RICE AND PASTA PILAF

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OK, it’s time to fess up. When I am trailer camping, I almost always buy packaged rice mixes as a side dish for dinners. They are easy to store, simple to prepare, and usually make enough for 2 dinners. And one of my favorites is Rice-a-Roni. (Remember, I never said I was a gourmet!) And truly, there are some pretty good rice/risotto mixes on the market today. But even though they are perfect for camping, they are expensive (for what you get), and have that subtle background taste that I really don’t enjoy. I call that flavor – “packaged”. You find it in lots of products, from pancake mix to cake mix and beyond. (And yes, I still use cake mixes occasionally. In fact, some of my favorite dessert recipes start with a cake mix. But I digress…..)

So I have determined, after performing my own very unscientific analysis on the subject, that the unpleasant background flavor I don’t appreciate comes from the ingredients that I can’t pronounce and were never a part of my grandmother’s era. (My usual guideline for what I want to put in my mouth!)

So while looking for a fairly tame side dish to go with a simple ground beef pattie and steamed green beans dinner I was planning for last evening, I went on line for inspiration. And what I found was a recipe on Allrecipes by Sarah Billings for a homemade Rice-a-Roni. Oh the joy of finding one of my favorite guilty pleasures that I could duplicate at home. Of course I added/changed a couple of ingredients from the source recipe, and what I prepared was not quite like what comes in the little red boxes. It was much better! No “packaged” flavor. No ingredients that only a mad scientist could pronounce, and the right price since I had all the ingredients on hand. (Always a bonus!)

So if you too love a simple rice side dish, this is the recipe for you. And to change it up a bit, or even make it into a main dish, just add some cooked meat or seafood, additional veggies (mushrooms come to mind), a bit of whatever kind of cheese you happen to have, and you have a wonderful dish that is easy, fast, and economical to prepare. And bottom line, your kids are going to love it. It has that creamy mouth feel that makes macaroni and cheese such a favorite with children.

And just for the record, I am still going to buy packaged rice mixes when on trailer trips. But when I am at home, you can bet your last Golden Grain $1.00 off coupon that I am going to continue making all of my rice side dishes from scratch. And this recipe is now on the top of my list!   

  • 2 T. unsalted butter
  • ½ c. orzo pasta
  • ½ c. uncooked white rice  
  • ½ c. diced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 c. chicken, beef, or vegetable broth
  • 1 tsp. seasoned salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 sliced green onions
  • ¼ c. toasted slivered almonds

Melt the butter in a lidded pan over medium-low heat. Add the orzo pasta and rice and fry until just starting to turn golden brown. Stir in onion and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the broth, seasoned salt, and pepper. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the rice is tender, and the liquid has been absorbed, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the green onions and slivered almonds. Adjust seasoning. Let stand for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.

Please let me know if you like this recipe. Thanks