Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Easy One-Dish Casserole: my new favorite

This recipe rocks! Mikey savors every bite—yum, yum! Lentils and rice are the main ingredients, so the casserole is loaded with protein and complex carbohydrates. It's a compete meal—and a snap to make. It keeps for a week in the refrigerator.

I doubled the recipe and put one in the refrigerator for the week and one in the freezer.

1/2 cup uncooked lentils, soaked overnight
3/4 cup uncooked brown rice, soaked overnight
1/2 diced onion
1 diced garlic clove (optional)
2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1/4 tablespoon turmeric
1 teaspoon garlic powder if you didn't add a garlic clove
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup spinach or other leafy green (optional)
1 cup grated cheddar cheese

The night before, submerge the rice and lentils together in water and lemon juice from 1 lemon. Soak for 12 to 24 hours. Rinse and pour into a buttered casserole dish (2 quart pyrex dish).

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Finely chop onion and cook until it is soft about five minutes. Add garlic, turmeric, and salt. Add spinach or other leafy green to the onions. Cook greens until wilted about one minute.

Put the onion and greens mixture into the casserole dish with the uncooked rice and lentils. Pour in enough broth to rise 1/4 inch above the rice and lentils (approx. 2 cups). Cover and cook for 1.5 hours.

After one hour take out the casserole and mix in the cheese. The cheese makes everything stick together. Make sure it's well mixed in with the rice and lentils. Press down on the top of the casserole to flatten everything out again. Then add a thin layer of cheese to the top and pop it in the oven uncovered for another 30 minutes. It's done when the bubbling has stopped. No bubbling means all the broth is absorbed.

So why is it a "complete" meal?
I've been reading quite a bit about this in Kelly Hayford's book, If It's Not Food, Don't Eat It. Basically, there are three macronutrients in our diets that provide calories: carbohydrates, protein, and fat. We need all three to keep functioning, but our body wants them from real foods—not sodas and junk food. In the casserole, the lentils provide protein and the rice provides nongluten, complex carbohydrates. Both these ingredients also contain natural fat as well as many other nutrients such as fiber. See this post for a list of some gluten and nongluten complex carbohydrates.

What are complex carbohydrates?
You'll find complex carbs in anything that's still in its natural state. For example, you find them in an apple but not in apple juice. Complex carbs contain vitamins and minerals, providing sustained energy. When the apple is processed into apple juice, it becomes what's known as a simple carb. Another example? Oatmeal is a whole grain so it has complex carbs, but the more processed boxed cereals are simple carbs and won't keep your "honey" full for long. So, if you feel like your kids are always hungry, try to feed them unprocessed food that's still in its natural state. "Simple carbohydrates are best kept to a minimum," says
Hayford. This advice can be hard to follow because it seems that simple carbs are everywhere now!


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