Think rice for your family meals and side dishes

Published 7:01 am Sunday, September 13, 2015

September is National Rice Month and rice is such a great food to celebrate! Why choose rice?

It is a budget-friendly, versatile and nutritious grain choice for any meal of the day. Rice contains around 100 calories per half-cup and is sodium-, cholesterol- and trans fat-free.

It is a gluten-free grain and the most common grain that is free of most other allergens. Last but not least, rice contributes more than 15 vitamins and minerals including iron, zinc, folate and other B-vitamins.

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Now that the nutrient-profile has been covered, it’s time to explain how convenient rice can be for busy families by utilizing rice bowls. Follow the steps below to discover how to make your next family meal fun and easy.

Make Rice the Foundation: Place half cup of cooked rice in a bowl for each member of the family, or put half cup of rice per person in one large bowl to create a family-sized rice bowl.

Pack in the Produce: Add one cup of chopped vegetables, sautéed or roasted.

Add Lean Protein to Balance the Meal: Top each bowl with three ounces per person of lean protein, such as chicken, fish, quarter cup of dried beans, tofu or a chopped hard-boiled egg. This protein will add flavor and fill you up without excess saturated fat.

Season and Enjoy: Sprinkle with chopped herbs or spices, or top with lemon juice and zest. Add crunch with toasted nuts. Sauce or season your healthy rice bowl as you like … Asian, Mexican, Indian, Southwest … wherever your creativity takes you. The possibilities are endless.

Here are some flavor suggestions to get your shoppers started:

Teriyaki Bowl

Combine rice with broccoli, carrots, green onion, chicken and teriyaki glaze.

 Vegetarian Salad Bowl

Mix rice with spinach or kale, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, celery, beans, Italian dressing and garnish with shredded cheese.

 Apple Walnut Breakfast Bowl

Stir rice in with chopped apples, raisins or cranberries, walnuts and brown sugar. Add in milk and garnish with whipped topping for a real treat!

If you are looking for an easy side dish for family meals, rice is perfect for that, too. Try this tasty recipe below that will pair well with any main course.

 PapeCranberry Pecan Rice Pilaf

Serves 6 (1 cup each)

 All you need

•2 tbsp butter or margarine

•1 cup uncooked rice

•1 (14.5 oz) can low-sodium chicken broth

•1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

•1/2 cup dried cranberries

•1/2 cup chopped pecans

•1/4 cup slices green onions

•Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

All you do

1. Melt butter in 2-quart saucepan over medium heat.

2. Add rice; cook and stir 2 to 3 minutes. Add broth and heat to boiling; stir once or twice. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.

3. Remove from heat. Stir in cheese, cranberries, pecans and onions. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Source: adapted from