I treated myself to a (basic) rice cooker. While I have my eyes on a fancier one the next time I see it on sale, the one I have cooks rice, quinoa, and even steamed eggs and veggies nicely. I often make enough rice for dinner, and use the rest for bentos – cook once, eat twice! Here are some ways I incorporate it into my lunches, and I hope it gives some ideas. Be aware that rice spoils very easily – with that in mind, it’s probably best to chill it at the earliest opportunity, and use it the next day to be on the safe side.
Chili rice… stir together equal amounts of chili and rice. You could also mix other sauces, like curry, stew, or stirfried veggies.
Fried rice. This is fantastic made with cooked, cooled rice, so it’s perfect for leftovers! Heat some oil in a non-stick pan, and cook a diced onion over mediumish heat. If you have leftover carrot and/or celery, put them in too. Softer vegetables can be added once these are soft. Cook until the vegetables are nice and soft – don’t skip this step, as soft rice with harder veggies is not so pleasant. Once harder veggies are ready, increase the heat to just over medium and feel free to put some quicker-cooking ones in (sliced peppers, sugar snap peas, thinly sliced Chinese green vegetables – bok choi, for example) and give them a quick stirfry until crisp-tender. Then, break the cold cooked rice up with the back of a spoon, and add it into the veggies. Some will stick to the pan – expect it 🙂 If you like to add a protein, now’s the time – scramble an egg in there, or add some cooked veggie protein… give it a few stirs until it’s well-heated through. Season with soy sauce.
The most common use for rice in my bentos is as a bed or side dish to protein and veggies, similar to traditional Japanese bentos, where rice accounts for 1/2 the meal by volume. I try to break lunch down into 1/3 each carb, protein, and veggies, but it’s a similar idea. Here I have rice under a veggie protein, with veggies on the side.