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Plug in the rice cooker --it's September!

That's how the food marketing folks want us to think. To them, each year is divided into "Food-of-the-Months."One month might be "Bake an Eggplant for Lunch Month;" another, "Cake and Dried Ants for Brunch Month."

It gets crazy.

Everybody's selling something. But that's OK. It makes shopping interesting. We become SMART SHOPPERS when we can wade through the Madison Avenue maze and recognize a hotly advertised food as really deserving of its own spotlight every year.

September is one of those "good 'ol food" months.

Because rice actually IS as nice as all the hype says.

So let's celebrate this glorious grain. Grab your spoon, fork or chopsticks, and stick with us.

Most of us were introduced to rice in the form of "pablum," or rice cereal.

As recently as just now, absolutely unscientific research has unearthed several tear-streaked journals.

These accounts, penned by numerous first-time mothers, reveal stories of hungrily screaming babies, wanting more than the lukewarm bottle of milk they were being fed every 4 to 5 hours.

Eventually, these sleep-deprived moms took to the streets of America armed with sharpened Q-tips, searching for pompous pediatricians who had told them NOT to give babies milk in between their rigid 4- or 5-hour feeding schedule.

Thank heaven for wise old Grandmama who quietly uttered, "A little rice cereal, and Baby Dumpling will sleep like a lamb."

Granny knew.

So does over half the world's population. Rice is easy to digest and one of the best sources of complex carbohydrates - the high-energy fuel that powers the body.

Although rice lacks a few essential amino acids to make it a complete protein, with the addition of small quantities of animal protein, or vegetable proteins - nuts, seeds or legumes - it becomes a complete protein.

The Southern favorite, red beans and rice, is a legume/rice combo packing a wallop of flavor and nutrition.

Rice is low in calories and a perfect weight-watcher's choice. Starchy foods are among the best energy choices, and despite popular beliefs, carbohydrates are NOT fattening. Fats are fattening.

Carbohydrates actually have fewer calories than fat foods. For example:

1/2 cup cooked rice =80 calories.

1 slice bread =80 calories.

1/2 cup cottage cheese =120 calories.

2 tablespoons peanut butter=190 calories

In order to hold down the calories in a rice dish, the cook (YOU!) should avoid adding lots of butter or heavy sauces.

James McNair, author of "The Rice Cookbook" was raised on rice, growing up in northern Louisiana, one of the top rice-producing regions in the country.

He recalls, "Our family enjoyed rice several times a week, usually covered with some sort of rich meat sauce Creole. I often get cravings for my mother's very dark, rich gravy - made from slowly braised wild duck - spooned over mountains of white rice."

McNair goes on to say that many miles away from Louisiana and years later, he became "dedicated to fresh foods and good nutrition.

"However," he continues, "I still relish another of my mother's rice dishes, a mushy casserole for which almost every good Southern cook has a recipe.

"Mother sauteed a chopped onion in a stick of oleo (margarine), then combined it with a couple of cups of cooked rice, a bunch of chopped cooked broccoli, a can of cream of mushroom soup, and a large jar of imitation cheese spread. This creamy mixture was then baked for about three-quarter of an hour . . . " he writes.

Pure comfort food. Pure cholesterol city!

Throughout Utah, we find variations of this basic rice casserole - and they're often spelled `R-E-L-I-E-F' (Society). Comfort casseroles that show up at potlucks, church socials and funeral luncheons.

Rice can do it all. It's a versatile, neutral food that takes on flavors of other foods. So if you enjoy a similar version of the above-mentioned bikini-destroyer dish every now and then - enjoy. Just try to curtail the addition of great globs of butter when cooking up your finest.

Restrictive diets for diabetes patients include rice, as do low-calories regimens.

Rice to the rescue! With no fat, no sodium, and zero cholesterol, it's a natural winner.

While singing the praises of rice, we can't forget the economical side of the grain.

For about four cents a serving, rice is bargain. And don't forget that rice triples in volume when cooked, with no waste involved. It also extends expensive protein foods.

On the not-so-bargain side, a gourmet basmati-style rice has been introduced in the U.S.

True basmati rice was developed in Northern India, and has a worldwide reputation as "the rice of gourmets." Basmati smells like popcorn when cooking and has a delicious, nutty flavor.

We cooked up a pot of Texas-grown "Texmati," one of the several basmati-type brands of rice grown in this country. Our "taster," University of Utah student Alechia Crown, of Salt Lake City, thought "it tasted like spicy Corn Chex."

We think that despite the higher price, basmati is a refreshing addition to a special meal.

In terms of expense, basmati isn't as pricey as "wild rice," which isn't true rice, but a seed of a native grass.

A loyal Deseret News recipe exchanger, Thelma Rouse of Tooele sent us her "rice thoughts:"

"Rice is such a versatile food . . . I use it for salad, dessert and in many casseroles. I usually cook enough so one day I'll have the casserole, the next day, the delicious rice puddings. All my family loves rice."

Television cook Martin Yan ("Yan Can Cook") says that the Chinese word for cooked rice is fan, practically synonymous with the word for meal.

"When you ask a friend if he has eaten dinner," Yan explains, "you literally ask him if he has eaten rice."

So, break into those huge plastic vats of rice in the cellar. You've only got 25 more days left to celebrate National Rice Month!

Then it's on to "Ostrich in October."



Additional Information



Submitted by: Laurine Jack,


Approximate cost: $2.48

Yield: 8 servings

Evaluation: Very easy if rice is already cooked. Even if you have to cook rice, it's easy. Good chocolate flavor - not overly sweet, with lots of goodies in every bite. Chill before adding marshmallows so they don't melt in. A good family dessert.

3 cups cooked rice

23/4 cups milk

1/3 cups sugar

1 tablespoon margarine

1/4 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup miniature marshmallows

1/4 cup chocolate syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup slivered almonds

1/2 cup whipped cream for garnish

Maraschino cherries for garnish

Combine rice, milk, sugar, margarine and salt. Cook over medium heat 20 to 25 minutes or until thick and creamy, stirring frequently. Add marshmallows, chocolate syrup and vanilla. Chill. Before serving stir in almonds. Spoon into dishes. Garnish with whipped cream and cherry.

- Each serving contains 244 calories, 8 g fat, 39 g carb, 139 mg sodium, 9 mg cholesterol.


Submitted by Sam Bean,


Approximate cost: $1.54

Yield: 4 servings

Evaluation: Easy to prepare, but it takes awhile (2 1/2 to 3 hours) to cook. Good old-fashioned custard flavor. Great as a dessert reheated the next day for breakfast.

1 1/2 cups cooked rice

3 eggs

1/3 cup sugar

21/2 cups milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup raisins

1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)

Add sugar to beaten eggs. Pour in milk. Add cooked rice, raisins, vanilla and salt to taste. Add 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, if desired. Pour into baking dish. Bake uncovered in slow (250 degree) oven until thick, approximately 21/2 to 3 hours.

- Each serving contains 325 calories, 7 g fat, 55 g carb, 130 mg sodium, 171 mg cholesterol.


Submitted by Vivian E. Zabriskie,


Approximate cost: $4.25

Yield: 6 servings

Evaluation: Great tasting side dish for chicken or turkey. Colorful, quick and easy. This is a nice holiday gift for the neighbors. Put mix in colorful bag and include recipe.

1 cup long grain rice, uncooked

1/2 cup finely chopped dried apricots or medley of dried fruits (Sunmaid Fruit Bits)

1/4 (scant) cup raisins or currants (or to taste)

1 2-ounce package of slivered almonds

1 tablespoon chicken flavored bouillon granules

2 teaspoon dried orange rind

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

2 teaspoon parsley flakes

Combine rice mix, 21/2 cups water and 2 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 20-25 minutes or until rice is tender and water is absorbed.

- Each serving contains 214 calories, 5 g fat, 39 g carb, 149 mg sodium, 0 mg cholesterol.


Submitted by Mary S. Larson,


Approximate cost: $5

Yield: 12 servings

Evaluation: Great rice dish with Southwestern flavor. Hearty side dish, or a couple make a nice meal. Good with tomato sauce or Creole sauce. We topped the Rice Cups with picante sauce for a spicy version. These keep well in freezer, and make a convenient frozen food item to have on hand.

For Rice Cups:

3 cups cooked rice

1 cup shredded, medium cheddar cheese (save 1/2 cup for topping)

1 small can diced mild green chilies

1 tablespoon chopped pimento

1/3 cup milk

2 beaten eggs

1 cup finely diced cooked ham

2 tablespoons chopped green onion

1/4 cup chopped green pepper

Mix well cooked rice, 1/2 cup cheese, chilies, pimento, milk, eggs and ham. In small amount of butter or margarine, briefly saute green onion and green pepper (until somewhat transparent.) Spray 12 muffin tins with nonstick spray. Fill muffin tins with rice mixture and top with remaining cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until set. Serve with hot tomato sauce.

For Tomato Sauce:

2 tablespoons margarine

3 tablespoons flour

11/2 cups tomato juice

Melt margarine, and whisk in flour. Cook until thickened. Slowly add tomato juice and whisk until sauce is thickened. Adjust seasonings. Strain and serve over Rice Cups.

- Each serving (with sauce) contains 157 calories, 7 g fat, 15 g carb, 492 mg sodium, 53 mg cholesterol.


Submitted by Pam Dew,


Approximate cost: $6.25

Yield: 4 servings

Evaluation: Tasty, easy to prepare casserole that is gluten free (great for people who can't eat wheat, rye, barley or oats.) Many rice casserole recipes use prepared soups for the sauce - this is delicious without commercial soup.

2 chicken breasts

1/2 cup celery, chopped

1/4 cup onion, diced

3 cups cooked rice (cooked with 1 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon butter)

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup sour cream

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese

Boil cleaned and skinned chicken until tender, saving 1/2 cup of broth. Cook celery and onion in reserved broth for 10 minutes, until onion is tender. Cut cooked chicken into cubes. Stir together in casserole dish all ingredients except cheese until well mixed. Sprinkle cheese on top. Bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees until hot.

- Each serving contains 676 calories, 41 g fat, 37 g carb, 345 mg sodium, 127 mg cholesterol.


Submitted by Donna Carper,

South Jordan

Approximate cost:$8.25

Yield: 6 servings

Evalution: This hearty salad brought raves from our testers. Best when made the night before. Serve on crisp lettuce leaves for a delicious luncheon dish.

2 cups cold cooked rice

1 1/2 pounds shrimp (about 2 cups), cooked

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 cup green pepper, cut very small

2 tablespoons chopped stuffed olives

1 1/2 cups diced raw cauliflower

3/4 cup diced celery

2/3 cup prepared Thousand Island Dressing

Pepper to taste

Mix together well. Chill before serving.

- Each serving contains 304 calories, 13 g fat, 22 g carb, 1188 mg sodium, 230 mg cholesterol.


Submitted by Thelma Rouse,


Approximate cost: $3.90

Yield: 4 servings

Evaluation: Great combination of flavors. Another excellent luncheon salad. Would be great with chutney and cashews on the side.

1 cup cubed cooked chicken

1 131/2 ounce can pineapple tidbits, drained

1 cup diced celery

2 cups cooled cooked rice

1 can mandarin oranges

1 cup Miracle Whip

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon grated onion

1/2 teaspoon curry powder

1/2 cup coconut

Mix chicken, coconut, pineapple, celery, oranges and rice lightly. Mix other ingredients into salad dressing. Stir all together lightly. Chill several hours.

- Each serving contains 461 calories, 22 g fat, 55 g carb, 458 mg sodium, 41 mg cholesterol.