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One Bowl

Simple Healthy Recipes for One

A rice cooker is (surprise!) an excellent tool for cooking rice. It’s also easily used to cook other whole grains, steam vegetables and/or proteins, and assemble a one pot meal. While I find it difficult to cook just one or two servings of rice in a full-sized saucepan, a small rice cooker makes it a relaxing process. Ask yourself a few questions to determine whether you might find it useful.

How does it work? There’s a thermometer, and a switch that depends on a designated temperature. When the rice cooker reaches a certain temperature, it switches to warm. The contents of the pot only reach that temperature when all the water has been absorbed or boiled off; therefore, if you put the correct ratio of water to rice in the pot, you have perfectly cooked rice when it switches from cook to warm.

What to consider? First, how often you eat rice or other whole grains (rice, wild rice, millet, quinoa, etc) that can be cooked in a rice cooker. Second, whether you would eat them more often if you had a rice cooker. Third, whether you have storage space. Finally, whether you want a fancy one with many features or a basic rice cooker. A fitted steamer tray makes it feasible to steam vegetables or meat (poultry/fish/tofu) over your rice. Some rice cookers have specific brown rice settings, but any rice cooker will cook brown rice.

What sort of one pot meals? Typically, you cook your grain and add vegetables along with fish, tofu, meat, poultry, beans, or egg to the grain as the timing is appropriate. For example, quinoa takes about 20 minutes in the rice cooker; after ten minutes you could add diced string beans with carrots; after 15 minutes, you could add tofu; just before serving, you could add a dressing or sauce of your choice. Typically, I wait until it switches to warm and then add sauces or dressings. The temperature often cannot be controlled, so any cut of meat that needs to be simmered should not be cooked in a rice cooker. Basically, you can use it like a pan on the stove, but it will switch off before burning.

Whether you have a rice cooker or not, it’s worth considering their uses. It may help you to eat healthier by making it easier to eat whole grains; on the other hand, it may just become a dusty implement bound for the thrift shop. If you have one, don’t forget to explore the breadth of meals that can emerge from it.

Tip: Keep the measuring cup that comes with your rice cooker; they are often 180 ml (smaller than the standard US cup).

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