Cooks Exchange

Try these anything-but-boring rice side dishes

Rice is a great accompaniment for almost any entrée, but the starch can get boring if fixed the same old way.

My father-in-law loves rice; plain white rice with gravy suits him just fine; my husband not so much.

When Allen was growing up, his dad like rice with nearly every meal, even breakfast with sugar and butter.

"I just got tired of rice," my husband said one day when I asked why he always preferred potatoes as a side dish.

From then on, I have taken the challenge to make rice anything but boring. While I enjoy even plain white rice, my favorite is wild rice, especially the black wild rice that is found in Minnesota. Talk about good.

When I was young, my grandmother did most of the cooking, but sometimes my mother would. When she did, she preferred more gourmet fare. One of her favorites was what she called chicken in wine with Bing cherries. Guess what her accompaniment was? Wild rice and salad. I loved the fruited wine sauce over that rice.

To this day, fruit, especially citrus, added to rice is a favorite. Sometimes I use fruit juices in place of water when cooking rice for a fresher taste, but chicken or beef stock are a great substitute for water.

If using beef stock in rice, sauté fresh mushrooms and onions in a bit of butter with a splash or two of red wine and add to the cooked rice. This is a great accompaniment for steak.

Last weekend, I made white rice with orange juice, orange zest, green onions and cilantro. The basic recipe I got from Melissa D'Arabian on Food Network, but I had to improvise a bit. This is a great rice to serve with Hispanic food instead of the normal tomato-based Spanish rice.

Since September is National Rice Month, I thought I would share a few of my favorite anything-but-boring rice sides. I also will share the winning recipe in the Sizzlin' Summer Rice Salad Contest sponsored by the USA Rice Federation and the California Rice Commission. Please feel free to share your favorite side-dish variations with your fellow readers and me.

According to the USA Rice Federation, each American consumes about 25 pounds of rice a year and about 22 billion pounds of rice is produced each year by farmers in Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Texas, Missouri and Mississippi.

Enjoy these recipes and don't forget to share yours.


1- 1/2 cups water

1/2 cup orange juice

1 cup long-grain white rice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons cilantro

2 tablespoons chopped green onions

Bring water, orange juice, salt, butter and rice to a boil. Stir in cilantro. Cover and lower heat to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes. Fluff, top with green onions and serve.


1 cup water

1 cup pineapple juice

1 cup white rice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon butter

1/2 cup crushed pineapple in its own juice, drained

2 strips of crisp bacon

2 tablespoons chopped green onions

Bring water, juice, rice, salt and butter to a boil. Cover and lower heat to a simmer. Cook 15-20 minutes. Transfer cooked rice to a bowl and add crushed pineapple, green onions and crumbled bacon. Goes great with chicken, seafood or pork.


3 tablespoons oil

1/2 cup finely chopped shallots

2 cups sliced mushrooms

3 cups hot cooked long grain white rice

1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained

2 cups shredded smoked gouda cheese, divided

1/2 cup whipping cream or use fat-free half and half for a lower fat dish

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat broiler. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots and mushrooms, sauté about 6 to 8 minutes or until tender. Add hot rice, spinach, 1-1/4 cups cheese and cream; stir until cheese melts and mixture is heated through. Spoon mixture into a lightly greased 2-quart casserole. Sprinkle with remaining 3/4 cup cheese over top. Broil about 2 minutes or until cheese melts. 

-- Recipe from the USA Rice Federation

Note: When I make this rice, I use the fat-free half and half. It works well, too, and cuts the fat.


1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 ounces paper-thin slices prosciutto

3 cups cooked medium grain brown rice, cooled to room temperature

1/2 to 3/4 cup good quality Italian olive oil and vinegar salad dressing

3/4 cup chopped dried figs

3/4 cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese

1 cup walnut halves

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a pie pan, toss walnuts with olive oil, pepper and salt. Bake until toasted, stirring twice, 10 to 12 minutes.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or sprayed foil. Place prosciutto slices in a single layer on pan (don't worry if they tear). Bake until browned and crisp, 8 to 10 minutes, removing pieces as they are done. Crumble into small pieces.

Toss rice with desired amount of salad dressing. Stir in figs, gorgonzola cheese, walnuts and prosciutto.

-- Winning recipe by Julie DeMatteo

Help for restricted diets

Shirley Cann of Bradenton shared a helpful magazine for readers who must have gluten-free and dairy-free diets. The magazine is called Living Without.

"I hope this will help and give hope to your readers with these sensitivities," she said.

"I have been gluten-free and sugar-free for four years now," said Cindy Freeman of D'Iberville. "Please remind readers all of these ingredients in my recipe are gluten-free. If the product is not labeled gluten-free do not buy it.

"Since most of the recipes in my cookbooks contain eggs, I only use egg whites," she said. "Here's the rule, if a recipe calls for 3 eggs, double the egg white amount. I've never had any trouble."

Easy pineapple cheesecake

Mazola no-stick cooking spray

2 packages (8 ounces each) fat-free cream cheese, softened

1 cup Splenda

1/2 cup skim milk

6 egg whites

1/4 cup Argo cornstarch

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 can (8 ounces) no-sugar added pineapple in juice, drained; juice reserved


Spray 9-inch square baking dish with cooking spray.

In blender, combine cream cheese, Splenda, milk, eggs, cornstarch, vanilla and reserved pineapple juice. Blend 1 minute or until smooth, scraping down sides once. Pour into a prepared baking dish. Spoon crushed pineapple over the top (pineapple sinks into batter). Sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake in a 300-degree oven for 50 to 60 minutes or until set. Cool on rack 1 hour. Refrigerate. Serves 12.

-- Submitted by Cindy Freeman

Dining no child hungry

Through Sunday, some Coast restaurants are participating in Share Our Strength's Dine Out for No-Kid Hungry. Each of the restaurants are offering special promotions just for No-Kid Hungry through Sunday. The ones that I know about are Denny's on Canal Road in Gulfport and Pascagoula, O'Charley's in Gulfport, Raising Cane's in Gulfport, Which Wich Superior Sandwiches in D'Iberville and Mellow Mushroom in Ocean Springs.

For my Florida readers, some 27 restaurants within a 25-mile radius of Bradenton are participating including Denny's in Sarasota, St. Petersburg and Sun City; Arby's in Bradenton, Sarasota, St. Petersburg and Pinellas Park; First Watch Restaurants in Bradenton and Sarasota; Beachhouse Restaurant in Bradenton Beach; Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant in Longboat Key; Sandbar Restaurant in Anna Maria; Buffalo Wild Wings in University Park, Sarasota and Riverview; Broadway Bar & Restaurant in Sarasota; Libby's Café + Bar in Sarasota; Pita Pit in Sarasota; Little Greek Restaurant in St. Petersburg; and Romano's Macaroni Grill in St. Petersburg. 

If I missed any restaurant, please let me know. You deserve to be recognized.

Send in those recipes

Don't forget to send in more gluten-free and dairy-free recipes. Also looking for more baked treats for fall festivals and Halloween carnivals and, of course, those favorite rice dishes.

Please send, contributions or requests for this column to Cook's Exchange, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi, MS 39535-4567. If requesting a recipe, please include the name or briefly describe it and the ingredients. If you are submitting a recipe, please include the date requested. You can reach Andrea Yeager at