January 14, 2014 at 1:00 am

Maureen Tisdale

Let's Talk Food: 5-minute Pizza Rice, and what are your quick & dirty recipes?

It may not look like much, but this pizza rice smelled and tasted like the real thing, took five minutes of prep time and was made with pantry staples. (Maureen Tisdale / The Detroit News)

Iíve put a sense of impending doom on myself about how behind Iíve become at work (after the holiday juggle of time off/filling in for othersí time off), and at home (after ... having a baby 19 months ago).

Plus Iíve been making a valiant effort to walk for 30 aerobic minutes a few times a week, to boost my energy for dealing with said 19-month-old.

So while Iím racing on the treadmill and against deadlines in my own mind to get caught up and organized before that mysterious January line where 2014 starts to build up too, cooking for my husband has taken a back burner. Heís been opening his lunchbox to find a loaf of bread with which he can make himself peanut butter and honey sandwiches (guilt defense: at least Iím still going strong on the breakfast bar quest)!

But on a night like last Wednesday, when he was gone for a 14-hour day of work followed by church obligations, he deserved to come home to a hot meal, I thought.

The challenge was I wasnít able to get a start on that dinner until 6:30 p.m. and had to juggle it between baby-wrangling and other chores on the Wednesday stay-at-home-mom to-do list. So it was time for a pizza rice experiment.

Iíd made this slow-cooker dish before; I mentioned it in the column about my friend Dawnís methods for freshening up leftovers last week, as it was one of the hodgepodge of items Iíd left my husband that he said looked like the bottom of a garbage disposal (one of my favorite of his amusing comments ever). That time, the pizza rice came out terribly mushy and underwhelming. It also was frustrating to make; my biggest motivation for cooking it (as itís obviously winning no prizes for being super healthy) was its speed and use of pantry staples, yet I found it to be one of those recipes that makes you buy multiple ingredients for which you use part of packages.

Iím not anti-partial-package ingredients as a rule; obviously, few recipes use exactly what you buy in one go. But in this case, I was looking for an option that would be quick and dirty: taking no prep other than putting a liner in the slow-cooker, using what I could keep on hand in the pantry, and letting me toss every bag, can or jar directly in the garbage or recycling as I finished with it.

In other words, the perfect busy-night meal that would have enough leftovers to carry several more hot meals for a hard-working, hungry man.

So this time, I reduced the cooking time by more than half and threw in the ingredients I had on hand as they were ó honestly, just hoping the proportions would work out.

They did. I kept an eye on it, turning it from high to warm when the rice was tender. And when my husband walked in some time later, cold and weary ó yet still up for taking the garbage out into an icy night ó he said the magic words: ďSomething smells good.Ē

And it was ó hopefully enough to make up for the loaf-of-bread lunch.

What are your quick and dirty meals? Weíd love to hear about Ďem in the comments below the recipe. You need a Facebook account to add comments, but theyíre easy to sign up for, and free. Over the next few days, Detroit News Food Editor Maureen Tisdale will respond to comments or questions. You also can follow her on Twitter @reentiz and contact her at mtisdale@detroitnews.com. Join the discussion!

5-Minute Pizza Rice

In addition to being a good quick-and-dirty weeknight meal, this recipe works well for a potluck or other gathering to which you have to travel a distance and make the meal there; you can leave the ingredients (including a small plastic container of unopened Parmesan) in an unrefrigerated bag until then, and after, if you donít get to it (I used the two cups of rice measured into a baggie Iíd marked ďpizza riceĒ and brought with me to my family get-together in Maine at Thanksgiving, in case we didnít have enough food ó as if there was a chance that would happen.) And itís versatile; Iíve made it with different add-ins, depending on what I had on hand (regular pepperoni instead of chorizo, mozzarella from the freezer instead of Parmesan, etc.)

My husbandís only suggestion, by the way, was that the chorizo pieces could be smaller. Since stopping to cut them up would have negated my mission here, I might try to buy thinner slices if I can find them. He said itís not a big deal, though.

Ingredients:

2 cups uncooked rice

1 24-ounce jar chunky spaghetti sauce

13.25-ounce jar of mushrooms, undrained (6.5 oz net)

2.25-ounce jar of black olives, drained

5 ounces chorizo, sliced

2.5 cups water

23 cup Parmesan cheese, divided

Reserving 13 cup of the cheese, mix the rest of the ingredients in a slow-cooker. Top with the reserved 13 cup of cheese. Cook on high 2 hours and 50 minutes. It will keep on warm for some time.