When I married and started my family, I cooked the way I did in my mother's home. That is, I continued to buy Kraft Spaghetti Dinner, Hamburger Helper (or, if I was trying to be frugal, the store brand or generic version). Once my family started growing, one box meal just wasn't enough to feed us all, and making 2 or 3 didn't seem so economical or time saving anymore, so I learned to cook from scratch. Of course, once I did, I realized how much better REAL cooking tastes.
Time marches on, circumstances change, children leave home... a few years ago, I found myself in much the same situation as my mother before me. I was divorced, working full time, with only 2 and then one daughter home to feed. Those boxed meals started looking rather appealing to me once again. I bought some Rice-a-Roni on sale at Safeway and my youngest daughter liked it quite well, so we ate it now and then until the sale ran out and I saw the regular price. No, I wasn't about to pay $2 or $3 for a bit of rice and convenience. So, again, I started making my own Rice-a-Roni clone. If you're interested in the origin of Rice-a-Roni and how it became the San Francisco treat, read here.
Making your own seasoned rice dish (I hesitate to call it pilaf, really because to me, that has to have almonds and saffron) is simple and quick, and rather than the unforgiving portion sizes in those tiny boxes, you can make as much or a little as you need. This recipe makes 4 generous side dish portions:
- 1/2 cup small pasta (orzo, broken angel hair, or the like)
- 1 Tablespoon butter, margarine or olive oil
- 1 cup white rice
- 2 cups chicken broth (I use 2 cups water and powdered soup base)
- 1/2 cup milk
- freshly grated parmesan or romano cheese
I like to add sauteed mushrooms, bell peppers, onions and spinach to the rice.
I usually serve this with a grilled chicken breast or chop.