Monday, September 28, 2009

Quinoa and her grainy cousin Kasha

It seems like every magazine article I read these days extols the "secret" virtues of grains like quinoa. Some of you may agree and others might ask "what in the world is quinoa, I've never heard of it". Well, for you folks that asked the later, let me help you out with a little background info on this wheat and gluten free wonder is all about.

Pronounced keen-wah this grain-like crop is actually a relative to such superpower foods as beets and spinach, though it more closely resembles rice. Quinoa has been a staple in the South American culture for roughly 6,000 years now and dates back to the ancient Incas who gave it the moniker "mother of all grains". So what did they know then and revere that is only coming into popularity in the US now? For starters, quinoa is ridiculously healthy - I'm talking high protein, low in fat and an excellent source of fiber (3 grams per 1/4 cup serving). Plus this is a fairly easy and delicious dish to make!

Quinoa's flavor is really subtle and lends itself well to taking on other ingredients, so if you're going to give it a whirl in the kitchen (which I highly recommend you do) then cook it with chicken (or veggie) stock for a savory dish and add in veggies (broccoli doesn't seem to favor well sitting through 15 minutes of stock absorption though - next time I'll cook it and add it in at the end for flavor). I am hoping to have some leftovers one of these days (trouble is I never do because I end up eating my whole portion with the dinner) and to make a "healthy" fried rice...if I do that I'll let you know how I fare with that! Here is the interesting thing think think savory...salmon...veggies...but what about sweet quinoa? I saw a recent article in Men's Health (my brother gets it and they surprisingly have great recipes) that was for a quinoa "oatmeal". Instead of water or stock use apple juice and add fruit and nuts. Delicious and so filling! Be sure to rinse your quinoa well because you need that liquid absorption, and it ain't happening if you don't rinse before use!

Another healthy rice alternative I "discovered" is Kasha, 100% roasted whole grain buckwheat. What you think it sounds gross? Trust me its nutty flavor is savory and delicious. This dish has Eastern European roots (just like me!) and is apparently a common filling for knish (dough or potato filled dish that is fried -- similar to an Indian samosa or an English pastie). Though I don't remember eating kasha when I was little (we opted towards farfal in my house but I couldn't find it at TJs or Jewel this weekend) I have known about kasha for sometime thoughI didn't realize its great health benefits.

Last night I gave it a whirl and served it at my little Yom Kippur dinner (little meaning - me & my brother with too much food). I took a picture of my table and the dinner for you here. I didn't have to rinse the kasha (yeah, one less step to worry about!) but did sautee 1/2 cup of chopped onions in butter before adding it to the boiling chicken stock. Wow! It was so good and I can't wait to eat the leftovers.

So my question of the day to you all is...kasha? quinoa? other miracle grain? Let me know how you cook your groats!

Friday, September 11, 2009

What's a girl to do about fried food?

It's been a few weeks...I know and I apologize. What in the world have I been so busy doing you ask? I had been oh so diligent about posting at least once a week and then Wham. Nothing. You missed me you say? Oh that is really sweet. Well, I was busy eating of course and yes, that does take up more time than you would think (OK, I confess I wasn't just eating, but may also have been busy at work, entertaining my folks, traveling home to OH and running a bit too...but there was a lot of eating in between!)

So the good news is that in my absence I had some wonderfully delicious food stories I've been meaning to share. Most important is my visit last weekend to the Geauga County Fair back home in the great state of Ohio. This is one of the biggest county fairs in the state with all sorts of fun rides (sadly adults can not go in the bouncy castle) and of course foods. I don't think its possible to eat anything healthy at a fair so instead I turned my attentions to the fried fair delights. Surprisingly there were many. Who would have guessed that you could snack on a fried pickle, get some fried veggies, a corn dog, french fries, a fried twinkie, candy bar and of course a fried Oreo.

You'd probably guess that broccoli would be the healthiest possible thing you could eat fried. I had it and let me tell you there's a pound of grease and once you're taking that little green giant for a dip in a vat of ranch dressing there is nothing healthy about it. Tasty? Yes. Healthy? Not so much.

I think these were some pretty interesting fried options but I'm sure there are others out there! What sort of fried foods have you seen/tried? I do admit that I shared (yes, shared ladies & gentlemen I did NOT eat it all myself) a deep-fried Snickers once. Ooh it was so sinfully tasty. There's even a place in Geneva, OH that has deep-fried foot long hot dogs. I admit I've had one of those too. bad but such a good guilty pleasure!