Rice Makeover

Re-born and re-defined, these old school casserole dishes are ready to deliver on today’s dietary desires

Mississauga, ON – September, 2008 – The growing knowledge and awareness of the food we eat and how we prepare it is an obvious lifestyle movement of the 21st century. Fibre, low-sodium, whole grain, and organic are a few of the many buzz words that are influencing our purchasing decisions. Nicole Young, USA Rice Federation Chef, can attest to this enhanced state of food consciousness. After reviewing her archived recipes it was apparent that today’s meals are packing more nutrients and using less artificial flavours. Presented with the challenge to make outdated recipes return as weeknight staples, Young revamped two recipes to suit the needs of today’s foodies.

“Canadians are looking to incorporate more natural foods and whole grains into their family’s diet,” says Samara Felesky-Hunt, Registered Dietitian. “High fibre, less fats and sodium seem to be top-of-mind for most people when purchasing food items. Brown rice is a whole grain, that provides a good source of dietary fibre, while both brown and white rice are allergy and gluten free, contain no cholesterol, sodium or fat and are loaded with vitamins and minerals.”

The first recipe, the Hearty Chicken-Rice Casserole, consisted of mayonnaise, eggs, and artificial flavours and weighed in at 325 calories, 20 grams of fat, 16 grams of protein, 21 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fibre and 606 milligrams of sodium per serving. Omitting the mayonnaise and eggs while updating the flavour profile with nutrient dense vegetables, fibre-rich brown rice, curry paste and sliced almonds significantly increased the appeal of this recipe. Now flavourful, healthy and easy to prepare, especially with leftover rice on-hand, the updated Curry Chicken and Rice Casserole is 320 calories with, 9 grams of fat, 23 grams of protein, 35 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of fibre and only 150 milligrams of sodium per serving.

“The recipes I reviewed relied heavily on packaged seasonings and condensed soup for flavour, which accounts for the large quantities of sodium,” says Nicole Young, USA Rice Federation Chef. “For those who are conscious of their sodium intake, but don’t want to sacrifice flavour, spices, low-sodium vegetable/chicken broths and fresh herbs and produce significantly enhance flavour profiles without having to jeopardize taste.”

The Taco Rice Casserole made with ground beef, taco seasoning, condensed tomato soup and the pièce de résistance – pasteurized processed cheese, was the more desperate of the two recipes. Comparable to that of a double patty, fast food burger, each serving included 462 calories, 25 grams of protein, a whopping 23 grams of fat, 40 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fibre and 2,029 milligrams of sodium. For the ultimate transformation, Chef Young made some drastic decisions; cut back on the beef and omit the sodium contributors (packaged seasoning, condensed soup, canned corn and processed cheese). Now sporting the new name Rice and Beef Burritos, and 440 calories with 11 grams of fat, 21 grams of protein, 64 grams of carbohydrates, 6 grams of fibre and 750 milligrams of sodium per serving, this recipe has never tasted better. Paired with a whole grain wrap this perfect on-the-go meal is packed with protein, fibre and fresh garnishes like salsa, grated Monterey Jack cheese, beans and veggies.

Easily prepared in advance and excellent as leftovers, rice is the perfect pantry staple. From salads, to starters, to mains and desserts, using rice along side other wholesome ingredients delivers on today’s culinary desires – nutrient rich, flavourful and fuss-free.