Dr. Ayala's Blog

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Dr. Ayala

Dr. Ayala
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
V.P. Product Development
Herbal Water
I’m a physician (Pediatrics and Medical Genetics), artist, and mother of 3 school age active kids. I recently co-founded Herbal Water Inc. (www.herbalwater.com) with my husband, Albert. I am a serious home cook, and love to entertain. My expertise is vegetarian food (I have been a vegetarian all my life). I strongly believe that eating healthy and enjoying good food go hand in hand. My main interests are science, nutrition and art, and I am overall a very curious person that tries to learn something new every day. Dr. Ayala (Ayala Laufer-Cahana M.D.)


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Editor’s Pick
OCTOBER 27, 2010 8:58AM

Halloween Rice

Rate: 5 Flag

Black rice with butternut squash

It is the season for black and orange, and I can’t resist this occasion for sharing with you my favorite rice: black rice. Oh, how I love this dark, fragrant whole grain. In this dish I combine black rice with orange butternut squash. Orange is the color that epitomizes harvest and fall, and black and orange do work wonders on the eye.

Halloween is just around the corner. Try this dish for the pre-Halloween dinner. In my home we eat dinner before trick-or-treat. Sadly enough, my kids don’t take me along anymore; I stay home and clear the dishes. My junk-on-Halloween philosophy is eat-whatever-you-want on October 31st  but Halloween is just one day. We used to picnic on a cushy pile of leaves under our favorite tree at the end of the evening, picking out the best of the loot. The rest – I feel a little uncomfortable admitting this – we threw away. I think that eating a sack full of candy for weeks to come is a bit much, and I try not to have junk-a-plenty at home. And while I hate throwing away things, especially food, in the case of Halloween candy I’d feel worse giving it away: If I don’t want it for my own kids I don’t want to give it to the kids of others.

Back to black rice. Black rice is rice variant with a deep dark purple-black outer bran layer. The dark color is due to antioxidants known as anthocyanins, which are also found in blueberries, acai and grapes. I don’t much care for the antioxidant wars between the so-called super-foods, but I think the take home message is simple: Black rice is a good addition to your diet. Black rice is a good source of protein, minerals (including iron) and fiber, much like brown rice. The anthyocyanins are a nutritional bonus.

But even forgetting the nutritional benefits, black rice’s taste is reason enough to fall in love with it. It has a nutty aroma that fills the house, a full bodied fruity/nutty taste, and a really nice texture. Compared to it, white rice is plain and boring. And mind you, I think there is some terrific tasting brown rice, but not all whole rice tastes great to me, so if you’ve tried switching from white to brown and found the rice-bowl rejected, please don’t give up, there are many varieties to try.

I find my black rice at Whole Foods, which sells Lotus Foods’ black rice in small packages branded “Forbidden Rice”. Why forbidden? Legend has it that this rice was originally considered the Emperor's rice and was forbidden for anyone else.

This is a really easy recipe. The hardest part is cutting the butternut squash – you’ll need a sharp knife and determination. Black rice cooks in 30 minutes – pretty fast.

Here goes:

Black rice


• 2 cups black rice
• 2 and 1/4 cups water (this does not conform to the package instructions. I find that using less water results in better flavor and texture)
• 1-2 tablespoons canola oil
• 1 large onion, diced
• 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
• Optional: chopped fresh parsley or cilantro.


• Rinse rice in a strainer under cold running water for 30 seconds.
• Heat the oil in a medium pot, over medium-high heat.
• Stir in the onion and sauté until golden.
• Stir in rice and toss around until coated with oil and fragrant.
• Add salt and water and bring to a boil.
• Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. By the time the water is absorbed the rice should be done.
• Garnish with freshly chopped parsley or cilantro and serve hot.

Roasted butternut squash


• 1 medium butternut squash, seeded and diced to 1/2’’ cubes
• 1 tablespoon maple syrup
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• Salt and pepper
• Optional: chopped sage.


• Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
• Toss butternut squash cubes with the rest of the ingredients.
• Spread the cubes out on a baking sheet and roast in the oven until they are tender and slightly caramelized. This will take 25-35 minutes.

Finishing touches

You can combine the rice and butternut squash, or (my preference) serve them in a large platter where the rice creates the outer circle, and the squash is placed in the center. I like this presentation visually, and it also allows each diner to choose how much of each of the platter components he wants to eat.

Happy Halloween,
Dr. Ayala

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dr ayala ... made some butternut quash and pork soup this past weekend that turned out well, even better yesterday ... still have one squash left and was wondering what to do with it - now i know !
... thanx ... oh, when i saw your post it reminded me to tell you i
purchased your herbal water (they had 4 varieties) ... i really enjoyed the lemongrass mint vanilla i had first ... i have (short title - ginger,
cinnamon,and lavender) to try yet ... lew ... rated

i have a post for fun, not a writer - but an entertainer (since Grade 1)
Thanks, Betamale. Heading over to your post...
Dr Ayala,

I SO want to cook this now, it's gorgeous and brilliant! I forgot all about black rice, but I've had it before and it's awesome. I'm very bah-humbug about Halloween ('cuz I'm just really bad at costumes and trick-or-treating seems like too much work) but this really puts me in the October mood. Thanks for posting!
Thank you for posting the recipe. I can't wait to try this. I think my 6 year old will like this. He's always picking out squash to bring home when we grocery shop in the fall. Now I havbe something to add to it.
"And while I hate throwing away things, especially food, in the case of Halloween candy I’d feel worse giving it away: If I don’t want it for my own kids I don’t want to give it to the kids of others."

If you don't want Halloween candy for your own kids, why do you let them take any at all? Instead, why don't your kids trick-or-treat for UNICEF? Otherwise, donate the extra candy to a homeless shelter. Or send care packages to the troops. I understand your concerns about nutrition, however, any way you look at it, it's wasteful (and rude to your neighbors) to throw the candy away.
Butternut is my favorite squash, and I use it interchangeably with other types, including pumpkin. Would you please tell me the difference between black and wild rice - nutritionally? I know the latter comes from a grass, rather than a grain, in spite of its name. Thank you.
@Pat, I knew I’d get in trouble over this:)
I like candy. I think it’s fine every once in a while. I’d hate to give it up altogether, and I think candy on Halloween is fine, as long as Halloween doesn’t expand to a month’s worth of candy galore. I treat the left-over candy in the basket I have for trick-or-treaters in exactly the same way. If there’s anything left I throw mine out, too.
Wild rice, as you say, isn't a rice but rather a grass seed. Both black and wild rice contain anthocyanins and both are very good to eat. If we want to get fussy (I don't), wild rice has a little more protein and fiber for the same volume of uncooked grain.
I'm glad I found your post. I can't wait to try this recipe out! Thanks.
Dr. Ayala, you're still not getting it. You're not being green by wasting a food item that someone else might enjoy. For instance, dentists are buying back candy that will in turn be sent overseas to troops.

Here are more alternatives to throwing candy away. http://open.salon.com/blog/greenhalloween/2010/11/01/3_alternatives_to_tossing_leftover_halloween_candy
Forgot to add that the dentists buying back candy to send to the troops are located right where you are, in Philadelphia. Why don't you help them out by teaming up?