Thursday, August 26, 2010

Middle Eastern Flavored Rice Salad and Asian Inspired Mushroom Soup

Sometimes I crave grains and that was what was happening today. I just wanted something “carby”. Well you know me well enough to realize it wasn’t going to be unhealthy carbs right? Yes even I have carb cravings.

While brown rice isn’t the most healthy grain out there I do like the texture and size of the grain. I wanted to make something Middle Eastern inspired to have with our baked falafel. Here is what I came up with:

Middle Eastern Flavored Rice Salad
Makes 8 servings


1 ½ cup brown basmati rice
3 cups water
½ tablespoon tomato paste (to add a bit of background flavor)
6 whole allspice berries, ground into a powder
1 cinnamon stick
1 lemon, zested and juiced
¼ cup golden raisins (or any finely diced dried fruit about the size of raisins)
¼ cup pine nuts
¼ cup fresh mint, finely minced
¼ cup fresh dill, finely minced
1 cucumber, finely diced
½ carrot, finely diced


Combine the rice, water, tomato paste, allspice, and cinnamon and bring to a boil. Make certain to dissolve the tomato paste in the water so you don’t end up with a lump of tomato paste in the cooked rice.

When the rice has cooked completely add the lemon zest and juice and fluff the rice with a fork. Allow the rice to cool to room temperature. Add the remaining ingredients and distribute the ingredients evenly into the rice. Refrigerate until needed.

I like this in a lettuce cup topped with a falafel and a bit of cashew creme fraiche.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 186
Calories From Fat (18%) - 34.12

Total Fat - 4.11g
Saturated Fat - 0.44g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 19.4mg
Potassium - 243.46mg
Total Carbohydrates - 35.45g
Fiber - 3.65g
Sugar - 4.03g
Protein - 4.08g


This dish has much more flavor that you would expect it to have without oil or salt. The fresh herbs add a lot of flavor to the dish. I like the pops of sweetness from the raisins. I added finely diced carrot for color and a bit of texture since they are harder than the cucumber. The pine nuts add a nice richness to the dish. Overall I think this is light but very nice.

Book Review: Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease (by Caldwell Esselstyn, MD)

I should start by saying that I tried to read this some time ago and it seems so strict that I didn’t finish it. However now that my diet has become so “clean” it seems much more reasonable. Hmmmm, I wonder what that says about me? Yes this book is strict in terms of fat, very strict. However if someone has heart disease I think that makes the most sense.

From the title it is obvious what this book is about. I find it fascinating how much success this MD has had with not only stopping but reversing existing heart disease. If you or someone you love have heart disease this books outlines a plan that is much more palatable than surgery, or at least it would be for me. I would much rather change my diet that have someone cut me open.

You may be wondering why I am reading a book about heart disease when neither Dan nor I have any signs of heart disease. I have learned from my reading about nutrition that the same diet that is helpful for preventing and/or slowing cancer also prevents and/or reverses diabetes and heart disease. There is very little difference in good nutrition in terms of preventing all chronic disease. This came together for me after I read “The China Study” when the author discussed the diseases of affluence. Also I like to read what various clinicians have to say about nutrition since everyone has their own way of explaining things as well as their own biases. I find it helps to understand all the different theories. I have even read books by Sally Fallon trying to understand all the various nutritional theories. Let’s just say some of the theories are backed by more scholarly studies than others.;-)

The book is outlined as follows:

Part One: The Heart of the Matter

1. Eating to Live
2. “Someday We’ll Have to Get Smarter”
3. Seeking the Cure
4. A Primer on Heart Disease
5. Moderation Kills
6. Living, Breathing Proof
7. Why Didn’t Anyone Tell Me?
8. Simple Steps
9. Frequently Asked Questions
10. Why Can’t I Have “Heart Healthy” Oils?
11. Kindred Spirits
12. Brave New World
13. You Are in Control

Part Two: The Joy of Eating

14. Simple Strategies
15. Advice from Ann Crile Esselstyn
16. Breaking the Fast
17. Feasting on Salads
18. Sauces, Dips, Dressings and Gravies
19. Vegetables, Plain and Fancy
20. Soups, Thick and Delicious
21. Sandwiches for All Occasions
22. The Main Course
23. Wonderful, Easy Desserts

Since my focus has been on cancer I have a much better understanding of heart disease after reading this book. The doctor does a good job of taking a complicated subject and making it easy to understand. I particularly liked his chapter “Moderation Kills” as well as “Why Can’t I Have “Heart Healthy” Oils?”. I feel as though I now know the damage that oil has on the endothelium’s ability to produce nitric oxide and why this is something we should all care about.

If you are trying to follow Dr. Fuhrman or Dr. McDougall the recipes alone are worth the cost of the book. Dr. Esselstyn’s plan is more like Dr. McDougall’s in terms of total grain consumption but the recipes would be easy to modify to reduce the grain.

Overall I enjoyed this book and it enhanced my understanding of how the body works and the impact that food has on the functioning of the book. If you are concerned about heart disease (and who isn’t since it impacts 1 out of every 2 of us) this book is a good read.


Somehow we have run out of soup and cooked beans again. I swear I don’t know where all the food goes around here. ;-) Of course I needed to rectify this situation today so we had quick food to eat for lunch. I made some roasted red pepper fat free hummus similar to this.

Next I worked on making a pot of soup. Dan and I both like mushrooms so I decided use them as the focus of the soup. While the dried mushrooms were soaking I was thinking what to do with them. I considered making a cream of mushroom soup but decided I wanted something a little lighter and ended up with an Asian style soup. Here is what I made:

Asian inspired Mushroom, Vegetable and Soba Noodle Soup
Serves 6


3 cups dried mushrooms
10 cups of water to rehydrate the mushrooms
½ yellow onion, peeled and finely diced (allow to stand 10 minutes before heating so the thiopropanal sulfoxide can develop)
6 cloves garlic, peeled and finely diced (allow to stand 10 minutes before heating so the allicin can develop)
½ inch fresh ginger, finely minced
2 carrots, very thinly sliced on a mandoline or thinly julienned
1 bundle soba noodles (check the noodles for sodium content the amounts vary from 110 - 1,080mg’s per bundle from what I have seen)
6 collard leaves, thinly julienned into bite sized strips (or sub 2 cups of thinly sliced Napa cabbage or green cabbage)
3 green onions
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (to add a little background buttery flavor)
Asian sauce of your choice to taste (I used vegetarian oyster sauce that is mushroom based)


Combine the mushrooms and water and heat until hot. Allow the mushrooms to soak for at least 30 minutes before straining then from the soaking liquid, to remove any grit. Chop the mushrooms into pieces that will fit on a soup spoon.

Combine the strained mushroom soaking liquid, diced mushrooms, onions, garlic, and ginger and cook until the onions are tender. To the simmer liquid add the carrot and noodles and cook according to the noodle package directions. Two minutes before the noodles are expected to be finished add the carrots and collards.

Add the nutritional yeast at the end and then add Asian sauce to taste.

Nutritional Information (does not include the Asian sauce component which will mostly impact the sodium):

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 264.32
Calories From Fat (4%) - 11.15

Total Fat - 1.25g
Saturated Fat - 0.1g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 110.5mg
Potassium - 656.43mg
Total Carbohydrates - 58.26g
Fiber - 6.44g
Sugar - 3.59g
Protein - 8.51g

Food since my last post:

Dan worked ridiculously late last night so dinner wasn’t really dinner. I had a few baked falafel on a small green salad and Dan had a bowl of strawberry banana soft serve (no oats).

Breakfast this morning was oatmeal with raspberries, blueberries, cinnamon, ginger, ground flax and walnuts for Dan, like usual.

I made myself a small salad of ½ head of shredded romaine, ½ heirloom tomato, a little salsa, ½ cucumber, ½ shredded carrot, a sprinkle of raw sesame seeds, a drizzle of cashew crème fraiche and some dehydrated leeks.

To accompany the salad I had 1/6 of a large cantaloupe, a peach, a few blackberries and a sprinkling of white chia seeds. This was washed down my hot lemon water which has become my new morning ritual as the mornings grow colder.

At lunch time I wasn’t particularly hungry but I knew needed some beans so I grabbed about a cup of stove top baked beans to give me a little extra protein.  If you think the scale looks wrong it is because I tend to eat off salad plates with appetizer forks unless I am having a green salad.

My afternoon snack was a cup of frozen grapes. My freezer always contains frozen grapes. I never put them in smoothies they always go into a bowl and I eat them like little bon bons. They are so good this way I never eat grapes that aren’t frozen.

Dinner was a bowl of the soup (from above) and a lettuce wraps with rice salad (from above), baked falafel topped with cashew crème fraiche. I put red pepper hummus in the middle of the plate because I thought the plate needed color. Didn’t see that coming did you? ;-) Sometimes I add things for appearance it isn’t always just taste. A little of the eggplant tomato salad would have been great in the middle of the plate but we ate it all.

That is going to be it for me tonight it is getting late and a Jimmy Buffet concert for the Gulf Coast is playing that Dan and I want to see. We haven’t seen him in concert in 10 years but so far it is the same as always, less the smoldering hair that is. ;-)

I hope you are all having a good evening. Talk to you tomorrow.


  1. you are right that each writer (about health especially) has their own bias. which makes things a little confusing.

    i had no idea that dry noodles(soba) could have THAT much sodium! thats crazy.

    you are going to this concert, or watching it on tv?

  2. That rice sounds really pretty good - and you know I'm not a big rice fan. Love the flavor combos...ones I really don't use often, especially the mint. You just reminded me that I really need to hit the Asian food market for more dried mushrooms. They're DIRT cheap there. Happy Friday!

  3. That soup looks really yummy.

  4. I have been wanting to read the China Study! Those falafels and rice have me craving falafels now. 6 allspice berries huh? That seems like a lot but I think its probably very fragrant flavorful rice huh?

  5. Michelle,

    I could not agree with you more about health being a confusing topic. That is why I decided to dig in and try to understand it for myself. I take a little bit from all the "experts" to come up with what works for us.

    I found the variation in sodium on the soba noodles crazy too, that was why I wanted to point it out. *rolls eyes*

    The concert was on TV and honestly it was just like every Buffet concert we ever went to. Hard to imagine we were Parrot Heads isn't it? LOL

    talk to you later,

  6. Heather,

    The rice has a lot of flavor mostly from the fresh herbs. You could make it with quinoa, millet or bulgur too all those would be great.

    I am running low on dried mushrooms myself. You are right about the Asian market, that is where I get my shitakes.

    happy Friday (and anniversary) to you too,

  7. Rose,

    Dan is a big fan of soba noodles. Any place I can work them in he is happy.

    hope you had a good Friday,

  8. Carissa,

    Oddly the allspice is not the dominant flavor in the rice but I can see why you would think that. The mint and dill add more flavor leaving the allspice a background note. Overall the rice does have a lot of flavor and no salt which I wanted to point out since that is one of your cooking restrictions at the moment.

    I think you will enjoy The China Study. It is a great book and helped me to commit to veganism and being healthy. I have read it a few times and took the e-Cornell program based on it because I enjoyed the book so much.

    hope your weekend is starting off well,


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