Saturday, March 31, 2012

Blog Awards...and Citrus-Walnut Brown Rice Pilaf

Happy weekend, my friends...hope you have some fun adventures planned! Michael and I are in search of great tacos in San Antonio today, then Sunday is lunch with a friend and an afternoon smoothie break with another friend. In between all this activity will be some cooking for next week’s blog posts. Good thing I always seem to have a ton of energy in Spring! Before I share a fantastic side dish recipe today, I want to thank some of my blogger friends for some cool awards they’ve given me this week. 

First was Heidi at Young Grasshopper, who gave me a Versatile Blogger award. Then my friend Becky from Baking and Cooking, A Tale of Two Loves gave me a Kreativ Blogger award. They say good things come in three's, which was the case this week when Peter at Feed the Soul gave me a second Versatile Blogger award. I’m always touched when a fellow food blogger lets me know that they enjoy what I do here! These awards came with a couple of instructions. The first is to share with your favorite I'm sharing these awards with ALL my food blog friends. Swipe the Versatile Blogger or Kreavtiv Blogger button on the right and add it to your blog! I’m also supposed to tell you 10 things about myself. Since most of you only know the foodie side of me, here’s some things you might not know.
  1. I’m in my mid-40s, but I'm very young at heart...I love to laugh and have fun. To me, life’s a grand adventure both in the kitchen and out!
  2. I originally moved to San Antonio in 2000 to attend law school. Yes, I graduated -- and I even passed the Texas Bar on the first try!
  3. I love all kinds of movies...from silly comedies to Oscar-worthy dramas. This includes documentaries and foreign films. Oscar season is one of the highlights of my year!
  4. A peek into my mind: my favorite silly comedies are Wedding Crashers, Tropic Thunder, Old School, and Bridesmaids.
  5. I love all kinds of music, but my favorites are The Beatles, U2, Elton John, and Sting/The Police. Except for The Beatles, I've seen them all live...but I have seen Paul McCartney live several times!
  6. My favorite U.S. cities to visit are New York, Chicago, New Orleans, and San Francisco/Napa. It’s no coincidence that they all have excellent food!
  7. I’m a political junkie...I don’t talk politics in here, but I have very strong political opinions!
  8. I'm not a picky eater...but the few foods I do dislike, I despise with a passion. Olives are pretty much Public Enemy #1 to me.
  9. I have a sister (6 years younger) and a brother (12 years younger). Tina lives just outside Cleveland, and Kyle lives in the Houston area.
  10. I’m a huge Houston sports cheering for the Texans, Rockets, and Astros. We’ve traveled to Chicago and New York specifically to watch the Astros play road games at Wrigley Field, Yankee Stadium (old AND new), and Shea Stadium.
Before I head out in search of tacos...and a visit to the gym...I have a unique and simple rice pilaf to share with you today. Side dishes are often overlooked since they’re the supporting cast of the meal...but that doesn’t have to be the case! I love to pair a flavorful side dish with a simple main dish like grilled chicken or pan-seared fish. As soon as I saw this rice pilaf recipe in a Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, I knew I had to get in the kitchen and play around with it a bit. Brown rice, colorful veggies, lemon, and walnuts combine to make a side dish that truly takes center stage!

Citrus-Walnut Brown Rice Pilaf
adapted from Better Homes and Gardens

Step 1:  Toast 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts in a small pan over medium heat for five minutes, stirring frequently. Set aside while you prep the rest of the pilaf. Heat 2 tbs. olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add 1/2 small purple onion that's been cut in slivers, 2 minced or grated garlic cloves, and 2/3 cup matchstick carrots. Cook for about five minutes, until the onions are softened.

Step 2:  Add 2 cups cooked brown rice and stir to combine with the veggies. Cook until the rice is warmed through, about 2-3 minutes. Add the following ingredients to the veggie-brown rice mixture: the reserved walnuts, 5 leaves basil cut in a chiffonade, the juice and zest of one small lemon, and salt and pepper to taste. 

Step 3:  Stir to combine, taste to see if the salt and pepper need adjusting, and scoop the pilaf into a serving bowl.

This is my kind of recipe, people: full of big flavors and textures! The nutty brown rice paired perfectly with the toasted walnuts, the onion and garlic gave it a savory taste, and the brightness of the lemon juice and zest pull it all together. The original recipe called for parsley, but I used basil instead since basil and lemon are such natural flavor partners. Put it all together, and you’ve got one fantastic side dish! This pilaf is a great side for grilled fish or chicken. You can make this pilaf with leftover cooked brown rice like I did...or you can buy pre-cooked packaged brown rice at the grocery store like the original recipe suggests. Feel free to sub in your favorite veggies for what you have on hand, as it seems to be a pretty flexible recipe.

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