Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Now Kids Can Play With Their Rice, While Eating More Healthfully Too - Product Review

by Janis Brett Elspas

Don't miss the money saving Uncle Ben's store coupon link at the bottom of this blogpost

Uncle Ben's Rice is a part of Americana recalled fondly from my childhood growing up in the 60s.  But this well-known icon has actually been around a lot longer than I have since the first Uncle Ben's Rice brand was marketed way back in 1943.   So, when Mom Central invited me -- along with an elite group of other mommy influencer bloggers -- to attend a small cooking party in L.A. last month launching Uncle Ben's Whole Grain White Rice, I accepted immediately.

The May event unfolded on a perfect spring evening in the interactive kitchen and adjoining outdoor patio of L.A. Food Works in the tony Hancock Park neighborhood of Los Angeles.  It was equally fun and educational because I got to visit with other California blogging mothers such as Busy Mommy, as well as to learn and cook side-by-side with professional chefs like Rose Le Boeuf.  Everyone I talked to at the gathering loved the Uncle Ben's professional apron we each received as well as the goody bag and product samples sent home with us shown in the photo at left.  An added tidbit worth noting: Upon arriving home, my own kids went absolutely wild over the Uncle Ben's Rice box-shaped flash drive tucked inside the gift bag.

The new Uncle Ben's Whole Grain White Rice line includes Long Grain (which comes plain with no seasoning), as well as Chicken, Broccoli Cheddar, Taco Style, Sweet Tomato, and Garden Vegetable flavored varieties.  Each Uncle Ben's selection provides a good source of fiber.  Additionally, according to the brand, the White Rice Long Grain variety contains 45g of whole grains in a single serving which is close to the total whole grains (48g) that the USDA Dietary Guidelines recommends each person should consume each day.  With a suggested retail price of $2.29, all newly introduced Uncle Ben's rice choices are expected to be available starting in July at grocery retailers. nationwide.  

Uncle Ben's crew demonstrated for us at this mom blogger's  affair in L.A. Food Work's gourmet kitchen how to use the new products in some pretty clever recipes such as "Sneaky Chef Pizza Rice Balls" that are intended to appeal to kids.  This and other concoctions cooked up for us are from Missy Chase Lapine's book The Sneaky Chef: Simple Strategies for Hiding Healthy Foods in Kids' Favorite Meals.  

So, after I returned home I started thinking.  Why hide this healthy rice in food for kids?  Instead, I decided to showcase it and make it fun.  That's what inspired me to come up with my own unique take on cooking with rice so kids will love eating it.   The original Fun Healthy Rice Shapes pictured below are really easy to put together, either for your kids as a snack after school or to serve as a side dish with lunch or dinner.  They're equally delightful as a do-it-yourself cooking craft for you to do with your children. 

Fun Healthy Rice Shapes Recipe, by Janis Brett Elspas,
All you do is follow the cooking directions on the rice's package.  I don't use pre-seasoned rices for my own family so I chose plain Uncle Ben's Whole Grain White Rice instead for this project.  But you can use any of Uncle Ben's rice products or any other brand of rice to make these easy treats.  

After the rice is cooked you gently use a spoon to pack the product, while still warm into metal or plastic cookie cutters that are open on the top.  You can also use pancake molds such as the cow pictured here, used create the rice treats above.  Then just let them cool completely before unmolding carefully. My kids and I decorated the heart and cow with dried apricot and cherry bits to make them more colorful and appetizing, but any other healthy garnishes that are edible work equally well.

I also did an experiment, shown in this photo of a side-by-side comparison of Uncle Ben's Whole Grain White Rice Long Grain (on right side) and a generic brand of white rice (on left side).  It's easy to see from this picture that Uncle Ben's new whole grain product, even though it is called "white rice," is really an off white color when it's cooked.  I did try a trick from my heirloom 1950s Betty Crocker Cook Book that suggests adding a bit of lemon juice when cooking the rice to make it whiter, but Uncle Ben's Whole Grain White Rice still appeared off white after cooking, although it was no where near as dark as conventional cooked brown rice might be.  Despite the lack of whiteness, I think kids will still find Uncle Ben's new line appetizing and tasty.  At the same time, parents who serve this will get the satisfaction of knowing their children are getting extra nutrition from eating more whole grains.

Get a money savings coupon good on any Uncle Ben's rice product here and don't forget to tell them that you heard about it on

What's your favorite way to get your kids to eat their vegetables?  Please leave a comment and share it.

FTC Disclosure: MommyBlogExpert was invited to attend the cooking event described that was hosted by Uncle Ben's.   I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaign by Mom Central on behalf of Uncle Ben's and received a gift bag, apron, and the product necessary to facilitate my candid review.  In addition, I received a gift card to thank me for taking the time to participate.  See complete FTC Disclosure information that appears at the bottom of MommyBlogExpert's main page and at the bottom of every individual post on this blog, including this one.


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