I don’t think we ever really outgrow our desire for foods we ate when we were kids. Even though I’m now a 41-year-old dietitian who eschews meat and tries to reach the goal of 9+ servings a day of produce, a steaming skillet of Rice-A-Roni can still make my mouth water. And I’m not alone. I recently taught a class on cooking with less sodium and made this recipe for sampling. It was a huge hit, I think because it felt doable. Besides breaking up the pasta into little bits, it basically takes the same amount of time and energy as the original. The taste, texture and appearance took me right back to 1985, eating my ronis, watching Val Kilmer in an After School Special. Even my sister, who isn’t much into cooking, asked for the recipe on this one.
While it may seem strange for a nutrition blog to have a recipe for a typically high sodium, processed food, let me explain my thoughts. I might want to recommend a favorite recipe for a salad with mung beans and tofu that’s low in sodium, but it doesn’t matter how great it is if it’s too far outside someone’s comfort zone. I can present it to them with all the reasoning in the world of why it’s a healthier choice, but it may be too unfamiliar to give it a try in their kitchen. Sometimes baby steps get us going in the right direction with more success. A journey to mung beans for dinner may seem like a thousand miles, but maybe making homemade Rice-A-Roni instead of using the boxed kind is the single step to begin eating better.
So, I’ve taken a recipe from Chaos in the Kitchen, replaced the chickeny ingredients with vegetarian alternatives and tried to make it a little healthier in terms of whole grains and fats.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- ¾ cup long grain white rice
- ½ cup whole wheat angel hair pasta, broken into bite-sized pieces (about 2 ounces)
- 14 fluid ounces low sodium vegetable broth
- 1 teaspoon vegetarian broth powder, paste or cube
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- Black pepper to taste
- Heat oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add rice and pasta and cook, stirring, until lightly browned.
- Add the vegetable broth, broth powder, parsley, garlic powder, onion powder and pepper.
- Bring to a boil, cover, then reduce heat to low. Cook 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- When liquid has been absorbed, take a test bite to see if rice is cooked through. Add water and continue cooking if it needs a bit more time.
Adapted from Chaos in the Kitchen.
If you like the idea of making more of your meals from scratch and relying less on processed foods, consider taking action in October! I’m joining forces with Andrew Wilder of Eating Rules to promote healthier habits in the kitchen for 31 days…starting next week. I’ve taken the pledge and will be guest posting on his site next month.
You can read all about it and sign the pledge here: October Unprocessed