Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Wonders of Brown Rice and Cooking Tips

Pressure cooked Brown rice with Quinoa
Brown rice is the most unique grain of all the whole cereal grains. It is a very adaptable grain in that it grows on both dry land and in water. It combines beautifully with other grains (whole or cracked), beans and vegetables. Grains and beans which require a longer cooking time, when cooked with brown rice, adjust their cooking time to that of the rice.

I believe that we are what we eat. My theory is that you have the potential to become more flexible and adaptable- like the rice itself- from including brown rice as part of your regular diet.

Many of my students say they have difficulty in preparing brown rice well. I often hear the comment that they cannot get their rice to taste like mine. So, here are some of my tips for cooking brown rice- I hope you find them to be helpful and inspiring!

The most important factors in making a good pot of brown rice is to have respect, appreciation, and love for this powerful food. All these aspects will help with your approach in preparing the rice, and every step is done with care and intention from beginning to end.

Sorting and Soaking Brown Rice

The first step is to carefully measure out the desired amount of grain you wish to cook. Use a “dry” measuring cup. Place the rice in an earthenware bowl to wash the rice and remove any debris.

Note: If you are using freshly hulled rice you need to sort through the rice to remove any of the remaining hulls.

Fill the bowl with filtered water, enough to cover the rice by a couple of inches. I use my hand and slowly move the rice in the water. Next, I use my hand as a sieve and pour off the rinse water. I generally rinse two more times.

Carefully measure the amount of water. This may vary according to the environmental conditions. Brown rice is alive and sensitive to its environment, so we need to adjust the water proportionately to the consistency we desire. When pressure cooking I use a ratio of 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups of water for every 1 cup of grain. When boiling the rice, the ratio is 2 cups of water for every 1 cup of grain.

Pour the water over the rice and cover the rice with a bamboo mat, allowing the rice to soak up to 23 hours, preferably overnight. Note, the longer the rice soaks the more nutrients are released. I have found the rice tastes sweeter when it soaks overnight. During the night the atmosphere is more yin. At night we also receive more of an active charge from the celestial world. This in turn affects the type of charge and ki we create in the rice we make. During this process it is important to think of happy, positive thoughts, which in turn create a more peaceful, harmonious type of nourishment.

Cooking Your Brown Rice

How do you know which cooking method to use? Each cooking method has its advantage. The difference is in the texture, consistency and overall energetic quality of the rice. Pressure cooked rice tends to be more glutenous and chewy, while boiled rice is more soft and moist. The glutenous texture of pressure cooked rice strengthens the digestive system by helping to restore the natural flexibility to the intestines. Additionally more chewing is required which is alkalizing to the blood and builds good immunity. Boiled rice creates a more soft and moist texture. This consistency is more relaxing to the digestive system and helpful if someone has hard and tight intestines.

Pressure-Cooked Brown Rice:

Place the soaked rice and the soaking water in the pressure cooker. If additional water is needed you may add it at this time. Add either a small pinch of sea salt or a postage size piece of kombu/kelp

Place the lid on the cooker and bring up to pressure on a medium flame. The pressure will make a hissing sound, which becomes louder and clearer as the cooker reaches full pressure. Most modern cookers have a button on the lid, which pops up. You can test the pressure by lightly pressing on the button, it should be firm. Next, place a flame deflector under the cooker and lower the flame. This is the part that can get a little tricky you want to maintain enough pressure so the consistency of the cooked rice is glutinous and somewhat sticky, but not too much that the texture becomes dense. As the rice cooks a wonderful sweet fragrance can be detected. If you smell different and your cooker keeps hissing at you, please adjust your flame! Remember, “Your nose never lies”! When the time is up remove the pot from the stove and allow the pressure to come down naturally. Carefully place the cooked rice in a wooden bowl or earthenware-serving dish and cover with a sushi mat.

Boiled brown rice

Boiled brown rice requires more water than pressure cooked rice. It has more relaxed energetic qualities and the consistency is more soft and moist. To prepare the rice follow the same initial steps of sorting, washing and soaking the grain. When you are ready to cook place the rice and the soaking water in a pot, then turn the flame on to a medium lower setting. Partially cover the pot and bring to a boil. When the water begins to boil add either a small pinch of sea salt or a small piece of kombu/kelp. Cover the rice completely, place a flame deflector under the pot and turn the flame to the lowest setting.

Simmer on low for 1 hour. When your rice is done, remove it from the pot, place in a serving dish and cover with a bamboo mat.

Helpful hint: Boiled rice turns out best when you use a heavier pot with a heavier lid.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Day of Resting in Mindfulness

Recently I had the opportunity to attend “A Day of Mindfulness,” a seminar given by meditation
teachers Anh-Huong and Thu Nguyen. The Day of Mindfulness is a very special event that is offered twice a year in Philadelphia.

Anh-Huong and Thu are dharma teachers in the tradition of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. 
They have dedicated their lives to teaching others the practice of mindful living. 
Whether mindfulness is in the form of meditation, movement, eating or relaxation, 
this practice brings you back to a sense of awareness within, or as they say, returning home.

Being someone who leads a very active life, I found it very challenging to be still. As
I was lying there during the guided meditation, I realized that even though my body was
still, my mind was racing. I started to wonder if I would be able to make it through the seminar.

Most of us experience some form of stress in our lives. When pressure builds, it is
easy to become frustrated. Too often we become busy and focus on our work rather
than taking care of ourselves. We don’t take time to walk. We rush through our meals or,
even worse, skip them. As I continued to breathe mindfully, I realized that I needed to slow down and be more gentle with myself. At that moment when I let go of my thoughts, my mind became still, my body totally relaxed, and I was able to experience the deep rest.

There is no separation of body, mind and spirit. I believe that learning how calm your
mind is essential to your overall well being. When our mind is still we become clear and
more open to the endless possibilities in life. When we make time to take better
care of ourselves, we have the ability to become more effective, productive, healthier
and happier human beings. Be kind to yourself so that you can be kind to others.

I am grateful and appreciative for a day of relaxation, peace, renewal and
resting in mindfulness. Thank you Anh, Thu, and everyone who made this day possible.