I was impressed with a friend’s choice for a “cleanse.” She wanted to get back on track with better eating choices, and started a program that, when it came down to the details, was just sensible eating: lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and no dairy. She asked for help with weekly food prep, so we whipped up a big batch of Turkey Chile with Sweet Potatoes and Black Beans that sings with bright notes of cilantro and brims with good fiber. Then we made a veggie-centric tomato sauce to serve over quinoa and brown rice fusilli. Last, we put together one of my favorite grain and vegetable dishes that can utilize whatever is in season and transform into a whole meal with the addition of grilled chicken or a humble can of white organic beans. It’s a getting-back-to-basics formula: whole food=whole body=healthy happy lifestyle.
Whole Grain Blend with Summer Vegetables and White Beans
Serves about 8 as a side dish, 4 as an entree
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 cup of broccoli, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup of diced red bell peppers
1 cup of diced zucchini
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced onion
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 cups of brown rice blend (with quinoa, barley, millet, etc.)
4 cups of water or vegetable stock
1/2 cup of chopped basil
1 can organic white beans, rinsed and well drained
Method: Heat a large Dutch oven or skillet with fitted lid over medium high heat until warm, then add half of the olive oil to the pan. Continue to heat the oil until it is warm, about 30 seconds, then add the broccoli, red peppers and zucchini to the pan. Season with salt and pepper, then cook until slightly browned and softened, stirring occasionally. Remove the vegetables from the pan when they are cooked through but still crisp-tender and set aside.
Sautee the mirepox and rice together until they are toasty and tasty.
Add the remaining olive oil to the pan, allowing it to heat, then add the carrots, celery and onions. Brown and soften the vegetables, stirring occasionally, then add the garlic and the rice blend, continuing to stir to toast the garlic and rice, about 30 seconds. Pour the water or stock over the rice mixture, season with salt and pepper, give one final stir, and bring to a boil. Once the rice mixture has come to a boil, cover the pan with the lid, placing slightly ajar to allow a bit of steam to release. Cook for 20-30 minutes, until all of the liquid is absorbed and the rice mixture is tender but still firm. When rice is cooked, allow a resting time of 10 minutes with lid fully fitted, then remove the lid and fluff with a fork.
Fold the broccoli, red peppers, zucchini, basil and white beans into the rice blend. Taste for seasoning and serve.
Recipe notes: This is fantastic as a side dish to roasted or grilled chicken, with or without the white beans! It can be updated with whatever fresh, seasonal vegetables that you have on hand. In the winter, it is delicious with browned mushrooms, butternut squash, sauteed kale. The key is to cook the seasonal vegetables through, then remove them from the pan, and add the mirepox (carrots, celery, onion, garlic) and rice, then the fully cooked vegetables. That way, nothing gets overcooked and soggy!