Friday, March 19, 2010

A Healthy and Delicious Vegetable Rice Medley

I've been wanting to put this post up for a while, but every time I've made this dish, without fail, I'm running way behind in my day and run out of time to do the pictures or I do them too quickly and they don't turn out. Luckily I make this dish a lot! Probably because my 2 year old loves it and it's a great substitute for bread in our dinner meal. I don't know about you all, but I like to have some type of bread with my dinner meal. However, my son is showing possible signs of gluten intolerance, so I'm trying to cut back on our consumption of wheat. Believe it or not, we actually don't eat that much wheat, at least not in comparison to most, despite my recent posts.

Rice is a great alternative to bread and it fills you up in the same way. Plus, in this dish you get tons of great vegetables and I cook the rice in broth. It's packed with nutrition. That's my type of dish!

You can make this recipe with frozen or fresh vegetables. If you don't want to slave over the stove, use frozen, simply because they are already cut up and ready to go. It doesn't take long to prep fresh vegetables and I personally prefer fresh, but there are those days... You can also use the rice of your choice, although brown rice is more healthy than white. I usually use a long grain brown rice. The only rice I'd strongly recommend not using is any type of instant rice. I know, I know, it's so much easier to make the instant stuff, but I kind of equate it to eating rice shaped Styrofoam. Harsh, but it's important to make every meal count for nutrition and cooking regular rice isn't harder, it just takes a bit longer and it's worth it for the extra nutrition.

Below is an excerpt from an excellent article about the health benefits of brown rice. I'd highly recommend reading it. I believe when we are armed with the right information we are more likely to pursue a healthier form of eating. It's easy for someone to tell you to eat a certain way because it's healthy, it's entirely another thing when you actually understand why what your eating is healthy.
"The difference between brown rice and white rice is not just color! A whole grain of rice has several layers. Only the outermost layer, the hull, is removed to produce what we call brown rice. This process is the least damaging to the nutritional value of the rice and avoids the unnecessary loss of nutrients that occurs with further processing. If brown rice is further milled to remove the bran and most of the germ layer, the result is a whiter rice, but also a rice that has lost many more nutrients. At this point, however, the rice is still unpolished, and it takes polishing to produce the white rice we are used to seeing. Polishing removes the aleurone layer of the grain-a layer filled with health-supportive, essential fats. Because these fats, once exposed to air by the refining process, are highly susceptible to oxidation, this layer is removed to extend the shelf life of the product. The resulting white rice is simply a refined starch that is largely bereft of its original nutrients.
~, Brown Rice

What You'll Need - Serves 4-6
  • Olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cup brown rice
  • 3+ cups of chicken, beef or vegetable broth
  • 1 tsp of salt for unsalted broth plus more for seasoning with later
  • 1 cup diced fresh fresh/frozen carrots
  • 1 cup fresh/frozen green beans
  • 1 cup onion chopped
  • 1 cup cashews
  • 1 tsp of dried thyme
  • 3 cloves of smashed and diced garlic
  • 1 cup fresh/frozen peas
  • 1 cup fresh/frozen corn
  • Skillet
  • Pot with lid to cook rice in
  • Sharp knife
  • Stirring spoon

Getting Started
1. Cook your rice per directions on package, except use the broth as your liquid instead of water. If you are using unsalted broth add 1 tsp of salt to it for extra flavor. If you buy your rice in bulk, 1 1/2 cups of rice to 3 cups of broth usually works pretty good. An FYI... if you think you can try to speed up the cook time on brown rice by turning the heat up higher, forget it. I'm telling you this, because I've been guilty of trying to do this! Brown rice usually takes about 45 minutes to cook and you need to cook it at a simmer, otherwise you boil away all the liquid and will find yourself burning your rice on the bottom of the pot. No fun! If you know you'll be in a time crunch on the day you're going to make this dish, you can make the rice ahead of time and then re-heat it.

2. If using fresh vegetables, steam your carrot pieces, which shouldn't take long, probably 10 minutes at the most and they only need to be cooked until they are soft on the outside and a bit hard on the inside, i.e., al dente, because you'll cook them a bit more later. When the carrots are getting close to being done add your fresh green beans and let them finish steaming together, then set them aside.

3. Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy bottom skillet (I like to use my Lodge cast iron skillet; it works great for recipes like this). Toss in your chopped onion and cook over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes until onion has softened. Add your cashews and cook for a couple more minutes until the cashews start to turn brown/toasted on the outside.

4. For fresh vegetables: Add your garlic, thyme, cooked carrots, cooked green beans, fresh peas, fresh corn and a bit more olive oil if it's needed and saute over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes.

5. For frozen vegetables: Add your garlic, thyme, all your frozen vegetables and a bit more olive oil if it's needed and saute over medium-high heat until they are hot, about 3-5 minutes.

Note: If you are using a mixture of fresh and frozen vegetables, which I often do in the winter, simply make sure to add your frozen vegetables at the end and saute them for just a couple minutes. You don't want to overcook them.

6. Finally, add your cooked rice and approx. 1 tablespoon of olive oil and saute everything together for about 1 minute. Dish it up and enjoy!

This dish is best hot, but can be eaten at room temperature too, for instance if you wanted to take it to a potluck. It also makes great leftovers!

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