This post comes courtesy of Jeanette Chen, blogger at Jeanette’s Healthy Living.
I have owned a rice cooker for as long as I can remember and wouldn’t want to live without it. Rice made in a rice cooker is foolproof; you simply push a button and the rice is steamed perfectly. Although the rice cooker makes perfect white rice, it can also be used to make whole grains just as easily. I’ve used it to make Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal and rice porridge for breakfast, as well as pre-cooked grains for fried rice and healthy grain salads. Today, I’m sharing a recipe for Quinoa Mushroom Pilaf made in the rice cooker, a no-fuss side dish for dinner.
There are two general types of rice cookers. The basic version has an “on” switch, with a warm function that kicks in automatically after the rice is done. A fancier rice cooker has special settings for sushi rice, brown rice and congee (rice porridge). Although my very first rice cooker was a basic version, I upgraded to one with extra settings when I started making brown rice.
While white rice is best made following the manufacturer’s instructions that come with your rice cooker, cooking whole grains requires just a few adjustments. The main thing to keep in mind when cooking whole grains in a rice cooker is to use the normal stove-top cooking time as a guideline.
While oatmeal and quinoa are relatively quick to cook (15 to 20 minutes stovetop cooking time), other whole grains like steel-cut oats and barley (40 to 60 minutes stovetop cooking time) benefit from pre-soaking and require longer cooking times. Generally speaking, if the normal cooking time required on the stovetop is more than 30 minutes, it helps to pre-soak the grains for at least one hour and leave the rice cooker on the warm setting for an additional 10 to 15 minutes after the cooking cycle is over to finish cooking the grains.
Although simple, plain whole grains can be made easily in the rice cooker by using just water and the grain of your choice, it’s not much more work to make flavorful whole grain dishes like this Quinoa Mushroom Pilaf. By using chicken broth as the cooking liquid instead of water, and adding some sautéed onions, carrots and celery as flavorings, plain whole grains can be easily transformed into an elegant side dish.
Rice Cooker Quinoa Mushroom Pilaf
Quinoa has a bitter coating called saponin that needs to be washed off before cooking. Briefly soaking and then rinsing quinoa before cooking removes this coating.
1 cup white quinoa, soaked in water for 15 minutes, then rinsed thoroughly, and drained
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup carrot, finely chopped
1/2 cup celery, finely chopped
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/2 cup red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 3/4 cup low sodium vegetable or chicken broth
Heat oil in a medium saute pan. Add garlic, onion, carrot, celery and mushrooms. Sauté until onions are softened and mushrooms are lightly browned, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add quinoa and turmeric and continue sauteing for 2 more minutes to toast quinoa. Transfer quinoa mixture to rice cooker. Add red bell pepper and broth. Cook on “white rice” setting.
Toss to loosen up quinoa. Serve. Serves 4.
Below are some more whole grain recipes that can be made in a rice cooker. The rice cooker setting for each recipe is noted below. If you have a basic rice cooker, and the brown rice setting is called for, simply soak the grains for at least 1 hour before cooking, and let grains continue steaming for 10 to 15 minutes on the warm setting after the cooking cycle is complete.
- Turkey Congee (cook on porridge or brown rice setting)
- Vegetable Fried Rice (cook brown rice ahead of time in rice cooker using brown rice setting)
- Mango Avocado Black Bean Quinoa Salad (cook quinoa ahead of time in rice cooker on white rice setting)
- Barley Pilaf (use brown rice setting)
- Spiced Basmati Rice Pilaf (after sautéing onions and rice, put with rest of ingredients in rice cooker and cook using white rice setting)
- Bulgur Pilaf with Pumpkin and Raisins (after sautéing onions and pumpkin, put with rest of ingredients in rice cooker and cook using white rice setting)
- Wild Rice & Mushroom Pilaf (after sautéing leeks and mushrooms, put with rest of ingredients in rice cooker and cook using brown rice setting)
About the author: Jeanette is the wife and mother of four growing boys who serve as her taste testers in the kitchen. Her blog, Jeanette’s Healthy Living, serves up healthy dishes packed with flavor and goodness, all made with whole, unprocessed foods. She resides in a small town in Connecticut with her family.