Eating for Life

The whole grain truth

Styling by JILL WENDHOLT SILVA; photo by TAMMY LJUNGBLAD/The Kansas City Star
Get one step closer to your daily recommended intake of whole grains with The Star’s Pork Chop Brown Rice Casserole.

Still stumped when it comes to whole grains?

The 2005 Dietary Guidelines advised Americans to eat at least three servings of whole grains a day. But thanks to some fuzzy marketing, many consumers remain confused by manufacturers’ health claims. The FDA ( 7 .html) stepped in earlier this month and reissued a draft guidance policy: a “whole grain” must retain the endosperm, bran and germ.

Brown rice qualifies as 100 percent whole grain, while many other products, such as wheat bread and cereal, do not make the cut because they are made of a mixture of whole grains and enriched grains.

Despite its status as a whole grain, the naturally chewy texture and slightly nutty flavor of brown rice is a turn-off for many people, so it is often “polished” to remove all or part of the bran. This process also strips away most of the vitamins, minerals, amino acids, polyunsaturated fats and fiber.

Dietitians are eager to get mainstream consumers to choose more brown rice, long considered a health food, because it is “nutrient-dense” (15 vitamins and minerals), and it’s a low-calorie food (100 calories per 1/2 -cup serving).

The only potential drawback? The slightly longer cooking time needed for the water to penetrate the bran covering.

The Star’s Pork Chop Brown Rice Casserole uses a cooking method typical of a traditional Near East pilaf-style dish — cook the rice until golden in butter or oil, allow the grains to absorb the cooking liquid and season the rice with chopped, cooked vegetables and meat. This method frees up the cook to do other tasks while the rice dish simmers on the stovetop.

Shopping tip: Because brown rice has oil in the germ, it has a shorter shelf life than white rice and may go rancid in six months to a year. Buy your rice at a market that has high turnover to ensure freshness.

Cooking tip: What makes long-grain rice long? Each grain measures four to five times its width. Cooked long-grain rice produces dry grains that are distinct and can be easily separated with the tines of a fork.

Pork chop brown rice casserole

Makes 4 servings

4 (4-to 6-ounce) center-cut, bone-in pork chops, about 1/2 to 3/4-inch thick

1/2 cup chopped onion

3/4 cup long-grain brown rice

1 cup water

1 carrot, shredded

1 (14.5-ounce) can no-salt added whole tomatoes, chopped

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon dried leaf oregano

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped

1/2 cup frozen corn

Spray a large nonstick skillet or Dutch oven with nonstick spray coating. Heat over medium-high heat until skillet is hot. Add chops and cook until browned on each side; drain and set chops aside.

Add onion to skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until onion is just tender. Stir in rice and cook, stirring, until rice is golden. Stir in water and carrot; cover and heat to boiling. Reduce heat and cook 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, seasonings, jalapeno and corn. Arrange chops over rice mixture. Cover and simmer 45 to 60 minutes or until rice is tender.

Per serving: 461 calories (45 percent from fat), 23 grams total fat (8 grams saturated), 75 milligrams cholesterol, 40 grams carbohydrates, 24 grams protein, 80 milligrams sodium, 4 grams dietary fiber.

Recipe developed for The Star by home economists Kathryn Moore and Roxanne Wyss

Food styling by JILL WENDHOLT SILVA/Photo by TAMMY LJUNGBLAD/The Kansas City Star