‘Tis the season to be jolly. Hang the mistletoe, deck the halls and let the party planning begin.
To help make your holiday gatherings a stress-free experience, here are some tips for easy entertaining from Deborah Locke, product manager and test kitchen director for RiceSelect, makers of Texmati rice.
- When entertaining family and friends, make plans to cook the entree and let your guests bring sides, salads and desserts.
- Save time in the kitchen by purchasing breads and desserts from your favorite bakery.
- Keep your pantry stocked with specialty rice, couscous or orzo products as the base for quick go-to dishes to boost your menu when last-minute guests show up for holiday meals.
- Choose a menu with foods that can be partially or completely prepared in advance. Save as little as possible to prep at last minute.
- Shop for non-perishables as far ahead as possible.
- When entertaining holiday guests, everyone typically ends up in the kitchen, so assign kitchen duties and let them help.
- Make a list of everything you may need help with. When guests call to offer their assistance, don’t hesitate to give them something to do.
- With the multitude of dishes served at holiday gatherings, it’s easy to run out of serving dishes if you don’t plan ahead. Determine in advance which dishes you will use. Set these out with sticky notes reminding you what goes in each dish.
“Shopping, parties and the general hustle and bustle leave many families short on time and ideas for everyday family meals,” says Locke. “To get you through those days, count on serving hearty one-dish meals that can be made in advance, like soups, hearty salads and casseroles.”
Locke offers the following award-winning and simple-to-make dishes from RiceSelect’s repertoire:
Cranberry Pecan Texmati Rice Pilaf
Makes 6 to 8 servings
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 cup uncooked Texmati white or light brown rice
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can chicken broth
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted
1/4 cup sliced green onions
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
Melt butter in 2-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add rice; cook and stir two to three minutes. Add broth and heat to boiling; stir once or twice. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.
Remove from heat. Stir in cheese, cranberries, pecans and onions. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
To toast pecans, spread nuts on small baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees five to eight minutes, or until golden brown, stirring frequently.
Cremini Mushroom & Roasted Garlic Rice Soup
Makes 8 to 12 servings
1/3 cup butter
1 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 large sweet mild onion, finely chopped
3 cups cooked Texmati brown rice, divided
1 (6 1/2-ounce) container garlic and herbs spreadable cheese
2 (14-ounce) cans roasted garlic seasoned chicken broth, divided
2 cups water, additional if desired
8 slices smoked bacon, cooked and chopped for garnish
Salt and pepper to taste
Melt butter in a large non-stick stockpot over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and onion; cook about 10 minutes, stirring periodically. Let mixture cool slightly. In food processor or blender, combine mushroom mixture, 1 1/2 cups rice, cheese and 1 cup broth. Pulse mixture until mushrooms are finely chopped, but not pureed and mixture is thoroughly combined. Return mixture to stockpot; stir in remaining rice, broth and water. Bring to a boil; cook uncovered over medium heat for five minutes. Chop bacon and set aside. Add salt and pepper to soup to taste. To serve, ladle soup into bowls; sprinkle with bacon bits.
Serving suggestions: Garnish with additional sauteed mushrooms and chives, sliced green onions, or other fresh herbs, such as sage or thyme.
For more quick and easy recipes prepared with rice, couscous or orzo, along with cooking tips and much more, visit www.riceselect.com or become a Facebook fan at http://www.facebook.com/RiceSelect.