I stayed up too late editing these photos last night and woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. Self-doubt crept in overnight; I was suffering from a bad case of “not enoughs”. I felt like I was not pretty enough, not thin enough, not productive enough. Fortunately I have gained a more mature attitude toward those feelings through the years and surround myself with wonderful friends and family members who confirm that I am “plenty”—plenty pretty, thin, productive, smart, talented, whatever.
I’m not seeking affirmation or fishing for compliments; I only bring the subject up because I know a lot of girls like me, especially us perfectionists, suffer from these debilitating feelings from time to time. I could go on about societal pressures, the media and the fact that my lifestyle of plenty leaves me with enough time and energy to devote to such unhealthy thoughts, but I’ll stop here.
So today, when I was feeling very much not enough, I was glad to hear that my friend Emily could meet me for lunch. We’re starting a weekly tradition of driving or biking to lunch together on Wednesdays. We pretend that we’re “ladies who lunch” for an hour or two and leisurely enjoy a good meal (and perhaps a drink) at a local establishment. It’s really nice to look forward to lunch with one of my favorite people in the middle of the week. Furthermore, I believe that nothing can improve a mood more than enjoying a good meal in good company.
It worked, and I’m feeling better. I might not be at my very best, but here’s what I’m trying to say: be a lady who lunches, even if it’s just one day a week, and enjoy good food in good company as often as you can. Don’t dwell on perceived insults and dismiss genuine compliments. Savor a cookie or a piece of chocolate if it makes you feel better, but don’t down an entire bag in self loathing. And be sure to tell others what you appreciate about them—you’ll never know how much they might need to hear it.
You’ll probably want to make this baked rice dish for dinner, too. It’s everything that I want my recipes to be: flavorful, healthful, versatile, unfussy and satisfying. It’s a one-pot meal that does take some time to cook, but it’s not complicated and a guaranteed winner.
I bought The America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook a couple of months ago and dog-eared a ton of recipes, but this is the first one I’ve actually made. It was such a success that I’m eager to try more. I love reading the Test Kitchen’s explanations of how and why they determined the best techniques for cooking things, too. They say it’s best to bake brown rice because the tough coating of the bran makes it difficult for liquid to permeate the grain, which leads to uneven cooking. Baking rice provides greater temperature control and steady, even heat, which means that you’re going to get consistently great rice every time.
I loved the creamy (but not mushy) texture of the baked rice; combined with Parmesan, it’s almost as comforting as a risotto. It’s a feel-good meal that makes plenty. No matter which herbs or vegetables you decide to add, please enjoy it with a friend, family or at least a sweet furry companion like Cookie.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2¼ cups water
- 1 cup veggie broth (or an additional cup of water)
- 1½ cups long grain brown rice, rinsed and drained (I used half brown basmati rice and half wild rice, both long grain)
- ¾ cup roasted red pepper, chopped
- ⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 small bunch curly parsley, chopped
- 1 lemon, juiced
- salt and pepper
- Make sure your oven rack is in the middle position. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Heat the olive oil in a medium Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for ten minutes, then add the minced garlic. Cook for another 2 to 4 minutes, until the onions are well browned.
- Add the water and broth (optional), cover, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove from heat and stir in the rice. Cover and bake until the rice is tender and cooked through, about 65 to 70 minutes. Near the end of the baking time, prepare the veggies (chop the parsley and red pepper, etc.)
- Remove the pot from the oven, uncover and fluff the rice with a fork. Expect that some of the rice will be stuck to the sides/bottom of the pot; just use a big wooden spoon or spatula to scrape the rice in with the rest.
- Mix in the veggies, herbs, cheese and lemon juice. Place a clean, folded kitchen towel over the top of the Dutch oven and cover. This helps absorb excess moisture. 10 minutes later, season with salt and pepper and serve!
- Adapted from The America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook.
- Special equipment: a medium Dutch oven (I love my Le Creuset, a very worthy investment).
- You may substitute short grain brown rice for the long grain.