Monday, November 7, 2016

Cooking on a Budget: Rice

Extending your buck. That's how I try to live life both because of a personal desire but also, out of necessity. I am sure you might be able to relate.

My friends are always surprised at how we keep our monthly food (including toiletries, etc.) to $500 for our family of four. We do so through meal planning and relying on a few core staples. Rice is one of those staples. As I begin to share some of my favourite - quick and easy and cost-effective (relatively healthy) - recipes, I thought I would start with a basic...

Rice. Now, slightly contradictory with the healthy comment I just made but using the "it could be worse" thought, we make use of Jasmine Rice. A $30 bag from Costco lasts 2 months and can be batch cooked in a set it and forget it approach. There are a few "wins" for this Momma there so, I am taking it. Of course, I am sure you can make use of your favourite brown rice with a higher fiber content should you prefer.
The basics...

No matter the quantity, the method for "plain rice" is the same:

1. Briefly "roast" stove top your desired rice, dry, in olive oil to enhance its flavour. This can be as quick as 2-5 minutes. Remember how many cups of rice you have scooped in!

2. Add water - the ratio is 2:1... 2 cups water for every 1 cup rice.

3. Cover; bring to a boil. Let boil for 5 minutes.

5. After 5 minutes, let simmer for another 20 OR, simply turn off and remove from heat. I use the latter if I am heading to work so I come home and the rice is set! Fluff the rice just once to keep it from turning to mush.

Now, what to do with this mass of rice you have just made?!? Let it cool and store in Ziploc freezer bags. I layer (and flatten) the bags, flat, on a cookie sheet maximize use of space in our freezer.

When the dinner-of-the-day calls for rice, I pull a bag and let it sit in the sink for the day. When I get home, in just 5 minutes, I can have it warmed - stove top.

I make use of this plain rice as a base or side for butter chicken, curried recipes (I used cream of chicken instead of cream of mushroom in this recipe), pork chops or shredded pork... I'll share these recipes later and hope to connect back to update the link. For now though, I have linked you to a few of my faves from All Recipes.

Jasmine Rice is a great base!

Spanish Rice...

So easy and always hits the spot! Perfect as a side or a base in a Mexican casserole dish, burritos, fajitas, etc.

- 1 can diced tomatoes
- 4 tsp Cumin
- 2 tsp Chili Powder
- Garlic, optional
- Chicken stock, optional
- Prepared Rice

1. Blend (we use a Blentec and love it!) the tomatoes, cumin and chili (I keep the ratio as 2:1 but you can modify for your preferred taste). Add garlic and chicken stock powder to preferred taste. With the Blentec, I blend for all of 20 seconds. This sauce also makes a great enchilada sauce!

2. Warm your desired amount of rice and add sauce. I typically use 2 cups rice with a 1/2 cup sauce.

The Spanish rice and be cooled and frozen as well for added ease in the future. The extra sauce can also be frozen in a Ziploc freezer bag.

Spanish Rice/Mexican Rice

Fried Rice...

If you're not sensing a theme yet, "quick and easy" hits again! We make use of fried rice as a main or a side depending on the extent of ingredients we add.

- Olive oil
- Onions (1 small, finely chopped)
- Garlic (3 cloves... we make use of the prepped fresh garlic from Costco and add 2-3 tsp)
- Sliced Mushrooms
- 2 tablespoons Soy Sauce
- Bacon Bits (I use the real bacon bits from Costco as the price is right for the amount... alternatively, cook bacon (oven or stove top - I always cook bacon in the oven for ease and chop)
- Prepared rice (approx 4 cups)
- Peas/corn/diced carrots, optional
- Chicken or pork - shredded or dice, optional (I only add chicken when make this a meal in itself)

1. Sautee the onions and garlic*
2. Add mushrooms  - if adding carrots, add them first
3. After about 5 minutes, add bacon
5. After about 5 minutes, add/combine rice
6. Add soy sauce, cook for approx. 5 minutes
7. Add peas or corn, cook for another 2 minutes... enjoy!

*Note: If adding additional protein (beyond the bacon), warm your shredded or finely diced chicken or pork in a separate pan with a dash of soy sauce as you begin to sautee the onions and garlic.

Basic Fried Rice
To re-cap, if you want to make all rice bases in this post and batch up for 20 meals, below the potential cost breakdown. Keep in mind, you'll have plenty left over for other recipes from this grocery list! Based on current Canadian prices.
  • Jasmine Rice: $30 
  • Frozen Peas: $3
  • Soy Sauce: $3 
  • Bacon Bits: $12
  • Onions: $1
  • Garlic: $1
  • Olive Oil (I buy the 4litres at a time from Costco so this lasts awhile!): $20
  • Diced tomatoes: $1
  • Mushrooms: $3
  • Chicken stock (powder base): $5
  • TOTAL: approx. $80 ($4/meal; $1 per serving)

Until next time... Have a wonderful day! xo