Sunday, January 17, 2010

Fake A Roni

When Matt and I first got married at the ripe old ages of 22 and 21 years old, we discovered the wonderful world of prepackaged side dishes. Oh they were so tasty! Who wouldn't love seasoned rice one night, noodles the next, creamy cheesy mashed potatoes the next...The only problem? They were expensive and full of ingredients I couldn't even pronounce! The ingredient thing (oddly enough) didn't bother me as much as the fact that they were so darn expensive! I kept buying them, but limiting myself to buying them with coupons and on sale to bring the cost down.

After we had Nathan and we were faced with the first of a few layoffs in our marriage, I discovered a whole new world of frugality, and enter The Tightwad Gazette. To say that the book changed my life is an understatement. Nothing was safe in our house because Amy (the Frugal Zealot) had trained me through her book to reduce, reuse and recycle so many things. I don't think I've ever taken things to the extent that she has, but I still have my Complete Tightwad Gazette book, still in excellent condition with hundreds of little pieces of paper sticking out of it directing me to the most important parts.

The Tightwad Gazette has the following recipe for Rice A Roni:

3 cups uncooked rice
1/4 cup parsley flakes
6tbsp bouillon (chicken, beef or veg)
1/2tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp thyme

Mix everything together and store in an air tight container.

To use, mix 1 cup mix with 2tbsp butter and 2 cups of water in a saucepan. Bring to boil, reduce heat and cover. Simmer for 15 minutes or until rice is tender.

I used this faithfully for several years, mixing up batches and storing them over and over again. But I decided one day that I wanted to mix it up a bit and decided to do a few things different.

The first thing I do different is that I don't use the bouillon granuales. They are hard to find and I don't think that they taste very good. We almost always have beef and chicken soup base on hand in our fridge, so I just use a tablespoon of that when I make my rice. It's got a much better flavor and it's very reasonably priced at Sam's Club or GFS. Just make sure to store it in your fridge!

Secondly, I like to follow the Rice a Roni directions. So I typically put the butter in the pan and then brown the rice a bit before adding the water. I might throw some broken (raw) spaghetti noodles in there, some orzo noodles, or even some slivered almonds (bought in bulk at GFS). Definitely gives some variety!

Finally, I check and see what's hanging out in my fridge or freezer. A few peas, some frozen carrots, maybe a few lonely pieces of broccoli, just whatever I have to give it a little more flavor. While the parsley gives it some color, it doesn't really add any flavor, so a few veggies here can do that.


Moderate Means said...

Thank you! I'm bookmarking it and making it this week :) I like the idea of adding almonds and I have some right now so I might try it!