Only (Rice) Salad Will Do

Thursday, May 2, 2013

   Making new habits is a true puzzle to me. On the one hand, habits are incredibly, alarmingly easy to make. Before you know it, you hit snooze exactly three times every morning (and are therefore always feeling ever so slightly rushed getting ready for work). Suddenly, rather than studying two hours a day you've whittled it down to a consistent single hour without even noticing.
   But on the other hand, there are habits that feel so hard, so painfully difficult to develop- like healthy habits. Getting rid of coffee, or just the creamer and sugar, is like a stake through the heart every. single. morning. It can seem nearly impossible to see the light.

   But, so they say, if you stick with it, the day will come when you've had your coffee with soy, no sugar, and you don't even think for a second about what your morning beverage used to be. Exactly when or how this happens is impossible to say. To me, this vagueness is precisely why forming new healthy habits can be such a herculean effort- no one can tell you how long you need to stick it out before it doesn't feel like sacrifice.

   So I prefer a different approach. I like to be a bit gentler with myself when it comes to making better or healthier lifestyle choices. Rather than view my choice as a black or white new rule to live by, I chose to see things on a more immediate level. Just because I've decided not to have coffee this morning, doesn't mean I can't tomorrow. I don't feel like having a hamburger this week, but maybe next week or next month I'll want one. You never know. Suddenly, it's no big deal.

    Once you accept the idea that nothing is off limits, the choices and opportunities to expand your life and health become endless. It's sort of like revealing the Wizard of Oz- if you refuse to believe that a doughnut is a sinful forbidden food, you've taken away its power over you.

   To me, the key to well rounded living is a series of small choices. It not only amounts to the choices we make to better ourselves, but also occasional decisions to be indulgent and to simply enjoy. This is how our plant based eating experiment began- a gentle, nothing is permanent exploration. Before we knew it, plants made up 99% of our meals and we've never felt better.

   The next time you're faced with a small decision, such as taking your lunch to work or risking the cafeteria, or cream versus soy milk in your coffee, give this a try. Before you know it, you'll be making hundreds of small decisions that add up to one big change in your health. And you eventually won't even notice that you're doing it... I promise.

   Maybe start with this salad. It's bright and fresh, crunchy and creamy. I think you'll like it.

Edamame and Cherry Tomato Forbidden Rice Salad
Inspired by Bon Appetit

1 cup forbidden rice (also called black rice or black Japanese rice)
1 3/4 cups vegetable broth
1 pound orange cherry tomatoes (or whichever color cherry tomato is fresh and available)
juice from 1 to 2 large lemons (about 3 tablespoons)
14 ounces frozen shelled edamame
8 ounces green beans, cut into 2 inch pieces
Kosher salt

   Rinse the rice thoroughly in a sieve. Place the rice in a small saucepan, add the vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to a mere simmer and cook 40 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to sit with cover on for at least 10 minutes.
   Meanwhile, bring a medium sized pot of salted water to a boil. Boil the edamame for 4 to 5 minutes or until just crisp tender. Drain and run cold water over them until cooled. In the same pot of boiling water, boil the green beans until bright and just tender, about 2 minutes. Drain and immediately submerge in ice water to cool. Drain again.
   Slice the cherry tomatoes in half. Place them in the bottom of a large mixing bowl. Spoon the warm rice over the tomatoes. Squeeze the lemon juice over the rice. Add in the edamame, green beans and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Toss everything to incorporate evenly. Serve warm or chilled.
   Serves 6, or 2 with leftovers for lunches.

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