Start to Finish: 5 to 10 minutes
Servings: 1
Difficulty: Beginner

A plain rice cake may resemble packing material, but if you use it as a vehicle for delicious, protein- and veggie-rich toppings, it makes a healthy snack. Rice cakes are kernels of puffed rice that have been mushed together into a round circle and dried to create a low-calorie, no fat cracker. Plain rice cakes became a must-eat for low-fat dieters of the 1980s and early 1990s, but they can be redeemed with the appropriate additions.

Think of rice cakes as a bread or cracker, which opens the door to any number of possible snack options. Peanut butter and jelly, sliced luncheon meat and cheese, or hummus are easy toppings that also provide you with protein and plenty of nutrients. It’s fun to deliver these familiar foods on a different platform. Rice cake toppings don’t have to be standard, though — get creative.

If packaged cakes just won’t do, you can make your own. They won’t resemble the crunchy store bought versions, but can be fun and delicious too.

Puffing rice at home is not really feasible, so homemade rice cakes are made with regular short-grain cooked rice that are pressed together into a sheet pan. They look nothing like store-bought rice cakes. This rice is naturally sticky and holds together when refrigerated.

Cook the rice in a ratio of 2 cups rice to 3 1/4 cups water. Cool and mix in your desired ingredients, such as dried fruit, mini chocolate chips, cut-up apple or pear, spices, extracts and finely chopped nuts and then press firmly into the pan. Cover the cakes and refrigerate for several hours. Cut into individual bars, or cakes, and wrap with plastic or foil for portability.

Tips

Savory ingredients, such as chunks of ham and vegetables, also work well.