Category Archives: WHOLE GRAIN RECIPES

SPINACH AND MUSHROOM WILD RICE PILAF

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Recently I have become totally obsessed with finding healthy side dish recipes. So I can’t begin to tell you how delighted I am to share this recipe with you today. And who better to share my obsession with, than a captive audience sitting in front of a computer screen? (I figure you wouldn’t be visiting my site unless you too weren’t hungry (so to speak) for new and exciting ways to prepare healthy and delicious dishes.)

So, a couple of days ago I was at our local Bartells. (For those of you who live outside the Seattle area, Bartells is a local drug store chain.) And whenever I go to Bartells for legitimate drug store items, such as makeup, I always peruse the middle isle for packaged foods that are featured at a discounted price.

This last visit I found great prices on flavored almonds and Lundberg rice products. So I bought two packages of their wild rice blend.

When I got home I immediately went on line and visited the Lundberg site for recipe ideas. And this recipe literally jumped off the screen and onto a word document before I even knew what hit me. It is gluten free (if you use GF tamari), vegetarian, and full of nutritious ingredients. What can be better than that? Well the fact that it’s absolutely delicious sure doesn’t hurt either!

So however you want to approach this recipe, as a delicious side dish or as a healthy side dish, you’re 100% covered.

So hurry up and read the recipe and get thee to the grocery store if you need ingredients, or straight to the kitchen if you don’t, and build your family a side dish that comes with its own PhD. (P-painless to prepare, h-healthy, D-delicious) And thank you Lundberg for both the lovely wild rice blend and the recipe. (Sorry for the slight modification.)

  • ¾ c. dried mushrooms* (shiitake, chanterelle, porcini) cut or broken into small pieces
  • 1 c. very hot water
  • 1 c. combination wild and whole grain brown rice (or Lundberg Wild Blend)
  • 1¾ c. vegetable broth (I use Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base)
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 med. onion, finely chopped
  • 2 c. fresh button mushrooms, halved and thinly sliced (about 8 medium mushrooms)
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 oz. spinach, stems removed and rough chopped
  • 1 T. gluten-free tamari soy sauce
  • 1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ c. sliced green onions or chives, garnish

*if you don’t have dried mushrooms, use another 2 cups of fresh button mushrooms

Place dried mushrooms in a bowl. Add the hot water and set aside. Meanwhile, in a medium sauce pan, bring the broth and rice to a boil. Cover with a tight fitting lid, reduce heat to a low simmer, and cook for 45 minutes. Remove from heat (with lid on) and let steam for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and sauté the onion until translucent. Add the fresh mushrooms and cook until softened; stir in garlic and cook 1 minute more. Drain the re-hydrated mushrooms and add to the pan along with the spinach; cook until spinach just starting to wilt. Stir in the tamari, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper.

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Gently fold mushroom-spinach mixture into cooked rice and garnish with green onions or chives.

SPLIT EMMER FARRO AND WILD RICE PILAF

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI found this recipe on the Bluebird Grains Potlatch Pilaf package. (Say that three times in a row for your daily tongue twister teaser!) Anyway, like I started to say, I found and prepared this dish (made a few minor changes here and there), loved it, and I am very excited to share the recipe with you.

Now I know that some of you are not in the habit of buying packages of grain and grass seed* except for the ones found in the bird-food section of your grocery store. But I’m going to ask you to put on your big kid pants, conquer your fear of growing feathers and wanting to fly south for the winter, and give this organic, healthy, protein rich, and GMO-free product a try. Plus, for all you locavores**, the farro is grown in the upper Methow Valley of Eastern Washington. (That’s local enough for this locavore!) The organic wild rice unfortunately is not grown locally. But I’m sure that doesn’t surprise you one little bit since Washington isn’t known for its wild rice production. (We leave that distinction to Minnesota, the land of 15,000 lakes.)

So, regardless of where the grains were raised, and despite the fact that we don’t really know whether the grains were lovingly tended and exposed to classical music as they were growing up***, all of us could profit from a few more healthy grains like farro and wild rice in our diet. So, fly to your local grocery store (and I mean “fly” figuratively rather than literally), and bring home a grain or two with which you are completely unacquainted. Then give it or them a try. You are going to find that the likes of quinoa, red rice, farro, and wild rice are just delicious. And I can’t overemphasize their nutritional value. Oh I could, but I think I have already nagged said enough on that subject!

For more recipes that feature farro, type “farro” in the search field at the top of the “home” screen.

*wild rice is a highly nutritious annual water-grass seed “zizania aquatica” naturally abundant in the cold rivers and lakes of Minnesota and Canada

**the practice of eating food that is locally grown

***my not too subtle dig directed at the kind of people who carry their need for information on food ingredients and growing conditions to the ridiculous

  • 2 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • 10 button mushrooms, halved and then thinly sliced
  • ¼ c. chopped shallot or onion
  • 1 lg. garlic clove, minced
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. Herbs de Provence (preferably without lavender)
  • 1 c. Bluebird Grains Farm’s Potlatch Pilaf (or ¾ cup farro and ¼ c. wild rice)
  • ¼ c. dry sherry or dry white wine
  • 2 c. vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1/3 c. toasted slivered almonds

In a medium sized covered saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add mushrooms, stirring occasionally until the mushrooms start to brown. Add the chopped shallot and cook for about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute or until the garlic releases its aroma. Stir in salt, pepper, Herbs de Provence, and the Potlatch Pilaf mix. Stir frequently for about 3 minutes. Add the sherry and cook for about a minute, or until the sherry is evaporated. Pour in the broth, bring to a vigorous simmer, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 40 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for about 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and stir in the toasted almonds just before serving.

 

 

KALE AND WILD RICE SALAD

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This is my adaptation of PCCs Emerald City Salad. PCCs recipe calls for half a bunch of kale and half a bunch of chard, half a red pepper and half a yellow pepper, and half a fennel bulb. I don’t like “half a somethings”. As much as possible I like to use the entire pepper, or bunch of green onions or whatever. And that’s because I unfortunately have this unforgivable tendency to forget about “half a somethings” and let them turn to “ish” in my veggie drawer. And I know. You would expect a savvy person like me to have my culinary life better organized. Forget that! I’m as capable as the next person when it comes to forgetting what lies at the bottom of my refrigerator. In fact, I may actually be better at it than any of you. (I know, not something to be proud of.) But enough about my shortcomings and more about this amazing salad.

Mr. C and I first enjoyed this salad at our friend Rachael’s home. She had purchased the salad from her local PCC. Now being the food snob that I am, I assumed that any purchased salad could never taste as good as one prepared at home. What I was forgetting was that the salad came from PCC. PCC knows how to do food right. Of course you pay through the nose for their deli items, but the few I have tasted have been first cabin. And I know they are made with fresh organic ingredients and contain no unhealthy additives.

So before you prepare this salad, should you have any misgivings, go to your nearest PCC, after first hitting your local cash machine of course, and give this salad a try. Then having learned that the salad is absolutely delicious, give my version a try. I promise you won’t miss the chard, or the flavor of both a red and a yellow pepper, or the additional thin slices of fennel. Just don’t not make this salad. It is ever so healthy for you without making you feel like you have had to sacrifice flavor for the pleasurable feeling of virtuosity. I say that’s a win/win situation.

  • 1 c. uncooked wild rice
  • 3 c. salted water
  • ½ c. extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ c. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 bunch kale, stems removed, cut into bite sized pieces and massaged (see massage instructions below)
  • 1 red or yellow bell pepper, diced (or half a red & half a yellow pepper)
  • 1 carrot, cut into match stick sized pieces
  • 1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • ½ c. chopped Italian parsley

Bring water to a boil; add rice. Stir. Bring rice back to a boil, cover and reduce heat to simmer. Cook until the water is absorbed, 60 to 65 minutes; remove from heat and let cool. (Or do like I do –use your rice cooker!) While the rice cooks, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper. When the rice is cool, toss it with the dressing. Just before serving, toss the massaged kale, red pepper, carrot, fennel, green onions, and parsley in with the dressed rice. Add salt if needed.

Salad can be made up to 4 days in advance.

Massaged Kale:

Using your fingers, rub the kale until it turns a darker green and when tasted, has lost all its bitterness.

 

 

 

 

EINKA FARRO WITH KALE AND SLIVERED ALMONDS

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I just get so excited when I follow, or as in this case adapt a recipe for a healthy dish and it turns out to be amazingly delicious. And this modified version of Stuart Dietz’s recipe for Einka farro is no exception.

Last evening Mr. C again brought me a package of meat from the freezer that desperately needed to be eaten. His latest effort to clean out the freezer resulted in a package of chicken sausages with spinach and feta cheese. So wondering what would go well with the sausages, I glanced in the pantry for inspiration. After a cursory review of what was available, my eyes lit on my new unopened package of Einka farro. I glanced at the package for recipes, but none were exactly what I was envisioning. So I went on line and found Mr. Dietz’s recipe for Einka Salad with Tuscan Kale & Butternut Squash.

This recipe immediately appealed because I had leftover butternut squash purée in the refrigerator and some kale that was almost as old as I am! I thought I would use the puréed squash as a bed for the farro. However, after tasting the farro, I decided the squash would be better on the side. The farro was delightful in its own right. All I thought it needed was a little crunch. So I quickly toasted some slivered almonds and added them along with the fresh parsley just before serving. The result was a wonderful and healthy new whole grain side dish.

I love it when the stars are in alignment and dishes work out as planned. Just don’t ask me about the other recipe I tried yesterday. It sounded good at the time, but the reality was less than stellar. I love maple flavored sausage links, but they are expensive and contain ingredients (corn syrup and MSG) that I am trying very hard to eliminate from our diet. So I thought I would try my hand at making a maple flavored breakfast sausage. Does the term “stinko” mean anything to you? But I’m not going to let one little defeat get the best of me. Don’t hold your breath, but I am going to continue working on this recipe, because I know I am not alone in my love of maple syrup sausage links. Wish me luck!

In the mean time, put maple flavored pork out of your mind and think healthy. Give this recipe a try!

  • 1 c. whole grain Einka farro* (I use Bluebird Grain Farms brand Organic Whole Grain Einka Farro)
  • 2½ c. water
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 c. ¼-inch sliced kale
  • 1 T. sherry vinegar
  • 2 T. extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ c. minced shallot
  • 1½ tsp. finely chopped fresh sage
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3 T. dry white wine
  • 1/3 c. toasted slivered almonds
  • 2 T. chopped Italian parsley

In a medium sized covered saucepan, add the farro, water, and ¼ teaspoon salt; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer over moderate heat until farro is tender, about 25 minutes. When done, add the kale, cover and remove from heat; let stand until the kale is wilted, about 5 minutes. Drain well and pour back into the pan. Add the vinegar and 1 tablespoon of the oil; season with salt and pepper and toss. Cover and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the shallots and a pinch of salt and cook over moderately high heat until shallot is translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the sage and cook for 1 minute. Add the garlic and cook another minute, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the wine and simmer, stirring, until evaporated. Scrape the shallot and garlic into the pan with the farro and stir to combine. Adjust seasoning. When ready to serve, stir in the toasted almonds and parsley.

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Serve warm or at room temperature.

*You can substitute Emmer Farro for Einka Farro. Use the following cooking instructions if you make the substitution:

Place the water, emmer farro, and a pinch of kosher salt in a covered pan. Place on high heat and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 35 minutes or until berries are plump and chewy. When the farro is done, add the kale, cover and remove from heat; let stand until the kale is wilted, about 5 minutes. Drain well and pour back into the pan. Continue recipe as written above.

EMMER FARRO WITH BACON, KALE, MUSHROOMS, AND PARMESAN CHEESE

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Instead of writing a witty and charming introduction to this delicious and healthy side dish, I decided to put my teacher hat on and help educate you on the seductive, magnificent and healthy charms of the lowly button mushroom. Now I know we all love the exotic mushrooms for their flavor and versatility, but the common everyday white mushroom found in every produce market in America is actually the nutritional star of the entire mushroom show. Who knew?

So please join me in celebrating what is now commonly referred to as the new superfood. I hope you find the information about button mushrooms as fascinating and informative as I did.

  • 5 c. water
  • 1 c. emmer farro (I use Bluebird Grain Farms)
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • 2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 thick and meaty slices bacon, cut into small pieces
  • ½ medium yellow onion, diced
  • 8 oz. thinly sliced button mushrooms* (about 12 good sized mushrooms)
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 c. chopped kale
  • 2 oz. finely grated Parmesan (about 1 cup loosely packed)
  • ½ c. toasted coarsely chopped walnuts

Place the water, emmer farro, and a pinch of kosher salt in a covered pan. Place on high heat and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 35 minutes or until berries are plump and chewy. When the farro is done, drain off excess liquid and set aside.

Meanwhile, add the olive oil to a large sauté pan and fry the bacon until crisp. When the bacon is done, remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Do not discard the bacon grease. Add the onion and mushrooms to the pan and sauté until the onion is transparent and the mushrooms are lightly browned, about 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic, black pepper, and kale that has been massaged for about 3 minutes with just a light sprinkle of kosher salt. (For more information about massaged kale, see my blog entitled Lettuce Talk Salad (Vinaigrettes too). Stir fry for about 1 minute. Add the cooked farro and heat until warmed through. Remove pan from heat and add the cheese, reserved cooked bacon, and the toasted walnuts. Adjust seasoning and serve anywhere from hot out of the pan to room temperature.

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*Button Mushrooms

The following paraphrased information about button mushrooms, now commonly referred to as “superfood” was compiled by leading nutritionist Jane Clarke.

“We’ve always known that mushrooms are tasty, versatile and satisfying, but they have been somewhat in the shadow of more colorful and exotic fruits and veggies. This new report now allows mushrooms to take center stage as a superfood.

Research has shown that cultivated mushrooms contain biologically active compounds, which scientific studies suggest may have the potential to help fight cancer and heart disease and improve well being, although more research is needed in this area.

The report summarizes results from major scientific studies from around the world into the nutritional value and potential health benefits of Agaricus bisporus mushrooms. This species accounts for 95 per cent of mushroom sales and includes white button mushrooms and brown mushrooms (crimini and portabello). Studies at the Beckman Research Institute of the City of Hope in Duarte, California, suggest that fresh white mushrooms contain substances that are effective in reducing the activity of the enzyme aromatase that increases oestrogen levels. High oestrogen levels have been implicated in breast cancer risk. Initially, extracts from seven vegetables – onion, celery, carrot, pepper, broccoli, spinach and mushroom were tested. The most effective aromatase inhibitor was found in white mushrooms. The study’s second phase tested only portabellos, shiitake, crimini, oyster, enoki, woodear, chanterelle, small white and large white mushrooms. The large white mushrooms emerged as the most potent inhibitor of aromatase activity.

A series of experiments has been carried out to investigate the effects of white button mushrooms in relation to prostate cancer and suggested that they may play a chemo-preventive role. Research at the City of Hope Medical Center showed that two phytochemicals found in white button mushrooms had the ability to suppress two enzymes – steroid 5alpha-reductase and aromatase – which have been implicated in the incidence of prostate cancer.

Mushrooms are a prime natural source of the powerful antioxidant L-Ergothioneine, outdoing either of the two foods previously believed to be better sources. Led by Professor Robert Beelman, researchers at Pennsylvania State University found that just a handful of white button mushrooms have about 12 times more of the antioxidant than wheat germ and four times more than chicken liver. Brown mushrooms contained even more and exotics had the highest levels. L-Ergothioneine scavenges free radicals and protects the body’s DNA from damage. As a result of this research, the university advocated that white mushrooms be elevated to ‘superfood’ status.

Studies have also suggested that substances found in white mushrooms have the ability to lower blood cholesterol levels and so may be able to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. They are a valuable source of lovastatin, which has been found to suppress the activity of the main cholesterol synthesis enzyme. Mushrooms are a good source of fibre, in particular glucans giving them the potential to impact cholesterol uptake from the diet.

White mushrooms are a significant source of selenium, providing 15% RNI for women per 100g. This trace mineral has received increasing attention as a potential cancer preventive, possibly through antioxidant protection and/or increased immune function.

White mushrooms are also a fantastic source of riboflavin, B2, (providing 28.2% RNI for women per 100g), potassium (9% RNI) and copper (60% RNI) and contain comparable amounts of protein (4% RNI for women), thiamin, B1, (11.2% RNI for women), niacin (24.6% RNI for women) and folate (22% RNI).”

And while I was researching foods known to help with inflammation, I read that eating mushrooms is a healthy choice because of their ability to provide us with unique immune system support. And the common button mushroom leads the pack in terms of immune system benefits and the reduction of inflammation.

Finally, according to the super foods rx web site – “Avoid eating mushrooms raw, even if they are on the salad bar that way. Since mushrooms have thick cell walls that break down with cooking, cooking unlocks more nutrients and safely degrades any trace amount of a potentially carcinogenic compound called agaritine. Finally, mushrooms are often grown on manure. While the manure is sterilized, it is always better to cook mushrooms.”

 

EMMER FARRO CAPRESE SALAD

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As I wrote in my preface for my blog on Split Emmer Farro and Wild Rice with Mushrooms and Pecans, “Emmer (farro) has been cultivated in the Fertile Crescent (the region in the Middle East which curves like a quarter-moon shape, from the Persian Gulf, through modern-day southern Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, and northern Egypt) and in Italy for over 10,000 years. Farro, which is just the Italian name for emmer wheat, has a delicate roasted nutty flavor and a distinctive chewy texture. It has a higher fiber and protein content than common wheat, is rich in magnesium, niacin, zinc, and B vitamins, and holds the distinct honor of containing the lowest glycemic index of all cereal grains.”

And in addition to all the nutritional attributes mentioned above, this ancient grain just happens to be extremely delicious. I mean really, is there anything else you could ask of a simple grain? Both good for you and extremely palatable. I think not!

And this recipe, straight off the emmer farro package (with a little re-working of the preparation instructions on my part) is just a wonderful example of how tasty and versatile this grain can be. It just takes a little re-thinking of your use of grains to make room for this ingredient in your diet.

I know there for awhile, most of us were hesitant to include grains in our diet because they were in the dreaded “carbohydrate” category. But as we have all read, there are carbohydrates that are better for us than others. And emmer farro is one of them.

According to Jane Lear from the takepart website, “As far as complex carbohydrates go, farro is rich in the cyanogenic glucosides that stimulate the immune system, regulate blood sugar levels, and lower cholesterol. Although it isn’t a complete source of protein, like quinoa*, farro contains more than, say, brown rice, and it also contains lignans that give it antioxidant properties. In general, whole grains take longer to digest, so they keep you feeling full longer and provide sustained energy. They’re also thought to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers.” And as for me, even though I am not a rocket scientist or a learned nutritionist, I somehow know instinctively that farro is much better for me than the refined and processed carbohydrates found in high fructose corn syrup or white bread!

So do yourself and your family a favor. Buy some emmer farro, prepare this recipe, and stand back and wait for the compliments. This salad is like the essence of summer in a bowl.

*for a wonderful taste treat featuring quinoa, try my Lemony Quinoa with Fresh Herbs

  • 5 c. water
  • 1 c. emmer farro (I use Bluebird Grain Farms*)
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • 2 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 T. balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ c. finely chopped shallot or onion
  • ½ tsp. sea salt
  • a touch of freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped (I like to use heirloom tomatoes in 2 different colors)
  • ¼ c. loosely packed chopped fresh basil (not too much or the basil flavor will overwhelm the other ingredients)
  • 4-oz. finely diced mozzarella cheese, either fresh or regular

Place the water, emmer farro, and a pinch of kosher salt in a covered pan. Place on high heat and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 45-50 minutes or until berries are plump and chewy. Meanwhile, combine the olive oil, vinegar, shallot, sea salt, and pepper in a medium sized bowl. Set aside. Combine the tomatoes, basil, and cheese and set aside. When the farro is done, drain off excess liquid and pour into bowl with olive oil dressing. Stir to combine and let sit for about 30 minutes. Add the tomatoes, basil, and cheese; stir and adjust seasoning. Serve warm or at room temperature.

This salad is best prepared just before serving. Leftovers are still tasty the next day, but the tomatoes break down and the general mouth feel is not as appealing.

*For information about retail locations in your area, visit www.bluebirdgrainfarms.com

 

 

CHICKEN AND WILD RICE SALAD

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I recently served this salad as part of a cold soup and three salad luncheon for a JazzVox audience. It was the hit of the meal. Well, this salad and the Mixed Berry Trifle. (Recipe for the trifle to follow within the next few days.)

Everyone loved the nutty flavor of the wild rice, but the best part for me was the fact that I knew I was serving my guests a very healthy salad without their knowledge. (It’s fun once in a while to slip one over on my friends.) But in all honesty, who would find fault with me for such a deception when the “deception” tasted so good and was so good for them?  According to the care2 website, wild rice has several very impressive health benefits:

  • Wild rice is gluten free
  • It does not contain sodium
  • It contains twice as much protein as brown rice
  • Wild rice is actually a grass and the grains are not polished or refined and can be eaten by diabetics in moderation
  • It is very rich in antioxidants – containing 30 times more than white rice
  • Because of its high fiber content, wild rice keeps your digestion smooth and helps lower cholesterol
  • Wild rice is a good source of essential minerals such as phosphorus, zinc and folate, which give you energy and nurture your bones
  • It contains vitamins A, C and E which are essential for overall health and immunity
  • A serving of wild rice is lower in calories than other rice varieties

And as you can read from the ingredients list, wild rice isn’t the only healthy ingredient in this salad. Pecans contain unsaturated fats that contribute to heart health. Avocados also contain healthy fats and loads of nutrients. Throw in some white meat chicken, 3 types of veggies, and some garlic for good measure, and even though the salad contains a small amount of vegetable oil and a kiss of sugar, the health-o-meter remains at the top of the green zone when you consider the recipe as a whole.

So I guess all things considered, a salad that tastes wonderful and contains healthy ingredients is by definition a winner. And this winning recipe comes to me from my dear friend Sandy. The recipe actually appeared in my second cookbook, but after all the praise it received at our last concert, I just had to share it with my internet readers too.

So do not hesitate to prepare this salad in the near future. It is the perfect dish to serve on a warm summer evening along with a rustic loaf and a nice crisp Sauvignon Blanc or Viognier. And Sandy, as always – you are the greatest. Thanks again for this lovely recipe.

  • 2¼ c. chicken broth
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt, divided
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 c. wild rice, rinsed in cold water
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • ¼ tsp. sugar
  • 1 T. Dijon mustard
  • ¼ c. rice vinegar
  • 1/3 c. vegetable oil
  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, cooked and cut into bite sized pieces
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced (both white and green parts)
  • ½ red bell pepper, diced
  • 12 sugar peas, cut in 3rds
  • 2 ripe avocados, diced
  • 1 c. toasted pecans
  • juice of 1 lemon, divided

Bring chicken broth, ½ tsp. salt, and a couple grinds of pepper to a boil. Add the rice, stir, and return broth to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cover. Cook for about 30-40 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender. Remove from heat, uncover, fluff with fork, and toss with half of the lemon juice. Set aside to cool. (If you have extra liquid, drain the rice before adding the lemon juice.)

Meanwhile whisk the garlic, sugar, remaining ½ teaspoon salt, pepper, mustard, vinegar, and oil together; set aside. This is the dressing for the salad.

When the rice is cool, gently add the cubed chicken, green onions, red pepper, and snap peas. Stir in the dressing, adjust seasoning (it may need more salt), cover, and refrigerate for at least two hours to blend flavors. Just before serving, gently stir in the avocado, pecans, and remaining lemon juice.

 

PORK CHOP AND BROWN RICE BAKE

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OK, either I’m getting lazy, old (nah) or there are just too many exciting things to do in the summer for me to spend long hours in the kitchen. (I know you can’t believe I am actually writing this down for the entire culinary world to read. But none-the-less, it’s true! Patti Carr, the person who loves to cook more than attending hot yoga kick-boxing classes, avoids long hours in the kitchen at this time of year as if the area was plague infested. And if truth be known, I don’t even appreciate going to the grocery store when it’s beautiful outside.)

But, as crazy as it sounds, it’s usually summer when I come up with some of my best recipe ideas. My inventive juices really start to flow, when, like yesterday morning, I knew I was going to be busy all day long. (I wanted to watch at least 2 of the World Cup games, grout a mosaic piece, and post my recipe for Hunk of Beef Chili on this blog.)

So, not having the time or inclination to drive to the grocery store, I paid a visit to my local freezer to see what delectable ingredient presented itself to me. What I found were 2 thick pork chops. I immediately placed the chops on defrost mode.

So while I was grouting my new vase, I thought about how I could prepare these 2 little beauties. I knew I had about 20 minutes to do my prep work, and that whatever concoction I came up with had to include about 2 hours in the oven while I watched the US/Ghana game that started at 3:00pm. (We won BTW!) I also knew that Mr. C. had to be out of the house by 6:00pm for an evening rehearsal. So that left me almost no time after the match to do any real cooking. (Does this time pressure thing I’m describing sound all too familiar? If so, this is the recipe for you!)

So I came up with this simple and pretty darn tasty recipe. Like many of the dishes I dream up, this one includes fairly simple ingredients. And yes, there is the little step of baking the chops for 2 hours and 15 minutes.  So for many of you this recipe is probably not going to help you out on a weeknight. But come Saturday or Sunday, between doing loads of laundry, changing all the bed linen, cleaning the bathrooms, etc. etc., find a few minutes to whip up this dish and tuck it safely in the oven while you continue slaving away. Then when all your work is done (like housework is ever really done!), whip up a simple salad, pull the chops and rice out of the oven, slice up a crunchy baguette, open a bottle of nice wine, and look like the local hero to your family and friends. And, if by some unforeseen chance your family and friends start calling you “Martha”, take it as a compliment. Of course, if your name actually is Martha, then that’s a whole different matter. I have no advice if that’s the case. Enjoy!

  • 1 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 thick bone-in pork chops
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 can mushroom soup
  • ¾ c. water
  • ½ c. low fat sour cream
  • ½ c. chopped onion
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/3 c. Madeira
  • ¼ tsp. dried thyme
  • slightly rounded ½ c. uncooked brown rice
  • paprika

Heat the oil in a medium sized covered fry pan. Pat the pork chops dry with paper towels and sprinkle lightly with salt and heavily with pepper. Fry the chops until golden brown on both sides. Meanwhile, combine the soup, water, sour cream, onion, Worcestershire, Madeira, thyme, and brown rice. When the chops are brown, pour the rice mixture over the chops. Cover the pan and bake in a pre-heated 275 degree oven for 2 hours. Remove the lid, sprinkle with paprika, and return uncovered to the oven for 15 more minutes. Remove from oven and cool for about 4 minutes before serving.

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Note: this recipe can easily be doubled, tripled ad nauseam……………..

BROWN RICE PILAF

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There is nothing I like better than starch. I have no idea why God made me this way, but she sure as heck did! And for that very reason this is the kind of dish that I simply can not resist! But I should at least try, especially when we dine out at one of our favorite restaurants! After all, I’m not getting any younger. Any lingering dreams of ever weighing 128 lbs. again like I did in college have gone the way of the dodo bird. (With just about as much grace as one of those extinct flightless birds, I might add!) But seriously, I almost always look at a menu with an eye to what kind of starch is being served with each entrée. And routinely, even if the entrée features one of my favorites, like duck, if the starchy side dish is not to my liking, I will pass on that duck dish as fast as Superman can save Lois Lane from the arms of the Mad Hatter.  (I don’t get out much, so please excuse if I don’t have all the names of Superman’s arch enemies down pat!)

But that’s restaurant dining where I tend to indulge myself.   When I want the same kind of starchy side dish at home, I tend to be much more realistic about the ingredients I use and the preparation method. I use much less fat, much less salt, and try to incorporate other ingredients to ramp up the nutritional content. But I refuse to skimp on the flavor. I want my starchy side dishes to have as much flavor as any dish I can order in a restaurant.

So in truth, this pilaf is pretty healthy for being a part of the class of dishes thought by some to be detrimental to good health. (You know, the wicked starch prejudice thing.) But in truth, brown rice is a fairly nutritious ingredient. And there is very little fat in this dish, and even then it’s good fat, along with some vegetable action in the form of onion, garlic, and vegetable stock. And last but not least, nutrient rich almonds which help promote heart health. All things considered, not a bad choice as a fairly healthy side dish. Of course, there is still the small matter of the number of calories in a serving of this pilaf, but no dish is perfect! So when I serve this pilaf I keep my portion fairly small. But even a small serving is enough to assuage my starch cravings and not coincidentally get some well needed vitamins and minerals into my body. So give this ever so tasty brown rice dish a try. Even if you are strongly committed to white rice and have never enjoyed the flavor of brown rice or worse yet even given brown rice a try, I am positive you will be pleasantly surprised. You will soon become an advocate for this amazing grain.

Some interesting facts about the difference between brown rice and white rice:

According to the www.whfoods.org web site (the “wh” stands for world’s healthiest), “Our food ranking system qualified brown rice as an excellent source of manganese, and a good source of selenium, phosphorus, copper, magnesium, and niacin (vitamin B3). The complete milling and polishing that converts brown rice into white rice destroys 67% of the vitamin B3, 80% of the vitamin B1, 90% of the vitamin B6, half of the manganese, half of the phosphorus, 60% of the iron, and all of the dietary fiber and essential fatty acids. By law in the United States, fully milled and polished white rice must be “enriched” with vitamins B1, B3, and iron. But the form of these nutrients when added back into the processed rice is not the same as in the original unprocessed version, and at least 11 lost nutrients are not replaced in any form even with rice “enrichment.”

  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 c. long grain brown rice
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 ½ c. vegetable broth (I use 2½ cups water and 2 teaspoons Better Then Bouillon Vegetable Base)
  • ¼ c. slivered almonds, toasted, opt.

Pour oil into a small covered sauce pan. Add onion and garlic and fry for about 4 minutes. Add rice and sauté for 1 minute. Stir in the broth (or water and bouillon base), and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 45-50 minutes. Stir rice occasionally. (If the rice is not done after 45 minutes and there is still a lot of liquid, remove the cover and cook an additional 10-15 minutes.) When the liquid has all been absorbed and the rice is tender, remove from heat, adjust seasonings, and let  stand for about 5 minutes. Just before serving, stir in the toasted almonds.

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SPLIT EMMER FARRO AND WILD RICE WITH MUSHROOMS AND PECANS

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As Mr. C. is fond of saying – “hail, oh mighty pharaoh (or as we like to spell it) farro”! And why you might ask? Well – because farro (an ancient strain of hard wheat) is said to have been found in Egyptian tombs. (Sounds like a pharaoh to me!) But enough frivolity!

Emmer (farro) has been cultivated in the Fertile Crescent (the region in the Middle East which curves like a quarter-moon shape, from the Persian Gulf, through modern-day southern Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, and northern Egypt) and in Italy for over 10,000 years. Farro, which is just the Italian name for emmer wheat, has a delicate roasted nutty flavor and a distinctive chewy texture. It has a higher fiber and protein content than common wheat, is rich in magnesium, niacin, zinc, and B vitamins, and holds the distinct honor of containing the lowest glycemic index of all cereal grains. In addition, emmer farro just happens to be delicious. Ta-da!

So last time we were visiting Rick and Katie (Katie is Mr. Cs sister) in Winthrop, Washington, Katie served a side dish made with Bluebird Grain Farms Emmer Farro. We both absolutely loved the dish. So much so, that I had to go out the next day and buy a couple of packages to bring home with us. For information about retail locations in your area, visit www.bluebirdgrainfarms.com

So if you want to add some variety and nutrition to your side dishes, give emmer farro a try. And this recipe, which is my take on the recipe provided on the Potlatch Pilaf package is just amazingly delightful.

  • 2 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 c. chopped yellow onion (I like Copra yellow onions the best)
  • 10 large mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. herbes de Provence (try to use one without lavender)
  • 1 c. Potlach Pilaf* – from Bluebird Grain Farms in Winthrop, Washington – for more information on this wonderful product go to their website noted above
  • ¼ c. dry sherry
  • 2 c. vegetable broth (I use 2 cups water and 2 teaspoons Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base)
  • 1/3 c. chopped toasted pecans, opt.

*or you can use ¾ cup split farro and ¼ cup wild rice

Heat the olive oil in a medium covered saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for about 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook for another couple of minutes. Stir in the salt, pepper, herbes de Provence, and emmer and wild rice blend. Cook, stirring frequently for 3 minutes. Add the sherry and stir until all of the liquid is absorbed. Add the vegetable broth, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 45 minutes, stirring periodically. Remove cover and stir in pecans. Adjust seasoning. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.