Hot Dinners in (Virtually) No Time

By Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl, Experience Life

I’m a mad devotee of my rice cooker. I came to it sort of by chance, after describing my life to a cookbook writer I know, someone who has made her living putting together recipes for the things I know I should eat — vegetables, whole grains, legumes and so on. I told her I need something that is going to require nothing of me. Something that can just take care of itself through head wounds, toddler tantrums, traffic delays and other crises du jour. It needs to never burn, never require my attention — essentially, it needs to make dinner on its own.

Here are 10 ways to take an auto-cooked pot of beans or rice from the rice cooker to the dinner table in mere moments of active prep time. Add a side of dark, leafy greens or a simple salad, and you’re set to go.

Lazy one-minute cassoulet. Make a pound of white beans in your rice cooker; add lots of dried thyme (or instead add fresh herbs right before serving) and garlic, a little olive oil, and a can of chopped diced tomatoes. When ready, put your cooked beans in a bowl, and garnish with chopped ham and/or cooked sausage.

Chickpea soup: Take your cooked chickpeas and some chickpea cooking liquid and put it in a soup bowl. Add a big handful of fresh spinach leaves (or chiffonade-cut kale, or other dark greens) and season to taste with lemon juice or sherry vinegar, salt, and ground pepper.

Deconstructed falafel: Take your bowl of warm chickpeas and season with tahini, garlic, salt and pepper; sprinkle with lots of chopped cilantro or parsley. Finish with a dollop of plain yogurt.

Split-pea soup: Put cooked split peas in a bowl, and garnish with a handful of smoked chicken or ham.

Indian split-pea soup: Add curry powder to previous split-pea soup recipe.

Swedish split-pea soup: Use yellow split peas. Add ground dried ginger to the cooking water; serve with a garnish of mustard to swirl into the soup.

Greek black-eyed pea soup: Cook a pound of black-eyed peas with garlic and bay leaf;  serve with as much chopped parsley and mint as you’ve got.

Wild-rice bowl: Top a bowl of wild rice with a handful of grape tomatoes and a handful of feta crumbles or a dollop of chèvre. Add a bunch of spinach leaves.

Mexican rice bowl: Start with brown or wild rice. Add salsa and a little cilantro if you have some on hand.

Japanese wild-rice bowl: The Japanese have a condiment called furikake, which is basically a combination of seaweed, sesame seeds and other ingredients meant to sprinkle on rice. It’s available at specialty Asian markets and on the Internet. Find one you like and you’re ready to turn any bowl of rice into dinner in seconds. I like to put furikake on rice with a little ume plum vinegar.


Great Tips For Cooking Whole Grains
6 Essential Shortcuts in the Kitchen
13 Ways to Eat Healthier on a Budget

Love This? Never Miss Another Story.


Joanna W.
Joanna W.2 years ago


Sonny Honrado
Sonny Honrado3 years ago

Worth trying. Thanks!

Jelica R.
Jelica R.3 years ago

Thanks. Added to favorites

Sam T.
Sam T.4 years ago

The salad that came with the wrap at Mimi's Cafe was my favorite part! I usually find salads pointless, but this was delicious! Thank you!

Sam T.
Sam T.4 years ago

The grilled vegetable wrap I had at Mimi's Cafe was something easy to do at home! I would have added more of the vegetables listed on the menu instead of the greens that were bitter inside the wrap! Thank you!

sandra m.
Past Member 4 years ago


Geetha Subramaniam

Thanks for posting.

John S.
Past Member 4 years ago

Thanks, just sounds like one more think in the kitchen I don't need (and I made rice last night).

Laure H.
Laure H.4 years ago

I do the same things with rice in a small cast iron pot.

Anne H.
Anne H.4 years ago

Remember the crock pot? No excuse to not eat healthy really.