//By Jessie Fast//
Most of us here in Akita find our culinary skills strangled by our tiny kitchens. Without real ovens, without more than one stovetop burner, without freezers big enough for a bag of edamame and a beer, it can be difficult to find interesting meals to cook and interesting ways to cook them.
That’s where the rice cooker comes in. This humble device is capable of a lot more than just cooking white and brown rice (and quinoa!). The rice cooker works essentially in the same way a slow cooker does, so most dishes that could be prepared and then left to simmer in a crock pot can be just as tastily prepared in a rice cooker. By putting vegetables, meat, and other ingredients with the rice into the pot at the same time, you can transform your rice cooker into a kind of crock pot. This method can also be used for soups and stews, leaving you with a delicious dinner and one-pot clean-up.
Although rice cooker recipes lend themselves well to the whatever-I-have-leftover-in-my-fridge approach, below are a few recipes to try that you might not have thought your lowly rice cooker was capable of. Let’s cooking!
Rice Cooker Mac & Cheese (Serves 4-6)
– 2 cups pasta (penne and macaroni work best)
– 1 1/2 cups chicken/vegetable stock
– 1 cup milk (the original recipe calls for whole, but I use soy, and it’s just fine)
– 1 1/2 cups cheese (whatever you can find at Yamaya)
- Place the first 3 ingredients in the rice cooker and cook for 15 minutes (if using whole wheat pasta, cut down cooking time here by about five minutes as whole wheat pasta tends to fall apart if cooked too long).
- Open the lid, add the milk and cheese, and stir to combine. Cover and cook for an additional 20 minutes (for my rice cooker, I’ve found waiting for the 40-min cycle to finish is too long, so I usually check it after 30 minutes)
** Option: You can also add some finely chopped garlic, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, butternut squash or frozen peas in Step #2.
Apple-Nut Cake (Adapted from Ishikawa JET)
– 40 g granulated sugar (I reduced this from the original recipe – add more if you want it sweeter)
– 150 g flour
– 1 teaspoon baking powder
– 1 teaspoon cinnamon
– 40 g butter
– 1 apple
– 60 g walnuts
– 2 tablespoons sugar
– 3 tablespoons water
- Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Add sugar and mix well.
- Mix flour, baking powder, and cinnamon together in a separate bowl. Sift the dry ingredients slowly into the egg mixture, stirring to combine. When all the flour is mixed in, add the softened butter.
- Wash and cut the apple into 5mm chunks, removing the seeds and stem. Roast the walnuts over low heat in a frying pan until brown and fragrant, and then chop into small pieces. Add apple and walnut pieces to the batter.
- Remove the rice cooker bowl and grease the inside with butter. Pour in all the batter and put the bowl back into the rice cooker. Press the “cook” button.
- When the rice cooker timer goes off, open the lid. Check if the cake is baked by inserting a toothpick into the center. If it’s clean, the cake is finished. If not, press the “cook” button again (my rice cooker takes three cycles to finish baking the cake).
- When the cake is finished, flip it out of the bowl onto a cooling rack or plate and brush with the water/sugar glaze mixture.