Rice Cookers--or Trust Grandmama Hanh on This One

Mr. T's Vietnamese family always has rice--perfectly cooked and hot in the rice cooker sitting on the counter at their house. I grew up in a house where you bring the rice to a boil, cover and steam 20 minutes hoping for the best. When we got married, I learned my oh-so-knowledgable husband that this method was really not satisfactory enough. At the very least, the rice needed to be rinsed in three waters.

Still, my stove top method was lacking. One Christmas we were given a modest, small rice cooker from Target--the ease of cooking with this model wooed me away from the stove top method, but leaving the rice in
the cooker on warm overnight produced a sticky, crusty crust.

When we had Mr. O, my Vietnamese in-laws came to visit and looked aghast at our Target rice cooker.

I'm glad they did, because on the NEXT visit, they brought a Tiger Brand rice cooker along with a TWENTY FIVE pound bag of Jasmine Rice. This was no small, non-descript rice cooker. This is what the people who know use. "Tiger Brand" is a fabulous indicator of the mighty wonders found within.

The rice! It is perfectly fluffy and stays warm for a day or so. This means that if you are doing a crockpot supper that requires rice, you can start the rice cooking right when you start your dinner in the morning and it will stay perfectly perfect all day. This beauty also makes as little as three (we do two) cups or as much as ten, so if you are having Red Beans and Rice for a crowd, you're all set.

We've done all a manner of white rice in this, from sushi to jasmine to basmati, to plain old long grain rice. I've had varying success with brown rice as it requires extra water. (I'm too scatterbrained to record our successes and so every time I guesstimate).

For a fabulous brown rice recipe, I suggest using Alton Brown's recipe.

Another neat trick is to add in diced, cooked chicken, some olive oil, salt, frozen broccoli and sour cream and let the rice steam the broccoli--it's kind of a quick broccoli rice casserole without the cream of mushroom soup.

The Tiger Brand cooker is pricey, I'll admit. However I've found that when I have really great tools in my kitchen I'm more likely to cook-and do so with enjoyment! We rank this appliance up there with the Kitchenaid Mixer and Cuisinart Food Processor. It's just that good.


Survival Guide

As I write this, my husband has been gone for nine days on a mission trip to Peru. By the grace of God this has been the easiest and most do-able time of separation we've ever had. I am SO thankful for this and wanted to share some things I've been learning and have learned about managing not just myself, but our family and coping during his absence. In no particular order, here are some early morning thoughts. I hope to get it all out before Mr. O demands attention.

1. Penitence.
In years past when T had to travel, particularly to Peru, I complained and groaned and rolled my eyes and generally resented the entire country of Peru (or CCCA, or whatever had called him away). The key phrase to all of this is not "whatever had called him away", but "who had called him away." See, God in his sovereign wisdom was calling my husband to go to Peru (or wherever) and my complaint wasn't so much against Event X, but against God. Conviction hit on so many levels. I was being selfish, self-centered, and dependent on the wrong things. In the week leading up to his departure, the Holy Spirit really convicted me and began changing my heart to embrace Tuan's calling to do this and be a truly (not fake-smiling-teeth-clenched) cheerful helper and supporter of my husband. Not that I've got it "down" by any means!

2. Perspective.
Nine days seems long to me, but I have friends whose husbands are deployed or soon will be. Nine days is NOTHING in the big picture and I have been chastened and motivated to pray mightily for those who are going through such times.

3. Proper Preparation.
I enlisted several folks to pray for me and the kids during his absence, because this is still an incredibly challenging and lengthy time. The prayers of the saints have been felt and manifested in a mighty way. Thank you, friends, who have prayed for all of us! I also prayed for T, for my own heart, and the kids, and made plans. LOTS.OF.PLANS.

4. Planning.
Knowing my weaknesses, I recruited folks to stay with us and also made plans to visit friends during the time. The first day, we had a baby-sitter while I ran errands and that night, we had overnight guests along with pizza and a movie on the living room floor. Then, we traveled to North Mississippi to stay with very dear (and accomodating) friends for several days. Driving alone, it took almost five hours to make a three and a half hour trip (I'm still confused about this), but I reckoned it ate up ten hours of the week!

Over time, I've learned that for us there has to be a balance of order and chaos in T's absence. Being away is good, but the kids really need some order and familiarity. Traveling the first part of the week, then staying at home and having company seemed to work well for us. Choosing wisely where we travel and who we stay with also makes a world of difference in how well our family thrives.

So, we've been BUSY. My own tendencies are to solitude and introspection, but it has actually been good that I'm yearning for some instead of drowning in the solitude. My sweet mother, in-laws and grandmother have all stayed with us and helped at some point this week.

5. Prudence and Play
I'm running out of appropriate "P" words. Basically, we've enjoyed some fun out-of-the-ordinary indulgences this week (cookies, movies, video games, outings, tacos for multiple meals), but are sticking to the routine and housework. Keeping a sense of normalcy for myself in the midst of all the "fun" has been a lifesaver and the house is not quite falling apart. However, today we are cranking up the prudence and getting a LOT of work done so T comes home to a nice and welcoming house.

6. Personal Time
T's parents gave me a day away on Wednesday as I had two meetings in town. It was such a blessing and so restorative! The next time we do this, I plan to at least hire a baby-sitter or two during the week for that purpose.

7. Prayer. It all goes back to throwing one's burdens at the cross and depending on Jesus.