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How do I make homemade versions of Rice-a-Roni like foods?

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
I'm a college student, and I like to eat healthy. I usually make some (non white) rice or couscous and then fry some chicken and boil some mixed veggies and mix 'em.
But I see all the Rice-a-Roni (and other brand) foods with all their seasonings and such and I want to home make similar things. I took a trip down the spice isle, and there were just too many options and they're too expensive to just try out naively.
So, what can I do, what are some spices/combos to add to rice/couscous?!
post #2 of 9

Try a Rice Pilaf

Saute diced onion in an oven proof saucepan use butter
add some chopped garlic and parsley, bay leaf. Pinch thyme. cook on low heat, add rice keep stirring till rice is coated.Do not brown. Now add a good chicken stock.(Store bought is alright) S&P. @2 parts stock to 1 part rice. cover with foil put in oven 350 till all stock absorbed. fluff with fork serve
If you like you can add anything you want to this basic mixture. Tomatoes, mushrooms, chopped spinach etc. Enjoy:lips:
post #3 of 9
To pick up on what Ed said:
You can do the same thing with a combination of white rice and broken fine egg noodles -- which is exactly what Rice-a-roni is! :p Just be sure to measure the dry ingredients and use twice as much liquid by volume.

Other dry ingredients you can use the same way:
  • Half and half white rice and orzo (the rice-shaped pasta)
  • Half and half brown rice and brown lentils (cook with the liquid for 40 to 45 minutes), This can be a meal in itself.
The important thing here is to use dry ingredients that take about the same time to cook.

Other variations:
  • Use olive oil or some other animal fat, such as bacon drippings or chicken fat
  • Use a different liquid -- beef stock or vegetable stock, or even just water if you've used a flavorful fat or will be adding vegetables or other mix-ins
  • Add whatever herbs you like! Add a combination of herbs and spices (a pinch of cinnamon is nice with the lentil variation)
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
post #4 of 9
Get Alton Brown's "I'm only here for the food", any of Rachael Ray's books, Sandra Lee's "Semi Homemade"- there are thousands of books for begnner cooks - try your local library, look at the magazines in the check out lines at the supermarket - google for Chicken recipes, beef recipes, or ethnic recipes (was your mother's cooking mainly Italian or Greek or Hungarian)? We can only guess at what you are looking for with out a lot more information.
post #5 of 9
You can do better than those packages by using fresh herbs, garlic, onion, etc.

If you use a rice cooker, you can add raw vegetables and cooked meats to the rice or whatever, to steam on top. Raw eggs work too. I add these just after the water level goes below the rice.

One flavor I really like with rice is celery chopped and fried 'til slightly browned, then added to the rice before or during cooking.
post #6 of 9
Thread Starter 
I'm looking for spice/seasoning suggestions for rice/couscous.
post #7 of 9
this way is probably the easiest and best herbs/spices you can you without spending a fortune on them
post #8 of 9
Rice is eaten the world over and seasoned in just about every way imaginable. There are also lots of types of rice that behave differently when cooked. You're probably buying long grain rice so I'll start there.

Add 2 cloves, 2 green cardamon pods per cup of rice you're going to cook. Cook normally with the spices added. It will have a nice spiced flavor sort of like some Indian spiced rice dishes. A cinnamon stick is good too, but cook more than 1 cup of rice in that case.

I like a lemon rice pilaf:
1/2 onion chopped
Pinch of turmeric
1 clove garlic minced
zest of 1 lemon finely chopped
juice of 1 lemon
salt to taste
2 tablespoons butter or oil
2 cups long grain rice
3 cups water

In a small pot or large saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the rice and stir. Once coated with the butter, add the turmeric Keep stirring, after a few minutes, the grains will be turning more opaque. Add the onion, stir another minute or two. Add the garlic, stir a couple of times, add the lemon zest, salt and water. When it boils, cover it and turn the heat to low. Simmer covered 15 minutes. Turn heat off. Let stand covered 5 minutes. Pour in the lemon juice and fluff/mix gently with a fork. A little sumac on top gives a nice contrast and punches up the sourness, but paprika is fine too.

Cook extra plain rice for a fried rice dish. Only use cooked rice that has completely cooled for fried rice. Season the fried rice with some soy, sugar salt and pepper. Oyster sauce is a good addition to fried rice too.

The fried rice concept is versatile. Use some sausage of various ethnicity and other vegies. Season with the dominant spices of the culture the sausage comes from.

Italian: think garlic oregano, basil
Mexican: garlic, oregano, cilantro lime
Spain: thyme, paprika, saffron but that's probably not right for a fried rice dish.
US breakfast sausage: thyme, sage, garlic, cayenne

Think also of beans with rice. Season with onion, garlic, celery, peppers--bell and hot. Again, various herbs can be added to take this in different culinary directions but beans and rice feeds most of the world.

Curry pastes are commonly available now in most grocery stores as is canned coconut milk. This is not the liquid from the center of a coconut but liquid from the pressed flesh. With these two ingredients many simplified Thai style curries are possible.

Couscous. Most any stew will work with couscous. A classic seasoning for couscous is Harissa, a hot spicy paste. Many recipes, google will turn up many. Stews for couscous in Morocco often include dried fruit. These stews are called tagines. Many recipes on the net again. These tend to be spiced in ways most US people don't think of for main courses. Cumin Coriander and Cinnamon. Almost more Indian in spicing but still very different. There will be some specialty ingredients such as preserved lemons. These aren't hard to make but will probably not interest you much at this point in our college life. And the dishes are still pretty good without them.

Chicken and rice are often baked together in Casseroles. The classic US verison uses canned cream of whatever soups. Not my particular preference but good college fare.
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
post #9 of 9
If you have a large enough pan, a cheater's paella is good. A wok with a lid works fine. A 12 inch skillet will be too small. If you don't have a big pan, cut this in half for a 12 inch skillet.

While paella classically includes seafood, you can make a fine one with chicken and sausage alone. It's also made with short grain rice, arborio preferred, but long grain is still tasty and I actually prefer it.

1/4 cup fat preferably in this combination:2 T bacon drippings, 1 T olive oil, 1 T butter
1 lb. hot Italian sausage, cut into 1" chunks Even a kielbasa wouldn't be bad
2 lb. skinless boneless chicken cut into 1 inch chunks seasoned with salt and pepper
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 14-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes crushed in the hand and drained
2 2/3 C arborio rice
2 C chicken stock
1/2 t red pepper flakes
1/2 t crushed saffron threads (this is expensive but good. While different and not authentic, use 1 teaspoon turmeric to substitute)
1/2 t dried thyme
2 14 1/2oz cans green beans, drained in l inch pieces Use other vegies as your taste prefers

Combine stocks, red pepper flakes, saffron and thyme in a small pot and heat to a simmer.

Meanwhile, heat a LARGE pan until hot. Add oil and swirl to coat pan. Add sausage and saute 4 or 5 minutes or until golden. Remove to a plate. Add chicken and more fat/butter as needed to pan and saute 3 or 4 minutes or until golden. Remove to a plate. You will probably have to do this in batches.

Add the bacon drippings to the pan. Add onion, garlic, celery, and bell pepper to drippings in pan and saute 3 or 4 minutes or until crisp-tender. Stir in tomatoes, rice, and herbed stock. Bring to a boil, stir in sausage and reduce heat to low. Cover tightly and cook 10 minutes.

Place chicken on top of the rice. Cover tightly for5 minutes. Add the green beans. Cover tightly for 5 more minutes. Stir. Cover and cook 3 minutes more. Garnish with lemon slices and serve.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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