Rice is an ancient grain that has been cultivated for thousands of years. It’s one of the most important grains in the world and serves as a staple food source for more than half of the world’s population. Rice also is also one of the most easily digested and least allergenic grains, making it an ideal choice for people on a restricted diet or those who are gluten-intolerant. In fact, for these reasons, it’s often recommended as a baby’s first solid food.

Did you know that there are thousands of varieties of rice including black, purple and red? Each variety of rice has its own unique flavor and characteristics. The two types that most of us are used to seeing in the grocery store are white rice and brown rice. So what exactly is the difference between the two?

Production Process
Brown rice is a natural whole grain rice that is either un-milled or partially milled whereas white rice as been milled. Every grain of rice consists of the rice enclosed in a hull. The initial processing removes the hull, resulting in brown rice. Brown rice is considered a whole grain because it has all three layers of the grain intact- the bran, germ and endosperm. The rice can be prepared for consumption at this point or it can be further milled or polished, removing the bran layer, to make white rice. Many of the vitamins, minerals and fiber are in the bran layer and are lost in the process of making white rice.

Cooking Time
Brown rice takes longer to cook than white rice- about 45 minutes vs. 20 minutes. Although with Tasty Bite products, you don’t have to worry about that at all! In just 90 seconds, you can enjoy a steaming hot bowl of rice.

The extra processing that white rice goes through does have some benefits. For example, one benefit is that it has a longer shelf life than brown rice. There are a lot essential fatty acids in the bran layer of brown rice that can become rancid as they oxidize. So brown rice has an average shelf life of about 6 months (longer if refrigerated). White rice, which has had the bran layer removed, can be stored for years.

Flavor Profile and Texture
Brown rice and white rice have very different tastes and textures. Brown rice has an almost nutty flavor and a medium to firm, chewy texture. White rice has a milder flavor and softer, more delicate texture. It’s starchier than brown rice and has a stickier texture because the milling process reveals the starchiest part of the grain. For this reason, white rice is easier to eat with chopsticks.

Brown rice can be paired with hearty, flavorful ingredients and dishes that can stand up to it. Enjoy brown rice with boldly flavored Tasty Bite entrees such as Bengal Lentils, Punjab Eggplant or Bombay Potatoes. I also like to use brown rice in soups, stews and chili.

White rice can be paired with delicately flavored ingredients and dishes because of its mild flavor and soft texture. Basmati rice and jasmine rice are two types of white rice in the Tasty Bite product line. Both are highly aromatic and will make your kitchen smell delicious as you cook them. Basmati rice is a type of long grain rice classically used in many Indian dishes such as biryani. It cooks up light and fluffy with individual grains that do not clump or stick. It pairs wonderfully with any of the Tasty Bite Indian entrees such as the Kashmir Spinach, Vegetable Tikka Masala or Jodhpur Lentils. It is also a good choice for rice pilaf dishes or cold rice salads. Jasmine rice is also very fragrant and is used a lot in Thai and Chinese cuisine. Its grains are shorter than Basmati so it cooks up softer and a little stickier. It’s terrific paired with both the Tasty Bite Indian and Thai entrees. It’s also a good choice for dessert dishes like rice pudding
With the holidays right around the corner, here are two festive rice dishes that would be the perfect addition at your family table. Both dishes celebrate fall flavors and ingredients. My Stuffed Acorn Squash pairs brown rice with aromatic vegetables, crunchy pecans, sweet dried cranberries and salty Parmesan cheese.

I used Tasty Bite plain brown rice because I wanted to incorporate traditional holiday flavors and ingredients. But you could just as easily use the Tandoori Rice and make an Indian version of this dish or the Thai Lime Rice for a Thai version. For hearty, baked dishes like this, the earthy flavor and chewy texture of brown rice works very well.

My Pumpkin Spice Rice Pudding, on the other hand, uses Tasty Bite jasmine rice. Jasmine rice has a soft, delicate texture and mildly fragrant flavor that works perfectly in desserts like this. As you simmer and stir the rice and milk together, the starches from the rice are released, giving the dish a creamy, decadent consistency. The mild white rice also pairs nicely with the delicate pumpkin and warm fall spices.

Stuffed Acorn Squash
Makes 4 servings

2 medium acorn squash, washed
7 teaspoons olive oil, divided
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme (or 1 tablespoon fresh)
1 package Tasty Bite Brown Rice (about 2 cups)
½ cup vegetable broth
1/3 cup dried cranberries, chopped
1/3 cup pecans, chopped
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons Parmesan cheese, divided

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Place them cut side up on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush the cut surfaces of the squash with 2 teaspoons olive oil and season them with salt and pepper.

Bake in the oven until tender, 30-35 minutes. Remove the squash from the oven and turn the temperature down to 400°F.

While the squash is baking, make the filling. Heat 3 teaspoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add the onion and celery. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook until softened, 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and cook another minute until fragrant. Stir in the rice, vegetable broth, dried cranberries, pecans, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper and 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese.

Spoon the filling into the squash halves, filling them up so that it is heaping on top. Sprinkle the remaining 2 teaspoons cheese on top and drizzle with the remaining 2 teaspoons oil.

Bake for 15-18 minutes in the middle of the oven until squash is cooked through and filling is heated.

Pumpkin Spice Rice Pudding
Makes 4 servings

1 ½ cups reduced fat (2%) milk
1/3 cup canned pumpkin
3 tablespoons packed coconut palm sugar or light brown sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon dried ginger
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 package Tasty Bite Jasmine Rice (about 2 cups)

Whisk the milk, pumpkin, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and vanilla together in a medium saucepan over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Add the rice and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, stirring often, until rice is fluffy and pudding is creamy, 12-15 minutes. Spoon into bowls and garnish with extra cinnamon. Serve warm or chilled, alone or with whipped cream.