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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

adapted from Eat More, Weigh Less (original recipe on this site)


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


34 comments to Dr. Ornish, You Stole My Heart: Seven Grain Dirty Rice and Beans

  • Snowing here too 🙁

    FABULOUS dirrrrrty rice dish!!


  • A lovely and easy dish, but yes, where are the other 5 grains? 🙂 Now, what do you think about eating more fat to be healthy? After all the low-fatness of the 90’s didn’t work I’m kind of happy to hear people like Sally Fallon talk about eating more good fats for good health. Organic butter and olive oil, for instance. I’ve been eating a LOT more butter and the lines in my face have gone away and I feel great, no weight gain at all. It’s interesting!


  • Yes- I saw the snow this morning as well and vowed not to leave my apartment until Spring returned. This blog post title is for the best ever. Made me giggle.

    It’s crazy what we (women) put ourselves through with our weight. Working on another one for my blog on being a chubby nutritionist. When I was 12 I was told by my doctor that I was overweight (which I certainly was not) and she put me on a diet- telling me not to eat things like avocados. I suppose there began my challenge with doctors.


  • Foods that Fit,
    Thanks for your comment, and for reading! It actually IS delicious–and sooo simple to make.


    Thanks, grrrrrrrl!! 😉

    I totally agree that fats are not unhealthy, if they’re the right kind of fats. However, knowing my own metabolism and eating inclinations, I still have to watch my fat intake. Having said that, I think I’m eating waaaaaay more fat on the ACD than ever before, and I still lost 5 pounds so far! So who knows? As long as they’re healthy fats and you’re not overdoing it, I say, bring ’em on.

    I know what you mean. My diet was spurred by an insensitive boy who made fun of my girth. I’ll look forward to your next post (though surely you’re writing about the past? Judging from your photos, you are the farthest thing from “chubby”!).


  • Nice post. I couldn’t agree with you more- diet don’t work! I wish more people understood that and would put their time and efforts into making healthy lifestyle changes, instead of trying every diet on the market.

    Your dish looks delicious! I love rice and beans.


  • This was a great post, No more diets, I also love Ornish and also Barnard for that. This is a great recipe, I think I might try this for Easter.


  • I’m over winter too – I’m looking forward to a (hopefully) good summer over here! This sounds delicious.


  • What a wonderful post, and encouragement to those who are trying to live a more healthful life.


  • BOOOO! It’s snowing here as well. =0

    I went on a diet early on in life too. Middle school I cut out junk food and then towards high school the disordered eating started. But it’s so true…diets don’t work!

    Fabulous meal, I could eat a big plate of that as well!


  • Courtney

    I woke up to snow here yesterday too! I actually had to scrape some off my car (it didn’t stick to the roads, though), and I was SO not a happy camper. It is SPRING for goodness sake!!

    I went on my first “diet” around age 13 too–my mom and my older sister were doing the “Cabbage Soup Diet”, and so I did too. How awful, huh?! I cannot believe my mother let me do it along with her!

    7 Grain, huh?! I was thinking maybe there were 7 spices or something and that was where the 7 came from…but no. Mr. Ornish, I love ya and your recipes and your research, but come on! You are a doctor! Did you forget how to count?!



  • Wow! Sorry about the winter, it got cold here again too (TX) and I actually had to wear a sweater today. Blah. Go, frigid wind, be gone!

    I made something like this for dinner tonight with salsa verde, smoked paprika and corn tortillas baked in. So yum! I will definitely try your version next time, sounds great.


  • i love dirty rice! this sounds amazing!


  • bee

    thanks for saying that diets don’t work, ricki. discipline works. diets don’t. as long as someone’s healthy, who cares how much they weigh?


  • This post brought back some late for the party mammaries memories! Mammaries memories, try to repeat that several times as fast as possible! 🙂

    Your seven grain or two grain dish looks so satisfying and extremely nutritious! Though a lot of people will be disappointed when they land here searching for dirty stuff! 😛


  • Jes

    I have no idea about the mystery grains, but the dish looks delish and your story was so entertaining *and* true! You should really get into some creative nonfiction. 🙂


  • Is this Dirty rice a twin to Spanish rice, or is Spanish rice more tomatoey?

    I would like to see some snow, but then again, I don’t have to drive in it! Or clean wet and muddy dogs’ paws. 😉


  • Kiersten,
    It does take some time to reach that conclusion, unfortunately. . . thanks!

    I bet this would be great for Easter–colorful, tasty, easy! 🙂

    Happy Vegan Lady,
    Let’s hope for warm weather SOOOOOON! 🙂

    Thanks so much!

    I think diets tend to do that. . . much better to avoid them if at all possible!

    I’ve been on the cabbage soup one, too! And come to think of it, my mom didn’t stop me from trying the Stillman Protein diet (of course, she’d been dieting her whole life, too). And I love your message for Dear Dr. Dean! Thanks for the giggles! 😉

    Stuff Cooks Want,
    Thanks so much for your comment, and for visiting! Your version sounds fantastic. Would love to give it at try, too! 🙂

    Thanks! It’s one of my faves, for sure.

    I couldn’t agree more. Health is what we should be aiming for, of course!

    Maybe late for the party, but who cares, as long as they get to the party eventually? 😉 And I’m looking forward to reading some of those wacky Google searches!

    Thanks so much! I do write personal essays on occasion and have had a few items in humor magazines. Will let you know when the next once gets accepted! 😉

    Still Life,
    I think dirty rice is traditionally dryer than Spanish, but I had a big can of tomatoes, so just threw the whole thing in (so as not to be wasteful, of course). I tend to like it a little moister, I guess. And I think the only reason you’d like to see snow must be that you’ve forgotten what it’s actually like!!


  • boo hiss to diets indeed! My reaction to most diets is to look in horror at the idea that someone wants me to do that much work when eating – either counting or omitting in too much detail – it is one of the ironies of the modern world that we have so much good food to enjoy and make such hard work of it!

    Looks an excellent dish! Do you know why they call it ‘dirty’?


  • Diet is a four letter word:)Now dirty on the other hand…


  • Mmmm that rice looks YUMMY!
    Keep us apprised of the google search situation — those searches should be pretty entertaining!


  • A perfectly balanced meal and so healthy too. I adore comfort foods like this. Thanks for another great recipe Ricki.


  • This looks so tasty, I can hardly believe it’s good for you!


  • giz

    I officially made the switch to brown rice quite a while ago and I would so love this recipe. Yup, I’m going to make it – right after Passover.
    Have a chag sameach.


  • This dish looks delicious and the photos are gorgeous – especially the second one!

    The weather has been so weird here too. Last week it was snowing, today it’s sunny and kind of warm.


  • That rice looks both healthy and tasty!


  • haha.. you dirty vegan blogger you!

    Stupid diets. My best friend’s mother made her do the Cabridge Diet and Herbalife growing up.. she still can’t drink a damn smoothie because of it..

    I love that dish.. I made a similar dish today out of bulgur..


  • I love Dr. Ornish too, and have had this book for ages. I must say, though, having grown up in Cajun country, I can’t bring myself to cook Dirty Rice, knowing what was in it. Not even the veganized version! But this looks really good. Maybe I could call it a “pilaf” and forget about the dirty parts?


  • Oh that sounds like such good comfort food, but I must admit, I was excited to see a recipe on how to cook multiple grains together! I always find that a challenge since they all have different cooking times/liquid amounts.


  • Liz

    Ooooh. This dirty rice sounds great! And so hearty! Great info about heart disease too… if only other doctors realized a lot could be reversed through diet… sigh…


  • sounds fantastic! i’ve been meaning to try cooking beans from scratch, but haven’t made it yet… 🙂


  • I’m getting caught up!
    Dr. Dean and randy lesbians all in the same post – you are my hero, Ricki.
    I’ve never considered myself weight-obsessed (maybe I should, though), but as I was reading your post I realized my first “diet” was when I was 9 in the 4th grade. I stopped eating lunch. I don’t even remember thinking I was fat or anything, but I was often reading literature too old for me (Young Miss, etc.) and since it seemed to be the thing to do, I did it, too.
    Punctual diets have punctual effects. Why do we feel we need, or even deserve to eat so much? Sorry…I feel my own blog post growing from this comment…


  • Thank you for your story…. because we all have a story, don’t we? …. and it’s so interesting to know the history. And the recipe looks good too.

    I remember the Stillman diet also. A girl my age (at the time) seriously messed up her digestive tract following this so-called miracle diet! I can’t believe it keeps resurfacing under different names. Glad you have seen the pattern in your own life.


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