Recipe photos by Emily Caruso
Last month I was lucky to be one of a handful of food bloggers invited out to Lundberg Family Farms’ organic rice operation in Richvale, California—just outside of Chico—for their fall harvest. I was super excited, not just because the prospect of going to sunny California right as Minnesota was getting cold was extemely inviting (which it was), but because I’ve loved Lundberg since I was a 15-year-old vegetarian health-food nerd working at my local food co-op. They were at the forefront of organic farming, and have been able to evolve with current trends (they’re venturing into quinoa production, and these Sweet Dreams chocolate-covered rice cakes are definitely the snack of the future) while maintaining a solid, dependable family-owned line of rice products. I mean, who doesn’t love a Lundberg rice cake? I also love that their products are all gluten-free and sustainably grown, so it was fun and educational to see firsthand how this all goes down.
Check out the photos I took while there—unfortunately I didn’t have my camera on our tour of the plant where all the rice cakes, rice mixes and other products are made and packaged. The process of making rice cakes is surprisingly fascinating: just a little heat and pressure! Needless to say, this place smells amazing.
The tour culminated in a friendly cook-off between food blogger teams in the Lundberg test kitchens. Nicole from the awesome vegetarian health-food blog Foodie Loves Fitness and I teamed up to create a dish using avocados and Lundberg products. We knew that guac and rice chips would be way too obvious, so after some brainstorming Nicole came up with the genius idea to scoop out avocados and fill them with a black pearl rice-based mixture.
Thus these super-simple avocado cups were born. We took second place in the competition, and our Lundberg judges really liked how the rice, veggies and beans didn’t get mushy and how the toasted cumin and coarse salt added contrast and crunch. We intentionally kept the filling pretty dry; the tomatoes, avocado and oil add just enough moisture without making everything too wet.
We picked the black pearl rice because of its earthy flavor and interesting color, but you could use your favorite rice or other grain. Feel free to mix up the beans and veggies, too. Just don’t skip the drizzle of avocado oil, cumin seeds and coarse salt! I love my beans and rice smoky and a little spicier, so I tweaked the recipe a bit from the one Nicole and I made at the farm. You can adjust the smoky and spicy elements to your taste, though. You could even add more chipotle peppers or some jalapeños to kick things up a notch.
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