Tag Archives: rice

VegWeek Day 5, Mexican-inspired Vegan Rice & Beans

29 Sep

“Let food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food.”
-Hippocrates

VegWeek_2011Welcome to Day 5 of VegWeek – we’re almost to the end! There are a number of great documentaries out on the state of our food system, and if you have Netflix, many of these are available on-demand. There’s a new documentary that just came out this year, called Forks Over Knives. It promotes a vegan diet from the health perspective. As I mentioned on Monday, health concerns are one of the reasons many people opt to reduce or eliminate animal products from their diet.

Forks-Over-Knives

Meat-eating has been linked to a plethora of diseases, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, prostate cancer, colon cancer, breast cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis. According to the film’s stats, a person is killed by heart disease every minute in the United States, and 1500 a day die from cancer – over one million combined a year. A third of people born today will develop diabetes in their lifetime.

Forks Over Knives tells the story of two doctors, Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., whose independent research ultimately brought them to the same conclusion: the simple prescription of a whole foods, plant-based diet could reverse the leading causes of death in the world today. Specifically, this diet includes whole, minimally refined fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes, and avoidance of animal-based foods such as meat, dairy, and eggs, as well as processed foods like bleached flour, refined sugars, and oil.

The film details the history of the American diet and shows how the rise in processed foods and meat consumption directly correlated with a rise in heart disease and cancer. These findings were common throughout the world, in places where the American diet is new, as well as places where meats and dairy have been scarce for a time due to war and poverty. When the meat is gone, disease decreases. When it’s back, disease is on the rise.

To further explore this idea, Dr. Campbell conducted a test with rats, to see how they responded to casein, the main protein in dairy products. The rats’ intake of casein was adjusted between of 5% and 20% of overall diet – the increase our culture has seen – at three-week intervals. Rates of cancer followed this single change, down and up and down again. “This was so provocative, this information,” says Campbell. “We could turn on and off cancer growth just by adjusting the level of that protein.”

There’s so much more valuable information in this documentary, but you’ll have to watch it to learn the rest. I hope you will. Do your research – decide for yourself.

Everyone knows the old adage, “you are what you eat.” If I think of myself being a cow or a chicken or a goat, that might not be so bad. There’s kind of a cool, reincarnationey feeling about it. When I think of myself being a frightened, abused, diseased cow or chicken or goat, it gets a bit harder to stomach. But then, think of this – you are what you eat and everything that you ate, ate. What comes to mind when you think about grazing cattle? Grass, bugs… dandelions? How about feathers, hair, skin, hooves, and blood? Manure? Plastic? All these and more get digested by factory farmed animals and show up in their meat. Chew on that next time you’re craving a burger. [Source: Union of Concerned Scientists]

you are what you eatAnother problem with our diet is the cost of food. Fast food is cheap, loaded with instantly gratifying flavor including massive amounts of sodium, which we’ve our palates adjust to, and, well – it’s fast. Convenient. Logical… There is a distinct correlation between obesity and economic status. But education and awareness could be factors, too. Here is a great article to debunk this commonly held, woe-to-us idea. Food for thought, if you will.
New York Times: Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?

Still not convinced? Eat a vegan diet and you, too, can be buff!

Vegan bodybuilders Derek Tresize and Robert Cheeke debunking the myth about plant foods and building muscle. Image via Forks Over Knives.

Mexican-inspired Vegan Rice and Beans

Rice and beans is a humble, staple kind of dish, but I never thought to make it until I caught a quick glimpse of the hottie firemen in Forks Over Knives making it. I love jasmine rice and black beans, and had a host of great companion veggies on-hand, so I decided to try it.

Rip EsselstynHonestly, though, this guy could convince me to eat almost anything.

I love how versatile this dish is, and that it’s a one-dish meal. It’s perfect for workweek lunches. Last week, I made my rice and beans with garlic, red onion, bell pepper, lime juice, avocado, and cilantro.

rice & beans

This week, I decided to try out some “El Burrito Soyrizo.” (Man, I love the name! Had to buy it.) Veggies included were shallot, bell pepper, tomatillo, tomato, lime juice, avocado, and cilantro.

soyrizo rice & beans

My preparation from the first night is below. But go ahead and experiment with this dish, and whatever veggies you have. Olives? Jalapenos? Spices? Vegan cheese crumbles? The sky is the limit!

1 cup jasmine or other rice
2 1/2 cups water
1 (14 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon neutral oil, such as safflower
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped into bite-sized pieces
Juice of 1 lime
1 avocado, sliced into cubes and scooped
Fresh cilantro, for garnish

Prepare rice according to package directions. Saute garlic until just lightly browned, then add in onion and bell pepper. Cook until slightly softened, between 5 and 10 minutes, then add black beans and rice to warm through. Garnish with lime juice, avocado, and cilantro.

Saffron Risotto with Butternut Squash

6 Dec

Recipe source: Barefoot Contessa Family Style

Part of the beauty of this cookbook, for me, is Ina’s advice and small observations on entertaining. The idea of “family style” permeates through the book, with comforting recipes like the chicken noodle soup I posted yesterday, fun snacks for kids, and then, especially – quotes like this, which expand the definition of family to one that resonates with me:

“Most people wouldn’t bat an eye about asking their sister to help with dinner, so why are we so reluctant to ask the friends we invite to our house? Wouldn’t you be flattered if a friend said ‘I’d love it!’ when you offered to help? I’d feel valued and part of the A team. When my friends come for dinner, often I serve the main course, but I’ll ask someone else to pour the wine, and a third person to help me with dessert, so we’re all in it together. It’s a community, it’s collaborative, and it’s so much more fun (not to mention easier!).”
I chose to share this quote with you now because risotto requires A LOT of stirring. A lot, a lot, a lot. And Ina brilliantly suggests enlisting your friends to take turns stirring the risotto, preferably with a drink sloshing in the other hand (oh wait, that was my addition), which I think I will do if I ever make this dish again.

Like yesterday’s post, risotto is yet another classic dish I’ve never made. I’ve never been a fan of risotto because of its mushy texture, but the other ingredients in this dish sounded so delicious that I decided to re-open my mind.

The most important lesson I took from making it is that it takes patience. It takes a lot of time. And did I mention – a lot of stirring?

To begin, you will cube and roast a whole 2-lb butternut squash. This is the first recipe I made with butternut, and I discovered that it’s not fun to peel. Not nearly as fun as just throwing the whole thing in the oven until it gets soft, like in this soup.

butternut squash

But there are advantages to this method, specifically, a less mushy, mashed texture. It might be possible to get away with a mash in this recipe… but this time I followed Ina’s instructions. Through trial and error, I found the easiest way to peel this was to cut a flat end and wiggle the vegetable peeler from the top-down. Which doesn’t mean I didn’t break my peeler the second time I did this… so use a very sharp peeler, and go slowly.

peeling butternut squash

While the squash is in the oven, you’ll saute pancetta and shallots in a Dutch oven or the heaviest-bottomed pan you have. Normally when I read this kind of instruction, I am blasé… but with risotto, I wouldn’t mess around. The heat has to be *just right* for this to work, and the cast iron in Dutch ovens will hold the heat more evenly than the type of no-account flimsy Teflon nonsense I own. I borrowed this Dutch oven, which I think would make Ina proud!

Next you’ll add arborio rice and wine, then saffron, salt and pepper, then ladle by ladle, chicken stock. Ina gives very specific instructions on this so I won’t elaborate, except to show you this picture, which I took to be “a little dry” like she describes.

risotto

My final product was also like the “gluey mess” she describes… but tasty. In hindsight, I think medium heat was too low, and medium-high would have been fine. She says you need to make this twice to get it right, and I’m convinced!

I love pears, and I try to eat as many as humanly possible while they are beautiful and yellow in the Fall. So to complete our meal, I served the risotto with Ina Garten’s Endive, Pear, and Roquefort Salad. Since I don’t have a house in the Hamptons, I substituted a common man’s blue cheese for the roquefort. Otherwise, I followed the recipe exactly. This is definitely a favorite… also nice over romaine.

pear salad

And for dessert, I made spiced roasted plums with vanilla bean ice cream.

spiced plums

This was about as autumnal a meal as I could dream up!

RECIPE – Saffron Risotto with Butternut Squash

I used to avoid risotto because I thought you had to stand by the stove for hours, stirring – not exactly my style! But, I decided to give it a try and, instead, found a dish that’s so delicious and cooks in 30 minutes. Test this first on your family and then when you have a party, you can invite your guests into the kitchen for drinks while everyone takes turns stirring the risotto.

1 butternut squash (2 pounds)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
2 ounces pancetta, diced
1/2 cup minced shallots (2 large)
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice (10 ounces)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon saffron threads
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Peel the butternut squash, remove the seeds, and cut it into 3/4-inch cubes. You should have about 6 cups. Place the squash on a sheet pan and toss it with the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, tossing once, until very tender. Set aside. Meanwhile, heat the chicken stock in a small covered saucepan. Leave it on low heat to simmer.

In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the pancetta and shallots on medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until the shallots are translucent but not browned. Add the rice and stir to coat the grains with butter. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes. Add 2 full ladles of stock to the rice plus the saffron, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir, and simmer until the stock is absorbed, 5 to 10 minutes. Continue to add the stock, 2 ladles at a time, stirring every few minutes. Each time, cook until the mixture seems a little dry, then add more stock. Continue until the rice is cooked through, but still al dente, about 30 minutes total. Off the heat, add the roasted squash cubes and Parmesan cheese. Mix well and serve.

*Marcella Hazan advises that correct heat is important in making risotto. It should be “lively”; too high heat and the grains don’t cook evenly, and too low heat will result in a gluey mess. It should cook in 30 minutes. After the first try, you’ll get the idea.

*Saffron is collected from the stamens of crocuses, which is why it’s so expensive. Use the strands, not the powder.

*Pancetta is Italian bacon. If you can’t find it, use any good-quality bacon.

Serves 4 to 6

Chicken Makhani

21 Mar

A nickel will get you on the subway, but garlic will get you a seat.
~Old New York Proverb

Here’s a recipe from one of my favorite food blogs, The Pioneer Woman. This is a traditional Indian dish also called Butter Chicken, but that name doesn’t sound nearly as appetizing to me. Plus, the recipe doesn’t call for much butter. I know, I know, who am I to question the chefs of India? But just humor me, mmkay? Chicken Makhani.

This recipe is easy, but not necessarily fast, so you’ll want to plan ahead. First, you make a marinade with lime juice, garlic and spices. Let chicken sit 4-6 hours, or overnight. I filleted the chicken because the breasts seemed so thick, but it turned out a little dry. So I’d recommend just throwing the breasts in the marinade as they are.

Sauté a chopped onion in butter until soft. I suppose you could use a white onion for this, but I usually use yellow because they are milder and make me cry less. Next, add the marinated chicken breasts and cook for about 10 minutes. Mmmm.

Right about now, you’ll want to start your rice. We didn’t have any basmati rice, so we used plain white rice seasoned with a little salt, pepper and saffron. YUM! To the chicken and onions, add a can of tomato sauce and a can of diced tomatoes, then cover and cook on a medium-low flame for about 30 minutes. Turn off heat, add cream and fresh cilantro, and serve over rice.

6 pieces boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2 1/2 lbs)
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1 whole lime, juiced
1 whole onion, diced
1/4 cup butter
1 (14.5 oz) can tomato sauce
1 (14.5 oz.) can petite diced tomatoes
1 pint whipping cream
1 bunch chopped cilantro, to taste
2 cups basmati rice

Combine first 9 ingredients and marinate overnight.

Saute the onion in the butter until soft. Add marinated chicken and cook about 10 minutes. Add the tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. Cook for 30 minutes over medium-low heat with the lid on. Add the whipping cream and cilantro just before serving over rice.

Note: this is a little spicy, but you can cut back on the cayenne if you want.

A nickel will get you on the subway, but garlic will get you a seat.

~Old New York Proverb

Tuna Casserole

19 Mar

As a child my family’s menu consisted of two choices: take it or leave it.
-Buddy Hackett

This is a dish I ate allll the tiiiime growing up, and still make. I always keep these ingredients in my pantry. It’s quick, easy and filling. Just beware when serving – I always overestimate how much I can actually eat! This recipe is also great for leftovers as it reheats well. You can substitute albacore tuna for the chunk light, but the mushroom soup tones down the fishy taste enough that I say go for the cheap stuff 🙂

This is a basic recipe, so feel free to add any other ingredients that sound interesting. Like peas maybe… peas were banned from my house growing up as my mother hated them, but now I always have a bag in my freezer because they’re just so easy to throw into anything at the last minute.

1 (12 oz.) can chunk light tuna (water-packed), drained
1 (14.5 oz.) can cream of mushroom soup
1 cup milk (half of soup can)
2 cups white rice
Chow Mein noodles, to sprinkle

Prepare rice. Combine tuna, cream of mushroom soup and milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until milk reduces slightly and sauce turns gray, about 10 minutes. Pour sauce over rice and top with chow mein noodles.