Wild rice is special in other ways. Although it seems grain-like, it actually isn't a rice at all. It's the seed of an annual reed-like aquatic grass. Additionally, wild rice is lower in carbohydrates and calories than brown rice and other grains. So some people who are sensitive to grains or carbohydrates tolerate wild rice well.
Good Tasting and Good for You
With 25 fewer calories and 5 fewer grams of carbohydrate than brown rice per half-cup serving, wild rice is a relative caloric and carbohydrate bargain for Thanksgiving meals that are often overly stuffed with calories and carbs from stuffing, potato dishes, and baked goods. According to a 2009 animal study, wild rice may improve serum lipid levels and antioxidant levels when substituted for refined grains such as white rice. Wild rice is nutritious, too. Compared to brown rice, wild rice is higher in potassium, zinc, folate, vitamin E, and the eye-protective antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin.
A Truly Traditional Thanksgiving Food
Perhaps the best reason of all to eat wild rice is it is a true North American food, having been harvested, eaten, and prized by Native Americans for many centuries. Much of the wild rice that is sold today, such as the Lundberg Family Farms Organic brand, is commercially cultivated in paddy fields. However, some wild rice, such as the Eden Foods Organic brand, is grown in the wild and hand harvested the traditional way by Native Americans in canoes in rivers and lakes in Minnesota and other Great Lakes states. The cooking time of wild rice varies depending on the type and brand bought. Hand-harvested wild rice, which can range in color from light brown to greenish brown to deep brown, generally cooks in 20 to 30 minutes, while cultivated wild rice, which is nearly black, takes 45 to 60 minutes to cook. Be sure to read the cooking instructions on the brand you buy to cook the rice correctly.
Try these easy ways to incorporate wild rice into your diet:
- Make wild rice pilaf or stuffing. For a festive, hearty-flavored addition to a holiday meal, cook wild rice alone, or for more assorted color, half and half with brown rice or brown basmati rice. Simmer with sautéed vegetables such as celery and onions or shallots. After cooking, mix in nuts and fruit such as chopped apples, raisins, or dried cranberries.
- Prepare wild rice turkey salad. Creatively use Thanksgiving leftovers, such as diced turkey breast meat, apples, raisins, and nuts, by adding them to cooled or room-temperature cooked wild rice. Dress and mix with a dressing of your choice, such as balsamic vinaigrette, orange vinaigrette, or a light gluten-free mayonnaise.
- Add wild rice to soups. Use up leftover wild rice by putting it into soups the last few minutes of cooking. Wild rice goes well in clear soups such as chicken or vegetable soup and in creamy soups made with cream or dairy-free unsweetened almond milk.
• Combine wild rice with ground meat. Add cooked wild rice, minced onion, and herbs into ground beef or dark-meat ground turkey to create gourmet burgers or meatloaf.
Zesty Holiday Wild Rice
For more convenience preparing your Thanksgiving meal, make this dish without the orange zest and parsley a day or two before the holiday, and refrigerate. On Thanksgiving, reheat the dish and add the last two ingredients before serving. Reprinted from the Going Against the Grain Group, 2010, by Melissa Diane Smith. Adapted from a recipe for Nutty Nice Rice by the Southern Arizona Celiac Support Group.
1½ Tbsp. organic extra virgin olive oil
½ c. chopped celery
½ c. chopped onion
2½ cups organic gluten-free chicken broth
1 c. Lundberg Farms Organic Wild Rice
½ c. chopped pecans
½ c. organic fruit-juice-concentrate-sweetened dried cranberries
1½ tsp. grated orange zest
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh organic parsley
- In a medium saucepan, heat oil on medium. Sauté celery and onion about 5 minutes until soft. Add broth and rice. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 50-65 minutes or until rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed.
- Toast pecans in a 300- to 350-degree oven for about 5-10 minutes until fragrant. Mix pecans and cranberries into wild rice, then fold in orange zest and sprinkle with parsley. Serve warm.
PER SERVING: 190 CAL; 4 G PROT; 8 G TOTAL FAT (1 G SAT FAT); 25 G CARB; 0 MG CHOL; 187 MG SOD; 3 G FIBER; 7 G SUGARS