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Put time into dinner now, and you can make it last forever -- or at least the whole week. Welcome to Halfway to Dinner, where we show you how to stretch your staples -- or your seasonal produce -- every which way.
Even though I'm in the kitchen more often than not during the week, I’m always making a big batch of some grain ahead of time, which I then use throughout the week for quick meals and those times I just don’t want to make a complicated dinner.
Brown rice is one of my favorites, as it’s not terribly fussy and it goes well with any combination of flavors. I typically have short-grain brown rice on hand, but long-grain brown rice works just as well. I also keep my technique simple: I just boil the rice like pasta until it’s the perfect consistency. I start testing it at 30 minutes, let it cook until I feel it’s ready, then drain it and pack it away for the week.
More: Make perfect brown rice, every time.
Vegetarian Fried Brown Rice
I think that any great home cook needs a few "throw in whatever you have on hand" recipes and in my kitchen, fried rice is one of these. If I have any vegetables that look a bit on the older side, it’s a fried rice kind of dinner. Sauté diced onion, throw in any vegetables you have on hand -- carrots, spinach, peas, cabbage, and edamame are all great additions -- and add the cooked rice along with soy sauce and rice wine vinegar for flavor. Make a well in the rice, pour in a couple of beaten eggs, and cook until the eggs are set. Garnish with sesame seeds and minced cilantro. This recipe can doubles easily -- just use a larger pan.
More: Customize your fried rice any way you like, no recipe required.
Barbecue Brown Rice Crumble Loaded Potatoes
This crumble is a staple in my kitchen. I’m not a big fan of vegetarian protein meat replacements, and this crumble came out of my desire for a substantial addition to meals that didn't involve tofu. I use a food processor to pulse the cooked brown rice with pecans and chickpeas, seasoning everything with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika. I cook the mixture in a skillet with barbecue sauce, then serve it over half of a baked potato (you could also serve it on a salad, over mashed sweet potatoes, or on a sandwich). Feel free to use a different type of nut, like walnuts or hazelnuts, if you prefer.
Brown Rice Spinach Salad
My husband and I are big salad eaters and the majority of time, we just toss whatever we have on hand in a bowl and call it good. This salad is one that seems to happen more often than not: a bed of greens, some cooked grains, a few vegetables, and crumbly cheese. I typically drizzle of a bit of olive oil and vinegar over my salad, but I like to add lemon juice and honey to a basic vinaigrette for a more exciting companion to brown rice, feta, and roasted red peppers.
Chipotle Tomato Egg Skillet
I rely heavily on my spice cabinet for quick yet flavorful meals, like this take on shakshuka. If it’s tomato season, I use fresh, chopped tomatoes with their juices, but otherwise, canned diced or stewed tomatoes work well. Make a quick tomato sauce with onion and chipotle powder, a spice that pairs with brown rice and cilantro. When the tomato sauce has thickened, add rice and herbs, make a well in the mixture, and crack in a couple of eggs. Cover and cook until the egg whites are set and the yolk is as runny or hard as you like. I’ll often eat this skillet for a nice lunch or a fast, filling dinner, and in the fall and winter, I enjoy using sweet potatoes instead tomatoes.
Brown Rice Patties with Pesto
These patties -- a combination of cooked brown rice, bread crumbs, pecan meal, and eggs -- take a bit of time to bake, but the effort is well worth the result: crisp outsides and soft, tender insides. The patties are a bit of a mess to assemble, but don’t let that stop you. In addition to eating these with pesto, I also like to serve them as finger foods dipped in a bit of marinara or harissa, or topped with a poached egg for breakfast.
Makes 8 to 10 patties
1 cup cooked brown rice
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole-grain bread crumbs
1/4 cup pecan meal
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Photos by Erin Alderson