Yours truly is ill, and it’s been a whole struggle to do much of anything this week. I did get some breaks in the weather to be able to get a couple things done outside, and Ro especially is ready to work, but I was less so.
So, since I am entirely too gross to take any cool pictures or have any super cool stories, I thought I’d share the one thing that has been very prominent this week…. The lazy girl dinners that have been a staple since I have the patience of a…a… well, Watson to be honest. I am a big fan of easy dinners, that either don’t take a lot of time, or that I can easily walk away from mid cook if I need to. Rice bowls fit that so so so well. So, different vibe this week, but I doubted you wanted several paragraphs of me lamenting that fact that my nose is functionally useless and why, oh why, are cold meds so expensive?! Sheesh!!
Let me remind you, this is not a food blog, what you see below might be offensive to true foodies. I subscribe to the “If it’s tasty, won’t kill me any faster than something else, and it creates decent leftovers, it’s getting added to the meal plan” realm of things. Also, I literally measure nothing, and I do not know the correct names for anything, so I apologize in advance. But these are Manders proof, which means they are literally anyone else proof too, promise.
They are pretty straighforward because I have been learning to cook for only the last couple years, when I moved home to take care of everyone and realized I lived far enough out that there’s no such thing as UberEats, GrubHub, or PostMates, I can’t even get pizza delivery out here. I miss late night pizza delivery. Anyway.
Meal Concept: Rice Bowls
So, here’s the deal, I’ve converted my family to rice eaters. Nobody was nearly as into it as I was, but I can usually get away with a rice bowl or two a week now, they are so versatile, and rice is really easy if you have tools that work for you. You can really stack anything in a rice bowl too, they are magic if you need to use up leftovers, are running on a limited pantry, or just really don’t want to cook. I love them!
For the base to my rice bowls, I use my instant pot as a rice cooker, and in general I make garlic rosemary rice, however if you are going for a specific flavor profile you can easy flavor rice however you want. The trick for short grained rice is a 1-1 ratio of liquid to dry (cleaned) rice, sometimes you’ll find recipes with medium and long grain rice that give slightly different ratios, and a quick google search will be able to help you out. You can totally make stove top rice too, I can’t, I burn it every single time, but I’m told that works just as well for non-cooking-challenged humans. I throw in more rosemary than you think is necessary (I use dried because it’s easier for me to store at the moment, go a little easier on it if you are using fresh rosemary) and more minced garlic than is necessary as well. Crushed garlic or garlic powder works too, as well as pastes, but you may need to fiddle around until you get your balance of flavors where you are happy.
I never use water for rice, always stock or broth, it adds so much flavor. I tend to gravitate toward the lighter flavor of chicken stock, but beef and veggie work well too. Water just doesn’t bring any flavor to the table. I also add around a half a pat of butter to the mixture per cup of rice, it just helps with sticking to the pot, and I’m a county cook at heart, so ya know.
I use this basic rice for most variants of these bowls, and I usually make around six cups of rice, cooked, so I have leftovers. Rice is such a good base for many things. You can also throw leftovers in tacos or soups. Yummy! My two absolute favorite bowls are “I’m too lazy to actually make chicken carbonara” and “I really need to use these veggies”.
“I’m too lazy to actually make carbonara” is basically an excuse to add ham, bacon, and chicken into a smoky sauce. Also, I like one or two pot meals, and this requires the instant pot for rice and a saucepan. That’s it.
Because I am lazy, I am a big fan of canned chicken, but I’m super picky, and I am telling you Kirkland’s canned chicken is the best. It’s a little pricier but the quality is absolutely worth it. I make two cans for four people, but your mileage might vary. I’m not sponsored, I just really prefer their chicken. You’ll also need some cubed ham, if, like me, you tend to feed a lot of people, you may have a leftover whole ham to use up, but you can also buy pre-cubed ham. We usually have bacon bits about, because we really like breakfast in this house, and I always keep minced garlic around as well. You’ll need some chicken stock, cream of chicken condensed soup, black pitted olives (these are optional) and the following spices: smoked paprika, crushed onion, a little salt and pepper, and a little cayenne (again, optional). Spices are to taste, almost everything else is “one package of”… so one can of condensed soup, one package of deli ham, one can olives.
Here’s the best part! The instructions basically boil down to: throw it all in a pot over medium heat and make sure everything gets warm!
Realistically, you want to add your garlic before your chicken (careful not to burn your garlic though, no coming back from that one), and let those both start smelling yummy before adding the ham and bacon. Then mix the chicken stock (I add whatever didn’t get used with the rice, so I would guesstimate about a half cup, or just enough to make the condensed soup a little saucier) with the soup and add that as well as the spices to taste (everything is cooked, so tasting is safe here). Roughly chopped olives only get added right as you are about to pull the concoction off the heat. It looks awful and tastes delicious.
Stack it up on your rice, add a little soy sauce if you have some around, and serve with a side salad, and/or tortillas, and/or chips and dip.
(Or! Throw the rice and chicken mixture in a coffee mug, add your soy sauce, and now you have a one-handed meal to take wherever, amazing.)
“I really need to use these veggies” is a little more intense because you cook in a couple stages. Veggies and beef don’t cook the same, and I make my sauce separate because that way if I goof it I can start again. Also… egg, if you are feeling fancy, which I struggle with, because again, cooking challenged. This is Joe’s favorite because he sometimes gets a little of the cooked beef before it’s integrated, and that’s just the best thing ever, clearly.
You’ll need beef, thinly cut into strips. Please don’t ask me what I get usually, the nice guy at the butchers counter sees me coming and immediately stops what he’s doing because he knows I’m literally the worst. I have tried, and I think flank steak works well here, but honestly? I tend to use whatever is on sale that the butcher won’t murder me over when I tell him what I’m up to.
You’ll need whatever veg is going south fast in your fridge (but isn’t south yet… gross). I like broccoli and peas, carrots and beans. Sometimes spinach… but that’s more work and honestly? If I have spinach it’s going in chicken gnocchi soup. You’ll need soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil, and ginger (I like fresh but I tend to store it poorly, so I use paste, dried is fine too, adjust for flavor intensity accordingly).
Also, some eggs, lemon juice, salt and pepper and a little cornstarch. Sesame seeds are tasty on this as garnish, and I have some theoretically in my cabinet, but they disappear every time I need them, so they are optional. Water Chestnuts are fancy and yummy here too, but not necessary.
You may recognize a lot of these steps if you’ve ever made beef and broccoli, which is my favorite! A lot of this meal is born of me teaching myself to make that. Mix about two tbsp of cornstarch in a little water until you get a thick slurry, and add your raw beef, so it’s coated. Throw a little veggie oil in a sauté pan and cook your meat through, you might need to do batches, that’s totally fine. Also, peak lazy moment, you can totally skip the slurry part. It’s tasty either way.
After your meat is safely in a bowl to the side, cook up your veggies. I can’t give you specific instructions here, other than harder veggies need more time than softer (and you might choose to steam your broccoli if you really want soft broccoli), don’t burn your garlic or onions (you may want to do these separately as well if you have crazy hard veggies), I add some of the ginger and a little soy sauce to my veggies to cook in (don’t saturate, just a little), and for the love of all that is good and holy taste your veggies as you season! I bet you won’t need salt, but a lot of people add it unconsciously. Then set aside your veggies. Keep your pan around, don’t wash (or put in the sink and ignore it) just yet.
Again, I make my sauce separately, so I pull out a little pan here (I have dishwasher privilege, I totally get it if you want to use the same pan, just be prepared to rinse it out so we can cook the eggs last), I add a little sesame oil, soy sauce, more ginger than you think (but… be careful) and a solid spoonful of brown sugar. I add more soy sauce than sesame oil, and more oil than brown sugar, but taste as you go and you’ll get it where you like it. Add a little lemon juice for brightness and let it warm through and get a little thicker (watch it though, it’s sugar and that nonsense is dark magic). While that’s warming on low dissolving your sugar, start your fried eggs.
Best advice for eggs? Get someone else to make them. Seriously. Second best advice? Hold your pan at a tilt so your egg cooks in the crook of the pan until it sets on the bottom, then it’ll hold it’s shape better and be easier to plate. Also, try to keep your yolk runny and intact, it’s the best for this.
Stack beef on rice, veggies on beef, egg on veggies. Drizzle a solid amount of the sauce over it, and any additional soy sauce you might want. Sesame seeds for fanciness. Take Instagram pictures, load Netflix up, profit.
Goodness, this is a long one this week. I guess that’s what happens when I am too gross to be outside. I’m gonna go microwave some leftovers and watch BBC’s Sherlock for the 1 millionth time.
Until we chat again, my friends!