Switch couscous for rice in a boring recipe and bring excitement to dinner tonight

Everyone needs to mix it up at supper sometimes, and just substituting couscous for rice in some of your family's favorite meals may be enough to make a too-familiar recipe shiny and new once again.

Let’s face it: Sometimes our go-to meals can get a little boring. Oh, they may be just as delicious and yummy as they ever were, but over time we just get immune that taste excitement. A year ago, we may have started salivating at the thought of that spicy chicken and rice recipe for supper; now it just brings a sigh and a shrug.

If you’re hearing all-too-often, “Again?” when your family asks what’s for supper tonight, consider shaking some things up in the kitchen. Sure, it can make you nervous, going for an all-new go-to lineup, but it is just one of those things that has to be done every so often. The sunny side, however, is that when you give your old go-tos a rest for awhile, they will regain their shine in the eyes of your family. It’s like anything else: Sometimes you have to get a little distance to keep things fresh and exciting, but that does not mean that you throw the familiar away forever.

So, one of the easiest, and potentially most boring, meals on the planet is the perpetual cook’s favorite, chicken and rice. Oh, it can be really delicious, don’t misunderstand. But, the ease of making some of these terribly tasty meals can lead to over-making and, yes, taste bud boredom. It does not have to be that way, however. With a few ingredient changes, what was old becomes new and exciting once again, with no additional time or aggravation in the kitchen. For example, try substituting couscous in your rice recipes.

Couscous? What IS Couscous?

Most of us have at least heard of couscous at this point, whether or not we’ve actually eaten it. Many of us probably have not attempted cooking it, fearing the worst. But, if you can do rice, you can do couscous—and it is worth the five minutes.

Five minutes? Yes, five minutes! No doubt that will lead you to read on further. Sometimes when we think about unfamiliar pastas or grains, we worry that they will be hard or time-consuming to cook. Not a problem with couscous, a pasta—yes, it is a pasta—made from semolina flour and water. Typically the pasta has been pre-steamed by the time you get it in the grocery store, so all you have to do is heat your liquid, add the couscous, give it about five minutes, and fluff. So simple.

But, is it good?

Like rice, it is plain and boring if you just eat it, well, plain. But, dress it up a little or use it in a recipe, and it shines. Here is an easy, delicious recipe that I tossed together last night. I have enough left over for two lunches today, so it will easily serve four. You will need:

  • ¾ cups of couscous
  • 1 cup water or broth (I used veggie broth)
  • 2 tsp. olive or coconut oil
  • ½ tsp. ground pepper
  • 1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon olive or coconut oil
  • 2 chicken breasts, seasoned with your favorite salt-free seasoning (I actually used my easy Herb Marinade)
  • One medium onion, chopped
  • ½ bag (16 oz. bag) of California mixed veggies
  • Broth for cooking veggies

Directions

Start your couscous. I like to do mine in the microwave, so I heat the broth to boiling in a microwave-safe dish, then carefully add the couscous and cover.

Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a deep frying pan, and begin cooking your chicken breasts. Cook until well-browned on each side, but not until cooked through, about 15 minutes total on medium-low heat. Remove chicken from pan and add your onion. Cook for a few minutes to soften, then add your mixed veggies (I used California mixed veggies, but feel free to use your favorite or whatever is conveniently in your freezer). Add some cooking broth—about two cups—and bring to a boil in the pan. Turn heat down to low, and cover the pan.

Return to your couscous. Give it a good fluff with a fork, and drizzle in about two teaspoons of olive or coconut oil and stir; add pepper and Parmesan; stir. Cover and set aside.

Chop chicken into bite-sized pieces. It will still be pink, but that is okay; when you are finished chopping it, return it to the pan with your veggies and broth, and cover. Cook for about 15 more minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.

To plate, spoon some of your Parmesan couscous onto the plate or into a nice bowl. Top with your veggies and chicken. Whether or not to add some of the broth is up to your personal tastes. Serve with rolls or a nice loaf of bread, and you are finished—and you will receive rave reviews from your family for your Chicken and Parmesan Couscous.

Huliq readers, what are your favorite ways of using couscous? Let us know in the comment section below!

Image: Wikimedia Commons