You've all heard that brown rice is good for you. Well guess what- it's not just good for you, it's great for you. It's one of the most nutritious foods available on the planet. It is packed with minerals that help with everything from boosting energy and building bone strength to improving brain function and mood elevation, while the high fiber and protein content (yep, brown rice is packed with protein) assure improved digestion and blood sugar regulation, which means no peaks and crashes in your energy. Say goodbye to that drowsy carb hangover feeling!
But like any other grain or carb, brown rice can seem a little bit boring unless you do something fun with it. Brown rice especially has an unfortunate reputation for being somewhat unpleasantly chewy and bland, but it doesn't have to be! Read on for some great ways to enjoy your brown rice, starting with how to prepare it.
Before cooking, wash raw brown rice very well in lukewarm water and drain through a mesh sieve (the holes in a colander are too big). If you have time, soak it in a bowl covered with lukewarm water for several hours (or even overnight), and then wash it well and drain. Soaking helps to open up the grain and remove the layer of acid on the outside of the grain, but washing is fine if that's all you have time for. Then, combine 1 part rice with 2 1/2 parts clean water in a pot, bring to a boil, then turn to low heat, cover with the pot lid, and simmer covered until all water is absorbed (25 to 30 minutes roughly, but check to avoid burning). This will make a lovely moist, fluffy, dense, and somewhat sticky rice. If you like your rice "drier" and less sticky, use closer to 2 parts water per 1 part rice. Part of the beauty of brown rice is that it has a delicious natural sweetness, and the longer you cook it, the more this sweetness comes out. Using the extra water results in longer cooking, and therefore a sweeter rice. But it is a matter of taste.
Once you have cooked your brown rice, read below for some fun things to do with it. Don't hesitate to experiment with brown rice or other grains and mix it up with your own ideas; grains are like bread, they are a medium upon which you can add all different textures and tastes without really going wrong. The possibilities are endless!
Here are some that I've created in my kitchen laboratory:
This dish is so sweet and colorful that I couldn't help but name it Candy Rice, even though the health benefits it provides make it the furthest thing from candy! Packed with grounding, vitamin rich and fiber full root vegetables, this dish will have your body thanking you even more than your taste buds are...now that's sweet.
2 medium carrots, scrubbed and cut into rounds or small chunks
1 medium beet, scrubbed well, top and bottom removed, cut into small chunks
1 small to medium onion, cut into chunks
1 cup cooked brown rice (cooked beforehand)
1 tablespoon unrefined sesame oil
Sea salt and fresh pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Add the chopped vegetables to a medium size roasting pan or cast iron skillet and drizzle all over with the 1 tablespoon sesame oil, moving them around in the oil to make sure all pieces are coated. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper, and roast in the oven at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or so. Remove, shift vegetables around in pan to distribute heat and evenly coat with oil, and put back in oven for another 15 minutes or so. They will be done when they are sizzling and soft to pierce with a fork, but not brown or falling apart. Remove the pan from the oven, and add the cup of cooked brown rice right into the pan. Gently and thoroughly stir all the ingredients around to mix well; the rice will soak up the extra sesame oil in the pan, and will turn a lovely mottled pink color from the juice of the beets. Serve immediately, or leave to sit covered at room temperature to let flavors combine and all the oil be absorbed. Due to the earthy sweetness, this makes a great accompaniment to a dish with a contrasting flavor, such as spicy or bitter; I served it with a dish of lightly sauteed radicchio and kidney beans seasoned with coriander and topped with a raw sauerkraut garnish. The bitterness from the radicchio and the tartness of the coriander and sauerkraut were so perfect when paired with the sweetness of the candy rice! Who needs dessert after a meal like that?
Breakfast of Champions:
If you're ready to try something truly different for breakfast, try this savory, Asian-inspired treat that will give you buckets of energy due to its high protein and mineral content, with just enough good fats to keep you satisfied well until lunch. The sauerkraut, since it is a fermented food, provides powerful grounding energy and a boost to intestinal health by balancing intestinal bacteria and thus assisting in digestion and assimilation. Also makes a great brunch or lunch option. Who says breakfast can't be savory?
-1 cup cooked brown rice
-2 tablespoons unshelled and toasted sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds (toasted by stirring in a dry skillet over medium-low flame for just long enough for them to begin to pop and change color slightly, but not burn. Can be made ahead of time.)
-2 tablespoons kimchee, sauerkraut, or other pickled vegetable, OR, if pickled anything isn't your thing, throw in some leftover roasted veggies such as carrots instead
-1 tablespoon dried seaweed flakes (such as dulse, nori, or a mix, available at health food stores)
Special addition optional: top with one organic egg, soft boiled or soft fried
Mix all ingredients in a bowl and enjoy! It's that simple. If you are using the egg, mix all ingredients in a bowl first and then top with one boiled or fried egg, soft cooked so that the yoke mixes into the rice and when cut up. This is delicious, and if seaweed and pickled vegetables anytime before noon (or anytime EVER) sound crazy to you, try it without those ingredients and throw in some diced up leftover cooked veggies or just season with sea salt and pepper and enjoy a simpler version. You can start there and experiment more later. Like it sweet? Try the same idea, but nix the seaweed, sauerkraut and veggies and opt for some dried fruit and a drizzle of maple syrup, honey, or agave nectar.
Collard greens are traditionally associated with a hope of wealth in Southern culture, but it's your body that will be getting rich off of this dish- dark leafy greens are incredibly detoxifying due to their vitamins and high chlorophyll content, while pumpkin seeds provide healthy fats and zinc which strengthens the immune system, especially beneficial for women's health issues.
1 cup cooked brown rice
1 bunch collards greens, center ribs removed, sliced into thin ribbons
2 tablespoons toasted pumpkin seeds (see instructions above for toasting seeds)
2-3 tablespoons finely diced onion
1 tablespoon sesame oil
Sea salt and pepper
Once the collard green leaves have been stripped of their center ribs and sliced into thin ribbons with a sharp knife, submerge them in a deep bowl of cool water and move them around to release any stuck on dirt, then drain. Add still-wet collard green leaves to a saute pan or skillet, cover, and turn heat to medium-high. Within a few short minutes, the small amount of water on the leaves from washing will have heated up and provided enough moist heat to cook down the leaves to a wilted state while preserving their bright green color (this method is called "water saute", and can also be done with a small amount of water in the skillet). At this point, remove from heat and place back in strainer to drain out any excess moisture. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of sesame oil in the same skillet (dry the skillet in between if necessary) and saute the 2 tablespoons of diced onion until well cooked and fragrant, even caramelized. Toss in cooked collard green leaves and toasted pumpkin seeds and coat well with the oil and onion. Finally, mix in the cooked brown rice and toss all ingredients in the skillet to combine and spread the oil and flavor throughout. Season with sea salt and fresh ground pepper. This dish received very high marks from the Husband, and is versatile because it can be switched up to include pretty much any other dark leafy green, and the pumpkin seeds can be switched for sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, or even pine nuts.
Possibilities with brown rice and other whole grains are endless, so get to know and love them! Brown rice works particularly well in the above recipes, but you could substitute a grain like quinoa or barley as well, with an equally nutritious and delicious result. Happy Eating!
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