Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Dish On Prepared Rice Mixes

Rice is a staple to always have in the cabinets/pantries. Along with pastas and beans, rice is one of many imperative foundations of creating a good, filling meal. Nowadays milk, cheese, and yogurt are not just from soy, coconuts, and almonds, rice is also a unique alternative to dairy.
From savory dishes to sweet desserts, rice is a very versatile ingredient that I'll be using in a lot of ways.
Prepared rice mixes on the other hand are readily spiced and easy to make.
Taking about 15-25 minutes to cook, I took on the simple challenge of making three vegan dishes- 2 by the very popular New Orleans favorite, Zatarain's and one from Near East Dish- a company specializing in bringing delicious worldly cuisine to the American table.

Zatarain's Mild Jambalaya.
I added peas, broccoli, soy ground, and olive oil to this fantastic blend of long grain rice and spices.
The moderate kick didn't overpower my taste buds and that's the way I love it.
Not a big fan on very hot food. Most friends say that I'm a wuss (I always call for spice level 0) when it comes to talk of chili peppers and powders.
Next time I'll try it with a vegan sausage like Lightlife's Gimme Lean, but the soy ground held it's own quite well with the flavors of this rice mix.

Near East Dish's Toasted Almond Rice Pilaf.
Who knew that firm rice and crispy almonds went so well together?
Very flavorful with a light nutty taste and delicate crunch, it was a perfect compliment to fibrous green peas and a splash of my friend, Olive Oil.
Ate it with Muir Glen's fire roasted tomatoes and a sprinkling of Daiya mozzarella cheese for dinner, but ate it naked for lunch. 
Also found a recipe of making Almond Rice homemade style and wonder if it'll taste just as delightful!
I have leftover almonds too.
Near East Dish also makes a great line of couscous, a Morrocan grain that tastes and looks similar to rice. More about the awesomeness of that will come later in future posts!

Zatarain's Red Beans and Rice.
At 970 grams of sodium (4 servings), it was very, very salty and hard to eat.
Even adding soy ground and spinach, couldn't counteract the fact.
Do we even need to discuss the effects of diets rich in high sodium levels- high blood pressure and future bone problems for one thing.
Instead of buying this product again, I'll make brown rice, add kidney beans and moderate spices.
On the other hand, Zatarain's Black Beans and Rice mix was a treat that Mom and I used to make as an ingredient for our cheesy, sour cream drenched soft tortillas. Now I must veganize that so we could still create those. That should be a piece of cake!
Except Mom's not really big on the vegan thing...
All in all, rice mixes are great to make, but sometimes it's hard to experiment with them if their sauce is overwhelming.
That's when one knows that it's best to make their own!

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