After my rant the other day about processed foods, I will now reveal to you one of the processed foods I cannot do without: Rice-A-Roni.

When I was growing up, Rice-A-Roni was marketed as “The San Francisco Treat” because that’s where it was invented. The commercial featured a cable car, with clanging bell. Our family made our first trip to San Francisco when I was about nine, and when I heard one of those cable car bells  the first thing I thought of was Rice-A-Roni. My mother was so disappointed. Mass marketing was already clouding my world view.

One of the best and highest uses of Rice-A-Roni is in cold salads. The beauty of it is that you don’t need to worry about adding any seasonings, because everything is in the tasty packet you add to the rice and pasta. I will tell you that I think the Rice-A-Roni people have the cooking directions wrong. The package calls for adding 2 cups of water to the pot. I always use a cup and a half. Otherwise, the rice can get mushy.

Use any Rice-A-Roni flavor for a cold salad and then just add in what you like. Here Chicken Rice-A-Roni gets a boost from lemony artichoke hearts.

Artichoke rice salad

1 box Chicken Rice-A-Roni

2 green onions, chopped

1 can artichoke hearts

1/3 c. green pepper, chopped

1/3 c. green olives with pimento, chopped

1/3 cup mayonnaise

Prepare Rice-A-Roni using 1 ½ cups of water instead of the 2 cups called for in the directions and omitting butter. Chill. Drain the artichoke hearts and chop into large pieces. Mix with the onions, olives, pepper, mayonnaise and cooled Rice-A-Roni.

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