Red Rice & Collards

Local, organic smoked bacon adds flavor to slowly braised collards and garlicky whole grain brown rice. 

Yeah, you read that right.  My name is Rachael Hartley.  I am a registered dietitian and I love bacon. 

It's been four days since I gave into the temption for salty, fatty goodness.  Before that, I was abstinent for a good month or two.  I suppose you could say I relapsed?  When the bacon smell permeated my parents house this weekend, I was powerless to resist!  

Now, before you get your hopes up, this isn’t a post about new science revealing bacon's superfood status.  It’s not.  And if you read my last post, you know I haven’t gone all Atkins on you.  Healthwise, bacon has no redeeming qualities.   But man, it is delicious.

This may surprise you, but I think bacon can help you eat an overall healthier diet.  Because bacon is so flavorful, when used in moderation, it can pack a ton of flavor into an otherwise healthy dish.  Living down south, where a mason jar of bacon grease is found in most kitchens, my clients are basically elated to hear my liberal stance on bacon.  Health care providers nag them to stop cooking with fatback and bacon grease, which makes sense, given all we know about the dangers of animal fats.  But how bad is it really?  Let's put it in numbers.  Once slice of bacon is only 40 calories and 1 gram of saturated fat.  One teaspoon of bacon grease is also 40 calories, with 1.5 grams of saturated fat.  So while including bacon as a breakfast staple or frying foods in liberal amounts of bacon fat is certainly not a good idea, a little ain't gonna kill ya.  

There's other "bad" foods you can include to enrich the flavor of healthy dishes. For example, a homemade blue cheese dressing can keep a salad from feeling too diet food-ish.  A teaspoon of brown sugar in a bowl of oatmeal adds just 15 calories and 4 grams of sugar, but is enough to make it palatable.  Even a little cream (or half and half if you're that worried) adds richness to a sauce without changing it's nutrition that drastically. 

I encourage you to purchase bacon from a local farm raising pastured pork.  If you can't find it near you, look for organic bacon, which they sell at most grocery stores.  At the very least, make sure it is nitrate free. I keep extra bacon in the freezer, so I don't feel the need to go through huge amounts before it goes bad. To conclude, a quote:"Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon." ~ Doug Larson

Well, in this case they do!


Red Rice
Author: Rachael Hartley, RD, LD, CDE
Serves: Serves 6
Adapted from[url href="" rel="nofollow"] Lee Bros Southern Cookbook[/url]
  • 2 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into lardons
  • 1 1/2 cups diced yellow onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3-4 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 28-ounce can tomato puree or crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (Lee Bros suggest 1 teaspoon, but I was worried it would be too spicy. I found 1/2 teaspoon to be just right, but you can increase it if you like)
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. In a large, 12-in ovenproof skillet, fry the bacon until slightly crisped. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and transfer to paper towel lined plate. Add the onion and garlic to bacon fat and saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring occasionally, for 1-2 minutes. Add 2 cups of broth.
  3. Add the red pepper, smoked paprika, salt, peppper and tomatoes. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil on high heat, then reduce to a simmer on medium-low heat. Cover and simmer about 40 minutes until the rice is tender but soupy. Add more broth if needed.
  4. Transfer to the oven and bake for about 25 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed. Serve garnished with the bacon crumbles.


Tuesday Collards
Author: Rachael Hartley, RD, LD, CDE
Serves: Serves 6
Adapted from [url href=""]Lee Bros Southern Cook book[/url]
  • 3 slices thick-cut bacon, cut in lardons
  • 2-3 lb collards (about 2 large bunches), stemmed, washed and cut into 1/4-in strips
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/3 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Fry the bacon in a 12-in skillet on medium-high heat until browned and firm, about 3 minutes. Turn the heat to medium and add a few handfuls of collards to the skillet. Using a slotted spoon, toss the collards in the bacon fat and allow them to wilt slightly. Add more collards, a few handfuls at a time, until all the collards are in the pan.
  2. Add the broth and pepper flakes. Turn the heat back up to medium-high and cook until the broth comes to a simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook about 5 minutes until the greens turn very dark green.
  3. Add the vinegar and sugar to the greens. Toss to combine. Cook, uncovered, about 5 more minutes, to allow the broth to reduce. Season with salt and pepper and serve.