooking the bacon.

Carefully sprinkle the cold rice evenly over the pan. Break it apart with your fingers if needed. Using a wooden spatula or similar utensil, stir the rice in wide strokes, allowing all of the rice to make contact with the bottom of the pan in turn. This will cover the rice in bacon fat and allow it to fry as needed. When the rice has been crisped in this way, make a hollow area in the center of the pan and gently crack the eggs into it. Scramble the eggs to your liking and then stir the scrambled eggs into the rest of the dish. Add the tomatillos at this point and stir them well to warm them.

Remove the pan from the heat and serve the rice topped with the cherry tomatoes and hot sauce, if desired.

  • Yields: 3-4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 25 minutes

Thai Fried Rice

  • 2 T. canola oil, divided
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 c. thinly sliced watercress, arugula, or cilantro (optional)
  • 1½ c. chopped pineapple
  • 6 yellow mini peppers, sliced into rings
  • ½ c. chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 c. cooked and chilled jasmine rice
  • 1/2 tsp. Chinese five spice powder
  • 1 T. tamari or soy sauce
  • 1-2 tsp. chili garlic sauce or sriracha
  • 1 small lime, halved
  • Salt, to taste

Heat a large wok, cast iron skillet, or non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat and place an empty serving bowl nearby. Once the pan is hot enough that a drop of water sizzles on contact, add 1 teaspoon of the oil. Pour in the eggs and cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggs are scrambled and lightly set. Transfer the eggs to the empty bowl. Add the chopped greens on top of the eggs in the bowl.

Add 1 tablespoon of the oil to the pan; add the pineapple and yellow pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, until the liquid has evaporated and the pineapple is caramelized on the edges, about 3 to 5 minutes. Then add the onion and garlic. Cook until fragrant while stirring constantly, about 30 seconds. Transfer the contents of the pan to the bowl of eggs and greens.

Add the remaining 2 teaspoons of the oil to the pan. Add the rice to the pan, sprinkle the Chinese five spice powder over the rice, and stir to combine. Cook until the rice is hot, stirring constantly, about 3 minutes.

Pour the contents of the bowl with the eggs and vegetables back into the pan and stir to combine, breaking up the scrambled eggs with your spoon. Cook until the contents are warmed through; remove the pan from the heat. Add the tamari and chili garlic sauce, to taste. Squeeze the juice of ½ lime over the dish and stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and serve warm.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 20 minutes

Spicy Fusion Fried Rice

  • 8 oz. pork chorizo, casing removed
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 cups cooked white rice, chilled
  • 1/2 cup diced roasted red bell pepper
  • 2 T. Sriracha
  • 3 T. soy sauce
  • 1 T. sesame oil
  • 1 T. honey

In large skillet (a wok would also work well), cook the chorizo over medium heat. When it is finely crumbled and mostly cooked, add the diced onion and minced garlic to the skillet and sauté until softened.

Add the rice to the veggies and chorizo in the skillet and stir fry until the rice is coated with the drippings from the chorizo (add a small amount of bacon fat, oil, or butter if the rice isn't coated) and lightly fried. Add the diced roasted red bell pepper and toss to combine. Combine the Sriracha, soy sauce, sesame oil, and honey in a small bowl. (If needed, heat the honey slightly in the microwave to make it easier to stir into the mixture.) Add the Sriracha mixture over the top of the skillet and stir well. Stir fry for about 5 more minutes, or until rice is crisp.

Serve immediately along side additional Sriracha, for those wanting an even spicier dish.

  • Yields: 2-3 servings
  • Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Eggplant-Edamame Fried Rice

  • 4 slices smoked bacon, cut into small pieces
  • 1 small Chinese eggplant, diced
  • 1 medium onion, sliced into thin slivers
  • 1 large yellow sweet pepper, sliced into thin strips
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 c. cooked, cooled rice (leftover rice works beautifully for this)
  • 1/3 c. soy or tamari sauce (use tamari sauce for a gluten free version)
  • 1 T. honey
  • 2 tsp. sriracha sauce
  • 1-2 tsp. rice vinegar
  • 1 c. steamed, hulled edamame
  • Hot sauce, for garnishing (optional)

In a nonstick skillet or wok, fry the bacon until crisp and it has rendered a bit of fat into the bottom of the pan. Add the eggplant, onion, pepper, and garlic and stir-fry the vegetables until crisp-tender, about 6 minutes. Add the cold rice (break it up with your hands to make sure it's not in clumps) and continue stirring it constantly for about 5 minutes or until the rice is fried and warm. Combine the soy or tamari sauce, honey, and sriracha sauce and add the mixture to the pan. Toss well to coat. Add 1-2 teaspoons of vinegar — just enough to loosen any stuck bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the edamame and toss to distribute evenly. When the edamame is heated through, serve the rice in bowls and top with hot sauce as desired.

  • Yields: 2 servings
  • Preparation Time: 20 minutes

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