Eat Well Spend Less: Food Resolutions (Recipe: Baked Brown Rice Pilaf)

We’re a little over three weeks into the new year which is long enough to put your food resolutions to the test – if you made any. In this January edition of our Eat Well, Spend Less series, we’re taking a look at those goals and how we’re measuring up.

I recently shared my intentional food goals for 2012 (and loved reading yours in the comments!), and the one that I have to address daily is eating well for baby.

Diet in the third trimester is requires a bit more thought than usual for one obvious reason: I’m always hungry. Snacking takes on a whole new meaning, shifting from a casual appeasing of the munches to a full on survival tactic.

Thanks to an ever-growing uterus pressing on my stomach, I can’t comfortably eat a regular sized meal. Often my plate holds the same amount of food as my preschooler – and I’m feeling stuffed after the meal; hence, I eat small meals, but more frequently.

Eating Well, For Baby

While I am pregnant, I rely on regular snacks to keep my energy levels up during the day, instead of caffeine or other stimulants.  This is why smart snacking is so essential. These are not merely cravings I’m trying to pacify, I’m counting on these small meals to nourish baby and mama for the best possible outcome.

Four months ago I shared a snapshot of my pregnancy diet, however, a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables is easy enough in September. Now that we’re in the cold January months, things are a little different.

Instead of sliced tomato sandwiches, leafy salads and zucchini bread, I’m relying more on winter vegetables, grains, and frozen berries for smoothies. Here’s a sample of some of my favorite snacks.

Smart Snacking Suggestions

Brown Rice: A wholesome snack or mini-meal alternative

So why is a big pot of rice featured in a post about snacking? Because I’ve found brown rice ‘bowls’ to be my latest affordable, healthy, and energy-boosting snack. I’m kind of addicted, actually!

I try to have a stash of cooked brown rice on hand nearly all the time (it keeps for several days in the refrigerator) and it makes the base for my small meals of rice bowls. I top the rice with something green – chopped celery leaves, shaved fennel, scallions – add a fried or poached egg, and tuck in. Add-ins can include whatever I have on hand – cooked vegetables, diced ham, shrimp, or shredded chicken. It’s a fast, nourishing meal.

If I’ve cooked the rice without spices, I’ll often turn the rice bowl into a quick pudding by adding dried fruit, cinnamon, milk and a drizzle of honey.  2-3 minutes on a medium power in the microwave, and I’ve got a bowl of comfort food.

Want more variety? Roll the rice in a wrap with beans and sliced avocado, and there’s another simple lunch for mom.

Baked Rice: My preferred method

Below is a simple side dish you’ll want to add to your weeknight repertoire, pregnant or not! I’ve been baking my brown rice ever since my restaurant days, where we baked huge vats of it for staff meal and it came out perfect every time.

Something about the slow, constant heat of the oven does wonders for the brown rice, which has a tendency to be either mushy or crunchy when cooked on the stove top. In the oven, each grain is perfectly fluffed and the much-loved nutty flavor shines through. Some sauteed onion and a dash of spices turns an ordinary side dish into a comforting and fragrant pilaf that you are sure to love.

Basic Baked Brown Rice Pilaf
5.0 from 4 reviews
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Recipe type: Side
Author:
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves/Yield: 8 servings
A reliable method for fluffy rice with great texture.
Ingredients
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon spices of your choice
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cups long grain brown rice
  • 3-1/2 cups water
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375F
  2. Rinse rice in a fine-meshed sieve and drain well.
  3. In the bottom of a French Oven, melt butter and oil together over medium heat.
  4. Add onion and cook for 1 minute.
  5. Add salt, spices and bay leaf to the onion and cook for an additional minute.
  6. Add rice, stir well to combine, and toast together for 2 minutes.
  7. Add the water, and bring to a boil. Stir the rice once, then cover and place in the middle of the oven.
  8. Bake for 40 minutes, then remove from oven, and let sit, covered, for an additional 10 minutes.
  9. Fluff rice with a fork and serve
Notes
Favorite flavor combinations to add to the rice prior to cooking: 1 Tablespoon Garam Masala with 1/4 cup chopped apricots. 1 teaspoon dried thyme, 1/2 teaspoon celery seed, 1 cup chopped celery. 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 cup canned black beans.

 

Curious as to what our other contributors are saying about food resolutions? Here they are:

What is one intentional healthy food goal for 2012 that you are working on?

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites.

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Comments

  1. Cool technique; I’ve never seen that before. I love eating brown rice, but hate making it because it always comes out mushy. I’ve been looking for a healthy lunch alternative to eating out (and I hate bringing in my own sandwiches); rice bowls may be just the ticket!
    Lea @ GourmetMommy’s last post: My date with…me: popcorn and chardonnay

  2. I love a good rice pilaf! I made a similar garlic one that’s delicious with chickpeas!
    Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar’s last post: Costa Rican Black Beans and Butter Honey Plantains

  3. Love the idea of baking the rice! Great recipe! I am going to make this for a healthy economical after school snack and chop some veggies through it!

  4. I’m going to give the baked brown rice a try! I always make mine stovetop and I have it down pretty well, but a different method is always fun to try too. :)
    Tammy’s last post: ~Empty Needles~

  5. Love the snack list, I’m always looking for some healthy snack reminders. Especially ones that I can also feed a 3 year old and a 1 year old. I like all of us to be able to eat the same things.
    Emily @ Random Recycling’s last post: Meal Plan Monday Jan 23

  6. susan schwartz says:

    I use a similar oven-based recipe for cooking brown rice. It’s from Cook’s Illustrated magazine and it really IS foolproof. It is prepared in an 8-inch (20 cm) square glass Pyrex dish and makes more than 4 cups (1L) of cooked rice.

    11/2 cups (375 mL) long-grain brown or basmati rice

    21/3 (575 mL) cups water

    2 teaspoons (10 mL) vegetable oil

    1/2 teaspoon (3 mL) salt

    Optional: 1 small onion, finely chopped

    Adjust the oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 375 degrees F (190 C). Spread rice in baking dish. In medium-sized pot over high heat, bring water and oil to boil, covered; once boiling, immediately stir in salt and pour water over rice. Add onion, if desired. Cover baking dish tightly with doubled layer of foil. Bake for 1 hour, until tender. Remove baking dish from oven and uncover. Fluff rice with dinner fork, then cover dish with clean kitchen towel or a couple of layers of paper towel; let rice stand 5 minutes. Uncover and let rice stand 5 minutes longer. Refrigerate unused portion for another time

  7. I have also been keeping cooked brown rice on-hand. When I feel like I’ve been eating too much rich food and carbs. I will cut back, eat lean protein and lots of veggies and make the brown rice my only carb for a few days. Works wonders! (Not suggesting in ANY way this is a 3rd trimester diet).

    Microwave 1/2 cup of brown rice and add non-fat milk, real maple syrup, and toasted walnuts for a delicious breakfast.

    Happy Chinese New Year, everyone!
    Mary Miller / A Passionate Plate’s last post: Celebrating the Year of the Dragon

  8. I am working on basing our diet more around vegetables and less around meat or processed grains (pasta!) We also just determined that my husband has a sensitivity to dairy, so I am having to rethink a lot of our dishes as we love cheese on everything!
    I love brown rice, but have been limiting how much grains we have. It is one that we have still been eating in moderation. I’ll have to try this baked recipe!
    Bernice
    Successful Woman’s Resource Center’s last post: The best way to clean out your closet

  9. Lovely rice! Will definitely have to give your method a try!
    Tracy’s last post: Chai Pancakes

  10. Thank you so much for posting the rice recipe I am a pretty darn good cook except for rice! I always manage to mess that up. I am definitely doing this recipe this week.

  11. What a great idea! Do you think this would work in a normal Pyrex casserole dish? I don’t have a French/Dutch oven.
    Tara @ Chip Chip Hooray’s last post: Mini Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecakes

  12. Carmy Elvis says:

    I must say that brown rice contains more nutrients than ordinary white rice. We should practice eating brown rice even if it’s quite unconventional. How many much do you actually spend on 1 serving of this food?

    Thanks for sharing the recipe!

    -Carmy
    Carmy Elvis’s last post: Brainwave Entrainment

  13. I love these with celery leaves and a fried egg!

    I’m so glad you’re sharing your tips for a healthy pregnancy. It’s so sad to me that doctor’s don’t cover as much about nutrition as they should. You do a great job! :)

  14. Yes! There is something so completely satisfying about rice pilaf. From the old days of Rice-A-Roni to my homemade throw-together meals, I’ve always found it comforting.
    Casey@Good. Food. Stories.’s last post: Building the Bar: Casey’s Favorite Glassware

  15. Thanks for all the snack ideas. I’m going to have to try making the berry powerful bars. We really like brown rice and often make fajita rice bowls with bell peppers, onions, avocado and chicken.
    Steph’s last post: A Story on Transitioning to Motherhood

  16. Love the baked method, so easy!
    Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen’s last post: Photojojo Fisheye, Macro/Wide Angle and Telephoto Phone Lens Review and Giveaway (Worldwide)

  17. could I do this in a cast iron dutch oven? It’s the only oven proof pot I have. They say not to boil water in a cast iron pan/pot but since I am cooking the butter, oil, onion, seasonings and the rice before I add the water, do you think it would be ok?

  18. My food resolution for 2012 is to get rid of as much sugar as possible. I have always had such the sweet tooth, and I know I’ll never get rid of it entirely, but managing it better by building better eating habits will hopefully rid me from the sweet cravings on the daily.

  19. OK, so I made this tonight. I have never cooked brown rice before but mine turned out a little “crunchy”. The flavor is out of this world. I added cumin, garlic powder and canned black beans. Is brown rice supposed to have the same “texture” as white rice when it’s done? If so, could my beans have taken away some of the water from the rice? If it’s not supposed to be a little “crunchy”, is there a way to fix it? Thanks so much:)

  20. Would this recipe work with short-grain brown rice (as opposed to long-grain)? Thanks!

  21. This is the best recipe ever. EVER. I’m never cooking grains any other way ever again. (I assume this would work with barley and other grains?) It’s so good I want to roll around on the floor hugging a bowl of it.

    YUM!

  22. Brittney Mc says:

    I will give this a try. I love brown rice. My favorite way is short grain brown rice cooked stovetop with chicken broth– I like it that way better then any white rice. I also use rice leftovers as my go to easy one person dinner (fried rice with big pile of greens, leftover meat whatever and a fried egg), but have never tried doing a fast rice pudding sort of thing. That sounds really yummy.

  23. I will have to try this simple recipe. Yum! I have recently become addicted to brown rice pudding. Add some soy milk, honey, cinnamon and vanilla extract and you have a great dessert with leftover brown rice.
    Jadah’s last post: A simple destination wedding: Maui, Hawaii

  24. Wow, your healthy snacking puts my pregnancy munching to shame. I have clear memories of daily Oreo flurries while pregnant with my daughter. So much for brown rice bowls! :-) I’m looking forward to trying your recipe.
    Kate @ Green Around the Edges’s last post: Dump or Donate?

  25. Oh, this brown rice looks so good. I am a big fan of the Alton Brown Brown Rice baking method so I am going to have to try toasting it up and trying this pilaf recipe instead :) It looks so yummy!
    Amy’s last post: How To Be a Pinterest Superstar

  26. I made this recipe for my family of seven tonight. It honestly is so good that I had to return here to tell you. WOW! We all cleaned our plates, and it was declared that this recipe is a keeper. I added 1 tsp. of chicken base and 1 cup of frozen peas and carrots when I added the water.

  27. BEST RICE PILAF EVER! Not to mention super duper simple. I made this for the Slow-cooker {lazy} cabbage rolls recipe, which is in my Crock Pot right now. For the “spices” I used fresh sage and rosemary from my garden. Dee-lish!

    Also… This may sound kind of yucky, but I mixed in chicken deli meat (fresh from the deli counter, not the package) to the cooked rice and it was surprisingly tasty. :-d

  28. I am so excited to have found this post – and your blog! I am looking for foods that sound good in the early weeks of pregnancy when my stomach is topsy-turvy, and appreciate reading your suggestions. A quick question about the brown rice recipe: if it’s made with olive oil instead of olive oil and butter, do you any recommendations about the measurement of olive oil?

  29. Jennifer L. says:

    This is my go-to recipe for brown rice, now! It’s so nice not to have to watch the pot to make sure it doesn’t boil over. I suggest this method to everyone!

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