Wednesday, April 14, 2010

'Tarting up' brown rice

A few days ago I wrote about brown rice as a great gluten-free staple food and credited it with helping me lose a little weight. One of my faithful readers, Kishia, immediately responded that she liked the idea BUT that brown rice can get boring sometimes. Kishia is a Facebook friend and one of my daughter Katie's best friends from childhood.

Then, my friend Irene quickly came to the rescue with a few ideas for "tarting up (her phrase)" brown rice dishes. "Herbs, hot sauce, or lemon pepper are just three ways to liven up brown rice," she advises.

I use a little unsalted butter and some soy sauce to season plain brown rice. These may be counter-productive for those on fat restricted or low salt diets. When I have leftover brown rice for breakfast, I add half a banana, chopped, a pat of butter and some honey before I microwave it.

I also think short grain brown rice has a more interesting texture than long grain brown rice.
I mentioned before that I am partial to the Lundberg brand. Then today while sorting through piles of clippings and unopened mail I found the following recipe for Short Grain Spanish Rice, clipped from my last bag of Lundberg.

Short Grain Spanish Rice

1 can (14.5 oz) undrained diced tomatoes
2-3 cups water or chicken broth
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 and 1/2 cups Lundberg Short Grain Brown Rice
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)

Drain tomatoes, reserving liquid. Add to the reserved liquid enough water or broth (or combination, thereof) to make 3 cups. Set aside.
Heat oil in 4-quart heavy saucepan with a tight-fitting lid.
Add bell pepper, onion and garlic; saute briefly. Add rice and cayenne; stir.
Add the 3 cups reserved liquid. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 30 minutes. Add tomatoes. Cover and continue cooking 20 minutes.
Remove from heat, let stand in covered pot for 10 minutes. Fluff with fork, salt to taste.
Yield: 5 cups, 6-7 servings.

I haven't tried this but it does sound yummy.

Now, after finding the above recipe, I decided to go online to find a recipe for rice pudding made with brown rice. I've always loved rice pudding which I learned to eat in the school cafeteria in Benton, Arkansas. Of course, that was long ago when school cafeterias first started getting federal funds and all the food was cooked in house and served from steam tables and there were no snack food or drink machines to be found.

Brown rice requires more water and more cooking time so regular recipes for rice pudding just don't work. I'd never thought to look online before, but I found several at the Lundberg website:

Old Fashioned Rice Pudding

1 1/2 cups cooked Lundberg® Short Grain Brown Rice
3 eggs
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup raisins or chopped dates (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups milk
finely chopped nuts (optional)

Beat eggs, add sugar, beat until smooth. Add milk, salt and extract. Add rice and raisins. Pour into greased shallow baking dish. Sprinkle with nutmeg. Set in pan of hot water and bake at 350 degrees for 90 minutes or until custard is set. After baking for approximately 30 minutes, gently stir custard to suspend rice. Serve warm or cold with milk or whipped cream. Serves six.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Bacon and eggs with cheese, no toast

This morning I went by my doctor's to have my blood pressure checked -- I actually had to make an appointment for this -- and my reading was 120/80. Hurray! For a while now my readings have bordered on being high: 135/89 or 140/85. My daughter told me the lower number represents your resting blood pressure and that nowadays doctors like to see that number in the 70s. But when I was young 120/80 was considered normal.

The LPN (licensed practical nurse) who took my blood pressure was young African American woman. Shorter than me (I'm 5'3"), very pretty and with a lovely sunny disposition she smiled and said, "You're doing something right!" I wanted to hug her.

My blood pressure is extra important now because I'm seeking to donate a kidney to my daughter who lost kidney function in January of 2008. A beautiful twenty-something she went to an Urgent Care clinic with what she thought was a bad cold or the flu. They took blood and urine samples and sent her home with a prescription for an antibiotic. Her tests revealed her kidneys were functioning at 10 percent and that she was severely anemic. (The kidneys secrete a hormone that stimulates red blood cell production in the bone marrow.) The clinic called her and told her to get to an emergency ward immediately.

Like many seemingly healthy young people my daughter is a victim of IgA nephropathy, an auto-immune disease that can result in permanent kidney damage. As soon as we heard the diagnosis -- permanent kidney damage -- I volunteered myself as a possible kidney donor. I remembered an aunt who donated a kidney to her daughter way back in the 1940's. They both lived long healthy lives afterwards.

I was ready to get on the operating table in January of 2008. But we soon learned things were not that simple. She's been on dialysis for two years now. In the first kidney transplant program she registered with her transplant coordinator resisted me as a possible donor from the beginning. Because of my age. I am 67. She would not even agree to test my blood until I proved myself exceptionally healthy. I made the mistake of telling her my blood pressure was sometimes borderline. That made things even worse.

Recently, Katie applied to Vanderbilt's Kidney Transplant Program here in Nashville. I accompanied her as a post-operative care-giver and possible donor. They took my blood the same day (right after they took hers) and I soon learned that I am a blood match for her. Hence, my double excitement about my good blood pressure reading.

But what have I been doing right, as my beautiful nurse said?

For one thing, I've lost seven pounds. For another, I've been on a gluten free diet for about two months now. Of course, this second thing has helped with the weight loss since it eliminates bread and anything else made with flour. It has also alleviated my irritable bowel syndrome, something that has plagued me ever since I can remember. I have not been diagnosed with celiac disease for which a gluten free diet is recommended (in fact, it is the only treatment for it).

In a roundabout way, the gluten-free diet has improved my eating habits overall. I eat more fruits and vegetables, partly to replace toast and sandwiches and partly because I seem to crave them more. I've also cut down on fats, red meat and have switched from regular to turkey bacon.

Finally, brown rice has become the gluten-free starch that holds my diet together. I cook it in a ricer two or three times a week. It's always on hand so I can eat it when nothing else is. I buy Lunden's Short Grain Rice in bulk at Cost-Co (NOT at Whole Foods! I boycott them because of their right-wing, anti-union Chief Operating Officer.)