Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The moment of truth

Warning: The following post does not meet international food snob standards. Proceed at your own risk.

Does this sound familiar?

You’re hosting a dinner for about 50 people, and although you cooked everything else on your elegant menu by yourself, you buy some packaged schnitzel for the kids.

After all, you tell yourself, they’ll never notice the difference.

But then, as you’re mingling graciously among your guests, one of the adults says to you, “What’s your secret?! The schnitzel is absolutely delicious! You MUST tell me how you made it…”

Or how about this?

You spend hours icing and decorating a cake, and the result is spectacular. Everyone is suitably impressed, and you’re showered with well-deserved accolades.

Admittedly, you still feel kind of guilty about using a cake mix, but you remind yourself that no one cares what the cake tastes like underneath all those expertly-piped ribbons and those exquisite fondant flowers.

But, sure enough, the very next day, you get a phone call, asking for “your [sic] yummy chocolate cake recipe”…


A similar thing happened to me at a sheva brachot we made together with some friends about a year ago.

I had prepared rice with mushrooms, and to my surprise, no less than six – count 'em! six! – people subsequently asked me for the recipe.

Which meant that six – count ‘em! six! – times, I had to confess that the recipe calls for (horrors!) onion soup mix and (gasp!) canned mushrooms…


Of course, I could’ve – and, in retrospect, probably should’ve - used “real” ingredients instead.

However, the beauty of this recipe is that not only is it a surefire crowd pleaser, but it’s incredibly fast and easy to make as well.

Easy Mushroom Rice

Note: Since the mushrooms are lighter than the rice, they float to the top in the oven.


  • 2 cups uncooked rice (white or brown)
  • 1 can mushrooms
  • 5 cups water
  • ¼ cup oil
  • 2 tablespoons onion soup mix
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce


Drain the mushrooms, and use the liquid towards the five cups of water. Place all the ingredients in a baking pan and mix. Bake covered at 350 degrees for about an hour (or longer, for brown rice).


Please share your own experiences in the comment section.


  1. I use a very similar recipe for brown rice that has to bake for 2-3 hours, though it originally called for margarine and no soy sauce. I started substituting olive oil. But I leave out the mushrooms b/c a number of people in the family don't care for them. I make this rice all the time b/c it is quick, easy, and makes a lot.

  2. I'm totally going to try that! We have plenty of stories like that, sad to say...

  3. Ariella - You're right. Brown rice does take longer to bake. (I updated the post to reflect that.)

    Toby - Let me know how it comes out if you do.

  4. As long as there is no sodium glutamate (to which my body is allergic) I will use some mixes, sometimes, or frozen stuff.

  5. I had to laugh!
    With tofu and tinned chinese veg, this is my standard "potluck rice" (mine has more soy sauce and oil, I think!).
    I get tons of (undeserved) compliments and everybody thinks I slaved all day crafting a healthy vegan main course. It looks healthy because of the brownish colour and I have to reassure everybody that it is white rice, with no redeeming health value. :-)
    Another embarrassing compliment is for the yummy turnovers I make with frozen puff pastry squares and tinned pie filling. Too easy, but they're pretty impressive (roll the squares super-flat and slice them diagonally so you get two pastries per square - the thinner dough is extra-crispy and less oily).

  6. I've used prepared puff pastry to make my own franks in blankets. I bought frozen ones in a box of assorted hors d'oeuvres. But I figured that more would opt for the franks than the other types, so I made more of those. The "homemade" ones were better than the pre-assembled ones-- less greasy, even though I didn't flatten the dough in particular.

  7. Ilana-Davita - Fortunately, here in Israel, most brands of soup mix no longer contain MSG.

    Jennifer and Ariella - Years ago (i.e. well before our aliyah), I once made chopped liver
    turnovers using frozen puff pastry. Okay, so maybe they weren't exactly the healthiest things in the world, but they certainly tasted really good... :-)

  8. Yes, the purists out there would scoff, but for the rest of us mere mortals, easy and fast are key components of any recipe.

    I would love to be able to use fresh ingredients in everything, but the zillion other things I have to do around the house, for my family, etc., usually lead me to making more practical decisions.

  9. Rivki - for the rest of us mere mortals, easy and fast are key components of any recipe.
    My sentiments exactly!

  10. Thank you for this recipe.

    For someone who is not a great cook, this might be a good place to start.

  11. Hasya Ya'ara - You're right. This is a very simple, foolproof recipe.

  12. I got this same recipe from my mother and what you say is so true, about this particular recipe and about this kind of recipe. My mother also makes a cake that is basically from a box with pudding mix and chips added, and people go crazy over it, even when it is side by side with "from scratch" desserts. Sometimes there is an inverse relationship between cooking effort and the reaction you get from guests.

  13. Laura - "Sometimes there is an inverse relationship between cooking effort and the reaction you get from guests."
    Very well said! But I would add the words "and also from your kids" to the end of that sentence... :-)


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