Nutritious “fast food” at home: Vegetables and Rice

This “fast food” vegetables and rice dish  is my fall-back food when I need to eat a real meal right now, or don’t feel like cooking.

What makes it fast food is that once I’ve cooked it I can reheat it in the microwave in just a few minutes. The actual cooking in the first place does take time and work, but after that it’s faster and better than pulling through a drive through restaurant, and of course much less expensive.

I like for it to be close to half vegetables, for nutritional value, color and carbohydrate balance, so I use lots of carrots and summer squashes. If I’m using whole fresh carrots I peel and then grate them, anywhere from 3 to 7 carrots. If I’m using canned carrots I rinse and drain them and chop them coarsely.  Three to five summer squashes like zucchini and yellow squash add bulk and nutrition without having an overpowering flavor. Frozen sliced yellow squash works for this if you mostly thaw it and then chop it up coarsely. I like the taste of mushrooms in this, but they tend to explode in the microwave so I usually leave them out.

Once I have a lot of the vegetables chopped or grated, I start making brown rice into yellow rice. Store bought yellow rice has ingredients my body can’t cope with and costs more than making it myself. Put two cups of water or broth in a large pot over high heat. While it’s working up to a boil sprinkle in  2 teaspoons of  turmeric and 1/8 teaspoon of black pepper. The turmeric makes it yellow, and when combined with black pepper is reputed to help prevent cancer.

Add either 1 teaspoon of celery salt OR 3 chopped celery ribs and a teaspoon of salt (making it with real celery is noticeably better), 1 chopped onion and 2 to 5 cloves of minced garlic and 4 to 8 tablespoons of butter. I like lots of butter, others may want less.

The onion, celery, garlic and seasonings are the basis of the flavor for this dish. When the water boils add a cup of brown rice and all those vegetables you chopped at the beginning, lower the heat to very low and cover the pot. Let it cook as long as rice package says; for brown rice usually about 45 minutes. After the full cooking time, turn the burner off and let it sit 15 minutes without removing the lid at all.

At this point a vegetarian may want to add a legume such as green peas or cooked lentils so it can stand alone as a vegetarian entrée, or a vegan one if you use something other than butter. Sprinkling it with sunflower kernels when you serve it would be good too.

I used to enhance the protein content of this dish by stirring in several eggs about ten minutes before the rice was finished cooking, and then mixing them in very well after it was done. With the eggs and with or without green peas this variation makes a nice vegetarian entrée.

Without the added proteins this is an efficient side dish with any meat – vegetables and starch in one pot.

If you’d like to make it a one-dish omnivore’s meal, stir in chopped cooked chicken or other meat. If you like bell peppers they would be good in this too with meat.

I freeze this dish in single serve portions. It’s very easy to pop it out of the container, microwave it 2-3 minutes until it’s thawed enough to spread it out, put slices of sharp cheddar cheese on top and microwave until the cheese is melted. It’s great when I have to be somewhere in a hurry and need to eat first, when I get home hungry and don’t want to wait to cook something, and when I just don’t feel like cooking.

With lots of extra vegetables and a double amount of rice I’ve made up to 24 servings of this at a time. If you’re feeding more than one person you can freeze it in family meal size portions, so dinner is already ready already when you get home. If you freeze part of it in single portions, then if someone is home on their own they’ve got a quick meal on hand too.

Shopping list:

Rice

Turmeric

Black pepper

Celery or celery salt

Onion

Garlic

Butter

Carrots, whole or canned

Yellow and/or zucchini squash, fresh or frozen

Optional:

Green peas

Lentils

Sunflower kernels

Eggs

Chicken

Bell peppers

.

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