Use instant rice for quick and creative meals
Fast food is healthy when it means food that is prepared quickly at home from natural ingredients.
I usually use long grain brown rice that requires 20 minutes to prepare but there are times when a faster option is preferred. When Minute Rice introduced brown rice a few years ago, I added it to my pantry.
According to Norma D’Onofrio, senior brand manager, Minute Rice, instant rice provides the same food value as long-cooking varieties.
“Contrary to common misconceptions, instant rice is as nutritious as long cook rice,” she states in a press release, explaining that instant rice is long grain rice that is simply pre-cooked, and then dried, in order to significantly cut down on the cooking time required by consumers.
The “Veggie Rice Lasagna Loaf” recipe below, created by Chef John Higgins, Director of Toronto-based George Brown Chef School is a great example of how to cut time but not flavour. The chef calls instant rice “one of the simplest go-to ingredients that can be used to quickly and easily whip up creative, family-friendly meals – even desserts.”
Working with Minute Rice®100% Natural Instant Rice, for example, Chef Higgins helped create the wholesome, all-natural and easy rice lasagna dish that takes only 10 minutes to prepare for the oven. “When time is an issue, instant rice is an excellent solution for busy moms and people in a rush,” said Chef Higgins, who is also a judge on the Food Network’s Chopped Canada and former personal chef for the Queen Mother.
Veggie Rice Lasagna Loaf Recipe by Chef John Higgins
Prep Time: 10 min utes
Cook Time: 20 min utes
2 cups (500 ml) Minute Rice® Instant Premium Long Grain White Rice
1/4 cup (60 ml) grated Parmesan cheese, good quality, if possible
2 tbsp (30 ml) olive oil
2 bunches green onions, chopped
1 pkg (10 oz/300 g) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed well to remove liquid
2 cloves (5 g) garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups (375 ml) light ricotta or cottage cheese
1 cup (200 g) zucchini, sliced
1 jar (24 oz/700 ml) prepared marinara or home-made pasta sauce
2 cups (500 ml) shredded low fat Mozzarella cheese
2 (145g) tomatoes, sliced
1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Prepare rice according to package directions. Stir in the parmesan cheese and reserve. Here are Top 10 Rice Cooking Tips.
2. Place 15 ml of the olive oil in a warm pan, then add the chopped green onions, followed by the spinach, and season with garlic. Cook for one minute. Add salt and pepper, then allow to cool. Mix with ricotta cheese until combined.
3. Place the rest of the olive oil in a non-stick pan. Add the sliced zucchini. Cook for 10 seconds on each side. Season to taste. Remove from the pan and place on a paper towel to absorb the oil and allow to cool.
4. Spoon ¼ cup (60 ml) of the marinara sauce into a greased 8-inch (2L) square baking dish. Gently press half of the rice into the baking dish in an even layer; sprinkle with ½ cup (125 ml) mozzarella cheese. Spread half of the spinach mixture over the cheese.
5. Top with half of the tomato and zucchini slices, overlapping as needed. Spoon half of the remaining marinara sauce over the slices. Repeat the layers, ending with the sauce.
6. Sprinkle evenly with the remaining cheese and bake for 20 minutes or until bubbly and golden on top. Let stand for 5 minutes before slicing.
Per serving (1/6 of recipe): 430 calories, 18g fat, 40mg cholesterol, 770mg sodium, 45g carbohydrate, 5g fibre, 9g sugars, 23g protein