It’s happened to the best of us. You look in your pantry for a side dish for dinner to discover that you have eight boxes of various grains and rices, each with an inch or less of product in the bottom. I have no idea why it is that recipes and package sizes never seem to fully match up. It’s like the age-old conundrum of packages of ten hot dogs, and packages of only eight buns.

For years, at any given moment, my pantry might have had a strange mix of anywhere up to a dozen various little stashes of rice floating around in small increments. Too much in the bags to throw away, too little to even make a satisfying meal for one. And more often than not, these would eventually get thrown away, or more likely, get knocked off a shelf by an errant elbow. It’s funny how a half-inch of millet is utterly useless for a recipe and yet can create a swath of debris across the floor that takes the better part of an hour to clean up.

Cooking dinner shouldn't be complicated

Enter, the grain jar.

I bought a large jar that I keep in the pantry, and when I get to the bottom of any bag or box of rice or grains, I dump it in there and give it a shake. At the moment I believe it contains three or four kinds of rice, millet, farro, oat berries, barley, and Israeli couscous. This mixture is almost never the same twice, and I’ve found that it is so much more than the sum of its parts.

If I want a quick side dish? I toss a couple cups of the mix into my rice cooker. Once it is done, I give it a toss with some melted butter or olive oil, some fresh herbs, and if I’m feeling fancy, maybe some toasted nuts or chopped dried fruit.

In need of a pilaf? I sauté the raw mix in ghee or canola oil with some onion or shallot, then cook in stock for a pilaf. It makes great grain salads, tossed with a light vinaigrette and some veggies and served over greens. It can even be a good hearty breakfast porridge, cooked in milk (or nut milk) and sweetened with maple syrup or topped with yogurt and berries. You can throw it into a vegetable soup as it cooks and it will naturally thicken your blend to a satisfying thick stew. It works fine in your rice cooker, instant pot, stovetop recipe, or even with this fabulous trick.

If you’re trying to eat healthier and incorporate more whole grains into your diet, the grain jar is going to be your new best friend. Do you tend to just toss that last handful of rice and grains, and therefore don’t currently have a bunch of little bags and packages of these items floating around? The bulk food section of your local grocery store can help you start a multi-grain jar from scratch, I won’t tell.

Some favorite combos of mine for entertaining are:

  • Brown butter, fresh mint, dried currants, chopped pistachios
  • Chives, pine nuts, lemon olive oil, crumbled feta
  • Roasted butternut squash cubes, pomegranate seeds, and a shallot parsley vinaigrette

Or try one of these recipes, and just swap out the mix for the listed rice:

Get the recipe.

Get the recipe.

Get the recipe

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