13 April 2014

Roasted Beet and Black Rice Salad

The idea of stress, specifically how we think about it and how we cope with it, has been coming up in research or conversations lately. So I thought I'd share some brief thoughts with you because let's face it, stress is a fact of life. We cannot always avoid it, so we would be wasting our time and energy if we thought we had to remove stress in order to be happy. Instead, here's some alternative food for thought.

How we think about stress matters
Research has shown that when we see stress as beneficial to our performance and our health, it changes our body's reaction to stress. Among a group surveyed, those who reported a lot of stress and believed stress is harmful to their health had a 43% increased risk of premature death.Check out this TED talk for further explanation and tips for how to make stress your friend.

How plant-based whole foods help us cope with stress
The saying, you are what you eat, is true, and the food-mood connection is real. Having brain fog and suffering from mood swings can affect our clarity, motivation, and how we perceive stress in our everyday lives. But we have learned from research that getting enough essential nutrients, many of which are found in plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes, etc. can affect the chemicals in our brain that control mood and have been linked to preventing depression.2,3 Plus it makes sense that simply knowing we are taking care of ourselves by our food choices can improve mood.3

Along that note, I wanted to share what I consider a mood-boosting salad. It's the deepest midnight purple salad you'll have and it offers a flavor-packed playful contrast of earthy and sweet roasted beets, crunchy red cabbage, chewy black rice and toasted walnuts. A bright, tangy vinaigrette brings it all together, and if you have it on hand, some creamy goat cheese is not out of place here.

Roasted Beet and Black Rice Salad
Serves 4-6

1 cup black rice (soaked 6-8 hrs, preferably)
1 large beet
1 very small head red cabbage
1-2 spring onions, thinly sliced on a diagonal
1 red chili, sliced on a diagonal (optional)
Walnuts, toasted
Whole-grain mustard vinaigrette (recipe below)
Goat cheese (optional)

Preheat oven to 450 F (232 C)

In a medium saucepan add black rice (rinsed/drained if soaked), 1 1/4 cups water (1 3/4 cups water if rice was not soaked), and a few pinches salt. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to simmer until rice is cooked and water has absorbed (15-20 minutes, 30 minutes if rice was not soaked).

Roast Beets: Rinse beet well, cut in half, then into 1/2 inch wedges, divide among 2-3 large pieces of foil, wrap foil around beets, and crimp edges to make a closed packet. Place on a baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes, or until beets are tender. Open foil packets, cool slightly, then peel skin away and cut beets into chunks.

Shave cabbage: Cut cabbage into quarters, core, and shave by slicing thinly lengthwise.

Add shaved cabbage to a large serving bowl and pour in a few tablespoons of vinaigrette. Massage vinaigrette into cabbage until it just starts to break down (15 seconds). Add black rice, beets, spring onions, chili (if using), walnuts, and a few pinches of salt. Pour over enough vinaigrette to coat (pass the rest at the table), toss everything together, top with goats cheese if using, and serve.

Whole-Grain Mustard Vinaigrette
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp whole grain mustard (or Dijon)
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp. honey
Juice from 1/2 lime
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
Scant 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cayenne
Scant 1/2 tsp. salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Add all ingredients to a small jar with lid. Screw on lid and shake vigorously until well mixed. Alternatively mix well in a small bowl.

Keller, A., Litzelman, K., Wisk, L. E., Maddox, T., Cheng, E. R., Creswell, P. D., & Witt, W. P. (2012). Does the perception that stress affects health matter? The association with health and mortalityHealth Psychology31(5), 677.


  1. Oh yum, this salad looks AMAZING! I'm yet to cook with black rice at home, I'll have to try and get my hands on some. Love the informative post too :)

    1. Thank you Dearna! Black rice is great, but of course any favorite whole grain such as brown rice, farro, quinoa, spelt berries, or wheatberries would work just as well. The beets would just turn them a pink hue. ;-)

  2. What a beautiful salad! great post about stress and food. stress is a funny thing, food and exercise are so important.

    1. Hi Cheri! I'm glad you liked the stress info. It is a funny thing, and I agree with you, food and exercise both do wonders. I loved the idea that by knowing we are taking care of ourselves with food and exercise, we have more respect for and feel better about ourselves.

  3. This recipe is for me.

    I enjoyed reading your notes on stress and in particular the video was clever in approach. I like the idea of making stress my friend as I find myself perpetually trying to diminish one stress inflicting situation after another

    I decide my response to the situation and constantly coach myself to diminish the impact, I think it helps.

    I love that your recipe is full of bold colour, freshness and delicate sweetness. X

    1. Ah, thank you Deena! Isn't the video great?! It's a whole new way of thinking about stress that has really helped me too. I think you are wise to decide up front how you'll think and react to a situation, because in the end it is empowering to know we have control over our thoughts and reactions!

  4. I love these insights on stress, especially all the cross-references to the research! I'll make sure to check out that TED talk too! I have struggled with stress management over the years and am fascinated by ways to keep it in check -- I have found a healthy diet and sleep are key contributors to success :) Thanks for this -- and the recipe looks scrumptious.

    1. Sonja, thank you for your comment. You're definitely not alone. I think we have all struggled with stress management at some point. And yes, how could I forget, sleep is as important as food and exercise, isn't it?! Thank you for stopping by!

  5. This is so colorful! I have tried looking for black rice, but can't seem to find it! I'll keep looking though :)

    1. Thanks for your comment, Cathleen! Many varieties of black rice can be found on Amazon (I use the Lotus Foods brand) and in natural food or specialty stores. But of course, as I mentioned earlier to another reader, you can use another whole grain (quinoa, farro, brown rice, etc) in place of black rice. Good luck!


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