Pantry Basics

Pantry Basics

Three reasons why having a well-stocked pantry is necessary 1) You can save money by never having to go out to lunch again. Pressure cook a a pot of beans and rice on Sunday night and you can make 5 days of easy lunch combinations all week. Or, a pot of cooked quinoa is very versatile and lasts several days: just add vegetables or grilled chicken and get creative! 2) You inevitably eat healthier when you make your own food. No additives, no mysterious ingredients. Just whole foods with simple and delicious ingredients. Portion control is more effective as well. 3) It’s pretty to look at. Quite possible I waste time gazing at my cupboard with all the colorful mason jars and rearranging them. Don’t tell anyone. Grains and beans brown rice, quinoa, whole oats, wild rice, polenta buckwheat groats (kasha) soba noodles, brown rice noodles garbanzo beans, black beans, lentils, adzuki beans, split peas popcorn kernels The bulk aisle in most grocery stores is one of my favorite places to go. It allows you to experiment with these different ingredients and buy small portions. Not sure what some of the ingredients are? Play around with some of them by adding different vegetables, spices, and herbs, as well as cooking them differently, and you’ll expand your cooking skills (and your palette!) Oils/vinegars sesame oil extra virgin olive oil coconut oil balsamic vinegar brown rice vinegar apple cider vinegar These are the staples that I always have on hand. Along with a decent spice and dried herb collection you can make almost anything without having to go to the store. Nuts,...
Term defined: Whole Food

Term defined: Whole Food

Have I mentioned that I am in the throes of nutrition courses at Hawthorn University? I’ve been geeking out hard core this past month, as I am clearly still in the honeymoon phase. It’s been a while since I’ve been a student- six years, in fact- but I definitely don’t remember it being this enjoyable. I must be doing something right, since I get home from work and the first thing I want to do is open a text book. An added bonus with this whole getting-my-masters thing: a plethora of information at my fingertips and even more of a reason to share it with you folks. Because 18grains is devoted to promoting a diet of whole foods, I thought I would explain a few terms that I use on a regular basis. Also, I had to do this for an assignment, see how it works out? Nutrient richness: the total amount of vitamins, minerals and other nutritious properties contained in a calorie of food. Foods rich in nutrients provide many health benefits, such as preventing chronic disease. It’s all about getting more bang for your buck. Take vitamin C for example. The Recommended Daily Amount (RDA) of vitamin C is 60mg, which we can get from consuming about a cup of broccoli (20 calories). We can also get vitamin C from fried onion rings, but to obtain the RDA of 60mg, we would need to eat 17,000 calories worth. This is what we mean by “empty calories.” An extreme example, yes, but you get the point: nutrient richness is the relationship between nutrients and calories. To see more examples, here...
Winter wild rice salad

Winter wild rice salad

This is what happens when it’s Friday night, it’s too cold to go to the store, and the farmer’s market was six days ago: I become creative with an empty fridge and let my taste buds decide what works well together. I had some leftover wild rice, a persimmon, and some fresh herbs. Paired with walnut oil, which I have been a bit obsessed with lately, and some other pantry basics, I fed myself (correction: I am feeding myself as we speak). It may not be the main dish for a dinner party, but it’s definitely tasty (and easy!). 2.5 cups cooked wild rice 1 persimmon, peeled and cubed 1 Tbs chopped parsley (I added some chopped fresh thyme too) 2 Tbs chopped walnuts 2 Tbs dried currants 1 Tbs chopped red onion (optional) 1tsp walnut oil 1tsp balsamic vinegar juice of half a lemon salt & pepper to taste photo...
Whole grain #2: Amaranth

Whole grain #2: Amaranth

Though not a vegetarian, I’m interested in learning about plant-based sources of healthy protein that can contribute to a balanced whole foods diet. In the quinoa post, we learned that many whole grains actually contain more usable protein than meat, and amaranth is one of those lesser-known grains with an astounding nutritional profile. You should really get to know each other… Originating in Mexico and Central America, amaranth was an important food staple for the Aztecs and was also used in festivals and religious practices- namely human sacrifice. Not too appetizing, I know. I thought it was worth mentioning because, although having been used in sacrificial rituals, the word amaranth comes from the Greek word for “everlasting” or “one that does not whither.” Hmm, ironic or sensible? Chew on that for a while. It is still a popular ingredient in many Mexican dishes, often used for making sweets, candies and a traditional chocolate drink called Atole (recipe below). In the past two decades, amaranth has spread throughout the world to become an important food source in countries such as Nepal, India, and Africa. Perhaps this is due to the plant’s adaptability to harsh climate and drought resistant nature. A true “everlasting” grain, I suppose. It became more widely cultivated domestically by the 1970s, and amaranth is now grown throughout the U.S. and can be easily found in most health food stores. Tiny grain, big benefits And I mean TINY: don’t accidentally drop a bag on the floor, you’ll be finding these sand-like grains in your grout for months. Though small, this yellow grain packs a punch with a strong flavor and abundance of...
Homemade power bars

Homemade power bars

Next October, I’ll run my first marathon. Yes, that’s 26.2 miles and four and a half hours (if I’m lucky) of pounding my legs on pavement. My poor feet, knees, ankles… all my joints. At least now I will be properly nourished during my training and the race. I have been wanting to make homemade power bars for a while, so here is my first, albeit successful shot at it. They have a great texture, aren’t overly sweet, and are FULL of healthy sugars, protein, and complex carbs to keep you going. Perfect to stash in your pocket on a long run or bike ride. Raw Fruit & Seed Bars Dry ingredients 3/4 C whole oats 1/4 C almond flour 4 Tbs flax meal 1/2 C raw sunflower seeds 1/2 C raw pumpkin seeds 2 Tbs sesame seeds 1 C dried fruit (these ones are dried apples and cranberries) Wet ingredients 5 dates, chopped 1/4 C brown rice syrup 1/8 C molasses 1 tsp vanilla extract 1 tsp cinnamon 1/2 tsp nutmeg 1/2 tsp all spice Directions 1) Wash your hands (well, you will be using them). Line a shallow baking dish with parchment paper. 2) Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl. 3) In a small saucepan, put all wet ingredients together and let simmer for 5 minutes. This allows the dates and syrups to soften. 4) Add syrup mixture to dry mixture. You will probably want to dig in with your hands to make sure everything is smashed together. 5) Transfer to your baking dish and, with your hands (still sticky!), press down flat so everything...
Magic beans

Magic beans

Or, magic SEEDS, rather. They are…broccoli seeds Broccoli seeds make broccoli sprouts, which are light, crunchy, flavorful, and have the slight bitter cruciferous taste like broccoli does. A delightful addition to salads, sandwiches or anything else that can be used as a vehicle for eating them. Here’s the magical part: they are powerhouses of nutrients and vitamins, rich in antioxidants and enzymes, and even have a cancer-fighting quality due to its abundance of the anti-cancer phytochemical, sulforaphane. It’s like concentrating the nutritional benefits of three pounds of fully grown broccoli into a mouthful of green sprouts. Sproutable Foods In general, sprouting seeds, grains, or beans makes them more digestible. You know the rules for boiling beans: soak them overnight, discard the water, and they cook more efficiently and don’t give you… ehem, as much gas, right? This is because soaking initiates the sprouting process and also removes the phytic acid so that the minerals and vitamins can be assimilated by our bodies. When converting a seed, grain, or bean into it’s sprout form, though, they become more digestible because the proteins and starches change into simple sugars and free amino acids, and the enzymes and vitamin content increases. Healing With Whole Foods (by Paul Pichford) says sprouting “predigests” the nutrients in the seed, making it easier to assimilate and metabolize. How to: grow your own sprouts Growing your own sprouts is as easy as 1, 2, 3! Step 1) Soak a few tablespoons of any seed of your choice in a wide mouth mason jar for 6-8 hours. Attach a sprouting screen to the top or cover the mouth of...
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