Monday, October 12, 2009

Cauliflower Rice

Rice is nice when you crave a grainy consistency.  Sticky or fluffy, it bulks up your meal and adds a great texture component.  Rice may be touted as healthy, especially if it is brown or wild, but really, who are they kidding?  Unfortunately, just about everyone.

I have heard the argument that kids need grains.  They are "good" for them.  What can you get out of a grain that you can't get tenfold from vegetables, fruit, and meat?  Name me something other than digestive problems.  Don't think you have digestive problems with grain?  Try giving it up for two weeks, cold turkey, then go right back to eating your bread, pasta, and rice.  See how it feels to clean out your system and reintroduce an irritant.  Chances are highly in my favor that you won't be fine.

Why No Rice?

Rice is a grain.  White rice is a highly refined carbohydrate, meaning it is processed to make it more digestible.   Doesn't that say something right there?  If we have to process something to eat it, should we be eating it?  That is one of the reasons behind arguments against tubers (they have to be cooked to be eaten).  There is definitely more to argue here, but trying to consume less processed foods is a step in the right direction.

White rice has lost most of its nutrient value since its outer layers have been stripped away.  But lectins and antinutrients are still prevalent.  According to the "Nutritional Quality of Cereals" chapter of Fermented Cereals: a Global Perspective, grains mess with your enzymes, chemicals needed for chemical reactions vital to your bodily processes.  The enzyme inhibitors found in rice are concentrated in the bran (i.e. what brown rice retains) and interfere with digestion causing problems with the pancreas (where insulin is made) and disrupting amino acid utilization.  The kicker: these enzyme inhibitors are heat stable, meaning they stick around after cooking.

According to Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes, a prominent reference detailing the problems with refined carbohydrates, a British researcher and retired physician of the British Royal Navy, named Thomas Cleave, tried to warn the medical community in the 1960s.  He found a trend that societies who left their traditional foods and adopted a carbohydrate staple such as sugar, white rice, and white flour were set on a disastrous path.  With these refined grains came cavities and periodontal disease then obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.  Refining grains increases their digestibility, which means a blood sugar spike as they are quickly broken down into glucose.  It also means they can easily be over-eaten since they are refined down and more concentrated.  Look at the Zone blocks of rice (brown or white): 1/5 of a cup.  That is just over 3 tablespoons.  Is it worth it?

Rice is also high glycemic.  On a scale where 100 is white sugar or pure glucose, white rice averages 64, long grain white rice at 56, brown rice averages at 55,  and even wild rice receives a 54.  High glycemic foods are 50 and higher, meaning they easily break down into glucose and flood your blood, spiking your blood sugar dangerously.

While glycemic index numbers around 50 might not convince you, glycemic load values should.  Glycemic index values measure how fast a carbohydrate breaks down into glucose, which floods the bloodstream.  Glycemic load takes into account quantity of carbohydrate in a food to give a more complete picture.  For example, while watermelon is sugary and high glycemic at 103, it is also full of water and has less carbohydrate content, so its glycemic load is really low at 4.  Your best bet is to eat foods low on both scales, and more often than not, foods low on the glycemic index also have a low glycemic load, which  means values of 10 or less (20 or more are considered high).

The glycemic load of rice is much more nefarious than its glycemic index.  White rice and long grain white rice share the same number: 23.  Wild rice and brown rice both have glycemic loads of 18.  Most rice glycemic loads were extremely high, though.  How about a glycemic load of 60 for boiled white low-amylose rice from Turkey or 46 for rice cooker prepared jasmine rice?  Look for yourself on this comprehensive international table of glycemic index and glycemic load values.    

Think your kids still need grains to be healthy?  Probably not, but that might not be the problem.  Many people just fall back on grains because they feel they have few alternatives.  Try this: Cauliflower Rice.  Cauliflower works perfectly as a rice substitute.  It can be sticky with the right addition of liquid or fluffy when sauteed just like the Uncle Ben's commercial's advertised.  Frustrated your kids won't eat veggies? Here is one they will devour.

Why Cauliflower?

Cauliflower is a clean palate in the world of veggies.  It has little of its own flavor, but loves to soak in that of its sauces and spices.  It also has a great ability to be tossed in the food processor and come out in rice-like kernels similar to the pasta variety of couscous.

Cauliflower is chock full of nutrients.  It is one of Barry Sear's top 100 Zone foods for being filling, high in fiber, low in calories, and vitamin rich.  It has your recommended dosage of vitamin C in just one cup.  Its heart helping nutrients, folate and vitamin B6, break down homocysteine, an artery damaging chemical.  Its phytonutrients also protect against cancer.  One study found that combining the spice turmeric with cauliflower leads to protection again prostate cancer and slows its growth, perhaps accounting for the low incidence of prostate cancer among men in India.  

Rapid cooking keeps the nutrients intact and avoids mushiness or sulfurous compounds that can make cauliflower bitter and smelly.  Cauliflower is in the same family of vegetables as cabbage and kale, so it has similar health benefits.  So what can I do with it?  Read on!

Kristy's Cauliflower Rice
This will take your love of rice dishes to a new level.  Have fun experimenting!
Zone Blocks: 4 cups of cooked cauliflower (in floret form) is one block.  Eat your fill!

1 medium head of cauliflower per diner

chef's knife
cutting board
spatula or rubber scraper
food processor
salad spinner
large bowl

Cut the cauliflower into florets of medium size (no need to cut down to small ones, but the food processor doesn't like them too large either).  Yes, this is messy and I always get particles of cauliflower all over the counter, floor, my clothing...  It is the price for home-made goodness.

Wash the florets and do a quick scan for little buggies that enjoy hiding in the nooks and crannies.  Spin the florets in a salad spinner or dry some archaic method.  Plop a handful into your food processor (DO NOT load up your food processor--believe me--you'll be scooping out the unbroken florets to repulse in two batches anyway) and pulse til you break up the big chunks (probably less than 10 pulses).  Then, hold down the button and continue to process until the cauliflower rises up the sides of the processor and the blade just spins uselessly, just a minute.  I love how the cauliflower itself determines the right consistency--no need to fuss.  It tells you when it is done by rising up the sides away from the blade.  Scoop out the rice into your bowl, replace the blade that likely fell out too, and repeat.

Continue to work through your cauliflower in batches.  I know this is tedious and you might be tempted to load up the food processor, but don't unless you want that challenge of trying to scoop out large chunks amongst the processed rice to reprocess them.  Not worth it, man.  Not worth it.  

Once done, you are ready to cook.  Basically, the rice just needs heating and time to mesh with some spices.  It can be ready in 10 minutes or less.  If you like your rice sticky and clumpy, try adding liquid to the cooking method you use.  The rice comes out fluffy with sautéing.  Try using your cauliflower rice in any rice dish (just remember to cook it first)!  Below are some cooking options that I have enjoyed:

Cooking Options: 

Cilantro-Lime Curry Rice
Delicious Indian spices with a citrus kick.

Kristy's Cauliflower Rice for 2
1/4 C chopped cilantro
1 lime, cut in half (more if desired)
curry powder
garlic powder
coconut oil
optional: instead of powdered garlic, use chopped garlic and grated fresh ginger and add them with the other spices
also optional: like your rice more sticky? add some chicken broth while cooking to clump it

Prepare the Kristy's Cauliflower Rice above.  Then, heat a skillet over medium heat and add the coconut oil.  Up to you how much, but a tablespoon will probably do.  Once hot, add the spices (start with a tablespoon of curry powder, turmeric, and garlic and a pinch of salt if desired).  Give them a moment to get fragrant, then, add the cauliflower rice and mix well.  I have had success with adding it in batches since there is too much rice to mix at once.  Taste and add more spices if desired.  You want to warm the rice without making it mushy (or add some chicken broth if mushy is your goal), so it should be done in 10min or less.  Once done, squeeze half a lime over the top and stir in chopped cilantro.  Taste and add more lime as needed.  The lime really adds a great flavor kick, awaking the spices and flavors.

Serving suggestions:
Add any cooked meat to the rice or serve beside it.  We have had great success with scallops and shrimp (just saute in coconut oil).  It also pairs great with fish, especially when prepared using a recipe with the same spices.

NOTE: the above picture is of the following rice recipe prior to adding the shrimp, but since it looks pretty much the same as Cilantro-Lime Curry Rice, I used its picture.

Indian Spiced Paella
This recipe came about when trying to make the rice above but finding out with horror that I was out of curry powder, as I was cooking.  So I grabbed other spices that looked good and came out with something quite tasty.  


Kristy's Cauliflower Rice for 2
two servings of uncooked, cleaned shrimp (however much you want to eat; tails on or off)
1/4 C chopped cilantro
1 lime, cut in half (more if desired)
dried onion (or regular onion, chopped)
chili powder
garlic 6 cloves (or more), chopped and split into two equal piles
ginger, about 1-inch segment, grated or chopped finely, to get about the same amount as the garlic, split into two equal piles
coconut oil

Prepare your garlic and ginger first--too often have I overheated a pan during preparation taking longer than expected.  Heat coconut oil in a skillet over medium heat and add one pile of the garlic and ginger and the spices: one tablespoon each of turmeric, coriander, dried onion, chili powder (this one is up to you), plus a pinch of salt if desired.  Give them a moment to get fragrant, then add the rice and mix throughly.  Taste and add more spices if desired.  You want to warm the rice without making it mushy, so it should be done in 10min or less (or, if mushy is your goal, add some chicken broth).  Once done, squeeze half a lime over the top and stir in chopped cilantro.  Taste and add more lime as needed.  Scoop cooked rice into a bowl and clean out your skillet.

Now for the shrimp.  Add more coconut oil and the remaining piles of garlic and ginger to your skillet placed back over medium heat.  Once fragrant, add your shrimp and get your tongs ready.  Shrimp cook fast, so give them a minute and start flipping.  You are looking for white, opaque color and pinkness in the tails (if you left them on).  Treat each shrimp individually, don't wait for the whole batch to turn.  Once you think a shrimp is done, both sides, get it out fast.  Shrimp overcook in a heartbeat, so err on the side of "I think this looks done" rather than "Yup, that is definitely done."  They will continue to cook a little when you toss them in the hot rice, which of course, is the last step!

Enjoy your paleo feast!

Pesto Rice (check back for the recipe coming soon!)

Cauliflower on FoodistaCauliflower


  1. Kristy,
    Cannot beleive I have never come across your blog yet, I got the heads up after changing Crossfit boxes and cannot get enough of your posts. Keep up the great work and don't be afraid to make a cookbook one of these days! If you have not already of course

    Thanks again

  2. Thank you so much, Fabio! I appreciate the kind words! I think paleo cooking is a great niche for me and full of opportunities because this is a road not taken by many cooks, chefs, or products. Let me know if you have any suggestions for creations you'd like to see!

    Best wishes,

  3. Cauliflower prevent colon cancer and contributes significant amounts of iron. It also contains vitamins E and C. I like to eat it at least twice per week and i love the taste. I like cauliflower in salad or another kind of recipes.

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  4. I plan to make cauliflower rice tonight for dinner because of my guests, one is on the Atkins Diet, one/two is are overweight, one is has diabetes 2 and one is becoming a vegetarian. This seems to be acceptable to all.
    I have a question, though. Can I prepare the cauliflower now ahead of time? Or do I have to wait until everyone shows up and cook in the middle of other cooking?

  5. Hi Ann,
    Thanks for the feedback! Yes, you can prepare it now and reheat later. The flavors will be even better!
    Best wishes,

  6. I thank this blog for existing! one of the more original, clever blogs i've read in a long time.

  7. Great post! Keep it up the good work and also keep posting.