Being gluten free can be a serious challenge when you're traveling. I took pictures of some of our gluten free rice cooker meals on a recent trip to the beach. I bought a rice cooker shortly after beginning a gluten free diet in 2007. After using it once or twice, we immediately realized the benefits it would have for a gluten free diet on trips!
A rice cooker can do so much more than simply cook rice. The model we have is a small, very frugal option. I think it was around $20.00 when I bought it and it's certainly not in the high end range of rice cookers. My sweet little rice cooker has not only kept my tummy safe on countless trips, but it has saved us hundreds of dollars on restaurant meals!
Whenever we go on trips I plan meals around the rice cooker. It's awesome to know we can make hot fresh naturally gluten free meals quickly and easily.
For dinner I usually bring pasta or rice and make a one pot meal. Trips are one of the few occasions I will use a boxed, prepackaged meal, but they certainly aren't necessary. For our recent trip I brought along a package of Namaste Pisavera Pasta. I love that Namaste meals are top 8 allergen free and contain no soy, wheat, or dairy. The Pisavera flavor is our very favorite.
To make pasta in a rice cooker, I simply heat the water on the "cook" setting until it's begins to simmer. Cook the pasta (any gluten free pasta works with this method!) for about 10-15 minutes tasting it along the way - it should come to a boiling point. It may take a little longer than it would on your stove at home. Keep an eye on the cooker to make sure the pasta doesn't boil over! In the last 2-3 minutes of cooking I add a drained can of organic vegetables to the pasta to heat them through. Drain the pasta & the vegetables. Add the drained pasta & vegetables back to the pot and add the seasonings & coconut oil. We sometimes also add a can of drained chickpeas or canned chicken to the meal to add a little protein. Voila. Quick, easy, hot travel meal from the rice cooker!
For breakfast I love making grits and eggs! It's probably a southern thing, what can I say? Grits are so easy to make in the rice cooker. I love Bob's Red Mill yellow polenta grits. They are certified gluten free which is really important to me. I used to buy other brands that did not have gluten in the ingredients, but I would still often end up with a very grumbly tummy. Corn products are one of the easiest products to cross contaminate during processing, so to keep my very sensitive tummy happy, we stick with certified GF grits.
To make grits in the rice cooker simply put 3 cups of water in the rice cooker on the "cook" setting. When the water is starting to simmer add 1 cup of dry grits. Cover and cook 5 minutes and then begin stirring. The grits will thicken quickly. When they are as thick as you like them, remove them from the pan and pour into serving dishes. This makes around 4 (1 cup) servings of grits.
Make scrambled eggs simply by whisking several eggs in a bowl and then pouring them into the cooker on the "cook" setting. Using a flat spatula move around the eggs as they cook. Add sea salt & freshly ground pepper and any other seasonings you like. (Unless you completely forgot the seasonings like I did... and you can just enjoy bland eggs! lol) Cook the eggs as soft or firm as you like them. Serve immediately (and preferably on top of those grits you just cooked!)
Bacon. Yes! You can even make bacon in a rice cooker. This particular bacon is happy, organic, nitrate-free, all natural bacon from a local farm. It's pricey so we don't eat it very often, but I thought a trip to the beach merited a special breakfast.
To make bacon in the rice cooker, simply cut the bacon into small pieces and place them in the pot on the "cook" setting. It will take a little longer than cooking bacon on your stovetop and it may not get super crispy. The only downfall to cooking bacon in the rice cooker is the cooker will automatically change to the "warm" setting occasionally which of course means it will cook more slowly. But turn your bacon when it's slightly crisp and brown and cook the opposite side. Then remove to a paper towel to drain any remaining fat when you're finished. Serve immediately with your grits and eggs!
More things you can make with a rice cooker either at home or traveling:
- Oatmeal (this is such a wonderful way to make oatmeal. I usually plan 2 breakfasts for our trips: oatmeal with raisins, cinnamon, ground flax seeds, honey, and coconut oil is always my favorite!
- Rice! Of course. Follow the directions that come with your rice cooker to specifically cook the type of rice you have.
- Ground beef or chicken. A great addition to a pasta meal or a meal with potatoes, etc.. you can brown ground beef or chicken easily and quickly in a rice cooker on the "cook" setting. Make sure to cook to proper temperature for food safety. If you are going to cook chicken, make sure to cut it into very small pieces to make sure it cooks completely through.
- Steam Vegetables. Most rice cookers come with a steaming rack so you can steam broccoli, asparagus, green beans, etc...
- Boiled eggs. I usually have leftover eggs on our trips and I always boil them for a quick boost of protein as a snack. Fill your rice cooker halfway full with water. Allow the water to come to a simmer on the "cook" setting and then add your eggs carefully. Let them simmer for 10-15 minutes. Cut the rice cooker off and allow them to continue cooking for several minutes. Drain the water off. Remove the shells from the eggs. Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator.
- A cup of tea, coffee, or hot chocolate. You can heat water so easily with the rice cooker. Simply add as much water as you need to the rice cooker and let it come to a simmer and then pour into your mug!
- Simple stirfrys. You can make quick simple stirfrys with very thinly sliced vegetables and an optional meat or legume protein. Serve over pasta or rice made of course, in the rice cooker!
- Toast: If you have gluten free bread, you can make very quick toast on the cook setting! My favorite way is to add a very thin layer of coconut oil on the bread and place oil side down in the rice cooker and toast for about 2-3 minutes on each side.
- Poached eggs. - The "cook" setting on my rice cooker will heat water to the perfect simmering boil to make poached eggs. Yum!
- Salmon and other fish - Often you can cut salmon and most other fish into small serving sizes that will cook perfectly in the rice cooker on the cook setting! Cook for about 5-6 minutes on each side until the fish is flaky.
- Lentils - A very under-appreciated little bean! Lentils are so healthy and cook quickly. They are the fast food of the legume family. You can make a lentil soup in about 30-40 minutes. In the bottom of your rice cooker add a little coconut oil, add chopped onions, garlic, very finely chopped carrots & celery. Add 3-4 cups of water and 1 cup of lentils (any variety!). Cook for 30-40 minutes on the "cook" setting and you'll have a very quick healthy vegetable soup for dinner!
- Cooked Fruits (Cinnamon Apples). You can make simple fruit dishes like cooked apples by slicing 2 apples and adding them to the rice cooker. Add a little coconut oil, cinnamon, and honey. On the "cook" setting, cook apples for about 15 minutes until they are just slightly soft. Delicious!
- Desserts! - Yes! You can make desserts in your rice cooker. My favorite is a quick yummy rice pudding. Add leftover rice to the rice cooker and add just enough coconut milk to cover. Add about 3 tablespoons of honey, a pinch of cinnamon, a teaspoon of vanilla, and as many raisins as you want! Cook for about 10-15 minutes until heated through.
Not only is using a rice cooker an easy way to make sure your foods are safely gluten free when you're traveling. It's extremely frugal. You'll save money on meals and you will be able to control the amount of other unhealthy ingredients like salt, fat, and sugar.
Have rice cooker ideas? Please share your thoughts, comments, and awesome rice cooker recipes in the comments below!