April 12, 2013
Cooking Grains Ahead + Freezing (With Video!)
We all know that brown rice is a healthier choice than white rice — but why must it take 40 minutes to cook?
This became my ongoing problem. I love brown rice, but when I came home after a long day, I just wanted to whip up one of my recipes in 15-20 minutes... not wait 40 for my rice (my rice!) to cook!!
So, I bought a fancy rice cooker — one that has a special "brown rice" setting as well as a timer, so I could combine rice + water together, and tell it when to be ready... can you guess how many mornings I forgot to set the timer before leaving for work?
I love my rice cooker — don't get me wrong. It makes perfect brown rice, and I use it frequently, especially in the hot summer when I don't want to turn on my gas stove. (The cooker also "does" quinoa on the "white rice" setting.)
The problem is, I just use it when I'm at home. I can't seem to remember to set the timer before bed, or before work, so I'll have hot rice ready at 6:00 p.m. No matter how many sticky notes I leave myself. Scott remembered twice and it was amazing to come home from work to rice that was just cooked, hot and fresh... but all the other times, walking in the door resulted in arms waving, feet stomping and a cartoon bubble with #$!%#!#!$! popping up over my head in a flashy editorial fashion... because I'd forgot to set it. Again.
I thought my problems were solved when I started seeing "instant" and "precooked" brown rice at the supermarket. Unfortunately, all the brands contained oil, so there went that...
My dilemma continued until I discovered frozen brown rice in the freezer section of Trader Joe's. (Note: I find most supermarkets are also carrying frozen brown rice now). The ingredients? Just rice. No oil! YESS!!
I quickly filled my freezer with frozen rice. What a dream! I could reheat it in the microwave in a minute — or on the stove top in a pot in a few extra minutes. It was a miracle! My (food) prayers had been answered!!
(I'm ashamed to admit just how many meals were canned beans, frozen rice, bag of greens (cooked) and some fruit-flavored salsa, like pineapple salsa. I got all kinds of lazy!!).
But the honeymoon was eventually over — I realized while easy and convenient, the frozen brown rice was driving up my grocery bill. The frozen brown rice itself wasn't horrendously expensive or anything — but I was buying so much of it. Compared to the cost of dry brown rice in bulk, I was paying a lot.
I knew we needed to cut corners and save money... but could I really give up my frozen brown rice?
That's when I wondered if I could make it myself. Could I cook a big batch of brown rice, measure out portions, and freeze them? Then reheat in the microwave (or on the stovetop) like I did with TJ's rice?
A THOUSAND TIMES YES.
And it's just as good — if not better!!!
So for the past several weeks, I've been cooking brown rice, letting it cool, measuring out 1 to 2 cup amounts, storing them in a Ziploc, Tupperware, or whatever I've got, and freezing it.
Then when I need rice, I pluck it from the freezer, place the frozen rice on a microwave-safe plate or bowl and heat for about a minute. (For the stove top, add a splash of water or broth and cook in a pot for about 2-3 minutes, stirring to break it up).
I'll never have to wait 40 minutes for brown rice again — or overpay for a convenience that's not all that much more convenient!
Here's a quick video (below) of how I cook my grains ahead, freeze them and reheat. I even include a side-by-side comparison of freshly cooked vs. "recooked" so you can see. It's just as good — if not better!!
Do you cook your grains ahead?