our messy table

Category: Brown Rice

red lentil soup and “normal”

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Here I am… thinking of all the ways I can get out of “real life” stuff this afternoon. There is something about the holidays – something about time spent away from work and instead spent traveling and being with family and friends. And there is something about my daily intake of sweet, caramelized food that makes me want to drift off to the sparkly land that inhabits all of my happy memories. It makes me want to pretend that the holidays will last forever.

But there are bills to pay, gosh darn it! And do I even care about my waist? It is time to deep freeze my toffee and chocolate-dipped-whatevers for upcoming bad days. It is time to starting thinking of ways to make kale taste good again. Time to look at my bank accounts and make grocery lists and lesson plans and actually fold that massive heap of laundry making itself quite comfortable on the bed. Oh, yes, and my toddler. Shouldn’t I have taught him to count to 10 by now? Shouldn’t my basement be organized and my closet color-coordinated and my next few months of meal plans freshly written out?

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Here is something you should know about me. I am a total loser when it comes to functioning outside of my routine. Some would refer to the horrid term, “control freak”, which always make me cringe. It’s the word “control’ that holds such negative connotation.

I only want control over myself and my son’s nap routine. And that is that, I swear. I have no desire to control other people or the choices they make. They can paint their own picture. Make their own story without me feeling remotely responsible for their success and failure. But my routine is very sacred to me. And here is why:

As lovely as they may be, the holidays do funky things to me (and my digestive system).Once you bring me back to reality, once you remind me of the cost of relaxation, I completely freak out. I floss my teeth excessively. I run 4 miles. I dig into the deep freezer for that sworn-off chocolate. Then I shut down. I think of ways to get out of “real life” stuff. Because life outside of the routine was easier.

So here I am.

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However. I had a very nice day with my son today. A day that felt almost “normal”… whatever that means for us anymore. As for now, I am choosing to believe normal is a day when my son plays with his toys and sings songs and gets mad at me for not turning on his new favorite movie… again. When he naps when he was supposed to and eats dinner and takes a bath and reads books and goes to bed when he us supposed to.

But know there is a human element to my need for control. Know that, as contrary as it sounds, I am grateful for this crazy life that I have no control over. I am so grateful for the crazy people who love me. And though I always freak out a little over the holidays, I am grateful for them as well.

I am grateful and humbled by the people who gave us so much when we do so little to deserve it. I am thankful for “normal”… and the lack thereof, so normal can be something to aspire for.

I am grateful for the roller coasters. For deep freezers. For naps. For family. Friends. And ,once again, for soup.

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We have made the soup quite a bit in the last year, and with several variations. We have used tomato paste instead of canned tomatoes, diced fresh garden tomatoes, thrown in cilantro, omitted the coconut all-together, added fresh ginger, golden raisins, substituted green slip peas for the rice, sauteed in diced carrots, I could go on! This recipe serves as a nice template for the creative soul, but tastes wonderful is it is typed below. We recommend good bread with each serving.

Coconut Red Lentil Soup

Yield: 6 servings

  • 1 1/3 cup split red lentils
  • ½ cup brown rice
  • 6 cups vegetable broth or water
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 Tablespoons butter, olive of coconut oil (we use butter)
  • 1 Tablespoon curry powder
  • 4 green onions
  • 1 14-ounce can coconut milk
  • 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes

Give lentils and rice a good rinse – until they no longer put off murky water. Place them in an extra-large soup pot, cover with the broth or water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and add salt. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the split peas are soft.

In the meantime, in a small dry skillet or saucepan over low heat, toast the curry powder until it is quite fragrant. Be careful though, you don’t want to burn the curry powder. Set aside. Place the butter in a pan over medium heat, add half of the green onions. Saute for two minutes stirring constantly.

Add the toasted curry powder to the mixture, mix well, and then add this to the simmering soup along with the coconut milk and tomatoes. Simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes or so. The texture should thicken up, but you can play around with the consistency if you like by adding more water, a bit at a time, if you like. Or simmer longer for a thicker consistency.

We’ve been enjoying big ladles of this soup over 1/2 cup of warm farro or brown rice. Quinoa would be an interested alternative. Sprinkle each bowl with the remaining green onions.

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with salad

 

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Though buying them in bulk is so much cheaper, I have had my qualms with dried beans. Don’t get me wrong. Grocery shopping feels like a small victory when I slide up the bulk handle and watch hundreds of marbley beans fall into my bag for only a few dollars. But I have learned the hard way that sometimes, when dried beans have been loafing in those bins for too long, the seed membrane can become extremely hard and never, ever soften. Therefore, the battle of crock pot vs. old bean has an unfortunate and predictable end (I’ll give you a hint… crunchy bean chili… crunchy bean tacos… crunchy bean non-paste).

Also, there is all the buzz about soaking your beans… whether or not soaking away the small amount of the phytates and tannins is worth also soaking away the… eerm..  flatulence-related substances.

Whatever, people. Black beans have their value either way. They have an ever-amazing protein-plus-fiber content that helps regulate the digestive process and blood sugar. Black beans also contain an impressive amount of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients which reduce the risk of certain cancers, particularly colon cancer.

Most often, I buy them canned because, as stated before, I have learned to not trust those bean bulk bins. I often wait until I see someone re-filling them , or if I can find a processing date that is fairly recent… like the last six months. But usually, canned beans and I are friends.

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Carrots. I recently learned (from Martha Stewart Living’s May addition, thank you) that Carotenoids, the antioxidant that gives this root vegetable its orange pigment may protect against heart disease, cataracts, and certain cancers. It’s a good thing, too. Because carrots are one of the few veggies I can confidently feed my son without have to guise with cheese.

We have all heard that brown rice is better for us than white… that white rice is just naked brown nice, almost fully stripped of its nutrition. By removing the hull (the outer most layer of the grain), you are also removing almost all of the Vitamin B, Vitamin B1, and Vitamin B6. You also lose half the manganese, phosphorus, iron, dietary fiber and essential fatty acids.

I mean, in my house, we still like white rice. We like our Arborio rice made into creamy risotto, a bed of long-grain white rice for grilled meat and vegetables, and Jasmin rice, fluffed with coconut and served with walnuts or cashews. It is hard to beat the easy and fluffy texture of well-prepared white rice. Regardless, with the help of black beans and carrots, the heft and heartiness of brown rice certainly has a place to nutritionally shine in this salad.

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This salad is a really nice one to have around for a quick pick-me-up snack, a filling on-the-road meal, or those its-late-and-I-don’t-want-to-think-about-dinner nights. I have enjoyed it under a fried egg, wrapped in a warm whole wheat tortilla, and cold, straight from the fidget. I think my son likes how tangy the dressing is because he rolls his finger around the bottom of the bowl to collect every drop. I also like how just a little of this salad fills me up for a long, long time.

You could probably substitute the rice for another grain, like farro, amaranth, or quinoa (or, you know, white rice;)). You could also swap the kale for another dark, leafy green or even chopped cabbage. All salads are adaptable! Let me know how your salad adventure goes!

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Black Bean and Brown Rice Salad with Roasted Carrots

Yield: 2-3 servings

  • 1 15 oz. can  black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice (approximately ½ cup uncooked)
  • 5-6 medium carrots
  • ½ Tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ Tablespoon maple syrup
  • Good pinch sea salt
  • ½ small yellow onion
  • ½ large handfuls baby kale
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds

Dressing

  • 1 ½ Tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 ½ Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 glug (eye-ball a teaspoon) maple syrup
  • Good pinch sea salt
  • Good pinch ground paprika

Cook brown rice and allow to cool completely.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Wash and remove tops from carrots, but leave the skin on.  Slice them however you like so long as the pieces are the same size so that they can cook evenly. Toss carrots with cumin, olive oil, maple syrup and salt. Lay out on a baking sheet and roast until carrots are fragrant and soft, about 20 minutes.

While carrots roast, prepare the rest of the salad. Whisk together the dressing ingredients and set aside. Fold the cooled cooked brown rice and black beans with kale and onion. When carrots are cool, add them as well.

In a dry skillet, roast pumpkin seeds over medium-high heat until they pop. Allow them to cook before adding them to the salad.

Drizzle dressing over salad. Enjoy.