Brown Rice for the Family

By Cheryl Tallman and Joan Ahlers

Some of the key nutrients in brown rice include B vitamins, maganese, selenium, iron and fiber. The health benefits of brown rice read like a laundry list to disease prevention and boosting the immune system. These benefits include lowering cholesterol, reduced risk of diabetes, heart disease, heart attack, stroke and colon cancer, reduced severity of asthma, and lower frequency of migraine headaches.

Whole grains, like brown rice may also help women in weight management. An obesity study conducted at the Harvard School of Public Health showed that women who consistently consumed more whole grains weighed less than women who consumed fewer.

When it comes to eating brown rice, most people discover the nutty flavor is far more appealing than the bland taste of its stripped down relative.

Age to introduce: About six months old in the form of infant cereal only. About 12 months for cooked grain texture.

At the market: Brown rice contains natural oils, which can turn rancid on the shelf. For packaged rice, check for usability dates and when buying in bulk, choose a store that has a high turnover. If organic brown rice is available, consider purchasing it over conventionally grown rice. Conventionally grown brown rice has been found to contain small traces of arsenic. While the levels of arsenic are low and will not cause immediate illness, the build up of arsenic in the body, might be linked to some cancers.

Storage: Oil-rich brown rice will turn rancid at room temperature. If stored in a tightly closed container in the refrigerator or freezer, it will stay fresh for up to a year.

Tips on cooking rice: Rice can be a little tricky to cook perfectly. Here are a few tips from the U.S. Rice Federation that will help you out:

• Accurately measure rice and liquid.
• Set timer to prevent under or over-cooking.
• Keep lid on pot during cooking to prevent steam from escaping.
• Rice triples in volume. Use cookware appropriate for the amount of rice you are preparing.
• Do not stir. Stirring releases the starch, resulting in rice that is sticky.
• At the end of cooking time, remove lid and test for doneness. If rice is not tender or liquid is not absorbed, cook 2 to 4 minutes longer.
• When rice is cooked, fluff with fork or slotted spoon to allow steam to escape and keep the grains separate.

For those who plan ahead, soaking brown rice overnight cuts the cooking time dramatically. Soak the rice in the measured amount of water you'll need to cook it, and cook it in the same water, adding more if necessary. DO NOT drain the rice after soaking it, nutrients will be lost.

And for those who do not like to cook rice, you can pick it up from your local Chinese restaurant. Almost all Chinese restaurants offer a choice of white or brown rice.

Here are some creative and tasty ideas for adding brown rice to your family meals:
Never serve a boring side dish ever again. Adding a few simple ingredients to brown rice will put a gourmet spin on any family dinner. After your brown rice has been cooked, and while it is still in a hot pan, try adding any of these ingredients:

• Chopped cilantro, parmesan and lemon zest with 2 tablespoons olive oil.
• Chopped mango, black beans, 1 tablespoon lime juice and 1 tablespoon olive oil
• Chopped, cooked shitake mushrooms, green peas, sesame seeds (or a drizzle of sesame oil) and 2 tablespoons olive oil
• Chopped tomatoes, scallions 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1 tablespoon olive oil
• Chopped pineapple, cilantro and 2 tablespoons coconut milk
• Chopped cooked carrots, sliced almonds, and fresh parsley and 2 tablespoons olive oil
• Creamed spinach, crumbled gorgonzola, and chopped walnuts
• Chopped cooked broccoli, cubed firm tofu, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, and 1 tablespoon olive oil

Don’t throw out leftover rice. It is great to have on hand for stirring into soups and broths. You can also use it to make terrific salads, here are two simple recipes.

Veggie Brown Rice Salad
Ingredients:
2 cups cooked brown rice
1/2 cup corn kernels (roasted is a nice touch)
2-3 seeded, chopped plum tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped green and red pepper
2-3 chopped green onions
1/2 cup shredded Monterey jack cheese
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

Directions:
Toss all ingredients in a bowl, add salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

Fruity Brown Rice Salad
Ingredients:
2 cups cooked brown rice
2 apples, peeled, cored and chopped
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1 cup vanilla or lemon yogurt
1/4 cup of honey
2 tablespoons lemon juice.

Directions:
Toss all ingredients in a bowl and serve.

About the authors: Cheryl Tallman and Joan Ahlers are sisters, the mothers of five children and founders of Fresh Baby, creators or products such as homemade baby food kits, baby food cookbooks, baby food and breast milk storage trays, breastfeeding reminders, and child development diaries (www.FreshBaby.com). Visit them online at www.FreshBaby.com and subscribe to their Fresh Ideas newsletter to get monthly ideas, tips and activities for developing your family's healthy eating habits!

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