Having already mastered gluten-free baking mixes, the cooks at Gluten-Free Essentials decided to try their hand at side dishes. Along with our supply of cookie, brownie, and other delicious baking mixes, came their three new “Side Kicks.” Available in Italian Herb & Lemon, Southwest Chipolte & Lime, and Exotic Curry, each Side Kick is a flavored rice mix that can be used as a meal base or a side dish.
At first, I didn’t think too much of this new product, but when I discovered each could be on the table in ten minutes I was more than ready to give them a try. Though it appears to be ordinary dry rice, it is in fact precooked long grain white and brown rice with seasonings included. Though rice itself is gluten-free, many rice mixes and sides hide milk, wheat, and other well-known allergens among their flavorings. These dishes are gluten, dairy, soy, and nut-free.
Italian Herb & Lemon
With some chicken and vegetables ready for sautéing, my husband chose the Italian Herb rice mix as our first trial. Assuming I would operate at a slow pace in the kitchen, he hesitated on putting the meat and veggies on, until I was done preparing the rice. Slightly irritated by his assumptions, a smirk slowly overtook me when I read the (ten minute) directions.
My husband opted to sauté the veggies and meat with just a touch of salt and pepper, which turned out to be an excellent choice, as the rice was like a flavor injection. “Kick” was truly the operative word in the title of this side dish. Though it was rich in a wealth of Italian herbs, I could easily have mistaken the side dish for a potent lemon pepper rice. The flavor was a powerful punch of freshly ground black pepper, mellowed just a touch with lemon zest, and a handful of herbs. Their seasoning blend seems to be a secret recipe, but I was almost positive that I detected a good dose of oregano. Beyond that, I was stumped, so I just opted to eat it and enjoy.
I thoroughly enjoyed the flavor rush. While my husband thought it was a touch too potent, he finished every last grain on his plate, and ate the leftovers for lunch the next day.
Southwest Chipolte & Lime
Recalling the bold flavors of the Italian Herb & Lemon, we had a repeat performance of a basic sautéed white meat and steamed vegetables to accompany the Southwest rice mix. As with the other mix, this one cooked up easily and perfectly. Each grain separated nicely for a perfectly fluffy side dish.
In terms of taste, we once again noted their signature dose of black pepper. It was good, and added a punch of flavor, but was not quite as Mexican inspired as I had expected. Overall, it the rice had just a touch of lime flavor that helped to enhance the flavor of our meat, without overpowering it.
As an encore, we used the rice and leftover meat to make burritos over our next two lunches. This was a good application, requiring only some beans, guacamole, and a spoonful of salsa for a very complete meal.
Curry is a tricky thing in our household. We both love Thai curries, but Indian curries rank very low on our list of preferred foods. Alas, this was a very Indian curry. It had the bright yellow notes of saffron rice, but the additional spices that distinctly signify a flavorful but mild Indian curry. After each bite a warm heat emerged as an aftertaste that could be described as mildly spicy. I did find this slow heat to be quite comforting.
All things considered, we both thought it tasted okay (finishing our plates), and exactly like it should. Anyone who loves a “good curry” will surely appreciate Gluten-Free Essentials Exotic Curry Side Kick. Like the others, it is very easy to prepare. A picture perfect rice dish can be on the table in minutes!
My Extra Notes & Tips:
- These are vegan mixes. I utilized the non-dairy brand of Smart Balance when following the directions to keep it dairy-free and vegan.
Where to Buy: Purchase directly from the Gluten-Free Essentials website. They are based in the United States, but international orders are accepted.