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. 



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