How long did it take you to grow tired of kid-friendly foods? Right. Not long. So, one of the best ways to save yourself from culinary boredom is to master a few tricks to ‘liven up’ dishes so you’re making one meal for everyone. That’s right, rule number one to save yourself from years of extra dishes, is not to make separate kids meals. Occasionally, as in for holidays and special occasions only, I will make a fancy grown-up feast but even then the side dishes are always kid-friendly then modified for us so that we’re all eating mostly the same thing.
Notice, my husband and I ate the plates on the left and the kids plates are on the right. Same meal, minor modifications, totally different experience.
There are Two Ways I Work With Rice:
- Rice From Scratch (aka weekends when you have the time to make rice.)
- Left-Over Rice-Reinvention (aka quick weeknight-wonders, recipe below.)
Making Rice From Scratch & Modifying it
This recipe (which is my standard) for rice making is very straight forward but the seasoning of the water is what takes it from ho hum to interesting, for kids and adults alike. If you want to ‘bring it up a notch’ after the rice is finished cooking, and you’ve served the kids portions onto their plates. Take about 1 tsp. of a hot pepper sauce you like, 1/4 cup of fresh baby spinach and an extra 1/2 teaspoon each of turmeric and cumin and fold them gently into the rice with a large spoon or spatula while it’s still warm. Then you have a very nice ‘base’ for your grain bowl to top with a protein that has some oomph for the adult eaters.
Dressing Up Leftover Rice
I’m now in love with my newest incarnation of rice-dress-up. I usually make 2 or 3 times as much of any grain I cook (i.e. rice, barley or cous cous) than we need and put it in an airtight container in the fridge to use one or two extra times during the week. It reheats beautifully and you can also turn it into burritos even if you don’t want to use it as a side-dish anymore. Leftover rice can be sautéed in a pan with added goodies.
A few great grown-up additions to rice: Baby Spinach, Cooked (or Raw Carrots Cut Small,) Roasted Onions (cut small,) Scallions (diced,) Golden Raisins, Bell Peppers (chopped.)
- Cut whatever cooked (or raw) veggies you have on hand (I roasted a chicken tonight along with a couple of carrots and onions.) Or you can use scallions, 2 minced cloves of garlic or chopped 1/4 of a bell pepper. Tonight, I cut the carrots and cartelized onions after they cooled into small pieces and put them aside on a small plate. I also included 1/4 cup of golden raisins (as is, didn’t even soak them!)
- Add spices/seasoning (right on top of the cut veggies,) I grated about 1 tsp. of nutmeg, 1 tbsp. of fresh ginger (always on hand in the freezer) and an extra 1/2 tsp. of turmeric, 1/2 tsp. of chipotle chili powder and 1 tsp. of ground cumin. Put it aside, the veggie/seasoning mix stays next to the stove so you can use it at the very end.
- In a wide saucepan, heat about 1/4 cup of olive oil until it’s fairly hot (about medium to medium high heat) and add the rice needed for your family (about 1/2 to 3/4 cup for each rice-eating adult and 1/4 to 1/3 cup for each rice-eating child depending on the age and appetite of the kids.)
- Stir the rice in the hot oil to warm it up. Then remove it from the heat and put the warm rice onto the kids’ plates. If your kids require ‘dressed up’ leftovers, then my favorite mix-ins are chia seeds (1 tsp. per child) sprinkled on top or shredded cheese.
- Return the pan to the heat (about medium or medium high, if the pan is dry add some olive oil.) Stir the cut veggie/seasoning mix into the remaining rice in the saucepan until it’s fully incorporated.
- If you’re a fan add the optional spinach at this point (1 cup of fresh baby spinach.) and continue to sauté the rice, veggies (and spinach if using) until it’s warmed all of the way through (about 3 or 4 minutes.)
- I served this with roast chicken tonight but top it with the protein of your choice or eat it solo.