What are some make-ahead things to put on top of rice or something else?
March 5, 2020 6:44 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for some things that I can make beforehand, maybe preserve in some way, reconstitute, and put on top of rice, bread, tortilla, etc and have a tasty meal.

The idea of the ready-made meal packets really appeals to me. Not a thing I want to eat all the time, but a great option for when I don't have dinner planned.

I bought some packets of saag paneer at the store yesterday (like this product on amazon), and while I lived in China one of my staples was a sort of rich beef packet that I'd put on steaming rice. But I can't find many options that are 1. cheap 2. diverse.

I'm sure I can make these sorts of things myself! Have you? Tell me how!
posted by lalunamel to Food & Drink (13 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
 
Pickled vegetables are a totally expected thing to put over rice, of course.

I wish I remembered where I saw this originally, it may have been a bento-prep site: cook some vegetables and meat/fish/tofu and then julienne or fine-chop everything, sauce it, and spread it out very thin on plastic or a cutting board or similar so you can put it in the freezer to make "sheets" of topping, with the idea that you'd put them over very hot rice to thaw, or drop them on top of the rice in your cooker for a few minutes after it switches to "keep warm". To get more topping into your rice, you might layer a bit of rice, a sheet of topping, more rice, more topping. I haven't done exactly this for rice, but I have done it to make sushi roll fillings - it's quite handy when you're just making a few rolls but want to prep a lot of avocado, fish, omelette, radish, carrot etc to use later.

Packet or canned tuna or salmon or chicken now come in flavors - I just saw a number of new chicken varieties at my grocery last week buying pandemic supplies. If you're willing to microwave, pre-cooked (by you, or commercially) meatballs and sausages could be sliced or quartered and frozen in parcels.

I am still too afraid of pressure canning to can meat, but if you really wanted to get hardcore you could make your own "pouches" of meat and sauce in small jars. Personally I'd stick with a vacuum sealer and a freezer for that, but still you could make curries, gravies, tomato sauces, and other stews to save in pouches for a quick microwave or boil-in-bag, or open and pour out into the ricemaker.

If you're using a ricemaker, there's a ton of one-pot recipes out there and many of them would probably do great from pre-frozen. Roger Ebert even wrote a cookbook of them, long before rice cookers were really common in North American kitchens. It's easy to throw some thin frozen fish or a couple of chicken thighs (or a few frozen wings if you want a lot of chicken flavor but not that much meat) and some vegetables on top of the rice before you close the lid. Tomatoes are especially delightful, as they infuse the rice with tomato juice.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:11 PM on March 5 [4 favorites]


You can also just have some varied toppings, depending on the type of rice. E.g., a little plain yogurt, mango pickle, and chopped red onion. Or a couple sardines, some pickled daikon, and some sesame and nori flakes.

Or have a set of pan-fried vegetables, and different sets of proteins (marinated skirt steak strips? bulgogi? marinated tofu?), which you can mix and match atop the rice or in a tortilla.

Otherwise, any sort of stew or curry is something you can make ahead and portion out, ready to act as a topping.

Are you looking for something that's shelf-stable?
posted by pykrete jungle at 7:47 PM on March 5


Chili freezes really well. I've also had success freezing lentil and split pea soups.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:48 PM on March 5 [3 favorites]


marinated baked tofu

multi-bean stew (preferably with mushrooms, for the protein, and some kind of greens like kale, for the nutritional boost). I keep spices/seasonings separate and add them when I serve the stew, so I can have variety by just choosing different seasonings at mealtime.
posted by amtho at 9:50 PM on March 5 [2 favorites]


Meat stews freeze really, really well. As in, throw a lamb/beef/pork shoulder into a crock pot/instant pot/pressure cooker/dutch oven with sliced onions, carrots (rough-chopped is fine), wine, water, salt and the spice profile of your choosing -- pick any country in the world! Spice mixes are a-ok! -- and do a thorough braise according to the cooking process of your chosen vessel until it's all falling apart and unctuous. Certainly you can add more plants (celery, greens, dried fruit, potatoes sweet or white, squash) but the above is a barebones template that's also totally fine as-is.

Use half-pint deli containers for a single portion. I always intend to take them out of the freezer the night before, I almost always forget, and therefore can confirm that emptying that puck into a pot and gently heating it through will work just fine.
posted by desuetude at 10:41 PM on March 5 [3 favorites]


I put chicken breasts in the instant pot with a jar of salsa and maybe a little can of chipotles and then shred. I do the same with a jar of salsa verde for pollo verde.
I buy the family packs of chicken breasts, usually around three or four pounds, and use the whole thing per one jar of salsa. Once cooked and shredded I freeze flat in single serve size ziplock bags for quick defrost.
I feel like you could probably do this with any type of jarred sauce, and if you don't have an instant pot the same thing could be done on the stove just simmering til the chicken is easy to shred (adding water as needed).
posted by newpotato at 2:56 AM on March 6 [3 favorites]


Dal freezes well! I don't usually use recipes to make dal, but here's a good-looking one.
posted by unicorn chaser at 4:55 AM on March 6 [3 favorites]


I put chicken breasts in the instant pot with a jar of salsa and maybe a little can of chipotles and then shred. I do the same with a jar of salsa verde for pollo verde.
I buy the family packs of chicken breasts, usually around three or four pounds, and use the whole thing per one jar of salsa. Once cooked and shredded I freeze flat in single serve size ziplock bags for quick defrost.
I feel like you could probably do this with any type of jarred sauce, and if you don't have an instant pot the same thing could be done on the stove just simmering til the chicken is easy to shred,


I do this (chicken + a jar of salsa) frequently in my slow cooker. It also works beautifully with the "simmer sauces," usually Indian types, I buy. Four hours on high and there you have it!
posted by Dolley at 5:29 AM on March 6 [1 favorite]


This recipe from Budget Bytes is perfect for this type of thing! I double the salsa and beans and only use one chicken breast, but I'm not much of a meat eater.
posted by jabes at 8:17 AM on March 6 [1 favorite]


You can use rice in most places you'd use potato or pasta, though pasta keeps really well so keep some of that on hand, too. I picked up some squash soup yesterday that I plan to try with rice. One of my comfort food is rice & gravy. Fried rice with leftover rice, some veg., and soy, oil, ginger, scallions, peas is a favorite, esp. with a drizzle of toasted sesame oil. The Indian approach of beans + veg + spices, over rice is variable and tasty.
posted by theora55 at 9:45 AM on March 6


I also got more flour & yeast, making bread is satisfying and if there's a quarantine-at-home event, will be a good task. I'd like to get good at flatbread.
posted by theora55 at 10:15 AM on March 6


I make a black bean base that is one of my favorites, it's great on rice, in burritos, with cheese in quesadillas, mixed with sour cream for a dip, all sorts of things.

The most basic, pantry version is:

2 cans of black beans
1 can of diced tomatoes
1 tsp oregano
1 or 2 tsp sweet pepper flakes
1/2 tsp cumin
garlic and/or onion powder to taste
pinch of cayenne if you want some heat

Mix beans and tomatoes in pan. Add spices and cook down at low heat, partially covered, until it is thick and the tomatoes have melded in well.

However, the version I usually make is:

4 cans black beans
2 cans diced tomatoes
green bell pepper diced
large onion finely chopped
most of a head of garlic, chopped
jalapeno, deseeded and chopped
1 tb oregano
1 tsp cumin

cooked down as above. So you can see it's quite flexible, the only real fixture is the 2:1 black bean to tomato ratio and the extended cooking. You can use dried black beans (precook them), fresh tomatoes, whatever. It freezes beautifully, so you can portion it out in bags for 1-2 serving uses.
posted by tavella at 11:28 AM on March 6 [4 favorites]


Chicken thighs with bottled teriyaki sauce. Either marinate a few hours and bake in the oven for 20 mins at 350, or cook in low in crock pot 4-6 hours (depending on power of your crock pot, mine only takes 4 for chicken).
posted by radioamy at 1:45 PM on March 6


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