Category Archives: Brown rice

Cream of Turkey and Wild Rice Soup

One would think I should have posted this recipe after Thanksgiving. Sadly, Santa left an unwanted gift for me this year in the form of a stubborn cold. I could eat soup all year long but I especially crave it when I’m not feeling good. I decided to recreate this tasty “soup du jour” from a recent dining-out experience I had while said cold was just starting to incubate. This recipe could easily be made with chicken and chicken stock. However, because I did cook two birds on Thanksgiving and have packages of leftovers and gallons of broth in the freezer, I used turkey instead. Being lactose intolerant, I’m not normally a huge fan of cream soups because they are usually laden with lots of dairy (duh), extra fat and questionable thickeners. In this case, the soup is thickened a bit with flour and then finished off with a touch of sour cream to give it a creamy texture.

The original recipe called for instant rice. I had a bag of Lundberg brand wild and whole grain brown rice blend in my cupboard (purchased at Sprouts) so I opted to cook it separately in a rice cooker. I started the rice first, estimating that by the time I chopped the veggies and sauteed them, the rice would be ready to add to the pot. I wasn’t that far off, actually.

I also subbed dried, and reconstituted, porcini mushrooms only because I was fresh out of fresh mushrooms and didn’t want to make a trip to the store. On a side note, I purchased a huge bag of dried mushrooms at one of those membership-only big box stores years ago. The bag lasts forever (I actually had one bag for an entire decade…but I didn’t cook as much then) in the pantry and allows me to keep a supply on hand for any mushroom-related emergencies that may come up, like today.


  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups mushrooms, sliced
  • 3/4 cup chopped celery
  • 3/4 cup chopped carrots
  • 1/4 cup chopped onions or shallots
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 4 cups chicken or turkey stock
  • 1 cup uncooked rice
  • 3 cups (roughly 12 ounces) shredded chicken or turkey
  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream


  1. If using wild rice blend, begin cooking it separately according to the package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large stock pot. Add the onions, carrots, celery and mushrooms. Saute on medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add the flour, salt and pepper. Cook for two minutes, stirring constantly until the flour is entirely incorporated.
  3. SLOWLY add the broth one quarter cup at a time. Thoroughly mix each quarter cup of broth into the veggies until a paste forms. Scrape the bottom of the pan to remove any bits that might have stuck. Once you have a nice consistency in the bottom of the pan, pour in the remaining broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and cook for about five minutes.
  4. Add rice, meat and sour cream. Stir to combine. Adjust cooking time based on what kind of rice you are using (5 to 7 minutes for instant; 15 to 20 minutes for white rice). If rice has been pre-cooked, just gently heat through.

Serves four

Nutrition per serving (approximate)

354 calories; 9 g fat; 87 mg cholesterol; 27 g carbohydrates; 36 g protein;3 g fiber; 378 mg sodium; 577 mg potassium.

Adapted from: Eating Well

1 Comment

Posted by on December 27, 2011 in Brown rice, Chicken, Low fat, One pot cooking, Soup, Turkey


Tags: ,

Caramelized Onion, Rice and Lentil Pilaf

Garnish with flat leaf parsley or scallions

Last month I committed to provide some menu items for my Vegetarian Sister (VS) while she was in town visiting. She and I had discussed how some vegetarian dishes (created by carnivore-types) are just lazy variations of non-veg dishes that omit the meat or are overly cheesy to make up for the lack of meat. My goal was to find new recipes she would enjoy that we could cook together; thus creating some sister bonding time and expanding both our culinary horizons.

Score one for Kat! This dish was so good that everyone at the dinner table, including the meat eaters, raved over it. Seriously, though, what is not to love about any recipe that features onions slow roasted until their natural sugars caramelize? Sadly, that means this dish does take a bit of time and forethought to put it together. I prepared it in stages, though, so the last warming-through came together in a snap.

The biggest time commitment of this dish is caramelizing the onions. It pays to take the time to do this properly. Fortunately, although onions take an hour or more to do their thing, caramelizing them is mainly unattended. In my “go big or go home” mentality I believe that if you’re going to devote the time it takes, you should caramelize as many onions as possible. I sliced and cooked the four pounds I had in my cupboard at the time which was more than we needed for this dish. Cooked onions store nicely in the fridge and can also be frozen.

It’s typical of this Middle Eastern dish (called Mujadarra) to be served with a side of plain yogurt or hummus and pita wedges. We served it along side my mother’s roasted pork. I thought it was a combination made in heaven. Of course, my sister passed on the pork but she was happy nonetheless!


  • 3 pounds of onions, caramelized (see Kat’s tip below if you’re unfamiliar with how to do this).
  • 2 cups cooked white or brown rice (I prefer brown)
  • 1.5 cups cooked lentils (use brown or green lentils; not the French ones)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Flat leaf parsley or minced scallions for garnish


  1. Caramelize the onions
  2. Cook rice on stove top or in rice cooker
  3. Cook lentils separately by bringing three to four cups of water in a pan to a boil. Add lentils and cook about 30 minutes until they are chewy but not falling apart.
  4. Drain lentils. Return pan to oven and melt butter over medium heat. Add olive oil and spices. Stir until fragrant.
  5. Add lentils, rice and half of onion mixture back to the same pan. Stir until combined and heated thoroughly.
  6. Garnish with remaining caramelized onions and diced greens (either parsley or green onions).

Kat’s tip: How to caramelize onions

Onions after 15 minutes

I once tried to caramelize onions in the oven. We’ll just chalk it up to an epic failure. Not only did the onions never brown (even after 3 hours in the oven at 400°) but I burned myself twice in the process. Ouch! I’m forevermore sold on the stove top method using a non stick pan.

  • Remove root ends and thinly slice 3 to 5 pounds of onions. I use my Pampered Chef Ultimate Mandolin to make uniform slices so the onions cook evenly. Sprinkle sliced onions liberally with about one tablespoon of salt and toss to coat.
  • Coat the bottom of a large non-stick skillet with equal parts of butter and olive oil (about one teaspoon per onion.)
  • Cook onions on medium heat stirring about every ten minutes.
  • After about 15 to 30 minutes the onions will start to turn color
  • Continue cooking on medium to medium low for another 15 to 30 minutes until they reach a nice brown color. Monitor them a little closer in the end and be careful not to let them burn.

Yield: This dish makes a hearty amount. We had 9 at the table last night. VS ate her fill as a main meal and the rest of us had it as a side dish and there were still leftovers.

Inspiration: Mujadara

Tutorial: Caramelizing Onions


Posted by on December 20, 2011 in Bean Mausoleum, Brown rice, Grains, Low fat, Vegetarian


Tags: ,

Minestrone – The Mix and Match Soup

Minestrone with tomatoes and chicken

An Italian peasant dish, the name minestrone roughly translates as “the big soup.” With humble origins that date back to the Roman Empire, there is no true recipe for minestrone. This means there is no right or wrong way to make it; don’t you just love recipes with versatility?? Across Italy, even to this day, minestrone will vary from region to region. Although traditionally a vegetable based soup using seasonal crops, you’ll often find the additional of beans, rice and pasta. To me, minestrone isn’t minestrone unless it has tomatoes in it (interestingly, according to Wikipedia, this is a totally American custom).

A hearty dish, minestrone takes on an “everything but the kitchen sink” quality because you can literally use anything that appeals to you at the moment. Vegetables that are at their tipping point in the crisper drawer, along with leftover rice, pasta or beans, can frequently be salvaged by throwing them in the pot. Need more protein on a given day? Toss in some diced chicken or Italian sausage. The sky is the limit.

Legend has it that minestrone tastes better the next day. Being cooked ahead of time and gently reheated allows the flavors to meld. As my Grannie used to say, “Mangia!”

Kat’s Totally American Minestrone 


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 4 to 6 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup cooked white beans (or one can beans, rinsed and drained)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh basil or one teaspoon dried
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 large (28 oz) can diced tomatoes (undrained)
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced on a diagonal
  • 2 medium zucchini, diced
  • 2 cups cooked small pasta (like orzo) or rice
  • Diced chicken or sausage (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese


  1. In a large Dutch oven or stock pot, heat the oil over medium heat until hot but not smoking.
  2. Add the onion and celery; sauté a few minutes until the vegetables are soft and the onion is translucent.
  3. Add the garlic and sauté for about two minutes.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients up to the pasta. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat back to medium low, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes.
  5. Add in the rice or pasta. If adding cooked meat, add this now.
  6. Bring back to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low, cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until heated through.
  7. Divide into soup bowls and sprinkle with grated cheese

Serves four for a main meal

Kat’s tip: Orzo will soak up the liquid from the soup if stored together. If you’re not planning on eating this all in one sitting then I recommend leaving the orzo out. You can add 1/2 cup of orzo to each serving as you reheat it. The orzo can be stored in the fridge in either ziplock baggies or plasticware. It can also be frozen until ready to use.

Kat’s Second Tip: I keep a bag of frozen mixed soup veggies on hand for times when I want soup in a hurry. For a single serving or quick version of this I’ll heat up 2 cups of chicken broth with the mixed veggies, some diced chicken, brown rice and white beans.

Nutritional information (without meat):

Calories 398.6  Total Fat 9.4 g  Cholesterol 0.0 mg  Sodium 605.6 mg  Potassium 782.4 mg  Total Carbohydrate 63.5 g  Protein 12.7 g

Nutritional information (with 8 oz cooked chicken)

Calories 460.9  Total Fat 10.1 g  Cholesterol 32.9.0 mg  Sodium 642 mg  Potassium 926.9 mg  Total Carbohydrate 63.5 g  Protein 25.7 g


Tags: ,

A Month’s Worth of Lunches

Variety is very important to me. But being the quintessential Libra that I am, my variety has to be balanced. You know; Libra, sign of the scales, etc. The same traits that rule my star sign shine through in my food planning too. Mentally picking one from Column A, one from Column B and one from Column C, I choose my recipes based on a nice array of vegetables, grains and my proteins. On a side note, I can’t stand the combination of fruits and vegetables in the same dish. There will be no fruit in my salads, no pineapple on my pizzas, no raisins in anything but trail mix and especially no fruity salsas or chutneys. For the record, that is precisely why there is no Column D.

In a perfect world, I would reserve a Saturday and pick five recipes to cook once a month. Each recipe would give me four portions (packaged, it goes without saying, in matching plastic containers). For purposes of this blog post, that means twenty lunches. Keep one portion of each in the fridge and freeze the rest. Straight from the freezer to the microwave. Reheat for five minutes on power level 5. Hot food at the ready!

Back on topic, my meal planning resembles someting like this:

Column A – Bread Column B – Protein Column C – Veggie
Barley Chicken Broccoli
Beans Turkey Tomatoes
Rice Pork / Sausage Bell Peppers
Wheatberries Fish Mushrooms
Pasta Shellfish Spinach
Quinoa Beef Squash

 So, here is what is on my meal plan for this week.

If you’re like me, the ratio of five recipes for a month works great for lunch because you’re probably only feeding yourself (say, at work). If you’re intrigued by the idea of true bulk cooking and need it on a larger scale because you’ve got a spouse and/or kids to feed, check out I am in total awe of the program that blogger Tricia Callahan and her team of contributing writers has put together. They’ve got meal plans, shopping lists, cooking plans and labels (I think I am in love).

Photo credit: kiwikewlio on Flickr. CC Licensed. So creative 🙂


Tags: ,

Healthy Rice and Beans

Can you say Olé's a Mexican Food Fiesta!

Rice and beans are a natural pairing and an integral part of my “Mexican Food Fiesta.” This recipe brings me back to my days of living in Guadalajara as an exchange student. I *loved* the frijoles. Here in the States we lump all kinds of beans under the name “refried beans.” Although in some regions and restaurants, cooked beans are actually fried or baked in lard, that adds way too much work and too many calories for me. Now that my Hispanic roommate has shared with me how easy these dishes are to prepare, I’m hooked (again).

Of course, having lived in New Orleans for years where cajun-style red beans and rice is a staple on Mondays, I am familiar with how to cook beans. Aside from the time I accidentally bought red beans (instead of pinto beans) that never did break apart and get creamy, I’ve been making beans successfully for years. Mexican-style beans cook up just the same but with different spices.

This recipes is time consuming and takes a advance preparation but most of the time is unattended. With a little planning you can pull this off with very little effort.

Thick and creamy frijoles (the un-refried version)


  • two tablespoons vegetable oil or bacon grease
  • one onion, finely chopped
  • two or three cloves garlic, minced
  • one jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • one bag dried pinto beans
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Pre-soak beans overnight. I throw mine in a big bowl, cover them with water and stick them in the fridge.
  2. Drain and rinse the beans. After soaking the beans, always start with fresh water.
  3. In a Dutch oven or large stock pot, heat the oil or bacon grease until hot but not smoking.
  4. Saute the onion and garlic two to three minutes until the onion is translucent
  5. Add the jalapeno and the beans
  6. Add six cups of cold water
  7. Bring the mixture to a boil
  8. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for several hours
  9. After about two hours on the stovetop, lightly mash the beans with a masher or large wooden spoon. Breaking them up creates the gravy.
  10. Continue cooking until the consistency is thick and creamy.

Spanish Rice:

Find El Pato sauce in the Latin food aisle at your local grocery store

Spanish rice is cooked up much the same as regular rice. One part rice to two parts liquid. For Spanish rice, part of the liquid is replaced with a combination of regular tomato sauce and Mexican hot tomato sauce.


  • Two tablespoons vegetable oil
  • One onion, diced
  • Two or three cloves of garlic, minced
  • Two cups uncooked white rice
  • 1/2 can El Pato Hot Tomato Sauce
  • One 8-oz can regular tomato sauce


  1. In a large stockpot, heat the oil until hot but not smoking
  2. Add onions and garlic and saute until onions are soft
  3. Add rice and stir to glaze the rice
  4. Pour the two tomato sauces into a four-cup measuring cup
  5. Add enough water so the liquid equals four cups (remember one part rice to two parts liquid)
  6. Bring the mixture to a boil
  7. Reduce heat, cover and cook for 15 minutes or until all the liquid is incorporated and the rice is fully cooked

Tags: ,

A Summer of Salads

A summer's worth of salads

An endless variety of ingredients to keep you satisfied all summer long

There’s something about 100+ degrees that makes me want to avoid the kitchen altogether. Alas, a gal has to eat. So, when summer hits I start getting creative with salads. Salads are healthy, cheap to make and can be quite filling.

Variety is the spice of life. You’ll often find me in the kitchen re-creating flavors and food combinations from cold-weather dishes into cool combos for summer salads. If it works in a soup or stew, it’ll work in a salad. Adding protein in the form of eggs, meat, poultry, fish or beans to your salad can change it from a side dish to main dish in a flash. Adding grains like wheatberries, barley or rice means you have a complete meal in a bowl that will sustain you for hours. Bon Appétit!

Here are some salads that are easy to pull together to help you get started:

Black & bleu salad
Steak strips
Bleu cheese crumbles
Red onion
Vine-ripened cherry tomatoes
Blue cheese dressing
Greek salad
Canned tuna – white beans
Feta cheese
Artichoke hearts
Sundried tomatoes
Caesar dressing
Honey mustard chicken salad
Chicken breast strips
Cheddar cheese
Crispy bacon
Vine-ripened cherry tomatoes
Honey mustard dressing
Mexican salad
Taco chicken
Tortilla chips
Beans – red or black
Ranch dressing
Grilled Shrimp and Spinach
Grilled shrimp
Hard boiled egg
Red onion
Warm bacon dressing
Mediterranean Salmon
Wheat berries
Artichoke hearts / red peppers / grape tomatoes
Feta cheese
Italian Dressing

Photo credit: Fotoosvanrobin on Flickr. CC Licensed. A much better picture than I could ever take!


Tags: ,

Chinese-style Pork Stir-fry

Healthy stir-fry when you're craving Chinese food

I don’t have to tell you that dining out these days is fraught with peril. America’s well-documented love affair with super sizing means that restaurant portions are likely to be twice the portion size you would serve yourself at home.

The same goes for take-out or delivery. People often assume that Chinese food is low in fat. While I’m pretty sure most restaurants no longer rely on the much-maligned MSG as a food additive, prepared Chinese food is still loaded with calories and very high in salt. Inferior cuts of meat are often coated in batter, deep-fried and then sauteed. Although the dishes tend to be laden with vegetables (lending to the belief that they are healthy for you), said veggies are loaded with hidden fats and sodium.

Today, I bring you an easy to prepare dish that is much lower in fat and sodium than any take-out. An attractive dish filled with colorful vegetables, you won’t miss the Kung Pau chicken for long. As a matter of fact, by substituting ingredients associated with Asian cuisines (sesame oil, garlic, ginger, nuts), you can satisfy your cravings and give any dish an international spin.


  • One pound boneless pork loin, trimmed
  • 2 tbls low sodium soy sauce
  • 4 tsp sesame oil, divided
  • 3 cloves garlic, shaved
  • 2 tsp minced fresh garlic
  • 1/8 to 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced into rings (optional)
  • 1 cup red or green bell pepper strips
  • 1 cup broccoli florets, fresh or frozen/thawed
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms (I prefer baby bellas)
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tbls corn starch
  • 2 tbls slivered almonds


  1. In a medium bowl, combine the soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of the sesame oil, the garlic, ginger and cayenne pepper.
  2. Cut the pork into bite size cubes and toss into the soy sauce mixture. If possible, marinate for 15 minutes or more.
  3. In a large, non stick pan, heat the remaining tablespoon of sesame oil over medium high heat. Add the pork and stir fry until the meat is browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer the pork back to the marinade bowl (see Kat’s tip below) and cover loosely to keep warm.
  4. Add the onion (if using) and bell pepper to the pan. Stir fry until the veggies soften a bit (3 minutes). Add the broccoli and mushrooms to the pan. Stir fry another 3 to 4 minutes until they are tender-crisp to your liking.
  5. Place the corn starch in a liquid measuring cup. Add the chicken broth and whisk until smooth.
  6. Return the pork and drippings to the pan. Add the corn starch mixture to the pan, whisking to smooth out any corn starch that collected at the bottom of the measuring cup.
  7. Reduce the heat to medium. Sprinkle the almonds in the pan and cook, stirring constantly, until the pork is cooked through and the sauce thickens up slightly.

Serve over white or brown rice.

Kat’s tip: Pork must be fully cooked to avoid food-borne illness. To prevent contaminating meat, normally you should never place cooked meat back in the container that the raw meat came out of. However, since the pork is going through another phase of cooking in step 6 the risk of tainting the dish is eliminated. Plus, it cuts down on the number of dirty dishes that have to be cleaned afterwards.

Serves four

Nutritional information – values are approximate per serving (not including rice):

Calories 339.2 Total Fat 15.9 g Cholesterol 90.2 mg Sodium 642.6 mg Potassium 844.6 mg Total Carbohydrate 11.6 g Protein 36.8 g

Inspiration: Weight Watchers Smart Choice Recipe Collection – 1994


Tags: ,