A year ago I was desperate to make some changes to my diet, so I started incorporating tons more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains into my diet. I started making yummy stir fry dishes and doing lots of things with brown rice, but I was terrible at cooking the rice! I’m completely impatient, so I was always lifting the lid or not letting it sit long enough, and as a result, it always came out either gummy or not quite soft enough. I decided to make life easier for myself, and I bought a cheap rice cooker. Little did I know, I was purchasing perhaps the most useful kitchen gadget I own. That’s right: rice cookers do more than just cook rice. Don’t believe me?
Here are 5 alternative (and completely awesome) uses for the rice cooker in your life:
1. Macaroni and cheese
Did I just blow your mind? Go ahead, let the shock wear off. I’ll wait.
Making macaroni and cheese in a rice cooker is ridiculously simple, and it tastes a thousand times better than the boxed stuff. To make your own rice cooker mac, all you need is: 1 one cup stock or water, 1 cup heavy cream, 2 cups of dry pasta, 1 cup of your favorite cheese, 2 tablespoons butter, and salt and pepper, to taste.
Combine the ingredients in your rice cooker, then cover it, turn it on, and walk away. When the rice cooker shuts off, you’ll have perfect, gooey homemade macaroni and cheese with minimal effort on your part. It’s like magic.
2. Steamed meats and vegetables
Some rice cookers come with a steaming basket included, but really any circular steaming rack will work for this.
Just put a cup of water in the well of the rice cooker and cook covered to create steam. Cooking times will vary, depending on what you’re making. For a more complete meal, try cooking some rice in the well while steaming veggies or fish on top. One pot, one healthy and no-fuss dinner.
3. Steel Cut Oats
Steel cut oats cook beautifully in a rice cooker, and while you don’t save on cooking time, the rice cooker does give you the benefit of being able to prep the oats, push a button, walk away, and come back to a perfectly cooked meal every time.
Use about 2 cups of water for every one cup of oats. You can even mix in your favorite goodies, such as bananas, nuts, berries, or flax seeds. The only caveat to this one? Your rice cooker MUST have a porridge setting. But, don’t worry: most rice cookers do these days, and some of them even have the added bonus of a timed start, so you can prep oats the night before and come down to perfectly cooked oatmeal in the morning.
I’d never made a fritatta before I got my rice cooker, and now I make them all the time. They’re super easy, delicious, and so quick.
Simply coat the well of your rice cooker with cooking spray. Mix eggs along with your choice of veggies and seasonings in a bowl until well combined. Dump the mixture into your rice cooker, cover, and cook for 12-14 minutes. You can slice it up with a spatula or spoon it out, and enjoy a healthy, easy breakfast before you start your day.
5. Lentils and Quinoa
Lentils and quinoa can be tricky to cook correctly. A rice cooker helps take away some of the guess work.
Generally, when coking both lentils and quinoa in the rice cooker, you should stick to the ratio of two parts water to one part product. You might have to play around with the proportions depending on your cooker, but overall the rice cooker is a fool-proof way to perfectly prepare these foods. You can even add other ingredients and use your rice cooker to simmer a soup or a stew.