Thursday, March 17, 2011

Gourmet Grain

When I decided to make farro as my whole grain today, I didn’t realize that I was actually making emmer. First off, when I scooped the beautiful brown grain out of the bulk bin, it said on the label “Emmer Farro” so you can see why I was confused. As I did a little more research, it turns out that farro is more of a general term used by Italians for whole grains from the wheat species. This includes spelt, einkorn, and emmer. Emmer is primarily the form that is grown in Italy, and that is why people think it is one in the same. Emmer has a nutty chewy texture and can be sprouted to make bread, ground into flower, or cooked up like any other whole grain. Emmer is far less cultivated than other forms of wheat, especially in the United States. In turn, it hasn’t been subject to genetic modification and over processing the way that most wheat in our diet today has. Because of this, many people who cannot tolerate wheat CAN tolerate emmer, it does however, contain gluten.

(Cooked emmer farro)

Speaking of cultivation, when I purchased the emmer, I noticed it was grown in Washington. This makes me happy when I can eat locally, and as I did research online, I realized that the producers, Blue Bird Grain Farms, are the only growers of this lovely organic heirloom grain in the US!

I decided to get a little fancy; being it was the last day of the whole grain challenge. First, I baked an acorn squash with a little butter, maple syrup, cinnamon, and sea salt. Next, I cooked some French lentils, and the emmer farro. Then I sautéed some garlic, the emmer and lentils with olive oil, added fresh thyme, dried cranberries, spinach and some balsamic vinegar. Finally, I stuffed the squash with this filling. Talk about a beautiful plate and a perfect meal. It was savory and sweet and so amazingly delicious.

(Sautéing with garlic, lentils, cranberries, and thyme)

I hope that you readers enjoyed the whole grain challenge as much as I did! I feel amazing after this whole grain-eating week. I have a ton of energy thanks to all these complex carbohydrates and I haven’t been snacking so much throughout the day. I have felt full and satiated, thanks to all this fiber and protein. I know that I will have plenty of energy for my race on Sunday because I have a fridge full of leftovers to eat. Please leave a comment and let me know what other whole grains you love and how you like to eat them.

(seriously delicious dinner)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sunshine or Hail?

(Cute little whole grain)

Amaranth. Have you heard of it? I hadn’t until I entered the “Bastyr bubble” as we like to call it. Like quinoa, it is another ancient grain, cultivated in Mesoamerica in 3000 BC. Amaranth is actually a very small seed and is in the same family of plants as Swiss chard and beets. It is really high in calcium, which makes it a great source for those who are lactose intolerant or vegan.

(grated some ginger into the amaranth before cooking)

Amaranth is extremely dense and high in protein, which makes a great breakfast grain. I am doing the last of my training runs this afternoon, shooting for 6-8 miles so I am thankful for the energy that it is going to provide me. Amaranth is also gluten free, which I don’t think I have mentioned on any of the other posts, so it is suitable for those with Celiac disease or people with intolerance to wheat. Other gluten free grains include, rice, wild rice, quinoa, corn/polenta, millet, buckwheat/kasha, and sometimes oats (check the label on the package).

(This is what it looks like after you cook it)

Today I made a spiced amaranth with cinnamon and fresh ginger. I topped it off with fresh chopped mango, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, and a dollop of blackberry preserves for a little sweetness. Another cool thing that you can do with this lovely little whole grain is pop it like popcorn. These little puffs can be added to salads, cereals, or just snacked on.

(All my toppings)

Okay off to study for my last two finals (tomorrow!), and then for my run. Hope it doesn’t hail like the forecast says. The good news according to the weatherman is that Sunday (day of my ½ marathon) is supposed to be the first dry day, sun up to sun down, that we have had in like 10 days. Boy, am I ready.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Always Be Prepared…

(Lunch for today...brown rice, beans, and veggies)

So I knew that today was going to be a busy day. I need to be at school early to get some work done, I am tutoring a group of students in biochemistry, then off to babysit for the evening. On days like today I have got to plan ahead if I want to eat healthfully. Meal planning is a big part of my life; don’t think that I would have been able to accomplish the whole grain challenge without it. Usually Jon and I sit down on Sunday and figure out what we want to eat for the next few days. We grocery shop accordingly, cook delicious meals together and I pack the leftovers for lunch.

Last night we had black bean burritos, and I’m taking the leftovers with me today. I made a little brown rice to accompany my beans; now I have a complete meal and whole grain to blog about!

Brown rice is pretty awesome. There was a recent study done at the Harvard School of Public Health that followed almost 200,000 people for 22 years examined their diets. The researchers concluded that substituting two or more servings of brown rice with equal amount of white rice on a weekly basis lowered the risk of type II diabetes by 16 percent! Seems like a no brainer to me, brown rice is where its at!

Brown rice is one grain that we make quite often in our house, with beans, curry, stir fries, and so much more. I have even made sushi with brown rice, see my earlier post: White Girl Makes Sushi. There are over 140,000 varieties of rice and there is no end to the meals you could make, you can even make rice pudding for dessert! What are your favorite rice recipes?

Start the Day Off Right

Happy Monday! I am just so excited that it is ALMOST spring break. I woke up early this morning because I have a phone interview at noon for one of my dietetic internships. I wanted a great breakfast to get me going this morning and boost my brainpower. I decided on some good old fashion steel cut oatmeal. If you haven’t tried steel cut oats they are a little heartier and chewier that rolled oats, which are basically just steel cut oat, but flattened so they cook faster. Steel cut oats do take a while to cook, but I have a secret. If you soak your oats in the water that you plan to cook them in the night before, they cook up in 5 minutes flat!

(Oats that have soaked overnight)

One of the biggest claims to fame that oatmeal has is that it lowers blood cholesterol. How is this done? Oatmeal is especially high in beta-glucans, which is a type of soluble fiber. These beta-glucans bind to cholesterol molecules in the digestive tract and remove it from the body. Oatmeal is especially good at lowering LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) that is why oatmeal may be good for your heart.

(My toppings of choice)

To give my oats a little more bang I like to add all sorts of goodies. This morning I cut up some fresh apples, added some raisins, walnuts, cinnamon, chia seeds, and maple syrup. The walnuts and chia seeds give me some protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which are also heart healthy.


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Snack Time

Looking for an easy way to include more whole grains in your diet? This afternoon it was all about easy. I was looking for a little snack this afternoon as I worked on some projects and finished up some schoolwork. It was pouring out again (spring in Seattle) and Jon and I kicked back and relaxed on the couch with a delicious whole grain snack. Now, when I told Jon that I was doing the whole grain challenge, he fussed a little bit as he likes to do when I tell him about any “health food” on our menu. But the thing is, he actually eats and enjoys all of it. I mean, what is not to love about popcorn? Yes that is right, popcorn is a whole grain and it touts many of the health benefits and high fiber that other grains do. The problem with popcorn is generally the way that it is made. At the movie theater it is drenched in hydrogenated oil and salt. When I make it at home I have a few tricks up my sleeve that make it healthy and delicious. Here are a few of my favorite toppings: What are yours?

(We picked this up at Pike Place Market a few weeks ago. It is amazing on popcorn, and a much healthier topping than "Movie Theater Butter")
(Nutritional yeast gives popcorn a nutty, cheesy flavor. It is also contains B vitamins, including B12, which is usually just found in animal products, and protein)

(Tada! A little sea salt and other toppings of choice and in about 3 minutes you have a whole grain snack ready to go!)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Peruvian/Korean cuisine?!

The first time that I ate quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) I was studying abroad in Cusco, Peru. It is a traditional, native grain of the Andean people. They pretty much eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and I can’t say that I blame them. Quinoa is not only delicious, but it is certainly one of the most nutritious whole grains that I have come across. The thing that makes it so unique is that it has all eight essential amino acids, so it is a great source of complete protein. It is necessary to pair most grains with beans in order to get complete vegetarian protein. Quinoa also has 6 grams of protein per serving, which is pretty good considering it is a humble grain.

(The mighty grain, up close and personal)

The thing that I really like about quinoa is its versatility. I have enjoyed it for breakfast, slightly sweetened with maple syrup, fresh or dried fruit, and nuts. I often make it for dinner and serve it with daal (Indian lentils) or other beans. It can also be sprouted if you are into raw food cuisine. Today it’s for lunch, and I am trying something new. I did an 11-mile training run this morning in the POURING rain. It was wet and cold, but the whole while I was dreaming about lunch and what I was going to make. I decided a variation on bibimbap, a Korean staple food. They usually make it with rice, but today I am doing it quinoa style. I made the quinoa, I sautéed some onions, greens, and mushrooms in a little soy sauce and brown rice vinegar and topped it all off with a poached egg. One thing that cannot be forgotten in bibimbap is kimchi, (thanks honey for going to the store to get it) and a little Sriracha. Okay, my stomach is growling. Time to eat. How do you like your quinoa?

(Oh kale, how I love thee)
(sauté it up!)
(When I was little, my dad use to bring home bags of Kimchi from Korea in his backpack. Then he would smell like fermented cabbage and garlic for weeks! Back then, I was like "gross, Dad!" like most teenagers would say. Now, I LOVE kimchi. It is spicy, garlicy, and tangy.)
(This is what she looks like all cooked up. Aren't the little spiraly things awesome!)
(The final was DELICIOUS!)

Friday, March 11, 2011

PCC Saves The Day!

Well I would have failed today, yes, day one. That is the life of a graduate student I guess. Pretty dumb of me to start the whole grain challenge the week of final exams. I arrived home at 7 pm today and brainstormed how I could quickly make a batch of whole grains. Now there are some grains that do cook quickly, (don’t worry I’ll be eating them later this week without a doubt) but I just couldn’t pull together a real meal that was worthy to blog about. Here is where my near failure turned into success, yeah for PCC natural markets! I realize how lucky I am to have a PCC right down the street from my house and while I have to admit, I did kinda cheat on my first day, (hey, I never said I was going to cook a different whole grain each day, just eat one) I do have a healthy dinner after a long, busy day.

I decided to get something that I usually don’t make at home. That turned out to be wild rice. I rarely prepare it, but it is so delicious. PCC makes a great wild rice salad called “Emerald City Salad”, after Seattle of course. One of my instructors at Bastyr teaches how to make it yourself on her website. Here is the link:

And now for the fun facts: wild rice is the ONLY grain native to North America! It is actually the seed of a marsh grass plant. It is pretty cool because it contains lysine, an essential amino acid that other rice, and most other grains for that matter, don’t have. It also has lots of B vitamins and magnesium and one serving provides 15% of the daily value for zinc. Zinc is a powerful antioxidant that may be beneficial shortening the duration of the common cold.

Thanks PCC for saving my dinner, my blog, and my health!

(A close up of the delicious brown rice, there is also bell pepper, and fennel in there...yum!)
(I took out a plate, but ended up eating it out of the container)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Whole Grain Challenge!

Okay readers. I am changing it up. I have been stuck in a MAJOR rut when it comes to blogging, cooking, and eating. I need a kick in the pants. I need some variety in my life. This whole school and dietetic internship thing has taken its toll on me and I need some revitalization. Spring break is coming and I am running a half marathon in 10 days; I sure could use some whole grain goodness to push me though those 13 miles to the finish line, therefore I have decided to take on a “Whole Grain Challenge!” I am not talking about Kashi cereal or any of that nonsense. I am talking about the real deal. I have decided for the sake of my sanity and my palate to embark on a mission. I will eat a different whole grain every day for 7 days. Starting tomorrow. I will blog about it for your reading pleasure and anyone who would like to join me in this mission is more than welcome. From my grainy adventure, you will learn about the wonderful health benefits of each grain and all that goodness that you have come to know and love on How to Find Real Food. Wish me luck!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Oh Samoa!

It is true folks. I once wore a little brown vest covered in badges and held up three fingers announcing that I would “help people at all times and live by the Girl Scout law.” I suppose I am living out that mission with my goal to become a dietitian and help people make lifestyle changes to live healthier and happier lives.

When I was a Girl Scout back in mid eighties I went door to door, signing up all the neighbors for boxes of Thin Mints and Samoas and looked forward to the cookie delivery and badge I received every year. I’m not totally betraying my roots and saying there is something wrong with the Girl Scouts or their cookie sales, but I do have a little bit of a bone to pick about the ingredients they use.

As I was walking into the grocery store the other day, a girl scout had a table set up and requested that I spend 4 DOLLARS to buy a box. I’m sorry to say that I did not contribute to the little girl’s badge this year and if you have been reading my blog for a while, I’m sure you can guess why. Partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil? Now I understand that these cookies are a once-a-year special treat but can’t the Girl Scouts do better? The trans fats found in partially hydrogenated oils have detrimental health effects such as increased LDL cholesterol (the bad kind), decreased HDL cholesterol (the good kind), increased triglycerides, and increased inflammation, all of these factors contributing to cardiovascular disease in our country today.

Come on Girl Scouts! Time to take action and insist Little Brownie Bakers use higher quality products so you can really stand behind what you are selling. Until then I’m not sure that you are really living by the Girl Scout law.