Quick & Budget Friendly Rice Main Dish Meals

Rice is a great, budget friendly meal extender. It cooks fairly quickly, you can refrigerate and reheat it without losing much texture or taste – and even freeze it so it’s ready for future meals.

Your best value cost and nutrition wise is brown rice. You can buy a 5 lb bag for under $5. That’s about 20 cups of cooked rice. Pick long grain if you like your rice light and fluffy. Medium grain is moister. And if you like your rice to stick together, choose short grain rice. Avoid quick cooking rice and plain white rice. Both have the nutritious outer husk removed.

If you want to bump up the nutritional value and add more fiber, mix in some grains with your rice. Farro, barley and wheat berries, couscous and “not really a grain” but gluten free buckwheat add a mild flavor and some chewiness. Millet (gluten free) and quinoa (gluten free) are nuttier and chewier with a different texture. Grains will need to be cooked separately but can be frozen and added to rice dishes as needed.

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Follow cooking instructions on the package, but the typical ratio of water to rice is 2 cups water to 1 cup dry rice to yield 4 cups of cooked rice. On the stove, it takes about 20 – 25 minutes. Microwaving rice always takes me longer but it’s an option if you want to try it.

And now for the recipes. Each serves 4 but you can easily adjust to add more of each ingredient for more (or less) servings. Unless noted, the rice or rice mix is prepared ahead of time or as you’re cooking the rest of the recipe. Recipes also include chicken, pork of beef and a vegetarian alternative (or you can use Tofu). Use leftovers or cook those separately.

Asian Rice

Asian Rice16-ounce bag of frozen oriental vegetable mix
8 ounces/half a bag of frozen broccoli
Several shakes or 2 teaspoons or Asian seasoning blend (I like McCormick Perfect Pinch or make your own blend from sesame seeds, garlic, ginger and dry chili pepper)
1-2 T Low sodium soy sauce
½ cup of chicken or vegetable broth – low sodium canned or made from dry low sodium bullion and water
2 cups, cooked and chopped chicken, pork or beef (vegetarian alternative: soy or green beans)
4 cups cooked rice or rice mix

Saute frozen vegetables in a little oil over medium heat until they start to defrost. Add seasonings, soy sauce and chicken broth. If making vegetarian alternative, also add beans. Stir and simmer until vegetables are almost done. Add chicken, beef or pork and cook until meat is heated through. Serve over warmed rice.

Spanish Rice

Spanish Rice
8 ounces/half a bag of pepper and onion mix (you can chop them if you want)
15-ounce can chopped or stewed tomatoes with liquid
¾ teaspoon Oregano
½ teaspoon of garlic powder
1 teaspoon of cumin or sprinkle of red pepper flakes
2 cups, cooked and chopped chicken, pork or beef (vegetarian alternative: red kidney or black beans)
4 cups cooked rice or rice mix

Add all the ingredients to saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer until vegetables are cooked through. Separately, briefly heat rice in microwave then add warmed rice to sauce pan. Stir and serve.

Italian Style Rice

Italian Rice10 ounces of frozen spinach
1-2 T chopped onion
1 T Italian Seasoning
2 T olive oil
1 cup of chicken or vegetable broth – low sodium canned or made from dry low sodium bullion and water
½ cup Parmesan cheese
2 cups cooked chicken (vegetarian alternative: white kidney beans and add 15 ounce drained canned tomatoes)
4 cups cooked rice or rice mix

Heat chicken broth in separate pan. Saute frozen spinach, onion and Italian seasoning in a pan with some oil. When spinach and onions are cooked, add chicken, cooked rice and cheese. (For vegetarian alternative, add beans and drained tomatoes.) Stir, adding warmed broth until mixture is the consistency you like. Serve immediately or keep warm in oven until ready to eat.

Fried Rice

Fried Rice4 Large eggs
2 cups chopped pepper and onions or Oriental vegetable mix (frozen or fresh – chop into small pieces)
1 ½ cups chopped green beans (frozen or fresh)
2-4 T Low sodium soy sauce (to taste)
2 to 3 teaspoon Asian chili-garlic sauce
2 cups chopped chicken (optional)
4 cups cooked rice

Heat 1 T oil in skillet over medium high heat. Scramble eggs until soft but not runny or dry. Remove eggs. Add 2 more tablespoons of oil and saute vegetables until almost cooked. Add cooked chicken if desired and saute for about 2 minutes to heat through. Add 4 cups of cooked rice, soy sauce and chili-garlic sauce. Keep stir frying until heated through. Blend in eggs then serve.

Italian rice image via Swanson/Campbells.

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by on September 15th, 2016