Nutritionally speaking, rice is a good source of complex carbohydrates; furthermore, it can help achieve a healthy diet because of what it does not contain: fat, salt or cholesterol. The protein in rice when combined with beans is considered complete in that it contains all eight of the essential amino acids. It is also a good source of thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, phosphorus, iron and potassium.
In the kitchen, rice offers versatility on a grand scale for meal preparation. Risottos, stir-fries, soups, pilafs, one-pot meals, salads, stuffings, side dishes and even dessert are delicious and easily made with rice.
Risotto is made by slowly stirring 4-5 cups of hot liquid, along with fresh veggies, seafood, lean meat, poultry, fresh herbs or canned beans into 1 cup of Arborio rice. Arborio rice is imported from Italy and found in grocery stores and specialty food stores. It costs more than regular rice but yields double the amount since it takes on more liquid. You are enabled to make a creamy, delicious dish that can be made in one pot in about 30 minutes. Risotto can also be a stove-top pudding dessert by using skim milk and fresh or dried fruits along with a little sugar.
Stir-fries can be made quickly by microwaving instant rice while you are cooking the vegetables and sauce for the stir-fry. Even more time can be saved by buying prepared ingredients for the stir-fry, i.e.: precut vegetables from the fresh produce section, salad bar or freezer section of your grocery store and lean meat or poultry already cut in strips.
Soups can be made more hearty by the addition of rice. Use a quick cooking rice, such as instant, basmati or long-grain white, for soup that is already made; use brown rice for a soup you are making from scratch since takes longer to cook but adds more flavor.
Pilafs and stove-top rice dishes can be made very creative by the addition of flavored liquids such as: chicken or vegetable broth, tomato juice, wine and vinegars. Other ingredients to consider are: tomato paste, fresh herbs, toasted garlic, chopped vegetables, beans, lean meat or poultry, spices such as chile powder or curry, dried fruits such as cranberries or raisins, juice concentrates such as pineapple or orange and even greens such as spinach or bok choy. Additions such as some of these can turn a simple rice dish into a one-pot meal.
Salads can be made more appealing and hearty with the addition of rice, either hot or cold. (See recipes for rice salads on p. 28.)
Stuffings are easily made by mixing cooked rice with cooked veggies, beans, lean meat or poultry, herbs and sauce such as pasta sauce, nonfat salad dressing or low-sodium, low-fat cream soup. Use rice stuffing inside sweet bell peppers, winter squash or tomatoes.
Cooking tips for all your rice dishes:
• Omit oil, butter and margarine; use cooking spray and flavored broths instead.
• Add dried herbs at the beginning of a recipe; add fresh herbs at the end of a recipe to maximize flavor.
• Add veggies and other ingredients to one-pot meals in the order they will cook so everything is ready at the same time.
Quick Rice Dishes:
• For quick meals, cook instant rice with equal parts liquid and add-ins such as lean meat, poultry, veggies or canned beans. Flavor liquid with pasta sauce, tomato paste and/or fresh herbs.
• For quick rice side dishes, use instant rice and add fresh chopped vegetables, broths, tomato paste and/or herbs and spices for variety.
• Salads can be made more appealing with the addition of cooked rice (warm or cold), canned beans (drain and rinse first) and fresh veggies. Dress with your favorite nonfat salad dressing and top with fresh cracked black pepper or grated parmesan cheese.
Rice Buying Guide
Purchase the type of rice most suited to the dish you are preparing: medium and short-grained rice for creamier dishes such as risotto and desserts, or dishes where stickier rice is preferred, such as sushi or molded rice side dishes. Choose long-grained rice for dishes where you prefer separate, distinct grains, such as pilaf.
For speed we recommend frozen cooked rice or instant brown or white rice, which is actually precooked, then dried. It cooks in 10 minutes or less. Follow package directions because water-to-rice ratios and cooking times can vary between brands.
The most nutritious rice is brown rice; it contains more protein, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, niacin, fiber and vitamin E than enriched white rice. You can buy it precooked (instant); otherwise, it needs slightly more liquid and longer cooking time than that of regular white rice (follow package directions). Interestingly enough, a superior quality and higher-cost grain must be used for brown rice, which is simply white rice with the bran left on. Shelf life is limited with brown rice as the oil in the rice bran will go rancid after a time (best bet is to use quickly or store refrigerated). Culinary advantages to brown rice are an interesting chewy texture and nutlike flavor when cooked.
A rice cooker makes cooking grains a snap! Simply fill it with your chosen grain and the right amount of water. It will cook until the water is absorbed by the grain and there is no worry about burning. See the chart below!
Regular milled white rice is enriched with iron, niacin and thiamin during processing (to add back some of the nutrients that processing eliminates). Do not rinse this rice as you will rinse away the nutrients.
Read package labels on prepared rice mixes as these tend to be very high in sodium- most range around 700-1000 mg. of sodium as packaged. Omit oil, only add half of seasonings and add in fresh veggies for a more nutritious meal.
Source: USA Rice Council
Rice Cooking Chart
Here is the recipe for the beautiful red rice on our cover:
Serves: 6 | Serving Size: 1/2 cup
Total Time: 45 min | Prep: 5 min | Cook: 40 min
1 cup brown rice
2 to 2.5 cups water
1 beet, peeled and diced fine
2 tsp granulated garlic/parsley
Dash olive oil
Black pepper to taste
1/2 tsp red wine vinegar
Place the rice, water, diced beet, seasonings, and olive oil in a rice cooker. Cook until done, about 40 minutes. Use 2.5 cups of water.
Place the rice, water, diced beet, seasonings, and olive oil in covered pan over high heat. Bring to a boil then lower heat to low simmer setting and cover. Cook until done, about 40 minutes. Use 2.5 cups of water.
Electric pressure cooker:
Place the rice, water, diced beet, seasonings, and olive oil in a electric pressure cooker. Cook until done, about 35 minutes. Use 2 cups of water.
Fluff with a fork and stir in vinegar at the end. We used a small ramekin to mold it for the presentation.
Serves 6. Each 1/2 cup serving: 120 calories, 1g fat, 0g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 17mg sodium, 25g carbohydrate, 1g fiber, 1 g sugars, 3g protein.
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Judy’s passion for cooking began with helping her grandmother make raisin oatmeal for breakfast. From there she earned her first food service job at 15, was accepted to the world famous Culinary Institute of America at 18 (where she graduated second in her class), and went on to the Fachschule Richemont in Switzerland where she focused on pastry arts and baking. But after learning that the quality of a croissant directly varies with how much butter it has, Judy sought to challenge herself by coming up with recipes that were as healthy as they were tasty.
Judy received The Culinary Institute of America’s Pro Chef II certification, the American Culinary Federation Bronze Medal, Gold Medal, and ACF Chef of the Year. Her enthusiasm for eating nutritiously and deliciously leads her to constantly innovate and use the latest in nutritional science to guide her creativity, from putting new twists on fajitas to adapting Italian brownies to include ingredients like toasted nuts and cooked honey. Judy’s publishing company, Food and Health Communications, is dedicated to her vision that everyone can make food that tastes as good as it is for you.