Rice and Rice Mixes

By: Kim Beavers Email
By: Kim Beavers Email

There are over 40,000 varieties of rice, almost all of which can be classified as short, medium, or long-grain varieties. The most important differences are in cooking properties and taste.

• Long grain rice has long, slender kernels (the grains are four to five times longer than wide) that are separate, light and fluffy when cooked this is the rice that most Americans grew up eating.
• Medium grain rice is two too three times linger than wide. Medium grain rice absorbs flavors readily, which is why it is popular for paella and risotto.
• Short-grain rice is plump almost round and cooks into soft grains that cling together. It is more familiar in Asian countries.
• Wild rice is not actually rice or even a grain. Instead, it is the seed of a water grass. It has a nutlike flavor and is often used in place of rice or mixed with it.

During processing or milling the hull is removed which leaves behind a brown rice with the bran layers surrounding the kernel. Any variety of rice—long, medium, or short grain can be brown rice. To make white rice brown rice is further milled by machines that remove the bran layer.

Do you often wonder what to do with rice, how to season it to make it more exciting? Try a few of these add-ins:

• Once rice is done stir in some Italian seasoning and top with Parmesan cheese
• Cook rice in reduced sodium chicken broth and stir in sautéed garlic and onions
• Stir in chopped dried fruit
• Top with toasted nuts, orange zest and parsley

If you don’t feel like cooking rice and seasoning it yourself there are plenty of rice mixes to choose from. Naturally the convenience factor usually means high salt content.

One way to reduce sodium in boxed rice mixes is to use only half the packet of seasoning. In addition many of the instructions say to cook the rice packets with oil or margarine which is not necessary for the flavor of the rice. Look for rice mixes with no more than 480mg sodium per serving. In addition there are more brands offering brown rice mixes as an option.

Some quick lower sodium picks found locally include:

• Near East: found in the regular rice aisle, not all flavors are less than 480mg so do check the label.
• Lundberg: found in the organic section of some stores, not all flavors are less than 480mg sodium so check the label here too.

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