Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Great Grains!

Breafast, lunch and dinner!

After my first race of the season (an 8K in about 36 minutes, not bad!- placed first in my "ancient" age group!), I decided I needed something a little heartier than my usual grapefruit and muffin. So I treated myself to this Power Porridge with Coconut Pecan Marmalade, from The Candle Cafe Cookbook, I was really excited! I wasn't disappointed, either. The porridge cooked up nice and thick, and the flavor was awesome. I have been re-heating it for breakfast all week, as we say goodbye to winter! The "marmalade" was nothing like real marmalade and a bit too sweet, but my sweet tooth was happy! I also added some dried cherries that were just perfect. The porridge is made from steel cut oats and quinoa, the power grain of them all. As you will learn more below, quinoa is also an excellent protein, as well as contains more calcium than milk! Scroll to the bottom of this post to learn more!

Black Bean-Quinoa Salad with Basil-Lemon Dressing, for lunch

from Cooking Light Magazine, March 2006 issue

And Quinoa Curry with Mango Chutney for dinner (the latter was storebought - Major Grey brand, the former from Vegetarian Times, February 2007 issue).

A little about, "QUINOA"

Pronunciation: "KEEN-wa"

What is it? (How it's made): Well, it's a grain, so... you grow it! It is very tiny and light, and looks like little circles. Comes in different colors, from red to black to yellow (whitish) and more.

History: Where were you 5,000 years ago? Well, if you were an Incan, you would have eaten quinoa! Grown in the Andes region and feeding many different local people, it was known as the "mother grain." It was even used in sacred rituals and planted with a golden spade or shovel by the king at the beginning of the planting season (Seeds of Change, www.seedsofchange.com). As conquerors came to the area and introduced other grains such as wheat, it became associated with those whom they conquered, and thus an inferior food. It is just in recent years (since the 70s) that quinoa has started to win back followers (Jordan Erdos, planeta.com).

Health benefits: A complete protein- all by itself! It was the primary meat-alternative protein source for the Incans. Not only an incredible protein source (has more protein than any other grain), one cup has more calcium than a cup of milk (Isa Moskowitz, Vegan with a Vengeance, 2005) and three times as much calcium as wheat (Jordan Erdos, planeta.com, Dec. 1999). It is also gluten-free, for those with allergies. Also high in omega-3 fatty acids and iron.

Myths and tips: It sounds funny- it can't be any good... WRONG! This delicious and light grain cooks up in less time than most rices. It is filling and versatile. A nutty flavor and slight crunch.

Tip: Rinse the grain well in a fine sieve to remove the bitterness.

Tip: Quinoa is done (being cooked) when there is a white ring around the edges of the grain pieces.

Common uses: Typically eaten as a side dish, like rice, or used in main dish cold salads. However, it can be used like rice and other grains in recipes such as stuffed peppers, too!

Black Bean, Mushroom and Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers, from Vegan with a Vengeance, by Isa Moskowitz

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Bring out the Beans!

Beans, beans, the wonderful fruit, the more you eat the more you....does anyone else remember this song? I think my childhood relation to beans was traumatically ruined by this song that my father used to sing to me.

Luckily, it didn't curse me for good. Beans are now a staple of my diet (I think I eat more of these than any other protein source!). High in protein, available in thousands of varieties, you are sure to find one that you love! The possibilities of what you can create with beans are endless. Scroll to the bottom of this post for the history and facts about beans!

(Above) Mexican Black Bean and Spinach Pizza, from Cooking Light Magazine, July 2003 issue

(I know the combination might sound weird to meat-lovers, but my meat-loving husband chowed down on this! Filling and salsa spicy! Half with Monterrey Jack Cheese, the other half with vegan cheddar cheese. Both good!)

Black Bean Burritos - My own recipe! Delish, quick and easy. I often make this on busy weeknights. To make them: Rinse, drain, and heat (microwave is fine!) a can of black beans (or just heat the amount that you're going to eat). Wrap a whole grain tortilla (or regular, if you prefer) in a paper towel and heat for a few seconds in the microwave. Put beans, mixed greens or baby spinach, salsa and your favorite cheese (or fake cheese, if you're a vegan) in the middle of the tortilla, wrap or roll, and eat!

Cannelini-Yam Hummus, from Vive le Vegan! cookbook (I used this as a spread in a whole-wheat tortilla, with baby spinach leaves, alfalfa sprouts, and silvers of red bell pepper and carrots. Savory and sweet- filling, too. This hummus/spread is THE BEST! Nothing else to say. )

I just made this incredible soup from my newest Vegetarian Times issue (not on their website yet). I actually got the inspiration from Eat Peace Please's blog about a similar soup. I also bought the book she mentioned (Vegetarian Soups for All Seasons, Bountiful Vegan, by Nava Atlas) on Amazon, and made a White Bean and Hominy Chili from it. I even found the Mary's Gone Crackers that Eat Peace had blogged about at my local Ukrop's. They are both every bit as good as proclaimed! A must-try for these last few days of winter.

Now for the facts...

Pronunciation: "lay-GOOMS" or "beenz"

What is it? (How it's made): Beans are actually one member of the legume family, as are peas and lentils. I will focus mostly on beans on this page. Beans and legumes are plants- we eat the seeds, typically from a seed pod. They can be bought dried in a bag (these last a long time!) or pre-cooked and canned (these are yummy by themselves or dumped over a salad!). Some types are: pinto, kidney (dark and light red), small red beans, cannelini, garbanzo (chick pea), adzuki, black, black-eyed peas, Great Northern, and navy beans.

History: Long a staple and major protein source for cultures worldwide, beans were grown as a food source over 7,000 years ago! Peru and southern Mexico were a major starting point for the development of different types of beans. The food spread throughout the North and South American continents. Traders and explorers then took beans across the ocean to their home countries and the rest is...history!

Health benefits: High in protein, iron, fiber, folate, complex carbs, but low-fat!... this is a mighty food. It is both a vegetable and a protein. But instead of me blabbering on about how great beans are from you, why don't you take it from the horse's mouth: The Northarvest Bean Growers Association. Sure, they might be prejudiced, but in all of my cookbooks and other sources, this information is corroborated.

Myths and tips: Beans in the American diet still retain the association from the familiar rhyme, "Beans, beans, the wonderful fruit, the more you eat the more you toot, the more you toot the better you feel, the sooner you're ready for another meal!" Despite that slightly disgusting phrase, beans are really no more gas-producing than many vegetables.

Tip: Soaking dried beans helps reduce their gassy-effect. Rinsing canned beans does the same.

Tip: Don't start eating beans every day, with every meal. Start out with small amounts and let your body get used to the fiber!

Tip: Pick through the dried beans for stray items like tiny stones or sticks. I have never found one, but it never hurts to check!

Common uses: Beans are one of the most versatile foods I can think of! Every culture has their use for beans, from dips (dal) in Indian cooking and soups in Italian, to refried beans in Mexican cooking and hummus in Greek. They are also filling and appealing to every age group. Americans tend to use them in chilies, cold salads, and baked beans, but we sure are missing a lot!