Rice-a-Roni

A few weeks ago I was looking around for something different to do with rice and came across this recipe. Since I always have orzo on hand for adding to soups, I decided to make something similar. I was startled when I took a bite of it later: it tasted exactly like Rice-a-Roni. Which was surprising to me because I haven’t had Rice-a-Roni in over 20 years. I never would have thought I’d remember what it tasted like. In fact, I had forgotten Rice-a-Roni even existed. (Does it still exist?)

“Did your parents ever make Rice-a-Roni?” I asked Mark.

“No, why?” he asked.

“Because this tastes just like it.”

“I’ve never heard of Rice-a-Roni,” Mark claimed. “What is it?”

Well, I’ve never heard of not having heard of Rice-a-Roni, but I dropped the subject. But when we were washing dishes later, I started to sing, “Rice-a-Roni….”, and Mark chimed in happily, “the San Franciscan treat!”

“I thought you’d never heard of it,” I accused him.

“Well, now that you’re singing it, I know it. Whatever it was, it was awesome. Make it all the time.”

So, Mark, here I am making it all the time. Or every few weeks anyway. This is a quick and easy side dish. I’ll have no problem making it whenever Mark wants it.

Rice-a-Roni

1/2 cup orzo
1/2 cup long-grain white rice
3 or 4 scallions, white parts minced, green parts chopped, separated OR 2 tsp dried minced onions
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed OR 1 tsp garlic powder
2 cups vegan “chicken” broth
2 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
parsley – fresh would be awesome if you have it; dried if not

If using, chop the green part of the scallion, and mince the white part.

Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat in a medium, heavy-bottomed pot. Add the orzo …

and stir to coat, …

… then saute until it’s beginning to turn golden.

Add the white part of the scallions or the minced onions and the garlic or garlic powder. It tasted a lot more like packaged Rice-a-Roni when I used the dried minced onions and garlic powder, by the way. Continue to saute until the orzo is completely golden.

Add the rice, broth, and soy sauce.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 25 minutes or until all of the broth is absorbed. Stir in the green parts of the scallions, if using, and the parsley.

I served it with frozen veggies. JUST LIKE MOM USED TO MAKE! And a marinated and grilled Gardein chick’n scallopini, drizzled with sriracha. (Just like Mom never made!)

So, today is Tigger’s birthday. Look how nicely he poses for the camera! (This photo is particularly remarkable because I took it myself; it’s not as if there were someone behind the camera getting Tigger to look in that direction. He just knew to do it.) Tigger would let me hold him just like this for as long as I wanted, in fact, he begged me to. He’d even dance with me. Happy Birthday, Mr Sims. I miss you.

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Mexican Breakfast

I really need to get to the grocery store today. I’ve been complaining for two days that there is no food in the house. Of course, that’s a ridiculous statement. There is a ton of food in the house. But, in a way that annoys a lot of people – in particular Mark and Fortinbras – all of my food takes the form of ingredients. I rarely have pre-packaged foods around. So if you are hungry, you actually have to make something. From scratch. Sometimes it even annoys me, honestly, though not usually. Anyway, I always have a ton of grains, tinned tomatoes, flour, dried beans, etc. You would not actually starve if trapped in my house for a month or two with no access to a grocery store. But it’s when I have no fresh vegetables around that I start saying I have no food. I’m kind of at a loss at what to do without fresh vegetables as a starting point. Mark kindly went out and got us some dinner from the Whole Foods salad bars last night as I was going out later and didn’t have time to contemplate how to deal with this situation, or just solve it by doing the shopping.

But this morning I was again confronted with the problem. What I did have on hand, though, was a bunch of leftover ingredients from meals earlier in the week. I had some pinto beans, nutritional yeast “cheese”, and half a tin of tomatoes. I got excited thinking, “tofu scramble!”, but alas, no tofu. So I started wondering what I could fry up in a skillet with those things instead of tofu. And concluded “rice”. So I put some rice in the rice cooker and started prepping. What resulted probably wasn’t anything most Americans would consider a very breakfasty food, but I’ve called it breakfast because I ate it as breakfast. It would really be appropriate and tasty any time of day. And anyway, the time of day I ate it was noon, so I guess it was more lunch or brunch. Whatever. I called it breakfast, I photographed it, I ate it, it was good, Mark liked it, I’m sharing it.

Mexican Breakfast

1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 bell pepper, chopped
1 or 2 pickled jalapenos, chopped
1 cup diced or crushed tomatoes
1 cup cooked pinto beans (black beans would also be good)
1 cup broth
1/2 – 1 cup Yeast Cheeze
3 or 4 cups cooked rice

diced avocado, optional
fresco sauce (this was some cilantro and serrano pepper sauce I got at Whole Foods), optional
Tabasco sauce, optional

In a large, preferably cast iron, skillet, heat some oil, then add the onions and fry for a few minutes, then add the bell pepper and fry another few minutes. Add the tomatoes, jalapenos, and pinto beans and saute a minute. Add the broth and cheeze, stirring to incorporate the two until they are smooth. Let the mixture become bubbly and thicken slightly. Stir in the rice. Top with avocado if you have it, and serve with fresco and/or Tabasco sauce.

In prior food news, I celebrated the new Vegan Pizza Day holiday on January 29 by making a new kind of pizza dough. I’m going to do a post on this crust very soon because it was gooooood.

Mark is sitting near me watching Mitch Hedberg videos and it’s making it very hard for me to concentrate on this post because I keep laughing. I will try to soldier on to bring you some kitten photos, though.

Gomez has a lot of nicknames. He’s Mez, Mezzie, Mezzikins, Mexicans. I mention this progression of names just because this post was about Mexican Breakfast. So here is Mexicans being extremely adorable.

His eyes are still both green and gold. I thought maybe the green would disappear as he got older, but he’s 11 months now and they still have the same depth of gorgeous colours as they did when he was a baby. They are really quite MEZmerizing. (I hilariate myself.)

Also, Torticia is often called Tortilla or Tortilla Chip. (As well as the more Italian-sounding Tortellini.)

And finally, my mother wanted me to share a picture of her tortoiseshell, commonly referred to as “the most beautiful cat in the world”. This is Casey, from 1995. Mom lost Casey a few years ago and hasn’t been able to replace her. Other than their colouring, Casey and Tortilla Chip have very little in common; their personalities were very different. But Casey was a big, soft, very sweet, quiet, and yes, very, very beautiful girl.

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Mexican Rice Bowl

Like, I’m guessing, many people, I go through phases of fall-back meal types. I’ve been in a “rice bowl” phase for a few months now. If I can’t think of anything else to make, I think of a cuisine, get some appropriate rice cooking in the rice cooker, put the cooked rice in a bowl, and top with various veggies, protein, and sauce. Rice bowls are great because they are extremely versatile, quick and easy, cheap, and good for using up leftovers. Tonight we had Mexican rice bowls, which is a first. I’m so fond of tortillas I’m generally very eager to wrap anything I can find into them, but tonight we had no tortillas and I didn’t feel like going to the grocery store. So Mexican rice bowl it was.

Although it may look like it, this isn’t really a recipe; it’s a list of suggestions. I’m just recording what I did for inspiration; a lot of it was stuff I used because I had it on hand and needed to use it, like the half can of tomatoes.

Mexican Rice Bowl

2 – 3 servings cooked rice
1 1/2 cups salsa (see below for a recipe or use your favorite)
1 can pinto beans
1 cup cooked corn
vegan “chicken” broth
1 packet Goya Sazon Azafran seasoning
1/2 small onion, diced (separated)
1 jalapeno, minced (separated)
vegan cheddar cheese, like Daiya

Salsa
1/2 can diced tomatoes
1 large tomato, chopped
2 Tbsp minced onion
1/2 jalapeno, minced
1 clove garlic, pressed
1 tsp Mexican oregano
1 cube Trader Joe’s frozen cilantro, or fresh cilantro to taste
salt, to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

To make the salsa, place all ingredients in a bowl and combine well. Set aside to allow the flavors to meld.

Drain the pinto beans and put in a small saucepan with half the diced onions, half the minced jalapeno, and the packet of seasoning. Add vegan broth to cover. Bring to a simmer and cook until thickened. I added a little too much broth and got sick of waiting for it to thicken enough, so eventually I added a little bit of xantham gum, which thickened it right up and made it gloriously saucy.

Because I wanted to finish the rice bowls off in the oven so I could have melty “cheese” on top, I used individual cast iron bowls. I sprayed them with olive oil then added a layer of rice. I then topped them with the beans, the corn, some salsa, the rest of the diced onions, the “cheese’, and finally the rest of the minced jalapeno. Then I popped them in the oven for about 10 minutes or until the cheese had melted. This was very tasty and I’ll definitely make it again some night I’m lacking in fresh vegetables (as I was tonight).

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