rice-cooker.jpgOnce upon a time I thought appliances had a single use. You buy a coffee maker to make coffee, a blender makes smoothies, and a rice cooker cooks rice, right? Maybe appliances from 5 or more years ago were only made with one purpose in mind, but the latest and greatest appliances are so multi-purpose, odds are you haven’t even touched on what you can do with them.

Take a rice cooker for example—after stumbling upon a post online that talked about all the different ways you can use a rice cooker. I’ll have to admit, I didn’t really believe I could use it for all of the things I read about, so I decided to try it for myself.

For three days I’ve cooked a few recipes with my rice cooker, things I definitely would cook on the stove or the oven, and I’ve been blown away by the results. Who knew a rice cooker could do desserts and main courses just as well as it could do rice?

My rice cooker is the Panasonic 5-cup automatic rice cooker, and it doesn’t have a slow cooker option some rice cookers do. Here’s what I managed to cook up in my rice cooker this week:

Hummus


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The best hummus I’ve ever had was in a tiny Greek restaurant in Winfield, BC, and this recipe from epicurious.com is the closest I’ve ever come to replicating it. But where does the rice cooker come in? This recipe calls for cooked chickpeas, and although you can buy them in a can pre-cooked, I prefer to cook my own and use them in the hummus. I find it makes it taste fresher. It took approximately 20 minutes in the rice cooker to cook the chickpeas, and then I followed the recipe. Image from foodrepublic.com.

Ingredients:

2 cups drained chickpeas

1/2 cup tahini (sesame paste), optional, with some of its oil

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus oil for drizzling

2 cloves garlic, peeled, or to taste

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 tablespoon ground cumin or paprika, or to taste, plus a sprinkling for garnish

Juice of 1 lemon, plus more as needed

Chopped fresh parsley leaves for garnish

 

Directions

Put everything except the parsley in a food processor and begin to process; add the chickpea liquid or water as needed to allow the machine to produce a smooth puree.

Taste and adjust the seasoning (I often find I like to add much more lemon juice). Serve, drizzled with the olive oil and sprinkled with a bit more cumin or paprika and some parsley.

Beef stew


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Making a beef stew in the rice cooker required a little thought before diving in. Unlike a slow cooker, the rice cooker isn’t designed to cook for hours and hours, so I had to improvise. I browned my stew meat, pre-cooked my potatoes and carrots, and threw it all in there hoping for the best. It actually turned out pretty great. I did have to go back and add more water then turn it on for two full cycles, but it really gave the veggies in the stew a fresh, steamed flavour. I didn’t manage to get a photo of it because I wasn’t there when everyone started eating, but it got rave reviews. Recipe and photo from allrecipes.com.

Ingredients:

2 pounds beef stew meat, browned

cubes

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 clove garlic, minced

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 onion, chopped

1 1/2 cups beef broth

1 cup small potatoes, sliced into cubes and pre-cooked in microwave for 5 minutes

4 carrots, sliced and pre-cooked in microwave

1 stalk celery, chopped

 

Directions

Place meat in rice cooker bowl. In a small bowl mix together the flour, salt, and pepper; pour over meat, and stir to coat meat with flour mixture. Stir in the garlic, bay leaf, paprika, Worcestershire sauce, onion, beef broth, potatoes, carrots, and celery.

Cover, and cook for approximately 2 hours.

Strawberry cheesecake


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When the summer heat is blasting through the kitchen, no one is happy when I turn the oven on. But like I said in my post on hot kitchen desserts, they aren’t happy unless there’s some dessert on the table either. That’s why I was pretty interested in trying this cheesecake recipe from cookpad.com. The ingredient list is short and the taste was not bad at all. I added some pureed strawberries as a glaze and the kids ate it up.

Ingredients:

2 Eggs

100 grams Sugar

2 tbsp Lemon juice

200 grams Cream cheese

200 ml Heavy cream (or milk)

40 grams Pancake mix (or cake flour)

 

Directions

Bring the cream cheese to room temperature or heat it up in a little in the microwave, and mix well to soften.

Add the eggs, sugar, and lemon juice and mix. Add the heavy cream and flour bit by bit while mixing well. You can also use a food processor to speed up the process.

Pour the batter into a rice cooker and switch on! (Tip: For a smooth texture, strain through a sieve to remove any lumps).

It is done once you stick it with a toothpick and it comes out clean (cook for longer if it’s still not cooked enough).

The cake is really soft and delicate when hot, so remove the rice cooker bowl from the machine, and cover with plastic wrap. Leave to cool. Transfer to a plate once it cools to room temperature.

To flip the cake without crumbling it, place a small plate that fits inside the pot – or use your hand if you don’t have a plate like that. Lightly press down on the cake, then flip it over.

Chill the cake well in the refrigerator, and it’s done!

This week I learned a thing or two about the versatility of a rice cooker, and I don’t think I’ll ever use it for just one thing again. If you want to try to experiment in your kitchen, here are a few great rice cookers to get you started. 

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The Cuisinart Rice Cooker works for 7 cups of rice and has a non-stick coating
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The Breville Risotto Plus lets you steam, make rice, or risotto.
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The ultimate in rice cookers, the Panasonic has a 23-cup capacity