Today is a special day – I want recognize all of the fabulous food and nutrition experts out there who are devoted to making real, nutritious food appealing, accessible and delicious.  Happy Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day!  It’s only fitting that I focus on a green-centered culinary endeavor as part of a Recipe Redux sponsored contest.   By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by USA Rice Federation and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest.  I was not compensated for my time.

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The versatility of rice makes it a go-to grain any time of the day – morning, noon or night.  I am a big fan of Thai food as the spicy, sweet and savory flavor blends always leave me with the warm and fuzzies – and rice is always my preferred bed for this type of cuisine.  As we think rice – especially U.S. – grown rice, for National Nutrition Month and beyond, let’s look at what makes rice such a smart choice for every day meals.

Why choose rice?  For meal planning, I recommend that people use rice as one of their grain choices as it easily meets the MyPlate healthy eating guidelines – its free of sodium, cholesterol, trans fat and gluten.  Thus, rice is ideal for people who are sensitive to gluten or with celiac disease as it not only gluten-free, but it’s the least allergenic of all of the grains.

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Plus, the good health news is whole grains, such as brown rice, can help fend off on-going, chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers.  Rice eaters may even lower their blood pressure by as much as 34 percent, according to research.  I love the nutty and hearty taste of brown rice, too – it lends great texture and holds onto flavorful sauces and dressings well.

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So let’s to take it to the kitchen.  I am making a simple cucumber salad with a Thai dressing.   There’s nothing more unmistakably Thai tasting than fish sauce.  By itself this anchovy-based liquid is overwhelmingly “fishy” and salty (it is high sodium – so use it sparingly!).  However, when combined with dressing ingredients (sesame oil, lime juice and agave nectar) – the umami or savoriness in the fish sauce comes through!  Over brown rice, the flavors juxtapose so well: salty to sweet to spicy to bursts of savory in every chopstick full.  This dish is makes a great side or add some grilled tofu, shredded chicken breast or pork loin and enjoy as an entrée.

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Serves 3 (1 cup rice, each)

Ingredients

1 cup brown basmati rice or any U.S. -grown rice of choice*

2 1/4 cups water

6 mini cucumbers, thinly sliced

2 scallions, chopped

1/2 cup cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons sesame oil

1 teaspoon Thai fish sauce

1/2 large lime, halved

2 teaspoons agave nectar

1 teaspoon Sriracha (hot chili sauce)

1 baby red bell pepper, chopped for garnish

1 teaspoon sesame seeds for garnish (optional)

Directions

In a medium-sized pot add rice and water.  Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, stir rice and cover.  Simmer for about 45 minutes.  Remove from heat and let stand covered for 5 – 10 minutes longer.

In a large bowl, combine cucumbers, scallions and cilantro.   In a small mixing bowl, add sesame oil, fish sauce, juice from the lime, agave nectar and Sriracha, whisk together until blended.

Dollop 1 cup cooked rice into each bowl and top with a couple of generous tablespoons full of cucumber salad.  Sprinkle with bell pepper bits and sesame seeds, if desired.  Enjoy!

*Be sure to look for “Grown in the USA Rice” logo on packages of 100% domestically grown rice in grocery stores.

Nutrition Information (per serving): Calories: 361, Total Fat: 11 g, Saturated Fat: 2 g, Trans Fat: 0 g, Cholesterol 0 mg, Sodium: 156 mg, Carbohydrates: 61 g, Dietary Fiber: 4 g, Sugar: 14 g, Protein: 6 g

Enjoy eating simply,

-Vicki

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