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The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend grains as the foundation of a healthy diet. In fact, the new Dietary Guidelines and MyPyramid recommend at least three servings of whole grains daily, or making half your grain servings whole, with the other half coming from enriched or whole grains. Yet currently, less than 10 percent of Americans eat three servings daily and most eat an average of less than one serving per day.
Brown rice is a 100 percent whole grain food that consumers are familiar with that can help fulfill these guidelines. This healthy grain contains the nutrient-dense bran and inner germ layer where the majority of the bioactive compounds are found, as well as the starchy endosperm. It’s the fiberful bran coating that gives brown rice its light tan color, nutlike flavor and chewy texture. The fiber is believed to reduce heart disease and aid laxation and may reduce the risk of certain cancers and potentially aid in weigh maintenance.
In addition to the fiber, whole grains like brown rice are good sources of many vitamins and minerals. Like white rice, brown rice is also gluten-free and contains no trans fat or cholesterol and only a trace amount of fat and sodium.
Preparing Brown Rice
When cooking brown rice, always follow package directions. If directions are not available, use one of these easy methods:
1 cup uncooked brown rice
2 to 2-1/2 cups liquid (water, broth, juice)
1 tsp. butter or margarine (optional)
Makes 3 to 4 cups
Stovetop: Combine ingredients in a 2 to 3-qt. saucepan. Bring to boil; stir. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 45 to 50 minutes, or until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed. Fluff with a fork.
Conventional oven: Bring water to a boil. Combine water and remaining ingredients in a 2 to 3-qt. baking dish. Cover and bake at 350-degrees for 45 minutes or until water is absorbed and rice is tender.
Microwave: Combine all ingredients in a deep 2 to 3-qt. microwavable baking dish. Cover and cook on high for 5 minutes or until boiling. Reduce setting to medium (50-percent power) and cook 30 minutes, or until tender.
Rice cooker: Using a rice cooker is very convenient. For best results, prepare rice according to the directions included with your cooker.
Quick cooking brown rice (which has been partially cooked, then dehydrated) is also available and cooks in about 15 minutes. Instant brown rice can be cooked in as little time as 90 seconds.
Brown Rice with Onions and Pecans
1 cup long-grain brown rice
3 Tbsps. butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
2 Tbsps. chopped green onion tops
Prepare brown rice in medium saucepan, following package instructions. About 15 minutes before the rice is done, melt the butter in a heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion and saut, stirring frequently, until the onion is softened and begins to yellow, about 10 minutes.
Stir in the garlic, pecans and green onion; saut over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the onions are golden and the garlic is tender, about 5 minutes. Remove rice from heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes.
Spoon brown rice into a bowl; spoon the onions and pecans on top and toss lightly to combine. Garnish with the chopped green onion tops. Makes 4 servings.
Brown Rice Casserole with Cheese
2 1/2 cups cooked brown rice
4 green onions, chopped
1 cup low-fat creamy cottage cheese
1 tsp. dill weed
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup milk, skim or low fat
1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
Non-stick cooking spray
Combine cooked rice, chopped green onions, cottage cheese, dill weed, Parmesan cheese, milk and mustard in a mixing bowl. Stir gently until well blended. Pour into a casserole dish sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Brown Rice and Black Bean Casserole
1/3 cup brown rice
1 cup vegetable or chicken broth (low sodium)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup diced onion
1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
2 cooked skinless boneless chicken breast halves, chopped
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 tsp. cumin
Salt to taste
Ground cayenne pepper to taste
1 (15 oz.) can black beans, drained
1 (4 oz.) can diced green chile peppers, drained
1/2 cup shredded carrots
2 cups shredded Swiss cheese
In a medium-size pan, mix the rice and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 45 minutes, or until rice is tender.
Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Lightly grease a large casserole dish.
Using a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat and cook the onion until tender. Mix in the zucchini, chicken and mushrooms; season with cumin, salt and ground cayenne pepper. Cook and stir until zucchini is lightly browned and chicken is heated through. Add the cooked rice, beans, chiles, carrots, and one-half of the Swiss cheese; mix well. Transfer to the prepared casserole dish and sprinkle with remaining cheese.
Cover casserole loosely with foil and bake 30 minutes in the preheated oven. Uncover and continue baking 10 minutes, or until bubbly and lightly browned. Makes 6-8 servings.
Norm Harding is a cooking columnist for the Beacon. To send him recipes, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.