Let's talk about rice. I remember being baffled when I realized that white rice was a stripped form of the whole grain (it's naturally brown). No, I thought... isn't white rice just a different type of grain? Silly me. Nope - it's similar to white flour (in that the fibrous, outer bran and germ have been removed.) I then, assumed that white rice was unhealthy. With more research, I am now convinced that it's not necessarily true. The fact is - whole grains (as well as nuts, seeds, beans) need extra care, you can read more here and here. Ancient cultures always soaked, fermented and sometimes sprouted their whole grains. It is essential to soak these types of foods overnight (preferably with a small amount of whey or unfiltered apple cider vinegar ) in order to eliminate the phytic acid content. Phytic acid prevents your body from digesting your food - which can have serious consequences in leaving you vitamin and mineral deficient - as well as causing digestive issues. People who eat large amounts of cereals and commercial bread are asking for dietary trouble.
From the Westin A. Price foundation: (side note: W.A.P. was a dentist who traveled the world in search of the healthiest teeth & people groups. His discoveries were incredible - there were many indigenous peoples who were in fabulous health - eating traditionally prepared (fermented foods, veg, meat products) as soon as these people groups introduced processed grains & sugar into their diets - their dental and overall health began to decline: OK, sorry...here's what they say about grains:
"Phytic acid in grains, nuts, seeds and beans represents a serious problem in our diets. This problem exists because we have lost touch with our ancestral heritage of food preparation."
"Through observation I have witnessed the powerful anti-nutritional effects of a diet high in phytate-rich grains on my family members, with many health problems as a result, including tooth decay, nutrient deficiencies, lack of appetite and digestive problems.
The presence of phytic acid in so many enjoyable foods we regularly consume makes it imperative that we know how to prepare these foods to neutralize phytic acid content as much as possible, and also to consume them in the context of a diet containing factors that mitigate the harmful effects of phytic acid."
To sum up:
Eating whole grains regularly (like brown rice, whole wheat) without soaking first... can actually be worse for you than eating occasional white rice or white flour!
To get the benefit from the vitamins, minerals and the fiber - soak your brown rice overnight in warm water with a few teaspoons of: apple cider vinegar, whey or lemon juice. Before cooking, rinse and cook (for best nutrition - add butter and fresh stock).
Also ... the healthiest bread you can eat is whole grain sourdough. It contains the vitamins, minerals and fiber - but it has been soaked/fermented in the souring process.
Back to rice. White rice (and white flour) are pure starch - and nearly completely devoid of vitamins or minerals. Although Asian cultures eat a lot of white rice, they ingest incredible amounts of seaweed and fish - both extremely high in vitamins, minerals & healthy fats. Makes sense that there is a healthy balance here.
ONE LAST RICE TIP...
I have found that following the recipe on the bag of rice ALWAYS produces soggy, pasty overcooked rice. Are you ever disappointed with your rice coming out too wet or sticky? I have found that reducing the amount of water by about 20% does the trick. I end up with fluffy - perfectly al dente (can't help it, I'm Italian) rice. For example... for my soaked brown rice - I cook 1 cup with only 1 1/2 cups liquid. Also - I always sautee some fresh chopped garlic in the pot first, then add the rice, and the liquid. If cooking in water - always be generous with the salt. (Sea salt adds wonderful minerals).
After considering these things - if I don't plan ahead (don't have any rice already soaked) I will cook white rice. It's kind of a treat to us! I believe in consuming as many beneficial 'superfoods' as possible (kale, seaweed snacks, chia & flax seeds, fresh vegetable juice, nuts & seeds, home made sauerkraut & fermented veggies, kefir & kombucha) so - eating some white rice now and then doesn't hurt. In fact - it hurts LESS than cooking brown rice without soaking!
Wow. That could have been a post in itself - but I started out wanting to share a simple & thrifty recipe that turned out delicious the other night.
Mediterranean Rice Bowls
I was out of meat for the week (we are buying less of it now that we've chosen to only purchase local, 'happy' meat) so I had to be creative. I have been cooking a large pots of beans (2 lbs. at a time) for awhile now.
I soak them (with some acidic medium - whey or vinegar added - I use my leftover sauerkraut brine) overnight - then rinse and cook in salted water (and a clove or two of garlic) until tender. Since I make a lot - I freeze the leftovers in small batches so that I always have properly soaked & prepared beans on hand! This thrifty tip saves time & money. Canned beans are not soaked (bad for digestion) and cost much more... so why not give it a try?
Back to the Mediterranean Bowls...
I grabbed all of the fresh veg I had in the fridge:
1 random yam
4 or 5 carrots
2 whole onions
3 or 4 scallion (green onions)
1 or 2 red bell peppers
3 or 4 zucchini
Chopped all of these into similar sized chunks.
Frozen, cooked garbanzo beans (thawed in warm water)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil for drizzling
cumin (for the mediterranean flair), paprika, salt & pepper
Italian Parsley & scallions - chopped - for garnish
Lemon wedge & chili flakes to top
I threw all of the lovely colorful veggies into the roasting pan (color=healthy!) except for the zucchini and garbanzo beans. I roasted the harder veg for about 30 minutes at 425 (I think? or was it 400...) once the carrots and yams were nearly done, I added the zucchini and garbanzos and switched to broil. I took them out once the zucchini was getting crispy.
A scoop of rice, topped with the roasted colorful mix - sprinkled some parsley & scallion and generously drizzled on some Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Sprinkled with salt, added a squeeze of lemon and some chili flakes (for the adults). For not being sure what I was going to make that night... I was reminded how wonderfully healthy & thrifty we can eat - by substituting healthy legume protein instead of meat.
OH! And the kids loved it, too....
I hope you're not totally overwhelmed by how much info I tried to squeeze into one post... thanks for reading, and I hope you give these tips a try!