*Disclaimer: Hamilton Beach sent me a rice/hot cereal cooker free of charge for me to review. All opinions expressed here are my own.
Farewell, store-bought pasta, overcooked and dumped in cheese sauce in a hurry! Go away, sad-looking pilaf, grey and textureless like an unfinished cooking experiment! Time to say good bye, soggy sandwiches long-forgotten in the fridge, brimming with wilted lettuce! Who needs such uninspiring carb overloads? Not me, that’s for sure 🙂
I’ve never been a fan of carbs, yet the cold season is fast approaching and I know I’m going to need carbs to keep me warm and energetic during the fall & winter months. If you’re like me and need an extra “something” to get you motivated and interested in experimenting with carbs, a rice cooker might just be what you need! I admit I was very excited when Hamilton Beach contacted me and offered to send me a rice cooker to test and report on. Along with rice, this versatile Hamilton Beach appliance can cook hot cereal and whole grains, and even steam veggies and fish. From quinoa to farro, shrimp to grits and steamed asparagus to salmon – the possibilities seem endless!
Right off the bat, I liked the stylish design and stainless steel appearance of the rice cooker. The control panel featured a variety of intuitive options: three for rice and grains, one for hot cereals (including oats and grits), one for steaming, and lastly one for heating/simmering, to be used with foods such as prepackaged rice mixes, soups, stews and beans. I also liked the fact that some of the rice cooker components were dishwasher-safe – which to me is a great time-saver.
I decided to use this rice cooker to make two dishes, one savory and the other one sweet. The first recipe was a millet salad. Fiber- and protein-packed, millet is quickly becoming a favorite grain in our household, and I was anxious to see how it would turn out in the Hamilton Beach rice cooker. I followed the recommended grain-to-water ratio for millet and cooked it on the “Whole Grain” setting, as per the rice cooker instructions. Still, for unknown reasons, the millet stuck to the bottom of the pan and some of it turned out dry and crunchy as a result.
After breaking down the millet chunks with the enclosed rice paddle, I was able to add the other ingredients: chopped colorful bell peppers and cucumber, a bunch of fresh cilantro, extra virgin olive oil, red pepper flakes, cumin, salt and pepper to taste and lemon juice (optional) – and voila! Easy and flavorful carb delight!
The carb-loaded millet becomes supple and light as a feather in the company of the texture-laden veggies, while the rustic cilantro strikes a high fresh note and makes the dish complete. Lastly, the red pepper flakes come from nowhere and bring delicious overtones of sophisticated spiciness, surprising your taste buds, which were hoping for a respite. Sooo good!
As of late, I have become a big fan of farro, a grain I had the pleasure of tasting at recent Chicagoland culinary events. For my sweet dish I decided to use farro to recreate one of my favorite childhood desserts. In its original formulation, this dish has a religious connotation and symbolizes earth, rebirth and wholesome nourishment. I changed the recipe to include a variety of dried fruits, and went ahead and added one extra cup of water because I wanted to make sure the grain would not stick to the bottom of the pan.
The cooking of the farro was a great success!
I used no granulated sugar because I wanted to rely on the natural sweetness of the dried fruits, but you can (of course!) use some to make the dish sweeter, as per your preferences. I added one diced Granny Smith apple and ground walnuts for an assertive bite, and finished off with copious amounts of cinnamon.
This dish is exciting, vibrant and wholesome and I highly recommend it if you’re looking for a carb-loaded yet healthful vegan dessert. I really liked that the cooking process did not alter the natural crunchiness of the farro. The last thing I wanted was for the farro to turn out bland and mushy!
Overall, I was pleased with the performance and versatility of the Hamilton Beach rice cooker. I will keep experimenting with it and I will probably add extra water every time, just to be on the safe side. With a sturdy appearance and an array of useful grain, veggie and protein cooking options, this rice cooker is likely to satisfy carb aficionados and seekers of quality appliances alike.
Hamilton Beach is offering Chicago Loves Panini readers the chance to win one rice cooker/hot cereal maker similar to the one I tested, to cook delicious recipes this fall!
To enter the giveaway, leave a comment on this post and answer the following question: If you were to win, what would you cook in this rice cooker?
Giveaway open to US residents only. One entry per person. Deadline for entries is 6PM central time on September 23rd, 2016. One winner will be chosen on or around September 24th, 2016 by using a random number generator and will have 72 hours to respond to the winner notification email. I reserve the right to pick an alternative winner if the original winner does not contact me 72 hours after receipt of winner notification email.