Asking for Links/Thoughts/Advice on Rice

So I’ll be trying to eat rice in a few weeks, for the first time in a year and a half.

Everyone has a different opinion about rice. It’s one of those interesting grains that, even in the “traditional food preparation” groups, has multiple emphatic theories on the proper way to eat rice.

Now, life is short, and let’s face it: how we prepare rice isn’t really huge in the grand scheme of things. But I have “delicate” intestinal health, so I’m sort of hoping to ease back into rice as gently as possible. And I also have a history in Candida, so I’m trying not to maximize the starch I consume and the blood sugar I spike. I’ve noticed a distinct difference in my ability to digest grains in the past, using soaking techniques, so for me, it’s worth considering possibilities. 

Besides the “Eat whatever you want; we all die anyway. Caring about food is sinful.” mindset *ahem*, as I see it, there are the following main viewpoints on rice: 

(A) Brown rice is better for you. It’s a “whole grain” (unlike evil white rice, which is nutrition less).
(B) Well, actually, brown rice is evil for you, because the bran makes it hard to digest. But white rice is still evil, so eat basmati, because even though it’s white, it’s less evil than regular white.

(I parody.)

Under (A) there are subcategories as follows, as far as I know:
(1) Yes, eat brown rice, but don’t bother to soak it because it’s low in phytates anyway.
(2) Yes, eat brown rice, but do soak it because it’s difficult to digest.

And under (2) there is:
(a) Use typical soak in warm water for 12-24 hours. (Acid? I can’t remember.)
(b) Use an inoculant (like here: http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/2010/04/01/phytic-acid-in-rice-reduced-96-with-accelerated-fermentation/
(c) use germination (like here: http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/2010/03/31/germinated-brown-rice-has-the-u-n-finally-heard-nourishing-traditions-wisdom/

Whew! That’s sort of an exhausting set of possibilities!  My head is spinning. Well, not really. . . 

Anyway, up until this point I’ve always just done the quick and easy method of no preparation but also using brown rice, not white or basmati. White rice just makes me feel so over-starched (and my Candida-history does not need that, even if the starched feel is all mental *wink*), and I’ve only used basmati once or twice. I guess I’d have to be convinced it’s really worth the price difference. (Please try to convince me!) My husband and son do absolutely fine with brown rice as I currently make it, but Gretchen doesn’t always *ahem* completely digest it, *ahem* even though she loves the stuff and begs for it. And I really would like to gently reintroduce my own body to rice. 

So. . . that was a really long way of asking for advice. What is your rice philosophy? Don’t care? Brown all the way? Basmati? Do you prep brown rice a certain way? Throw me some links to prove that your way is “best”! I’m all ears!  

Open Menu for a Friend

I have a friend who just found out she has food sensitivities to wheat, casein, soy, egg white and yolk, and baker’s yeast. Ugh. Those foods show up in a lot of places! But when she e-mailed me I thought “A fun challenge! Come up with a week menu for her.” (Because I’m weird and find fun in odd things. Yes, I do need to get out more, yadda yadda.)

So here are some ideas for my friend, taking into account her new restrictions. I’ve included one snack option per day as well, because she’s a breastfeeding mama who needs her regular calorie intake, and as such, these are not necessarily low-calorie options! As a breastfeeding mom myself, I usually have more like two snacks per day, but she can always recycle ideas a second time, or finish up leftovers from a previous meal. There are a few specialty items listed which she may or may not be able to get at local stores, so she can always, for example, double up on breakfast suggestions for the week, if she can’t find buckwheat near her.

Day 1:
Breakfast gluten-free rolled oats, made into regular ole oatmeal. Optional soaking the night before.
Topping options: coconut or almond milk, honey, chopped nuts, grated coconut, 1 tablespoon coconut oil (quality fats with high-carb meals help stabilize blood sugar). 
Lunch canned salmon, raisins, and shredded carrots over a lettuce salad, drizzled with olive oil
Snack sliced apple with peanut butter
Dinner Marinated crockpot chicken, green beans, corn

Day 2:
Breakfast grain-free granola (made with coconut oil, not butter) with almond or coconut milk
Lunch southwest quinoa salad
Snack peanut butter “spoon candy” – mix approx. equal parts peanut butter, and coconut oil together in a very small dish, honey to sweeten, and add raisins or shredded coconut for texture. Eat with spoon.
Dinner easy white fish fillets (using coconut oil instead of butter), rice with coconut oil and a sprinkling of salt, steamed broccoli with olive oil salt and pepper

Day 3:
Breakfast fruit smoothie (made with coconut milk)
Lunch cooked and chopped chicken (or canned chicken – but most canned has soy) over a lettuce-based salad, with diced avocado and tomato and sunflower seeds, drizzled with olive oil and lime (or lemon) juice
Snack diced apple in bowl with walnuts and maple syrup (or honey) drizzled over all
Dinner taco skillet dinner! (Fry up a pound of ground beef, add a sliced onion and a few chopped green peppers saute until tender, then add some frozen corn and a can of tomato paste. Season all with taco seasoning.)

Day 4:
Breakfast grain-free Muesli (I mix equal parts nuts, shredded coconut, seeds – sunflower or sesame, raisins) with almond or coconut milk
Lunch creamy chicken soup (subbing coconut oil for butter and using homemade broth or a brand that doesn’t use soy, etc.) 
Snack
sliced banana in bowl, dotted with peanut butter, and honey drizzled over all
Dinner roasted chicken with baked potatoes and green peas

Day 5:
Breakfast sausage served over a baked potato
Lunch nut butter smoothie: blend 1 banana (preferably chopped and frozen) with 1 cup coconut milk and 1/4 cup peanut butter, honey to taste and some vanilla
Snack almonds and raisins (or prunes if you can get them) – one of my favorite and simplest snacks
Dinner bun-less hamburgers spread with ketchup (watch those ingredients! Try your own ketchup: mix together 1 cup tomato paste, 2 T honey, 1 T apple cider vinegar, 1/2 t salt, 1/2 t allspice, a pinch of ground cloves. Mix and thin with more vinegar to proper consistency), oven-fried fries drizzled with olive oil and salt, green leafy salad

Day 6:
Breakfast sliced banana heavily sprinkled with muesli
Lunch chicken chili 
Snack ants on a log! (celery sticks with peanut butter, dotted with raisins)
Dinner beef with tomato and zucchini, with rice served on the side

Day 7:
Breakfast buckwheat porridge (buy whole buckwheat and prepare as for oatmeal but cook longer, as here, though I haven’t tried this precise recipe). See topping suggestions for oatmeal, Day 1.
Lunch Italian black bean salad 
Snack carrot sticks dipped in guacamole (mash avocado with 1-2 minced garlic cloves, salt/pepper, 1-2 T olive oil, 1-2 T lime juice – diced tomato or cilantro optional)
Dinner chicken legs roasted in the oven with sticky chicken seasoning, with diced potato and cubed carrot roasted in the same pan

Tomato Labneh Salad

When life gives you soured yogurt. . . make labneh!

When our power was out for a day due to Hurricane Irene, I opted to put more perishable food items in a cooler with ice packs, but left my raw milk yogurt in the fridge (realizing it would come to room temperature). This is because yogurt has a “keeping” quality that allows it to be at room temp for limited time (a day or two) without spoilage, even if the yogurt is made from pasteurized milk. Mine was made from raw milk, though, and while it certainly didn’t *spoil*, it did sour, much like regular raw milk sours at room temperature (or “clabbers”) due to the enzymes and lactobacilli, I believe. Perfectly and safely edible, just puckery. No amount of honey mixed in would help matters.

So I made labneh with it, or “yogurt cheese.” Basically you drain out the whey via this method, and you have left a cream cheese type of consistency that can be spread on fruit or veggies or crackers.  Whey is sour-tasting, and I figured that whey in a soured product would be even more sour, so I drained it out to make the yogurt less potent. It was still a sour product, but much more edible, especially as a topping instead of by the bowl-full.

A few days ago for lunch I threw together this salad with ingredients I had on hand, and it was delicious! The flavors meshed well together. I think a drizzle of toasted sesame oil would also work really well, or sunflower seeds would be a nice addition for “crunch.”

Tomato Labneh Salad

1 large tomato
sea salt
labneh (yogurt cheese)
a handful of raisins
olive oil
raw honey

Directions: Roughly chop tomato and place in bowl. Lightly salt tomato pieces; then add chunks  of labneh. Throw on a handful of raisins, then drizzle with olive oil and raw honey. Eat.

And just some shameless progeny-promotion –  my lunchmate:

Grain-free Clafoutis

Oh yum. Last year I discovered clafoutis via my friend Jessica. In typical Jessica-fashion, her recipe to me ran something along the lines of “a dash of this, a handful of this,” so I tried to translate that as best I could into general measurements (I rarely measure when I cook, but I almost always measure when I bake!) for a recipe, which became a hit with our family last year.

Then I went off grains in January and my recipe sat collecting proverbial dust while I pined away for clafoutis. Thankfully I realized a few weeks ago that DUH I could try making a grain-free version, so I bought some frozen blueberries (my favorite fruit for clafoutis) that then sat in my freezer until today. We’re bracing for Irene here in Hartford, and I’m looking at all the food in my fridge and freezer and trying to frantically use up as much as I can. Not only do the blueberries need using, but I also had 7 dozen eggs as of yesterday (more like 3 dozen now – some eaten, some baked into breads and frozen) and 2 gallons of kefir that I’ve been trying to eat or bake into things. Voila! Perfect time for clafoutis! Here is the recipe I created, which we all enjoyed. I plan to make another one tomorrow, as the first is almost gone, and the second one I’ll refrigerate and we can always pull it out to eat if the power goes.

Grain-free Clafoutis

1/2 stick butter (to melt in pan)
3/4 cup almond flour
6 eggs
1 1/2 cups kefir (or milk or cream or yogurt or probably even coconut milk)
1/2 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
dash of vanilla
1 1/2 cups (approximately) of frozen blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees with a 10″ cast iron skillet in the oven while it heats.

Meanwhile  place almond flour in bowl and break up clumps (almond flour tends to clump). Whisk in eggs to flour, followed by kefir. Then add honey, salt, and vanilla and incorporate. Remove cast iron skillet from oven and melt 1/2 stick butter in skillet, swirling around to coat bottom. Add frozen blueberries and spread to a single layer. Pour batter over berries and bake for approximately 1 hour, until set in middle.

Deep-dish sourdough pizza success

Help Me Come Up With Names!

Nope. Not pregnant. (As far as I know.)

Nope. Not adopting. (At this point in time).

But I need help with names for new members of the family. Well, two of them have been around for a few months. One is a newbie this past week. See, besides feeding myself, husband, and two children, I have 3 other “pets” that I have to regularly feed and  care for in order to keep them alive and well. And I’ve been thinking that I really should give them names, since they’re such a part of our family. *warm fuzzies*

I’m talking about my kefir grains, my kombucha SCOBY, and my sourdough starter. (I refresh my yogurt with a new starter way too often- every 8 weeks or so – for my yogurt bacteria to count as a semi-permanent family member.) All three have their own specifications for care and feeding, and let’s face it: it would be tons more fun to say “I need to feed Fido” than “I need to feed my sourdough starter,” right? So I’ve decided that a-naming we shall go.

But I need help! I have lots of ideas swirling, but need opinions (which I reserve the right to ignore) and original ideas (which I reserve the right to use or discard at will). But first, meet my “pets”:

Here are my kefir grains, aka “Pet #1.” Technically plural, but we could refer to all of them singularly, as in “Fido.” Or we could go with a plural theme, something like “Hive Mind.” Actually, my current favorite option is calling them “IT.” Fans of Madeleine L’Engle should catch the reference. When not coated in cream, the kefir grains look kind of like translucent cauliflower which has slight resemblance to a brain. *grin*

Other facts about this pet: Pet #1 is number three in my succession of kefir grain colonies; I killed the other two, when I went off of dairy 2 years ago and 6 months ago, respectively. This batch comes from a friend in New England, but all kefir grains supposedly originated from the region of Russia or Georgia (the country, not the U.S. state). Pet #1 thrives in dairy products best, at room temperature. He/she/IT is also VERY easy-going when it comes to feeding. No fuss about heating or cooling, just plop him in a new milk bath and he’s good to go.

So what should I name him?

And now moving on. . .

Pet #2 (my kombucha SCOBY) is a pesky fella right now, not letting me turn him right-side up for some reason :-/. He also is kind of a loner, only liking to be cared for every 2 weeks or so. Maybe “Hermit” is a good name. He kind of looks like pond scum, but “pond scum” just doesn’t have that *feel good* name quality I’m searching to find. He originated from a rather boring source. . . a G.T. kombucha bottle from Whole Foods. But his origin further back is Russian. Maybe “Ivan the Terrible” or something shorter like “Boris” or “Dmitri” or “Ekaterina.” Thoughts? Suggestions? Petty comments on his disgusting looks?

And finally. . .

Pet #3 is my recent acquisition :-). He’s a sourdough starter. Most recently from my local CT friend, but my friend got Pet #3 from an internet site called “Carl’s Friends” in memory of some guy named (you guessed it) Carl who advocated the perpetuation of this sourdough starter. Originally, the starter supposedly came from the Oregon Trail, 1847, to be exact. So maybe something related to that could inspire a name. . .

Or we could go with names that don’t really describe the “pets” individually, but sound fun together. Like “Abel, Baker, and Charlie” (Andy Griffith fans, unite!), or a more well-known triumvirate like. . . yes, and that’s where my mind draws a blank. (Persons of the trinity would be downright irreverent and three stooges are NOT an option.)

So help! Come up with clever names for me! I can’t promise a reward, unless you want me to mail you (or locally deliver) parts of my pets, if you’re interested in kefir, kombucha, or sourdough, and need starter culture for any of them. If you come up with a winning trio of names I will happily provide pieces of my pets as prizes ;-).

And yes, I’m devoting way too much thought to all of this. So I’m off to feed Pet #3 and #2 for now. . . #1 is just fine and doesn’t currently need tending ;-).

Herbed Nuts (with a little kick)

My friend Anna posted this recipe to Facebook a while back and I saved it in the hopes I’d eventually try making it. Today I finally got around to it, as I was trying to find an idea to round out a birthday gift. They were delicious. Adrian thought they were fantastic. The original recipe called for pecans and walnuts, but I substituted almonds for pecans (since I had the former and not the latter) and they went well.

Herbed Nuts

Yield: 4 cups

4 cups nuts (I used 2 cups almonds, 2 cups walnuts)
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon powdered sage
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients and spread on a large ungreased cookie sheet with sides. Bake for ~20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Cool and store in airtight container.

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