Dr. Ornish, You Stole My Heart: Seven Grain Dirty Rice and Beans
[Totally tangential rant: When I woke up this morning, I was sure my eyes were playing tricks on me--it is snowing outside! Snowing. BIG snow. As in, "little white flakes that fly across your field of vision." As in, "icy and slushy and boots weather." As in, "everything is coated with rime and appears opaque and goes crunch when you walk on it." As in, "turn the heat back on and pull those sweaters out of storage again." As in, IF I SEE ONE MORE DAY OF WINTER I AM GOING TO LEAP UP AND DOWN AND FLAIL MY ARMS LIKE A CRAZED FLAMINGO AND SCREAM BLOODY MURDER AND WEEP LIKE A CONTESTANT ON THE BIGGEST LOSER AND THEN DISSOLVE IN A PUDDLE LIKE THE WICKED WITCH OF THE WEST. Okay, maybe not really. But I will not be very happy, let me tell you.]
I’m sure we’ve all heard it before, but I’m here to reiterate: diets don’t work. In fact, I’m living proof of that axiom.
I embarked on my first bona fide “diet” at age thirteen (thirteen! there oughta be a law) because, at the cusp of adolescence, I entered a new school and was, for the first time, startled to discover that there were boys–and they had somehow become appealing overnight!–out there. And that my friends whose mammaries had developed the previous summer seemed to attract the boys more than I did. And that maybe, if I lost twenty pounds, I might be the object of male hormonal affections, too.
And so, the beginning of a lifetime of serial dieting was born.
That initial diet was called the Stillman Quick Weight Loss Diet (a precursor to the later Atkins fiasco) and it allowed NO fruits or vegetables, NO grains and, basically, nothing but protein. For three months or so, I dutifully ate hardboiled egg for breakfast, tuna fish (no mayo) for lunch, and some kind of cooked meat (likely chicken) for dinner. And yes, the pounds did drop. Unfortunately, so did my IQ, my heart rate, and several of my friendships.
Before long, it wasn’t just boys who paid attention to me, but my parents and teachers, too, as my skin became pallid and wan; my clothes bagged in decidedly unattractive ripples across my chest, waist and hips; my hair lost its luster, hanging scraggly and thin; and my basic demeanor shifted from formerly sweet, pleasant, and interested in academics to introverted and skittish, eyes flitting from one point to another without ever focusing, like a kleptomaniac hiding a pair of shoes in her purse as she crosses the electronic detectors at the Bloomingdale’s exit. Needless to say, my parents convinced me to abandon the Stillman diet.
Subsequently, in my 30s during a “heavy” cycle, my world changed for a time when I met Dean. He didn’t mind that I was chubby; in fact, he welcomed it.
Dean, you see, was Dean Ornish, author of the diet plan called Eat More, Weigh Less. I loved the book immediately and bought it based on the title alone (you know that myth about how every twenty-something guy dreams of being locked in a room with two sexy, randy lesbians? Well, every dieter dreams of being able to pig out uncontrollably without limits, yet still lose weight).** I didn’t care about the actual diet, no sir; all I cared about was that title–I could eat more, and weigh less! Yessss!
Little did I know that Ornish was a medical doctor–a cardiologist, no less–and his book was based on years of extensive study. In fact, Ornish was the first (and only, if my sources are correct) medical professional to prove in scientific, double blind studies that you can actually reverse heart disease with diet alone. That’s right; reverse, not just diminish; and diet alone–no pills, no medications! His original idea has now blossomed into a full-fledged industry, including an institute that practises what he preached. It’s called the Preventive Medicine Research Institute and people go there to recover from (and reverse) their heart disease. How cool is that?
The first edition of the diet, however, was incredibly stringent, allowing no more than 10% of calories from fat (from all food sources combined). Clearly, well-marbled steaks, chicken with skin, or whipping cream are not on the menu. It was a radical notion back then: a vegan diet, and one with a very low fat content (Happy Herbivore, rejoice!). Best of all, the book included recipes.
Following the Ornish plan, I never felt better. I see now that the menus were fairly grain-heavy, but at the time, I was happy to cook up the recipes, pile my plate as high as I could, and methodically shove one forkful after another into my mouth, chewing away. At times it took me the better part of half an hour to polish off a plate, but I never worried that I was eating too much–I was eating MORE so I could weigh LESS!
Ornish’s Seven Grain Dirty Rice and Beans was my first encounter with this spicy Cajun favorite and also my first foray into the world of cooking dried beans from scratch. The dish is a variation on the classic combination, with corn for chewiness, and a spirited spice mix. The result is a satisfying, multi-textured meal. The beans and rice pair up to offer a complete protein. As a single woman living on my own, it was also a godsend to be able to create meals from basic, inexpensive ingredients that would last a few days (theoretically, I’m sure, the recipes were intended for 6 or more servings, which would have lasted much longer than a few days, but I really was piling my plates pretty high).
I achieved the desired weight loss on the Ornish plan and even managed to maintain it for several years, until I moved to Toronto and began teaching at the college where I still work today. And then, I met my starter husband, we got married, and I ballooned once again, the cycle repeating itself. Did my weight gain play a role in our split? No. But our split played a role in my weight. . . after I dumped the guy, the weight began to recede as well, which led to my current relationship with the HH, after which I gained back all the weight and more. . . which is why I now need this ACD to clear out the toxins and, ideally, lose more weight. . . .
Do we detect a pattern here? Diets don’t work!
Nevertheless, I still love this dish. And I’ll always have a soft spot (well, right now, several soft spots, most of which are located between waist and hip areas) for Dr. Dean.
**Oh, dear me. I can just imagine the blog searches that will lead people here now. Especially since this dish has the word “dirty” in its title. Groan.
Seven Grain Dirty Rice and Beans
I have no idea why this is called “SEVEN” Grain Dirty Rice (unless I’m missing something, aren’t the rice and corn the only grains in this?). Whatever the reason, it’s a slightly spicy, very flavorful and hearty dish, one that’s easy to prepare–and it won’t break the bank.
2 cups (480 ml) dry brown rice (I used basmati)
1-1/2 cups (360 ml) chopped red onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup (240 ml) finely diced carrots
1/2 cup (120 ml) finely diced celery
1 small jalapeno pepper, minced (remove seeds for less heat)
1 Tbsp (15 ml) ground cumin
1 Tbsp (15 ml) ground coriander
2 tsp (10 ml) chili powder
1/4 tsp (1 ml) fine sea salt
3-3/4 cups (900 ml) vegetable stock or broth
1 bay leaf
1-1/2 cups (360 ml) chopped tomatoes (I used a large can of diced tomatoes)
1-1/2 cups (360 ml) cooked red beans (I used kidney; any firm bean will do)
1/2 cup (120 ml) fresh or frozen corn kernels
3-4 Tbsp (45-60 ml.) fresh chopped parsley
3-4 Tbsp (45-60 ml) fresh chopped cilantro
Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Spray a large casserole dish (one with a cover) and set aside.
In a fairly large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat the rice, onion, garlic, carrots, celery, jalapeno, cumin, coriander and chili powder over medium heat, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes, until lightly browned.
Add the salt, stock, bay leaf and tomatoes, and stir to combine. Cover, lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
Add the beans, corn, parsley and cilantro. Turn the mixture into the casserole dish, cover and bake for another 30-40 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is cooked. If necessary, add a bit more stock and continue cooking until the rice is sufficiently soft. Garnish with more chopped herbs, if desired. Makes 6-8 servings. May be frozen.
NOTE: The original recipe suggests cooking the entire dish in your pot on the stovetop. I found, however, that the rice never really absorbed the liquid that way, and it remained hard even after an hour of simmering. If the stovetop method works for you, however, go ahead and use it–you’ll save yourself some dishes to wash that way.
Last Year at this Time: Quinoa and Oatmeal Croquettes
© 2009 Diet, Dessert and Dogs