Blueberry Swirl Buckwheat, Amaranth + Walnut Porridge

Blueberry Swirl Buckwheat, Amaranth + Walnut Porridge

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I received free samples of California walnuts mentioned in this post. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by the California Walnut Commission and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

 

As part of my nutrition program, I took a class last term which covered the basics of cooking whole foods including how to cook grains, beans and other legumes, and greens. One thing I hadn’t previously given much thought to was the reason for soaking grains, beans, nuts, and seeds prior to eating.

Whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes contain antioxidants called phytic acids (or phytates) which are the plants’ primary form of stored phosphorus. Phytates tends to bind minerals like zinc, magnesium, calcium, potassium and iron, making them more difficult for us to absorb. Soaking these foods overnight prior to cooking or eating initiates the sprouting process, which makes many of the minerals more digestible.

There is some debate as to whether we should worry about phytates or bother taking the time to soak our whole grains and nuts, as many experts suggest we simply eat a balanced diet and we’ll get enough of these minerals anyway. From my own personal experience however, I have been eating a diet of whole foods, comprised mostly of these phytate-rich plants, for going on 10 years or so, and I’ve continued to struggle with absorbing the vitamins and minerals my diet should contain–even after removing the two big culprits which were causing me the most damage, gluten and dairy. Gut health is an area I’m super interested in learning more about, but in the meantime, I’ve been trying to remember to soak more of my grains and now nuts, in addition to beans, more of the time.

 

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This porridge combination contains three ingredients to get the day off to a good start thanks to those soaked seeds and nuts including walnuts, amaranth, and buckwheat. The California Walnut Commission generously sent me a 2-lb. bag of walnuts to play with and I’ve been having lots of fun using them in unconventional ways. Walnuts are a delicious and versatile ingredient and they perfectly complement other whole foods for nutritious, tasty meals. I’ve found that walnuts can be used a lot like cashews to make “creams,” although with a stronger walnut presence due to their nice wholesome flavor. They pair especially well with amaranth and buckwheat, as all those earthy flavors complement each other.

Walnuts are a nice addition to meals and snacks as an ounce of walnuts — the amount in one serving of this porridge — has 2.5 grams of the essential plant-based omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), in addition to 4 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber.

 

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Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been streamlining my morning process and often make my breakfast the night before, or batch cook a few days of meals at once. I tend to opt for some form of porridge most days and this means I have the perfect opportunity to soak and prep my morning fixings. Since it’s been getting hot outside, I have considered returning to a more summery breakfast like raw buckwheat porridge, but find that I  still tend to wake up ready for something warm to start my day. I tend to run cool most of the time so I decided to make a porridge that is soaked overnight or for a few hours prior to blending, and then it can be quickly finished and heated on the stove top to eat. I usually do the whole process the night before, as long as I remember to soak those main components a few hours before that evening prep. Then I reheat individual portions in the morning.

 

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Blueberry Swirl Buckwheat, Amaranth + Walnut Porridge, serves 4

1/3 cup buckwheat groats

1/3 cup amaranth

1 cup raw walnuts

1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar or lemon juice

4 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen

1 Tbs. raw honey or maple syrup

1/2 tsp. ground cardamom

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

dash of sea salt

1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1/2- 1 1/2 cups water, divided

Directions:
  1. Cover walnuts, amaranth, and buckwheat with warm water and one tablespoon of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar. Let soak overnight. The next morning, drain and rinse well.
  2. In a food processor or blender, puree the blueberries and honey until they become smooth. Spoon out about half the puree and set aside.
  3. Without removing the remaining puree, add in the drained and rinsed nuts and seeds along with the spices and about 1/2 cup water. Puree the mixture until smooth.
  4. To assemble and eat, spoon the pureed porridge into a small saucepan along with enough water to make it a thinnish consistency, if necessary. This will depend on your berries. Heat through until it forms a thick porridge. Then, swirl a few spoonfuls of the blueberry puree into each portion. Top with more blueberries and walnuts, if desired.

 

 

References:

Frølich, W. (n.d.) Phytate–a natural component in plant food. Whole Grains Council. Retrieved from:  http://wholegrainscouncil.org/files/backup_migrate/PhytateProsCons_0910_DK-WGC.pdf.

Sparvoli, F. and Cominelli, E. (2015). Seed biofortication and phytic acid reduction: A conflict of interest for the plant? Plants. 4 (4): 728-755. doi:  10.3390/plants4040728.

Weil, A. (2010). Are phytates bad or good? Retrieved from: http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/QAA400758/Are-Phytates-Bad-or-Good.html.

for the joy

for the joy

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I went for a run the other day, an easy four miles, and I found myself having to hold back at the end. Again.

 

Several years ago when William and I were first dating, we’d run together frequently, getting to truly know each other over our running-with-another-styles. Will was content to always keep it casual, slow and easy. My competitive streak had me unconsciouslessly always staying one step ahead with random surges thrown in whenever I felt good. I’d often laugh recklessly and pick it up a little more when he wanted to slow down. I tend to get faster as the miles add up while he likes to rush out at the beginning and then slow down. I’m stronger-willed. I usually set the pace. Despite our differences, we got into a habit of finishing each run with a little sprint to the end. It was never a set time or distance, just somewhere close to our finishing point, we’d glance at each other, mutter something like “race you to…” and take off. William usually won. It was so so fun.

 

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Running hasn’t been so easy or joyful this year. I have been battling my body and mind this entire year. I finally figured out my mind has identified its body as perpetually injured. Despite the belief that I will eventually be injury-free, my daily thought pattern does nothing to support this mindset. Any time something new feels off, my mind goes into a two to six day anxiety party, in which I can focus on almost nothing else except the thing that is off, worrying about “what-if it…”, and then after those first few days have past, I accept the off-feeling as the new norm, and it becomes the problem. All of this happens before any doctor can actually identify anything is truly wrong. It is a bad pattern that I’ve finally acknowledged and am attempting to stop vicariously jumping into. I’ve also come to terms with the idea that my mind thrives on (and is perpetually sickened by) a stressful environment. And it doesn’t matter what is actually happening in life, whether my current circumstances are actually worthy of stress, my mind always finds something to be stressed about. For me, the link between mental stress and physical symptoms, in any myriad of ways, is real. I have accurately identified a whole host of physical ills I’ve suffered over the years that are linked to stress. I have a great doctor that supports my theories. It is crazy this mind-body connection. The good thing here is that I’ve finally acknowledged this internal battle and I know it is not the way I want to live.

 

Running is where I seek a lot of mental solace. And since my physical body has been somewhat out of commission all these months, my mind has freely been running havoc instead. After a substantial amount of crying and worrying and praying this year, asking Him repeatedly why he gave me this particular challenge to overcome, I was practically smacked in the face one day in adoration at church with the realization that this has been such a good year. I have had to stop running, at first physically and then mentally, and actually work through the baggage that I had been holding on to. I’ve had to stop, just sit, literally, and simply feel every thing I’ve spent my entire life avoiding feeling.

 

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Deacon Anderson had a Carl Jung quote/paraphrase one Sunday in church that has been my truth this year. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, to avoid facing their own souls. We’ll eat, we’ll drink, we’ll play with our cell phones, we’ll have sex, we’ll throw ourselves into our work, we’ll exercise until we drop, we’ll buy stuff, we’ll do anything, anything, to avoid this journey and this struggle, to keep from embracing our shadow, he shared.

 

This year, I’ve sat with, cried with, yelled at, wanted to rip out and throw away, run with, forgiven, soothed, gotten to know, and finally, faced my soul. It has been the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.

 

It has been the best thing I have ever done.

 

And it is an ongoing, never-ending, daily practice. It is a complete lifestyle change to know and face my soul, to continue acknowledging it rather than running away. So far, it does not get easier with time.

 

And so, running. Running and work and blogging and food and family and making a home and being a sister, aunt, daughter, wife, cousin, friend, teacher, and mentor. And living. Above all, I want to live and experience peace in each moment, let all my worries and what-ifs and over-whelming, self-imposed schedule go, acknowledge but not engage with those thoughts that will always try to take over, and let them go. And again. Every goddamn day starting over.

 

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When I let all my worries go, I realize I am happy. Despite whatever chaos I’ve brought on myself or the world has imposed, I am happy. There is joy when I write and joy when I pray. There is joy in my interactions, joy in throwing my schedule out and going with someone else’s plans. There is joy in running that has nothing to do with managing my body, that is no longer based on being able to withstand the pain for a little while, but actual joy in realizing that despite whatever might feel slightly off, my body does not have to be a battleground, and the last mile of a four or five or easy six miler feels good and I feel like sprinting it in to the end again–simply for the joy of it.

 

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Big Tasty Winter Salad with Brussels Sprouts, Kale, Squash + Candied Hazelnuts

When it comes to holiday gatherings, I’m the salad person in my family. Every year I have somehow shown up to Thanksgiving or Christmas with Brussels sprouts–and then the relatives tell me they’ve spent their entire lives not liking them but they look forward to mine. I guess that is the highest compliment a vegetable-loving, on-a-mission-to-get-people-to-eat-their-veggies lady can receive. Spinning off the sweet dressing and candied nuts in my Pittsburgh Salad, I decided to throw all my favorite wintry salad things in a big ol’ Thanksgiving-sized bowl and feed people greens again this year. And it worked. I’ve made this salad a couple times since and it is tasty enough that I might take it to every social gathering between now and the end of winter squash season (that’s around mid-March for me). It is just that good.

1 bunch kale, stems removed and leaves chopped

1 small or 1/2 a medium winter squash, roasted and then cut into medium-large chunks

a small to medium handful of dried cranberries, raisins, or cherries, or a handful of each

1 lb. Brussels sprouts, bottoms and outer leaves removed and halved, if they are large

1 Tbs. olive oil

 

For the candied hazelnuts:

3/4 cup raw hazelnuts

3/4 tsp. olive oil

1/2 tsp. honey

1/8 tsp. salt

Cayenne pepper

 

For the vinaigrette:

2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar

1 Tbs. whole-grain mustard

1 Tbs. honey

salt and pepper to taste

 

  • On a large baking pan, toss Brussels sprouts with a good drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 15-20 minutes in an oven preheated to 350 degrees F.
  • While the Brussels are roasting, prep kale and put it in a large mixing bowl, along with the roasted squash and dried fruits. Once the Brussels begin to soften but still have a little crunch, remove them from the oven, and pour them atop the kale and give it a quick stir. This will begin to soften up the kale.
  • Spread the hazelnuts in a small baking pan or on the same dish the Brussels came off of, and toast until just beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Remove and let cool slightly. Then, toss them with 1/8 tsp. salt and a good pinch of cayenne pepper. Drizzle with the 3/4 tsp. oil and 1/2 tsp. honey. Toss them all into the bowl with the Brussels and kale.
  • Make the vinaigrette by whisking the remaining oil, honey, mustard, and vinegar in a small dish. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour it in small batches over the salad ingredients until you’ve dressed it with your desired amount.

 

 

Smoky Pear Tea Cakes

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As it turns out, I am a giant nerd. I’ll gladly take an evening in with a good book just about any day. I take books to all family gatherings and long road trips. I have no problem sitting in a room full of people, disengaged from the small talk, reading. Like a true nerd, I love libraries and bookstores, and of course, good old-fashioned books.

 

Nerdism started early but back when I learned to read, I was a slow learner and had to go to Mrs. Ashcraft’s for special reading class. After Mrs. Ashcraft worked her magic, I was reading giant chapter books far beyond my grade level in a matter of weeks. To this day, reading is among my favorite pastimes. I still have little girl Jane Austen fantasies about long afternoons in the parlor with all my best gal pals reading and eating tea cakes. The one time this came even close to happening was last year in Victoria with William. We stayed at a B&B with a serious library, complete with fireplace, cozy chairs, a pot of English tea, and a good book. Those quiet mornings in the library were magical.

 

Back in reality, I’m often asked if I like to read. Though I’m open about my interest in books, I often share only the lighter things I’m reading when people ask–and it is a rare day when I snag more than 10 minutes or so at a time with a book. Since The Recipe Redux theme for this month is quick bread and I can think of no better time to enjoy a slice or two than on a slow weekend with tea and reading materials, I’m sharing all the good books I particularly enjoyed in the past year. If you are in need of a new one to read or cook from, or need gifting ideas for the holidays, read on. Or skip to making these smoky pear tea cakes and enjoy a slice over something from your own selection.

 

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Non-Fiction

When Women Were Birds: Fifty-four Variations on Voice, Terry Tempest Williams

This is the book I’ll gift to my former English-major friends. It is a memoir on Williams’ experience with her mother’s death and the resulting discovery of finding her voice. Of all the books in this list, it is the most beautiful and capturing to read.

 

Me and My Mate Jeffrey, Niall Breslin

Written by former professional rugby player and singer, Niall tells of his struggle with extreme anxiety disorder, how he kept the panic attacks and chronic insomnia a secret for 15 years, how it led him to give up on several careers, and ultimately to become a spokesperson leading the way for the discussion of mental health to be less stigmatized in our society. I can identify with much of Breslin’s mental struggles (though not how they present themselves) and his finding of endurance athletics and mindfulness to manage them. I can’t wait to see what happens when we as a society let go of the shame surrounding this topic and address it as we do other areas of health. I highly recommend this book to just about everyone.

 

The Five Elements of Self-Healing: Using Chinese Medicine for Maximum Immunity, Wellness, and Health, Jason Elias

I picked this one up at the library randomly and I’m glad I did. This book focuses heavily on addressing health from the standpoint of whichever Chinese Medicine element an individual identifies with most strongly. It also gives tools to balance oneself and delves deep into many common illnesses, starting with the most exterior (cold and flu) and moving to the most interior (diabetes and cancer). I’m super fascinated with Traditional Chinese Medicine and this was an easy to understand book that I will refer to again.

 

Between Heaven and Earth, Harriet Beinfield and The Web That Has No Weaver, Ted Kaptchuk

Both Between Heaven and Earth and The Web That Has No Weaver are great introductory texts that explain Traditional Chinese Medicine and bridge the gap between eastern and western medicine. I really enjoyed Between Heaven and Earth and am still making my way through The Web, but am adding it to the list anyway because I often find myself taking copious notes from it. I would definitely consider purchasing either of them to use as a reference when life gets chaotic.

 

Eating on the Wild Side, Jo Robinson

The premise of Eating on the Wild Side is that our modern foods have lost the rich nutrient content of their wild ancestors–and few of us are going to go gather wild herbs to eat every day to make up the difference. Instead, Robinson provides an exceptional resource on the most nutritious varieties of common fruits and vegetables, including how best to store and prepare them to ensure as many nutrients as possible actually arrive to our bodies. I took this book to work and made a handout for parents in our programs. My co-worker, who teachs a preschool parent-child health and nutrition class, says this is the number one handout that parents ask for and repeatedly refer to.

 

Lentil Underground, Liz Carlisle

This book is about a group of renegade farmers in Montana who eschewed the norms and started an organic lentil and bean farming revolution in an area that was typically conventional dryland wheat. I was able to listen to Liz Carlisle in person, as she and the farmer, David Oien, presented at my university a few months ago. The number one thing that stood out to me from this story was the sheer amount of work–double decade long lifework–that comes with eschewing the norm and following your dream. If you are at all interested in the food movement and sustainable farming systems, this is definitely one worth reading.

 

Running With Joy, Ryan Hall

I own this book and refer to it often for spiritual guidance. Essentially, it is Ryan Hall’s daily training journal as he prepared for the 2010 Boston Marathon. For me, it reads as a runner’s daily devotional. It’s a good one for gaining perspective on finding joy both in running and in life. 

 

Fiction

Skippy Dies, Paul Murray

When it comes to fiction, I often look to the award winners and the books that are short-listed. This one is a weighty novel (600+ pages) about a boy at a Catholic boarding school. The title gives away what happens and Skippy dies right away within the first chapter. This is a captivating journey into the world of teenagers, drawing the reader into their often nonsensical thinking patterns and how the opposite sex can become an all-consuming obsession. Rife with humor, drama, backstabbing, teenage confusion, mental health problems, and of course death, this book reminded me of both what it was like to be a teenager, and how the teens I work with often view the world from a very different lens than my own. And finally–this book is exceptionally well written. Murray has a special kind of voice as only the most gifted writers do.

 

The Master, Colm Tóibín

Tóibín is an exceptionally talented writer and this novel is about the famous novelist, Henry James. I loved the imagery that took me into James’ life, and Tóibín was able to make the seemingly drab doings of a writer come alive. I also learned an amazing tactic both to navigate uncomfortable social settings and to view life as a writer does. If you haven’t read this or any of Tóibín’s other novels, I highly recommend him. His books are gold.

 

Ella Enchanted, Gail Carson Levine

One of my favorite pre-teen stories, I reread this one recently (again) and as always, loved it just as much as my 11-year-old self. This fun and easy remake of the Cinderella Story is actually a good one and is FAR better than the horrible movie that was made out of it.

 

Cookbooks

Green Kitchen Travels, David Frenkiel

Written by Swedish and Danish couple David and Luise of the lovely blog, Green Kitchen Stories, this is the cookbook that most aligns with my style of cooking. Sometimes simple and easy, sometimes off-the-wall combinations of textures, ingredients and flavors, and often vividly colored. I have been cooking through this all year long. I like it even better than their first cookbook and refer to it often for both inspiration and to make recipes as-written. A word about their diet: David is vegetarian, Luise is health-minded. Together, they share recipes that are always both but can contain dairy, eggs, and gluten, but often do not. I find it super easy to sub these ingredients and have loved nearly every recipe I’ve tried.

 

Ard Bia Cookbook, Aoibheann MacNamara

This book, titled after its namesake restaurant, is lovely to simply leave on the coffee table because it is so beautifully put together. Whenever I read it, I want to cozy up in a lovely restaurant near the ocean on a dreary day and drink tea and watch the other customers leaf through newspapers and chat about scholarly things. The pantry section is my favorite part and leaves me super happy that a restaurant cookbook provides more than just recipes for meals. There are exotic seed and spice mixtures, infused oils and vinegars, chutneys, and the like.

 

The Sprouted Kitchen Bowl + Spoon, Sara Forte

I love just about every one of Sara’s bowl recipes, and I’ve tried TONS of them. There is no way I could choose a favorite, but the lentil-stuffed poblano chilies over a butternut mash which I had recently was particularly good. Sara cooks with a vegetable-heavy hand and when she includes cheese, it is often as topping and is never missed by us.

 

Whole Grain Mornings, Megan Gordon

This is a lovely brunch book that I’ve checked out from my local library for several months (more than once). I love the sheer variety of breakfasty options all arranged by season, and the fact that 90% of the recipes can instead be eaten either as dessert or dinner. If for no other reason, Megan’s recipes for granola are the BEST, which should hardly be surprising as she founded a granola business.

 

What good book are you reading? I always need more inspiration.

 

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Smoky Pear Tea Cakes

We are enjoying Thanksgiving in eastern Oregon this year with my family. I can’t wait for a long weekend of cozy reading, hugging babies and toddlers, and catching up with the folks and relatives. Plus, I have a whole freezer of not quite good enough versions of this cake to hand over to my sugar-loving, thinks-he’s-sweets-deprived father, who will gobble it all up in no time. The trick with this cake is to find some good quality Lipsang Souchong tea which has a smoky flavor due to the leaves being dried over a fire. The pairing of the smoky tea and soft, ripe pears is subtle but prominent, especially when slightly warm. The smoke and sweet combo captures this time in the season perfectly. 

1 cup +  ~2 Tbs. boiling water
4 tsp. Lipsang Souchong tea leaves
2 Tbs. ground flax seed
6 Tbs. hot water
3/4 cup oat bran, certified gluten-free
1 1/2 cups gluten-free flour mix or flour of choice
3/4 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder 
3/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups cored and shredded soft pears (~ 2 medium)
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup canola oil
1 Tbs. pure vanilla extract
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Oil and flour four mini-loaf pans or one 9×5-inch loaf pan.
  • Bring about 1 1/2 cups water to a boil. Pour slightly more than 1 cup of it over the tea leaves and allow them to steep for a while.
  • In a small dish, whisk together the remaining 6 Tbs. hot water and ground flax seeds. Set aside to form a thick slurry.
  • In a large bowl, combine the oat bran, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Mix well and set aside.
  • Grate the pears using the large holes of a box grater. Don’t include the core and seeds.
  • Strain the tea and pour 1 cup of it into a liquid measuring cup. Add the honey, oil, vanilla, pears, and flax mixture. Mix it all together thoroughly.
  • Pour the liquids into the dry mixture and stir the batter until just combined.
  • Fill the loaf pans equally and bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 35-40 minutes for mini loaves or 50-60 minutes for a large loaf.