The absolute easiest way to make brown rice! Baking makes for fluffy, no-mess rice.
If you had to name a food everyone can agree is healthy, you really couldn’t go wrong with brown rice. (Okay, unless you’re one of those people who think all grains are bad…which, for the record, has been disproven time and again.)
Brown rice is packed with fiber (3.5 grams per cup), protein (5 grams per cup), and important micronutrients like magnesium and selenium. It’s got a relatively low glycemic index of 50, meaning it won’t spike your blood sugar. Plus, it’s pretty dang low calorie at about 215 cals per cup. It goes with just about everything, from casseroles to Mexican food to meat dishes.
Only trouble is, well, making it.
Seems like every time I try making brown rice on the stovetop, I end up with a sticky mess that hangs on to the bottom of my saucepan like grim death. I dread cleaning any pot that has touched brown rice.
What I never realized–until recently–is that there’s actually a much better way to get fluffy, chewy brown rice that doesn’t involve scraping burnt grains off the pot for an hour after dinner. How, you ask? By baking it!
I’ll ‘fess up and say I didn’t come up with this bright idea on my own. In fact, my moment of brown rice enlightenment actually came from my kids’ favorite cookbook, America’s Test Kitchen’s Complete Cookbook for Young Chefs. My 11-year-old son decided he wanted to try making baked brown rice, and it turned out to be totally easy enough for a preteen to manage without burning the house down. Essentially, all it takes is boiling some water in a kettle, then pouring it over grains in a baking dish (with a bit of butter, of course!). Cover and bake for an hour and you’re all set.
The beauty of this recipe is not only its simplicity, but the fact that it cooks the rice perfectly evenly–unlike the stovetop method, which can yield wet rice on top and crispy grains on the bottom. And, wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles, it doesn’t stick to the baking pan.
Since learning about this easy method, I’ve been making brown rice like a fiend, and I’m not sorry about it. It’s a versatile, healthy side dish I can always find a use for. I’ll never make brown rice on the stovetop again.
So tell me…am I just late to the game? Have you tried baking brown rice in the oven? Are you as enthused about it as I am?
The Easiest Baked Brown Rice
- 1 1/2 c. brown rice
- 1 Tbsp. butter
- 2 1/3 water
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spread brown rice in an 8 x 8-inch glass baking dish. Cut butter into small pieces and dot over rice.
- In a kettle, bring water to a boil. Carefully pour over rice. Cover tightly with two sheets of aluminum foil.
- Bake for 1 hour, uncover, fluff, and serve.
Check out my honest review of the Vitamix FC-50 “FoodCycler” Countertop Composter!
I’ve probably mentioned this before, but as a food and nutrition writer, I often get offers to try out up-and-coming foods and food-related products. Sometimes these products are totally random, like keto-friendly Fruity Pebbles-like cereals or a skirt that somehow reduces muscle soreness after you work out. Sometimes they’re freebies that might be useful to someone else but that I don’t really use. (So. Many. Aprons.) And sometimes they’re just downright awesome.
Not long ago, I received an offer to try out the Vitamix FC-50 “FoodCycler”–a countertop composter that takes your kitchen scraps and turns them into usable fertilizer in just hours. I love having a garden, but since I have a black thumb and I more or less live on the surface of the sun (aka the Sonoran desert), my outdoor plants have been looking pretty sad for quite some time.
On the other hand, keeping up with traditional composting is, frankly, a hassle. You’ve got the smell of nasty old banana peels and slimy spinach wafting through your kitchen. And then there’s the issue of those intractable fruit flies. Gross. Although we have a compost bin in our backyard, the truth is, we hardly use it because of all the work it takes.
Enter this handy-dandy countertop appliance! Vitamix’s FC-50 FoodCycler purports to take some of the work out of doing your part for the planet (and your lovely garden). So how does it work, and is it worth the $400 price tag?
First up, a few specs: the FoodCycler is somewhat large, at about 14 inches tall by 12 deep by 10.5 wide. Yes, it should fit on your countertop, but it’s a pretty sizable box. It didn’t take long to set up, though, with just a few instructions for installing filters. After that, the little beast was ready to go.
Inside the black box, the setup is simple. A small bucket slides in and out of the box so you can set it nearby as you chop veggies for dinner, take the peel off an orange, or perform any other kitchen tasks that leave you with compostable odds and ends. Lately, when I’ve made salad or salsa, it’s been super handy to slide scraps into the bucket instead of into the trash.
Once the bucket is full, starting the FoodCycler’s composting magic couldn’t be easier. Place the bucket back into the box, close the lid in the “lock” position, and–ready for it?–hit the power button.
Now all you have to do is wait. The FoodCycler takes three to eight hours to dry and churn your refuse into a pulverized, broken-down organic matter you can spread in your garden. It’s literally like having a machine digest the food you’re not going to eat. (Or maybe I just think of it that way because I’m a nutritionist…)
For a visual, in a few hours, the machine turns this:
A few things to know about the FoodCycler
- As the FoodCycler does its work, it’s a bit loud. I’d compare it to an unusually boisterous dishwasher.
- There are certain foods you’re not supposed to put in the FoodCycler: high-sugar fruits, large animal bones, sauces (obviously), and a few other things.
- The FoodCycler won’t turn your food scraps directly into soil, so don’t expect to open the lid and see lush brown dirt. Rather, you’ll get a dried mixture that should be ready to get sprinkled onto or mixed into soil.
Overall, even though the FoodCycler probably isn’t something I would have invested in on my own, I’ve totally enjoyed it! It’s great to know that our family’s unusable foodstuffs can be repurposed to grow the herbs and tomatoes in our backyard, rather than just get tossed out. If you’re into gardening, or if you find traditional composting as labor-intensive as I do, you’ll probably be very pleased with a FoodCycler.
Hope you enjoyed my Vitamix FC-50 FoodCycler Countertop Composter review! Let me know if you end up purchasing this unique little appliance, and what you think of it if you do.
Before I dive into telling you of the wonders of this Sweet Potato and Kale Curry, allow me to remind everyone that I am not a vegan—not even close. Though I do like to limit my meat consumption, especially red meat, it’s rare for me to eat a meal that’s totally vegan. Which is what always makes it surprising when a vegan dinner becomes one of my favorites…like this amazing recipe.
These days, in the throes of the coronavirus pandemic, I’m always looking for meals that are healthy and easy to pull together. With my kids home very day doing online school, I swear all they’re doing is sitting on laptops eating Sour Cream and Cheddar Ruffles (except for the times when I force them to go outside or run around the house a few times). And then there’s me. I’ll confess, my pandemic eating habits haven’t been stellar. With reduced activity and a dip in diet quality, I’m especially motivated lately to feed us all a healthy dinner.
This Sweet Potato and Kale Curry has been a particular lifesaver. It’s full of nutrients like vitamin A from sweet potatoes, vitamin K from kale, and fiber off the charts from the veggies and chickpeas. Not to mention, with minimal prep and about 18 minutes total cooking time, it’s a genuine 30 minute meal.
Now, this may sound well and good for health nuts who don’t mind flavorless food, but hold your peace until you’ve tried the coconut milk broth in this curry. Mild but rich, it’s the kind that makes you wish you’d made an entire separate batch just for sipping.
If you’re like me, I think you’ll find a little sweet potatoes and kale over rice will do your average pandemic dinnertime a world of good, whether you’re a vegan, a meat eater, or somewhere in between.
Sweet Potato and Kale Curry
- 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
- 1 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 Tbsp. curry powder
- 3 small or 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1 15-oz. can chickpeas, drained
- 1 15-oz. full-fat coconut milk
- 1/2 c. water
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. black pepper
- 5 c. torn kale leaves
- 4 c. cooked jasmine rice
- Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add ginger and garlic and saute for about 2 minutes, until fragrant. Add curry powder and cook an additional minute.
- Add diced sweet potatoes, chickpeas, coconut milk, water, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer 15 minutes or until sweet potatoes are soft.
- Add kale to the skillet and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes. Serve over cooked jasmine rice.
Maple Oatmeal Muffins bring simple, wholesome goodness to your morning! Make a dozen with a single bowl.
Like many Americans with a bit of disposable income and nowhere to vacation this summer, we’re in the middle of a kitchen remodel. (Cause, you know, great idea during a pandemic to rip up the cooking and eating space in your already stressed-out home. 🤪)
Anyway, we’re three weeks into the chaos of dishes in the bathtub, makeshift cardboard countertops, and appliances in the bedroom. I’m sure it’ll all be worth it when our new cooking space is sparkling and beautiful–and my husband has proven himself to be EXTREMELY capable at renovating–but man, it sure makes mealtimes tough.
I’ve been hanging in there at dinnertime with some pre-made frozen casseroles, but at breakfast there’s only so much cereal and frozen waffles I can eat. After awhile, I need my baked goods to start the day! (It’s no secret that I’m a muffin–aholic.)
With my mixing bowls in my office and measuring cups in my family room, I’ve needed to stick to the old KISS principle: Keep It Simple, Stupid…which is why I chose this maple oatmeal muffin recipe recently. It’s made with just one bowl and super basic ingredients like oats, maple syrup, and nuts. This way, I was able to whip up a dozen hearty muffins without making an even bigger mess in my kitchen (though I *did* have to wash the bowl in the bathtub). Plus, no need to pull tons of ingredients out of my pantry and clutter up my already untidy space!
The flavor of these muffins is not overly sweet, with the maple syrup adding its signature depth. As for texture, they’re slightly dense with pops of crunch from pecans. I’d recommend them for those times when you want a tasty baked good for breakfast but don’t have much to dress it up with.
Despite my torn-up kitchen, when I made these maple oatmeal muffins, it felt so good to sit down to my favorite type of breakfast once again. Not only were they wholesome, hearty, and perfect with a smear of butter, they helped me feel just a little more normal. (And, kitchen remodel or no kitchen remodel, couldn’t we all use anything that helps us feel more normal these days?)
Maple Oatmeal Muffins
- 1 c. quick-cooking oats
- 1/2 c. milk, any type
- 1 c. all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- scant 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- 2/3 c. maple syrup
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 c. butter, melted
- 1/3 c. chopped pecan pieces
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and grease a 12-cup muffin tin.
- In a large bowl, combine the oats and milk. Let stand about 5 minutes to soften the oats. Add flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon and stir to combine.
- Make a well in the center of the batter and add maple syrup, egg, and melted butter, mixing to combine. Fold in pecans.
- Divide batter among the muffin cups and bake 15-18 minutes. Store in an airtight container.
Mix up your applesauce game with this sweet alternative! Peach applesauce is the perfect summery snack or dessert.
Quick: What’s your favorite summer fruit? While my thoughts immediately turn to blueberries and strawberries, peaches come in as a close second (or third, I guess?). These stone fruits are among the most versatile bases for sweets. I mean, is there any dessert you can’t make with peaches? Peach pie, peach cobbler, peach crisp, peach popsicles…I could go on, like:
Sorry, I’ve had a hankering to watch Forrest Gump lately.
Anyway, peaches aren’t just great on their own in snacks, smoothies, desserts, and breakfasts–they also make a great complement to other fruits, like…drumroll please…apples! I wouldn’t normally say homemade applesauce needs any tinkering (it’s pretty great on its own), but when sweet, juicy peaches are in season, might as well use the fruits of summer however you can. (Especially when you’ve brought home a giant pallet of them from Trader Joe’s, like I did recently.)
Anyway, this is one of those toss-everything-in-the-crock-pot-and-let-your-house-fill-with-aromas type recipes. You really can’t screw it up, and you could probably play with it to make it extra peachy, extra apple-y, extra sweet, or whatever you like. I also imagine you could use canned peaches in a pinch (like when they’re not in season).
Plus, since kids are STILL home for the longest summer ever that began in March, this makes a snack you can actually feel good about feeding them. (Anyone else going through snacks at record speed? Not gonna lie, we’ve been through a whole lot of chips and candy around here…)
Once the chunky goodness of this peach applesauce emerges from the slow cooker, it’s delicious hot or cold, on its own or atop vanilla ice cream. It’s a little smoother than traditional applesauce, which I think gives it an extra something special.
- 4 large peaches, peeled and chopped
- 8 Granny Smith apples, peeled and chopped
- 1/4 c. white sugar
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
- 1/4 c. water
- Place all ingredients in a slow cooker. Cook on high 2 1/2 hours, then reduce heat to low and cook another hour or until the fruit has softened. Blend to your liking using a potato masher or immersion blender. Cool and refrigerate.