From fried to sautéed: Try these tips for cooking with rice, the ultimate staple ingredient

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FEATURE — Have you heard the term “staple ingredient” before? A staple food is basically one that seems important to have on hand in a well-stocked kitchen. Rice certainly qualifies as a staple because of its simple preparation as well as the diverse recipes you can create. 

Stock image | Photo courtesy of USU Extension Create Better Health blog, St. George News

When properly stored, rice can last a long time past the “best by” date, making it an excellent food to stock up on. In fact, food safety experts at Utah State University Extension have provided guidance on storing rice for up to 30 years. For more details and helpful tips about storing grains, visit the USU Extension website

Now that you are aware of some of the benefits of rice as a “staple” food, let’s talk about different ways of using this versatile grain.

A side dish – There are so many unique and tasty side dishes made with rice. Cilantro lime rice is a fun addition to grilled chicken or pork and doesn’t require expensive ingredients.

A stuffing ingredient – Most stuffed pepper recipes are made with rice, but you can stuff all sorts of veggies with the same basic ingredients.  Try stuffed pumpkin, zucchini or squash.

Casseroles – Just a cup or two of uncooked rice goes a long way. Use it to make a creamy chicken and rice casserole and extend the meal further by adding fresh or frozen veggies, cheese, mushrooms or different types of protein. Try chicken and broccoli bake.

Filling for burritos, quesadillas and enchiladas – Make homemade Spanish rice as a side dish one night, then use the leftovers to stuff with refried beans, meat or black beans in your favorite tortilla.

Fried rice This can be a meal on its own. Add ham or shrimp for protein, or simply pack it with veggies. Leftovers can also be used for topping with Asian-inspired dishes such as sweet and sour chicken or beef with broccoli.

Skillet meal – Rice can easily be sautéed and then cooked with other ingredients in a skillet. Just make sure you have plenty of liquid for cooking and use the same cover and simmer method you would normally use for plain rice. Try lemon chicken rice.

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Choreograph/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

Don’t forget there are many different types of rice to choose from. Visit The Whole Grains Council to learn about different kinds. Try something you have never tried! 

Brown rice may take longer to cook than traditional white rice, but the additional fiber may be worth the time. Wild rice also takes more time, but you can make it ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator until it’s ready to use. When cooking any variety of rice, it’s a good idea to double up and save extra for meals later in the week. 

This week I made one of my favorite soup recipes, chicken and wild rice soup. Find the recipe here

I served it with whole grain rolls and a side of fruit. Give it a try. Enjoy!

Written by CANDI MERRITT and BECKY EGLI, Certified Nutrition Education Ambassadors.

This article originally appeared Jan. 6, 2021, on the USU Extension Create Better Health blog.

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