You know that scene in a romantic comedy where one lead suddenly sees the other in a completely new way: “Oh wow, you’re not just my best friend, you’re totally my soulmate”? Get ready to feel that way about the $20 appliance you probably never think about, even if you are staring at it on the kitchen counter right now- the (extremely) understated electric rice cooker. Seriously, I think that the Toshiba Electric Company, or whoever translated the appliance's name (suihanki, in Japanese) so literally into English really missed the boat on naming this thing. I know that amazing-cheap-steamer-cooker-wonder is a bit lengthy from a marketing standpoint. I guess that’s why I cook, not name products. Let’s just make a quick edit to rice creative cooker, and move on.
The question: "It’s too hot to contemplate baking or boiling; how can I make a complete meal without touching a knob/button on my stove or oven? Seriously. I don’t even want to boil water for noodles."
As you may have guessed from the intro/rant above the answer is get out your rice creative cooker!
[If you don’t have one, honestly, you should go get one immediately. The basic models are $20-40, nearly indestructible and better at making rice than any non sushi chef human can on the stovetop. Also, make sure it comes with a steamer insert that sits on top. Are you back from buying one? Okay good]
Beyond the hassle-free cooking of rice... this is an abridged list of things you can and should create in the body of your rice cooker:
- mac n cheese
- spice cakes
- poached pears (or other fruit)
- boneless chicken (yes, really.)
And in the steamer insert you can steam, well anything that’s good steamed, including but not limited to:
- hot dogs/sausages
Plus as long as you are keeping an eye on the appliance, and know roughly how long both should be cooking, you can cook one thing in the body while steaming an accompaniment above. [I predict that some readers may start using their rice creative cookers so much after trying the following meals that it becomes one of those appliances that never gets put away in the cupboard.]
The One Pot Dinner Recipe: Arroz con Pollo (or variations thereof)
A one pot classic that can be infinitely seasoned. Whether you make it on the stove, in the oven, in a slow cooker, or today’s focus: the rice cooker, this is a consummate classic sure to please everyone.
The advantage of using a rice cooker over a slow cooker in the summer is beautiful produce. In the summer you don’t want to overcook your beautiful delicate tomatoes, zucchini, corn, etc. so a quicker cooking appliance is preferable. In the winter, you’re probably using frozen or canned veggies that don’t have much structural integrity to retain so they are just fine in the slow cooker.
Pictured are 2 cups brown rice, 1lb turkey cutlets cut into bite sized pieces, torn kale, an onion, grated garlic and ginger, jalapeno and sweet wax peppers, tomatoes, bay leaves, and some chipotles in adobo sauce. The directions below will work with any amount/variety of ingredients your family likes with poultry and grains.
What to do:
Place the rice in the cooker and fill with broth or water to the corresponding number line on the interior of the bowl, whole grains will need slightly more moisture, for the brown rice I added an extra half cup of water. Add your choice of poultry, aromatics and any other hearty vegetables or flavoring agents. Put on the lid and flip switch to cook. When the switch adjusts itself to warm, check that the rice is cooked through and the meat is firm, stir in any frozen or delicate veggies, I added my diced tomatoes here, stir to incorporate, and let sit on warm 5-10 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.
For Kids/College Students: Rice Cooker Mac ‘n’ Cheese (with veggies and hot dogs/sausage)
This is a great alternative to bringing potato or pasta salad for a cookout and also the perfect way to feed little kids without turning on the stove.
Pictured are a box of small shells, 2 cups chicken stock, ½ cup heavy cream, ½ cup water, lots of grated cheese, ¼ cup cream cheese, and ⅓ cup pesto. The general ratio for any good mac ‘n’ cheese in the rice cooker is 1 cup of liquid per 2 cups small shape noodles with 1 cup dairy product and 2 or more cups grated cheese for any amount of noodles over 2 cups, then season to taste.
For a complete meal add the steamer insert with some cauliflower florets and hot dogs or sausage.
What to do:
Place the noodles and liquid in the rice cooker and switch to cook. When the switch goes to warm, add the rest of the ingredients, stir together and either let sit on warm for 15 mins or switch to cook again. Stir again and let sit for at least 5 minutes unplugged, it can take awhile for the sauce to thicken using this method. If you are steaming fresh vegetables and/or sausage put them in the steamer insert at the beginning with the noodles and water. If steaming frozen veggies and/or hot dogs steam for 2-5 mins after adding the dairy and seasoning (you will need to switch to cook for that step).
Once you’ve mastered pasta and rice based meals, try out this amazing sounding carrot cake recipe (it does have some stovetop steps, but candied carrot topping might be worth it!).
Please share any rice creative cooker creations of your own in the comments, and don’t forget to send in any questions you have.