Saturday, January 29, 2011

Perfect Brown Rice

I made the switch from white to brown rice long, long ago for it's whole grain fiber power but I only recently mastered how to prepare it.  Prior to finding the perfect recipe, I usually bought the ready made stuff by Mr. Uncle Ben.  You know, the microwaveable stuff.  But, if you look at the exponential cost difference to the bagged stuff, it has become hard to justify.

The main problem with rice is how long it takes to bake but being a stay-at-home mom, time is sort of on my side.  Even if I wasn't at home, you can make this rice ahead on Sunday and microwave heat it the day you need for a fraction of the cost.  Unfortunately, when I prepared brown rice according to the package directions on the stove top I found it either turned mushy (overcooked) or it was too al-dente (undercooked).  I couldn't, for the life of me, get it light and fluffy.

So, I did some research on the web and found some different ways to prepare it.  Some called for parboiling, draining and steaming the rice to ensure a light and fluffy rice.  Unfortunately, this kind of recipe drains many important nutrients away.  Isn't that the part of the point of eating brown in the first place?  I thought, "There must be a better way!"

I was very happy when I found and tried this recipe by Alton Brown here.  Basically you boil some water and add it to the rice in a baking dish, cover and bake it.  That's it.  It's no fuss and you won't burn or under-cook another batch on the stove stop.  I have made MANY great batches with this recipe and thought I should share it.

As a stand alone side, I love to make brown rice with a little olive oil in lieu of butter and sprinkle in some fresh minced garlic and a dash or so of salt prior to cooking.  Yum!  Another recipe we love to make with brown rice is sweet and sour pork.  I tend to make a double batch of this sweet and sour pork recipe below so I have plenty of leftovers for the week ahead.

Sweet and Sour Pork
1 lb. pork loin cubed or cut in strips
2 Tb. low sodium soy sauce (separated)
1 sm. onion coarsely cut
1 green pepper coarsely cut
1 20 oz. can pineapple chunks (you won't use all of it unless you double the recipe)*
1/4 c. ketchup
1 Tb. cornstarch
2 Tb. stevia equivalent or other sugar substitute (add more to taste if desired)
1 Tb. rice vinegar
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 Tb. fresh garlic
1 Tb. oil
Salt to taste

Marinate the pork and 1 TB. of soy sauce in a bowl.  While the pork marinates, continue with making the sauce in a separate medium sized bowl.  Drain the pineapple juice from the can (2/3 cup) and place in the bowl.  Add the remaining soy sauce, ketchup, cornstarch, vinegar and ground ginger and whisk together.  Heat oil to coat a large pan.  Add onion, bell pepper and garlic to the pan.  Stir often.  Cook for 3-5 minutes.  Pour the onion/pepper mixture onto a plate and place to the side.  Using the same pan, add the pork and cook thoroughly.  Add the vegetable mixture back to the pan as well as 1/2 of the pineapple chunks.  Stir in the sauce mixture.  Allow the mixture to boil for a minute or two stirring often.  Take the mixture off of the heat.  Taste. Add salt and sugar substitute per your taste. Serve over your awesomely prepared brown rice above. 

Tip: I usually begin preparing this meal when I have about 35 minutes left on the brown rice in the oven.  That usually will cover both prep and cooking.

*When doubling this recipe I will stretch the pineapple juice and add water to it to make 1 1/3 cup of juice and then proceed to use all of the pineapple and it works just fine.  It doesn't affect the taste and allows you to stretch a buck. 


Monday, January 24, 2011

Mamavation Monday: Where do you get your fiber?

Baby #3 is due any day.  In an effort to get back to my normal self, I'm going to spend the next few months focusing on getting my diet back on track in areas it may have derailed during the pregnancy due to sickness and frankly, necessity.  Getting my diet on track will be all the more crucial to get right if I am going to lose this baby weight yet again as carving out the time for a two hour run is going to be difficult if not impossible with 3 kiddos not yet in school!

One area I'm usually pretty good about is getting my recommended amount of daily fiber.  I've shared with you some of my favorite ways to get my fiber, including this ULTRA healthy recipe for oatmeal and whole wheat flour pancakes.  They are so yummy and filling and won't give you a sugar rush and crash two hours later like the white flour versions. 

You can easily adapt any recipe into a healthier fiber filled one with just a few simple swaps.  Another recipe I love to throw in some whole grain in is Turkey Meatloaf Muffins.  Really you can use whatever full fat meatloaf recipe you've been using for years and make it over with some simple subs, i.e. using oats instead of breadcrumbs, and low fat ground meat in lieu of the full fat stuff.  You can do the same for meatballs or any other recipe that requires a breadcrumb binder.

Here are a few of my family's favorite meatloaf recipes.  I tend to make muffins in lieu of a loaf for portion control as well as the shorter cooking time.

Version 1: Garlic and Herb Meatloaf Muffins
2-2.5 lbs. 93% lean ground turkey (or 93% lean ground beef or a mix of the two!)
1 c. oatmeal
1/4 c. dehydrated onion (or 1/2 cup minced fresh onion)
1 Tb. cumin (optional)
2 Tb. dried parsley
1 Tb. dried basil
1 tsp. onion powder
2 tsp. garlic powder (or 2 cloves minced fresh)
1 Tb. oregano
1 egg (or 1/2 cup egg substitute)
2 tsp. worchestchire sauce
1 tsp. salt
ketchup (optional)

Version 2: Spicy Italian Meatloaf Muffins
2-2.5 lbs. 93% lean ground turkey (or 93% lean ground beef or a mix of the two!)
1 c. oatmeal
1/4 c. dehydrated onion (or 1/2 cup minced fresh onion)
3 Tb. Italian Sausage Seasoning (this can be found at Penzey's and it is the star here!)
2 tsp. onion powder
2 tsp. garlic powder (or 2-3 cloves fresh)
1 Tb. oregano
1 egg (or 1/2 cup egg substitute)
2 tsp. worchestchire sauce
1 tsp. salt
sprinkle of red pepper for a little kick if desired (optional: do this to your taste)
ketchup (optional)
Directions:  Mix all ingredients except the ketchup. Spray a 12 count muffin tin with pam and put the mixture into the 12 tins. Add additional ketchup on top if desired.  Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes until the centers reach 160 degrees.

Of course, you can also find fiber in plenty of other places.  You'll be suprised how much fiber you can find in say, a 1/2 cup of broccoli.  Broccoli is my family's favorite vegetable and a 1/2 cup of the stuff contains 2.5 grams of fiber!  Not bad, eh?!  Unfortunately, during the early stages of pregnancy I couldn't go near the stuff without feeling very ill.  On days I couldn't eat a vegetable without turning green myself, I grabbed a Fiber Plus bar.  They were a convenient option when I needed a supplement.  They are also great on road trips when vegetables and whole grains are harder to find!

Do You have issues meeting your daily requirement of fiber?  Do you have a favorite recipe that helps you meet your daily fiber requirements?  If so, I'd love to hear it!

Disclaimer: I’m writing this post as an entry to a blogging carnival sponsored by Fiber Plus. I will be receiving free product in return.


Monday, January 17, 2011

That's My Girl

My girl is a bit of a tom boy but that doesn't mean she never plays with dolls.  She does love to play with them from time to time.  Lately, this is the first thing she does to them.