Coconut Forbidden Rice

Spring is finally here and I just started training for a 100 mile bike ride in June for the American Lung Association. The Fight For Air Ride takes place yearly with the goal of raising money and awareness for lung diseases. As an asthma doctor, this cause is near and dear to my heart. This will be my second ride and I’m hoping that this year, we can raise even more money to fight lung disease in adults and kids. My training involves at least two long rides a week and carbo loading. I was inspired to make this recipe in order to avoid eating pasta and bread every day. Forbidden rice is a whole grain much like brown rice or wild rice. It’s higher in fiber than white rice. It also contains anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are, in part, what give many fruits and vegetables their color. It’s also what gives Forbidden rice its black color. Anthocyanins are thought to be high in antioxidants. Antioxidants in food are thought to help prevent illnesses such as cancer. This is why eating dark colored fruits and foods like Forbidden rice on a daily basis is so important for our long term health. I also love Forbidden rice because it has a delicious, nutty flavor and chewy texture. The texture is almost like al dente pasta. This rice is colorful and only takes 30 minutes to cook on the stovetop. This recipe is also oil free. I used edible flowers as a garnish but coconut chips would also be a great garnish. This rice pairs well with avocado. It also goes well with white wine. You can substitute quinoa, brown rice, or wild rice instead of Forbidden rice in this recipe. Forbidden rice typically comes from China. It’s named “Forbidden” because it was only eaten by royalty in China around the 14th to 16th centuries. Luckily for us, it’s available at most grocery stores for royals and non-royals alike! (I found mine at Whole Foods) Make sure you tag @thefriendlyepicurean on Instagram and Facebook if you make it!

Coconut Forbidden Rice

  • Servings: 3
  • Time: 40 min
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1 cup uncooked Forbidden Rice
  • 1 cup light coconut milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup cashew halves
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1/4 tsp ginger powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt plus more to taste


Rinse rice with water and place in a medium sized saucepan. Add water and coconut milk to rice and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally. Stir in lime juice, cayenne pepper, ginger powder, garlic powder, turmeric, and salt. Remove from heat and cover for about five minutes. Fluff rice with a fork and add more salt to taste. Top with cashews and chopped cilantro right before serving. May store in an airtight container in the fridge for about 2 days. Makes about 3 cups of cooked rice.

Nutrition Information:

  • Approximate Calories per Cup: 303 cal



Polenta with Mushrooms, Sun Dried Tomatoes, and Sage


It’s mid-March and still snowing in Chicago! This type of weather is perfect for comfort food. Polenta is easy to make from scratch and is hearty and satisfying. It’s an often overlooked vegan ingredient which is very versatile. It can also be used to make corn grits. Polenta seems to be making a comeback in 2017… We even have a new, all polenta restaurant in the West Loop in Chicago that serves up hot polenta with various sauces (including a vegan option!). You can buy polenta that is already cooked, but I prefer to make mine from scratch because the flavor is unbeatable. You can actually skip baking the polenta to make a creamy, decadent side dish. Baking allows for a firmer, chewy texture that can be cut into squares. I like to serve the baked version as an appetizer because it’s easier to eat and serve. This recipe has endless variations… you could add fresh diced tomatoes instead of sun dried and chopped basil instead of sage to give it a more traditional Italian flavor. Truffle oil is also delicious in polenta! If you’re gluten free, look for gluten free polenta – Bob’s Red Mill makes a gluten free version. This dish is creamy, delicious, and filling but still low in calories. The mushrooms add an earthy flavor and go well with tart, sweetness of the sun dried tomatoes. The fresh sage adds fresh flavor and fragrance. Remember to take a picture and tag @thefriendlyepicurean if you make it!

Colorful, whole ingredients!

Polenta with Mushrooms, Sun Dried Tomatoes, and Sage

  • Servings: 6
  • Time: 45min
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1 cup corn polenta (uncooked)
  • 3 cups water
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tbs sun dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbs fresh sage, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • olive oil spray
  • 1 tbs vegan butter (such as Earth Balance)


Preheat oven to 400F. Grease an 8″ x 13″ baking dish with olive oil spray and set aside. Cook garlic 2-3 minutes in olive oil on medium heat in a medium sized sauté pan. Add sage and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Add mushrooms and sun dried tomatoes and cook for about 5 minutes or until mushrooms are soft and most of the liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated. Next, bring 3 cups water to boil in a medium saucepan. Slowly add polenta to boiling water, stirring frequently with a spatula or whisk. Reduce heat to low and cook polenta for 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently. Polenta will thicken and bubble (be careful as polenta may splatter and burn skin!). Add butte, salt, and pepper and stir well. Next, gently fold mushroom mixture into polenta. Spread polenta evenly onto greased baking dish and bake for 18-20 minutes. Polenta should be firm, turn golden-brown, and start to separate from the sides of the dish. Cut into squares and serve warm. May store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days.

Nutrition Information:

  • Approximate Calories per 1/6 of polenta: 137.5 cal



Curried Sweet Potato Fries with Lemon Garlic Aioli


I don’t eat fries often but when I do it’s to treat myself after a tough week at work or after a big workout. Good fries are not hard to find in Chicago. The temptation is everywhere! Fries are vegan but not exactly healthy… This spicy, healthier recipe for fries is easy and will satisfy your craving without destroying your healthy eating goals for the day. You can enjoy a serving of these fries with less guilt. I’ve learned a lot about food from reading Michael Pollan’s books including Omnivore’s Dilemma. He recommends making your own fries when you crave them. That way you can control what goes in them. Making your own fries also allows you to appreciate and savor them more. The lemon garlic aioli is really the star of this recipe. It goes perfectly with the curry spices in the fries. If you like crispy fries make sure that you spread them out evenly so they aren’t touching on the baking sheet. I prefer softer fries so I tend to pile mine onto the baking sheet. These fries are incredibly flavorful and so easy to make. They contain less fat compared to traditional fries since they are baked not fried. The spices add a savory kick which complements the natural sweetness of the potatoes. I prefer sweet potatoes because they are high in vitamin A and have a lower glycemic index compared to regular potatoes. Let me know how they turn out by taking a picture and tagging @thefriendlyepicurean on Instagram!


Curried Sweet Potato Fries with Lemon Garlic Aioli

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 1 hr
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 2 lbs sweet potatoes (about 4 potatoes)
  • 2-3 tbs olive oil
  • olive oil spray
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • For the aioli:
  • 3 tbs vegan mayonnaise
  • 2 tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (use a garlic press for best results)


Preheat oven to 425F. Grease a baking sheet with olive oil spray and set aside. Wash, peel, and cut potatoes into 1/4″ to 1/2″ sticks. Toss potatoes with olive oil, cayenne pepper, cumin, garlic, coriander, salt, and black pepper. Spread fries evenly on baking sheet making sure fries do not overlap (for crispy fries). Bake for 30 minutes (flip half way through cooking time). For the aioli: whisk together lemon juice, mayonnaise, and minced garlic until smooth. Serve immediately. Store fries and aioli separately in an airtight container for up to 1 day. Reheat fries in oven or toaster oven at 350F for about 5-7 minutes.

Nutrition Information:

  • Approximate calories per 1/4 fries: 210 cal (without aioli)
  • Approximate calories per 1/4 aioli: 68 cal