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Adventures in Grains

May 18, 2010 3 comments

Adventures in Grains

For the past few years, brown rice is the staple grain in our house, but may I confess: brown rice is gross.  I really don’t like the taste of it, and it’s such a pain in the butt to make.  Enter whole wheat couscous: super quick and easy, but I’m about the only one who really likes it.

We tried buckwheat: gluey, although most likely that was operator error.  After my second attempt I sort of gave up on trying to make it.  Next up: Bulgur.  Bulgur fared much better than buckwheat in our house, using it mostly as a rice alternative with stir-fries, curries, chili and the like. Plus, I love saying “Bulgrrrrrrrr”.

I’d wanted to try quinoa for a long time, ever since learning how to pronounce it about a year ago.  Earlier this year at a ladies night session, amazingly creative foodie Liz brought a red quinoa dish that was amazingly yummy.  Quinoa was a little tricky to find until a few months ago (when it showed up at Costco, natch).

Personally, I love quinoa and its slightly chewy texture. The appearance does take some getting used to. Since the rest of my clan is not so adventurous when it comes to trying new things, it’s mostly been on my plate alone.  I try to incorporate it into other dishes, since the nutrient quotient is so high it’s a real powerhouse food and what they call a “complete” protein source, meaning it contains all the essential amino acids required to optimize the absorption of the protein.

I cooked up a batch on Sunday to try to sneak it into meals throughout the week.  First up: the morning smoothie.  Every night I layer into a blender: spinach, strawberries, frozen berries, plain yogurt, flax oil and bananas (serves 3).  I added in about ½ cup of quinoa.  Benson tactfully handed it back to me after a sip. When I tasted mine, I understood.  It didn’t quite blend in like I’d expected…in fact it was so gritty-tasting, I couldn’t quite finish the cup.

Next up: the morning oatmeal.  Success!  This time I put in about ¼ cup with the oatmeal and berries.  I didn’t notice any taste and in fact, the texture was a nice addition!  I recently also started adding a few pumpkin seeds to the oatmeal (awesome for magnesium, zinc, protein).  A nice combo.

Last sneak: scrambled eggs.  A few mornings a week I make scrambled eggs with whatever’s on hand, a little shredded cheese, a few beans, tomatoes, peppers, onions and spinach.  I put it in a thermos and eat it late morning.  The quinoa is the perfect addition. It blends right in and has the same consistency.  It adds to the protein content and keeps me going through lunchtime.

I still enjoy it as a rice substitute, but the boys have flat out rejected it.  I’ll keep trying to sneak it into the white rice that they seem to adore and maybe even the granola bars I’ve started making.  Stay tuned!

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Superfood: you can do it.

April 8, 2010 Leave a comment

Almost every superfood list includes oatmeal and blueberries. Oatmeal is claimed to fight cancer and heart disease, and blueberries are high in vitamin C and antioxidants.

It seems like such a virtuous thing to eat, but here’s the thing:  it’s boring as hell. I’m not a fan of sweet, but plain glue-ey oatmeal makes me think of the slop on Big Brother.

So here’s how you can learn to enjoy oatmeal while maintaining its benefits.  First off, I choose either 9-grain or “porridge oats” cereal produced by Rogers, a local company.  It’s oatmeal with a little somethin’ somethin’…additional grains like flax seed and wheat bran, which gives it a little more texture.  I use less than half a cup.

Next, I add a LOT of cinnamon (also showing up on superfood lists, purporting to control blood sugar, prevent diabetes, and help arthritis sufferers).  Experiment to your taste.   I cook it with almond milk.  You can use your preferred milk; I prefer almond due to the low calorie count.  Making oatmeal with milk lends a creamier texture and takes away the gluey-ness that you can sometimes end up with.  Add enough milk to cover up the oatmeal.  Microwave for 2-3 minutes and stir it immediately upon removal (and as my office can tell you…be careful, ”OUCH!  It’s HOT!!”)

I then add a handful of frozen berries – ½ cup to a cup.  My preferred brand is the Kirkland Rader Farms ($10.69/bag, Costco).  The quality is great.  Add a little more milk if it’s dried up, stir in the frozen berries, then microwave for another minute or two.

To me, it ends up tasting just like a fruit crumble.  I’m sure you could experiment with other spices or use apples or applesauce.  It’s really natural, easy and tasty this way and your whole kitchen will smell like pie!  I’m still working on getting the kids to eat it (rather than just pick out the berries), but if your kids are a little more adventurous than mine, then they’ll love it too.

Real Food vs. “Real Food”(tm)

March 17, 2010 1 comment

I have been moving toward what I consider a “real food” diet for the most part of 2010 so far. After reading this article in the Globe, It looks like I’m going to have to stop calling it that, since I definitely don’t mill my own flour or make my own yogurt. I’ve just been trying to eat less processed foods. Maybe I should say, less packaged foods, or as author Michael Pollan coined them, “edible food-like substances”.

Moving away from junk and introducing different things into your diet is really not all that difficult. It just takes a while to change your thinking. I used to consider myself a healthy eater. After all, I took a multi-vitamin almost weekly and ate multi-grain Cheerios. These days I’ve become much more aware of what I am putting in and on my body. And the more “real” food I eat, the more revolting processed stuff becomes.

Side note: It’s much easier to maintain in regular life than at social events. I’m pretty sure that Costco birthday cake has all the wrong things in it, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to devour a giant corner piece on sight (extra icing, please, and can you make sure mine’s full of red dye No. 6? Thanks.) From Monday to Friday however, I’ve been able to navigate the junk food arena of the office: passing by the bowl of Hershey’s kisses at Valentine’s day, the Friday chips & dip bowl, and declined a Fatburger date by thinking of exactly what’s in that stuff compared to my other options (my daily giant salad, orange and/or apple).

To digress slightly, what I find especially interesting is the comment section. Comments sections are generally festering spots for posts demonstrating superiority complexes and/or ignorance, and no exception here. Wow. I do hope that those who are claiming they too follow the real food diet really are just trying to help and be supportive, but some just smack of smugness.

People spend a *lot* of time making excuses (to themselves, mostly, but somehow justify it in writing on these boards). And hey, bonus points to those who manage to throw in extra digs such as “my wife and I both work full-time, and evenings and weekends are also very busy (and we’re not parents who over-program our kids with extra-curricular activities either), so the notion that we’re going to spend the weekend cooking and baking is just a non-starter”. The author goes on to hilariously suggest that you could only follow this strict diet  if you’re a stay-at-home parent (because god knows stay-at-home parents aren’t doing anything else).

Back to me (ahem), I would never say never. Maybe one day I’ll be growing yogurt and drinking raw milk, Survivor-style. I never thought I’d be one to embrace and promote a more natural lifestyle. My way-back, former eye-rolling “oh-geez-everything-will-kill-you-these-days” self wouldn’t even recognize today’s me! Except maybe on Friday nights.

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