A Fresh Take on Beans and Rice

Let me start by saying that I LOVE the combination of beans and rice! B&R makes for a filling square meal, packed with protein and fiber. B&R also serves as a versatile base for a number of dishes, from curry to the burrito bowl. Today, I’m using quinoa in place of rice and adding yellow squash for a fresh take on a classic duo.

In Monday’s post, I touted the salad, which I hold responsible for helping me to lose baby weight and keeping me fit in general. While lately I have been consuming salads composed primarily of raw produce, I really enjoy salads with cooked elements, too. My multi-grain salad is among my faves and the formula behind my twist on B&R.

This southwestern cooked-but-cold salad also features raw yellow squash. Yellow squash—sometimes referred to as summer squash—contains high levels of vitamin C, beta carotene, and lutein. It is also an excellent vegan source of iron and folate, which are commonly found in large quantities in animal products. In addition, I find that the texture is more appealing when left raw, leaving more of the nutrients intact.

Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE: MULTI-GRAIN SALAD

Serves 4-6

  • 4 cups water or vegetable stock –> I’m using water as I don’t currently have any stock on hand.
  • 2 cups dry grains –> I’m using white quinoa.
  • 2 cups chopped fruit and/or veggies -> I’m using 1 ½ cups yellow squash, ¼ cup corn, and ¼ cup diced sweet peppers.
  • Dressing of choice or a combination of herbs/spices and salt and pepper to taste –> I’m using the juice of one lime, a splash of olive oil, a splash of agave syrup, and the seasoning combo I use in my chili, in a lesser amount. I sprinkle the spices from one side of the bowl to the other; that’s how I often “measure.” 🙂
  • TODAY’S EXTRA: 1 ½ cups black beans.

Rinse your grains before cooking in order to remove any possible dirt or dust.

If you’re using a variety of grains: Because different grains have different cooking times, you may approach this in two ways: cook them all in the same pot, in stages, or cook them separately and combine them later. If you’re not sure about the grains you are using, research their cook times and even better, experiment in your kitchen.

If you’re using one grain, as I am today, find out how long it takes to cook and get it into your stove top pot or rice cooker. I use a rice cooker because I find that it reduces sticking to the bottom of the pan with just a few occasional stirs, but you can certainly cook your grains in a pot on the stove top, stirring more regularly.

While your grains are cooking, chop your fruits/veggies, drain your beans (in today’s rendition), and prepare your dressing and/or seasonings.

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I usually leave the lid to my rice cooker off for the last few minutes to speed the cooking liquid absorption process. When there is no liquid left, your grains should be done. Place the cooked grains in a bowl and chill in your fridge, uncovered and with occasional stirring to allow heat to escape more easily, until at least room temperature (about 30 minutes). If the grains are hot, they will par-cook your produce, which we want to keep raw. When cool, combine the grains with your other ingredients. Consume cold and store in the fridge for 3-5 days, depending on the shelf life of the produce used.

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New Formula: Multi-Grain Salad

DSC_1635Remember that DIY veggie stock I made a few days back? Today, I’m putting it to good use making a salad that I love. My multi-grain salad, now housed under Square Meal Formulas, is filling, nutritious, and an easy way to combine a variety of great-for-you grains.

Pictured below are the grains that I’m using for my salad this go-around, with descriptions to follow.

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Clockwise, starting in the upper left corner:

SHORT GRAIN BROWN RICE: As I’m sure you know, brown rice boasts far more nutrients than the white variety. Brown rice is rich in fiber and selenium and can even lower bad cholesterol.

QUINOA: Often referred to as a super food, quinoa is mega rich in fiber, protein, and iron, among other minerals. ‘Nough said.

FARRO: Farro is also rich in fiber and minerals and in my opinion, maintains an appealing semi-crunchy texture after cooking. It pairs nicely with softer grains like rice and quinoa.

WHEAT BERRIES: Finally, wheat berries, like farro, are crunchy, and high in fiber and micronutrients. Sprouting wheat berries will result in wheat grass, which I use in all of my super smoothies. So, there’s that, too.

A little off-topic, but a quick word about balsamic vinegar, since I’m using it in today’s recipe. When I’m not in the mood to use fresh citrus juice or don’t have any on hand, I turn to balsamic vinegar as a dressing base. Besides being loaded with potassium and calcium, balsamic vinegar can normalize blood pressure, stabilize cholesterol, steady glucose levels, and even aid in weight loss. To say the least, I adore it. J Thus, it is important to me to have a high-quality variety in my pantry. Pictured below is a brand that I like, with a middle-of-the-road price tag. The more you pay, the better vinegar you’ll get.

DSC_1631Ok, back to the grains! I pair my multi-grain salad with fresh produce. Having made this salad many times, I prefer it sweet and savory. I use strawberries for the sweet and cook the grains in veggie stock for the savory. Find a balance that works for your taste buds and, as always, enjoy!

FORMULA BASE: MULTI-GRAIN SALAD

  • 4 cups water or vegetable stock –> I’m using my homemade veggie stock.
  • 2 cups dry grains –> I’m using ½ cup each short grain brown rice, quinoa, farro, and wheat berries.
  • 2 cups chopped fruits and/or veggies –> I’m using nearly 1 lb of sliced strawberries.
  • Dressing of choice or a combination of herbs/spices and salt and pepper to taste –> I’m using 1/8 cup balsamic vinegar, which pairs classically with strawberries. I’m also adding a splash of olive oil to prevent sticking, a tablespoon of dried basil, and a pinch each of pink Himalayan sea salt and black pepper.

Rinse your grains before cooking in order to remove any possible dirt or dust.

DSC_1623Because different grains have different cooking times, you may approach this in two ways: cook them all in the same pot, in stages, or cook them separately and combine them later. Having worked with my particular selection of grains before, I am opting for the former method. If you’re not sure about the grains you are using, research their cook times and even better, experiment in your kitchen. Or, make this salad with just one grain to start. Baby steps are a-ok.

I use a rice cooker because I find that it reduces sticking to the bottom of the pan with just a few occasional stirs, but you can certainly cook your grains in a pot on the stove top, stirring more regularly. First, add your veggie stock and wheat berries to kick off the cooking process. Wheat berries take longer to cook than any of the other grains I am using.

After 30 minutes, add your farro. 10 minutes later, add your rice. 10 minutes after that, add your final grain, quinoa, and cook for an additional 15-17 minutes, or until the last of your cooking liquid is absorbed. I usually leave the lid to my rice cooker off for the last few minutes to speed this process.

DSC_1627While your grains are cooking, chop your fruits/veggies and prepare your dressing and/or seasonings.

DSC_1626Cook your grains to completion and chill in your fridge, uncovered and stirring occasionally to allow heat to escape more easily, until at least room temperature (about 30 minutes). If the grains are hot, they will par-cook your produce, which we want to keep raw. When cool, combine the grains with your other ingredients. Consume cold and store in the fridge for 3-5 days, depending on the shelf life of the produce used.

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Welcome to The Fresh Formula!

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Happy New Year and welcome to The Fresh Formula! Since I committed to a plant-based diet around this time three years ago, I thought it only fitting that I launch my blog on New Year’s Day. Many of us find ourselves making resolutions to improve our lives, and those often include health and wellness goals. I never resolve to follow a weight-loss diet, regularly utilize an exclusive exercise program, or lose a certain number of pounds because I find that such goals often lead to temporary results where you are constantly playing catch-up with yourself.

Instead, consider making a resolution this year that prompts you to change your lifestyle, and the rest – healthy eating, exercise, even weight loss – will fall into place. I remember years ago when the queen of talk, Oprah Winfrey, hosted the author of French Women Don’t Get Fat, Mireille Guiliano. Guiliano made a point that the French don’t have to spend hours and hours sweating at the gym because they incorporate exercise into daily life: taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking to the store instead of driving, etc. I view plant-based eating similarly; it is a way of living…not a diet, a system for counting calories, or a strict exercise regime.

In the beginning, plant-based living may be a challenge for you, but I can tell you from experience that it piques curiosity, sparks creativity, and of course, becomes easier and easier. Over the years, I have found myself genuinely interested in researching and experimenting with food, flavor, and nutrition, and have been proud of the results.

So, what can you expect from this blog? Under About, you can read more about me, plant-based living, and my fresh formulas, and see new formulas and recipes popping up at least once a week under Recipes. Under The Formulas, I have amassed a small collection of formulas that are already tried and true in my kitchen. Each week, I will feature an existing or new formula and an accompanying sample recipe so that you can see what that particular formula looks like in action.

This week, I’ve decided to start with the formula that inspired this blog: Super Food Muffins (located under Breakfast Formulas). Today’s post will feature this formula in a blueberry lemon variety, but as you will learn, the formula is just a baseline for whatever ingredients YOU have on hand.  Here we go…

 

FORMULA BASE:  SUPER FOOD MUFFINS

Makes 12 regular sized muffins

  • 1 ½ cups flour –> I’m using whole wheat.
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa –> I’m using white (despite being rather blasé in appearance, it is higher in nutritional content than rainbow).
  • ¼ cup uncooked rolled oats –> I’m using an extra ¼ cup of quinoa instead, this particular go-around.
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¼ cup sweetener –> I’m using agave syrup.
  • 1/8 cup oil –> I’m using coconut, melted.
  • 1 cup raw (fresh or frozen) fruit or veggie –> I’m using blueberries.
  • 1-1 ¼ cups plant milk –> I’m using almond.
  • 1 tbsp ground flax seeds
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • ½-1 tsp extract –> I’m using ½ tsp of pure almond.
  • ½-1 tsp spices –> I’m using 1 tsp cinnamon.
  • ½ tsp salt (optional) à I’m opting out of salt, but adding it will definitely make your flavors pop even more. I highly recommend pink Himalayan sea salt.
  • SPECIAL ADDITION: The zest and juice of one lemon.

Looking for a bit more texture?  Consider adding chopped raw nuts or seeds.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Separately combine all of the dry ingredients and all of the wet ingredients. Pour the wet into the dry and mix with a wooden spoon. The batter will be thick and lumpy, but you can always add more plant milk if it seems too dry or dough-like.

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Spoon the batter into a lined cupcake pan and bake for 25-27 minutes.

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Use the toothpick test! Store in the fridge for up to two weeks.