Do you ever find a new recipe that you love so much, you just want to make it over and over again?
That’s how I feel about this autumn rice pilaf. Although the calendar is just now turning November, we’ve been eating this dish for weeks. The smell of cinnamon, the tang of cranberry and the lovely, healthy green factor… not to mention that it’s all mixed up in the ever so frugal whole grain rice? Yum! It’s like Thanksgiving in a bowl!
We’ve had this dish more times than I have fingers on one hand, I kid you not. Partly to make sure my measurements are right – a true struggle since I rarely measure anything anymore. Then if I do happen to remember to measure, I forget to write it down. And if I happen to remember to write it down, I can’t find the paper I wrote it on.
Am I the only one this happens to?
So that accounts for two of the batches. The other three (or more?) were because this dish is easy. And because I already had everything in the pantry. And it’s really, really good!
This autumn rice pilaf is inspired by this dish, which first appeared on the October frugal real food meal plan. The original recipe called for barley, but I substituted rice because I didn’t have any barley in the pantry. Lo and behold, the dish turned out pretty good anyway and Mr. Crumbs gave the go-ahead to make it again. So I did!
My inner chef couldn’t help but tweak each subsequent batch… First was trying to get the same depth of flavor without having to make chicken with it. (I’m always looking for an easy-but-not-boring grain side dish.)
Then it was adding more vegetables, and swapping the pecans out for something a bit more affordable and more likely to be in my pantry year-round earned bonus points.
The end result is a gluten-free side dish that would be excellent in place of traditional stuffing at Thanksgiving. One small substitution makes it dairy-free, and another small one makes it vegan.
To swing the other way, this would be pretty good with spicy sausage mixed in too!
Is it too good to be true? One dish with so many variations? No way my friends, this autumn rice pilaf is really that amazing.
- 1 cup jasmine rice, uncooked
- 1½ cups chicken stock (homemade)
- 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
- ½ large onion, diced
- 1 cup mushrooms, diced (approx 2oz)
- 2-3 loosely packed cups spinach or baby kale
- ¼ cup sunflower seeds
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- salt & pepper to taste
- Prepare rice according to the directions on the package, substituting chicken stock for water.
- Meanwhile, melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. When the butter begins to sizzle (pshhh sound), add the onions and cook for 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and continue to cook until the onions are nearly translucent. Season with salt & pepper.
- Add spinach. Stir often to cook, reducing heat if rice is not done yet.
- Add cinnamon, garlic powder, sunflower seeds and dried cranberries. Stir well.
- Fold in cooked rice. Take care to stir well, but not to over-stir so rice doesn't become mushy.
- Taste and season with salt & pepper as needed.
Dairy-free Option: Substitute butter with coconut oil.
Inspired by The Organic Kitchen.
Additional Recipe Tips
The recipe calls for spinach or baby kale, but I did that for those who are new to eating green vegetables. If you’ve more seasoned in the dark leafy green territory, you can easily substitute heartier greens like collards or beet greens. We’ve tried both, and even tried lacinato kale (the super dark, stiff kind), and there were STILL empty dishes without complaints!
If you don’t stock dried cranberries in your pantry, raisins would likely make an excellent substitute.
Other options for crunch include pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds), chopped pecans, walnuts or almonds. Use in place of, or in addition to, the sunflower seeds already listed.
As written, this recipe serves 4 without much leftover. However, I make 1 1/2 times the recipe to allow ample for dinner plus a few lunches leftover too.
- rice: $0.32
- chicken stock: free
- butter: $0.27
- onion: $0.23
- mushrooms: $0.25
- spinach/kale: $1.00
- sunflower seeds: $0.13
- cranberries: $0.40
- cinnamon: $.05
- garlic powder: $0.02
Total Cost for Autumn Rice Pilaf: $2.67
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