Going with the grain

Since becoming a vegetarian I have completely fallen in love with grains.  I have always eaten whole grain breads and pastas, but I never ventured outside of those.  I now know that I have been missing out for years.  If only I had known that I was just skimming the surface of the wide world of grains.  I love that there are so many varieties and eating them in their whole form is so yummy and so, so good for us.  I don’t understand the low-carb diet craze.  Our body needs carbohydrates to function properly. Of course I’m talking complex carbohydrates (brown rice, oatmeal, etc), not simple carbohydrates (white bread, sweets, etc). They are loaded with protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Grains really should be the center of your diet.  They will keep you energized, focused, and balanced throughout your daily routine.  I encourage everyone to experiment with different types of grains.  With so many options it will be hard not to find a few you enjoy. Oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, millet, barley, bulgar, whole grain breads, pastas and crackers are all great options.  So far I have to say quinoa is my favorite. It’s so unique and is a great alternative to brown rice or couscous. However when it comes to breads and crackers, be sure to read labels to make sure it truly is a whole grain product. Whole grains should appear as the first item on the ingredient list and try to choose products with at least three grams of fiber per serving.

Grains are easy to cook , versatile, filling, and delicious.  To give you some ideas, I will post some of the grain-based recipes I have made recently. Enjoy!

Mushroom, Pea and Leek Risotto (The Kind Diet)
INGREDIENTS

3 Tbs olive oil

3/4 – 1 C oyster mushrooms, or 1 C button mushrooms, sliced

2 pinches of fine sea salt

1/2 C thinly sliced leeks (about 1 large leek)

1/2 C fresh or thawed frozen peas

1-2 garlic cloves, minced

3/4-1 C onion, chopped

1 C arborio rice (I used brown rice to make it healthier)

1/2 C white wine or mirin (I used 3/4 white wine and 1/4 mirin)

DIRECTIONS

Bring 5 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan. Remove from heat and cover to keep warm. Meanwhile, heat 1 Tbs of the oil in a skillet. Add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt and stir until the mushrooms soften. Add the leeks and a pinch of salt and saute for 1 minute, or until the leeks soften. Add some water to the pan, 1 Tbs at a time, if the vegetables become dryer or start to stick to the pan.

If you are using fresh peas, blanch then for 1 minute in a small pot of boiling water, and then add them to the sauteed vegetables. If using thawed frozen peas, just mix them straight into the sauteed vegetables. Remove from the heat and set aside. (I transferred them to a bowl).
Heat the remaining 2 Tbs of oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and when the onion begins to sizzle, add a dash of salt. Saute until the onions soften, about 1-2 mins. Stir in the rice and toast the grains until they are opaque, about 2-3 mins. Stir in the wine and cook until it is evaporated. Reduce the heat to medium-low and begin adding the warm water by ladlefuls, stirring it into the risotto, and adding more liquid only when the previous addition has been absorbed.

After the rice has cooked for 20 mins, season to taste with salt. The total cooking time should be 25-30 mins. The risotto will be creamy, but the rice should retain some firmness. Add the sauteed vegetable mixture to the risotto and stir together until hot. Serve warm and enjoy!

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