When I decided to move into a studio apartment that didn’t have and would never have a stove I thought it would be great. After 21 years of preparing meals for my family I would have an excuse why I no longer cared to cook for just myself.
I didn’t take long to realize I was going to have some adjustments to make. Days after moving in the temperatures fell and we had rain for close to a week. I craved a bowl of soup, but couldn’t make a big pot in the slow cooker because I hadn’t bought a fridge yet either. Enter the rice cooker.
I had a can of Amy’s Lentil Soup that sounded so good. But how was I going to warm it without a stove or hot plate? I looked through my cabinet and spotted the rice cooker. It was just what I needed.
This led me to wonder what else I could do with the rice cooker. If it was versatile enough I could pass up buying a hot plate to cook with. It has been versatile, here’s a few of the things I figured out I could do with it.
What follows are the things I use the rice cooker most often for. But probably just about any recipe that can be made on a stove top can also be made in the rice cooker. One advantage to using this for my cooking is that I can comfortably allow the 3-year-old grand-kids cook without worrying about them getting burned. Although they complain that mom doesn’t trust them to cook on the stove at home.
Applesauce: In the fall I enjoy a bowl of homemade applesauce. If I am making a large batch I will use the slow cooker, but if all I want is some for dinner, I use the rice cooker. Simply cut up the apples, add a tiny amount of water, add cinnamon and nutmeg and cook. When apples are tender, mash with a potato masher and enjoy.
Spaghetti: Fill cooker with water, bring to boil. Add pasta and cook normally. I’ve made every type of pasta in the rice cooker. When done, drain and add sauce. If I am making a large pot of spaghetti and want it done quickly I make the pasta in the rice cooker, then transfer it to the slow cooker to keep it warm. With my son visiting from out-of-town, I will have a meal ready when he gets here, but traffic makes it hard to pinpoint exactly when he will arrive, so the slow cooker keeps it just the right temp until they show up.
Steamed Vegetables: My rice cooker came with a steamer tray that can be set inside to steam foods. This is how I usually cook my vegetables, whether fresh or frozen. If I am making a meal and have pasta or potatoes below cooking in water, I will add the veggies near the end of the cooking time. Can’t forget veggies, especially for the children :-)
Fried potatoes and Eggs: This is something I grew up with and still love. Without a fry pan could I make these. Yep! I ran out of Olive Oil and even needed to adjust the recipe. I added a dash of Newman’s Own Italian dressing to the pan for the oil and toss the potatoes, onions, peppers, leeks (this varies by what is on hand). I find that the heating element gets pretty hot and will switch to warm about the time the potatoes just need a tiny bit more softening.
Once the potatoes are ready I add eggs and stir. By this time the rice cooker will allow me to switch it back to cook (from warm) and the eggs cook perfectly.
Potatoes: The rice cooker is perfect for doing potatoes. I can easily boil them to make mashed potatoes. By adding onions, garlic, and a little broth in the pan I can have creamy garlic-y mashed potatoes. I’ve also made mashed cauliflower, which has similar consistency of mashed potatoes.
Warming Foods: If I don’t want to eat my leftovers cold I simply toss them in the rice cooker to warm them up, it will only take a couple of minutes, most times it seems to be faster than an electric stove was.
Children’s favorites: When the grand-kids come over many times they bring foods with them for lunch (one is very picky so this helps to make sure he eats). We’ve made boxed macaroni and cheese, ramen noodles, warmed soups, heated baked beans, and even cooked a thin piece of steak in the rice cooker.
Chili: Who can live without chili? If I am making just enough for myself for a day or two I will save time and make it in the rice cooker instead of the slow cooker. Meat will brown nicely if you like to add meat to your chili.
Beans: Most of the beans I eat I make from dry beans. I love cooking the beans in a slow cooker, no watching the pot, but it takes forever. If I get a hankering for beans in a meal and don’t have any ready, I simply pull out the rice cooker again, it works the same as a stove to cook beans and takes the same if not shorter time to cook.
But what about breakfast?
Hot cereal: You can make oatmeal, cream of wheat, grits… Simply cook the same way you would if you had a stove top. When I make oatmeal I usually chop up an apple or peach and toss that in the water with the oats. When cooked the fruit will give it just enough sweetness that I don’t need to add sugar.
Fruit compotes: I love to take fresh fruit and cook it down to make a compote. I can eat it plain or over yogurt or ice cream. Again this is the same process as if you are using a pan and stove top.
Tea: When I am alone I have a small pot that will heat enough water to make about two large cups of tea (or hot chocolate) but when I have company or want to make a pitcher of iced tea I use the rice cooker. Simply boil the water, seep and pour or scoop into cups. I will pour into a pitcher to chill in the fridge for iced tea during the warmer months.
As you can see, once I put my mind to it, I realized I had everything I needed to survive without a stove. My original thought was that I would get a hot plate, but haven’t needed it yet. So if I can survive more than a year without it, I probably will never get one. Oh and did I mention that the pan itself fits nicely in the tiny fridge I have so I don’t need storage containers for leftovers. Just pull out of the fridge, plop it in the “cooker” and reheat.
Do you have a rice cooker? What have you used yours for?