Food Review

Yacon Buckwheat Cereal



In my opinion, there are two types of people in the world: munchers and mealers.
Munchers are the types who graze throughout the day … grabbing a handful of this, snagging a small bite of that, never getting too hungry, or too full. Mealers, on the other hand, are people who eat meals … big portions of food, just once or twice a day, getting their fill in one condensed swoop. For those of us in the former category, it’s understood that finding high-energy small snacky foods is a neverending hunt. Fruit, nuts, and good quality cereals all fall under this category, and are a core part of any good “munch” program – they’re crunchy, they’re munchy, and if done correctly, they’re healthy.

Of course, I love making my own cereals, usually in the form of granolas which tend to be a little more hearty than their puffed grain counterparts, as they’re a great opportunity to play with unusual flavors and extra-beneficial ingredients. Now that it’s fall, warm spices like cinnamon seem to feel as timely as a good pair of boots, and apples are the best friend fruit of the season. For my cereals, I like to combine these instinctive ingredients with sprouted buckwheat, which I’ll explain how to make below. It may seem like an extra effort, and well, it is, but it’s so profoundly nutritious (protein! minerals! enzymes!) and such a delightful snack that it’s truly in the “worth it” catagory. I’m also like to add in some other complimentary superfoods like chia seeds (so you’ll likely find this recipe surprisingly filling, unlike other cereals) as well as yacon powder, which adds an extra sweet apple-like flavor that enhances the rest of the recipe package. This is the type of recipe that’s great to make large batches of and store in an airtight container, perfect for breakfast or scooped out as a small snack. Munchers, meet your heaven recipe, and mealers, you may just find yourself impressively satisfied too. Munchies aren’t always a bad thing…

Yacon Buckwheat Cereal

Buckwheat is one of the easiest (gluten-free) grains to sprout – taking this extra step in preparation not only increases the nutrition, it also provides an improved texture once dehydrated.

INGREDIENTS

2 cups buckwheat groats

6 cups water

1/4 cup chia seeds

1/2 cup yacon powder

1/4 cup maple syrup

2 tablespoons cinnamon powder

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 cup fresh apple, minced fine

1/3 cup walnuts, finely chopped

1/4 cup raisins

 

DIRECTIONS

Sprout the Buckwheat: Soak the buckwheat groats in the water for 30 minutes. Drain into a colander, and rinse very thoroughly, to remove the excess starch. Place the colander on a counter away from direct sunlight to allow the groats to begin germinating. After 4-8 hours, rinse the groats very thoroughly with water again. Repeat this process 2-3 more times over the course of 2 days, until the groats just begin to show a small white tail. Rinse again before using, and drain well.

Mix the ingredients: Transfer the buckwheat to a large bowl, and add the chia, yacon powder, maple syrup, cinnamon, sea salt and vanilla. Mix well. Add the apples, walnuts and raisins, and toss to combine.

Dry the cereal: Divide the buckwheat mixture onto 4 perforated/mesh dehydrator sheets, spreading into flat layers to ensure even drying. Dehytrate at 115 degrees (or desired temperature) for 10-12 hours, or until dried through and crispy. Store in an air-tight container. Makes about 8 cups.

Feasting with Thrive Foods (and a Giveaway!)


Not a day went by last summer that I wasn’t at a farmer’s market. Or grocery store. Or both. No exaggeration. Every sunny day was an effulgent food-oriented adventure, filled with heaps of fresh seasonal vegetables, mounds of fragrant ripe fruits, bulk scoops of legumes and grains, and all the varieties of nuts and seeds I could get my hands on. Add to that some specialty superfoods, last-minute spices and accoutrements, (perhaps a little chocolate [but I really have no idea how that slipped into the basket]), and it was an arm workout just lugging around the bountiful shopping bags. My refrigerator was bursting at the seams, all kitchen cabinets appeared stocked for the next 20 years, the compost grew from a polite pile to Mount Everest, and by the time it was dark each day, I had inevitably used every bowl, dish, pot and pan I own at least twice. But these are just the labors of love when you have 90+ new recipes to create for Brendan Brazier’s newest book, Thrive Foods.

For many years now, best-selling author, professional triathlete, and health activist Brendan Brazier has been on a convincing crusade promoting a plant-based diet and its relationship to both long-term health and performance. Perhaps you’re already familiar with his award-winning line of health products called Vega, or his two previous books, Thrive and Thrive Fitness. His philosophies about upholding a nutrient-dense plant-based diet for optimum health are 100% synonymous with the cornerstone concepts behind the energy-giving superfood recipes I create, such as the ones in Superfood Cuisine. So, needless to say, when Brendan asked me to develop a chunk of recipes for his new third book, Thrive Foods, I couldn’t wait to get my hands, uh, covered in food.

I was especially excited to work on this project for two reasons. First, Thrive Foods is so much more than “just” a cookbook. Rather, it’s an innovative and compelling examination of the environmental resources used to produce food, explained through Brendan’s “nutrient to resource ratio.” I have to say, as a food lover with an environmental conscience myself, I found it fascinating to look at the environmental cost of the food choices that we make in such a well-researched manner. And, selfishly, it made me feel even better about my plant-based natural foods and superfood choices (hint: there’s more to environmental eating than JUST eating local food).

Second, half of the book’s 200 recipes are contributed from some of the top chefs in North America, including some of my personal favorites like Matthew Kenney, Tal Ronnen, Angel Ramos (Candle 79), and SO many more. You know that question people sometimes ask “if you could have a dinner party and invite 10 people, who would they be?” Well, I’d invite the chefs from this cookbook. And then I’d officially change the dinner party to a potluck.

As for my own recipes in Thrive Foods, I have to say they turned out beautifully – it was such a fun project to work on. You’ll likely recognize a few items directly from my blog here, like the Asian Carrot Avocado Salad or Parsnip Oven Fries amongst a few others, and the remainder of the 90+ recipes are all brand new! In the next post I’ll share one of my recipes from Thrive Foods with you that’s perfect for autumn and also happens to be one of Brendan’s favorites. In the meantime, I have another exciting announcement: I’m giving away a copy of Thrive Foods, signed by Brendan Brazier!

To enter the Thrive Foods giveaway,* simply do one of the following activities and then COMMENT on this page what you’ve done.  You can earn more entries (up to a total of 5 entries), by doing more activities and reporting each one in a SEPARATE comment.  (Each comment counts as a separate entry.)  So the more activities you do and comment on, the greater your chance to win.

1) Like Superfood Cuisine by Julie Morris on Facebook
2) Send a tweet: Environmentalism meets 200 great recipes in new book, Thrive Foods. Win  a signed copy via @greenjules here: http://tinyurl.com/3nyhcel
3) Follow @brendanbrazier on twitter
4) Like Brendan Brazier on Facebook
5) Leave a comment below about one thing you do, big or small, that is an eco-friendly part of your lifestyle! Food-oriented or not…

Already like/follow some of the above? (Thanks!) You can still earn entries for these with a comment. The giveaway closes September 30th! Good luck!

*Giveaway open to North American residents only.

Out with the cane, in with the palm sugar (with video)

When I need a sweet boost in recipes I’ll always turn to fruit or stevia first (whole natural foods = yay!), but when those foods simply can’t pull the weight, it’s palm sugar comes to the rescue. I teamed up with superfoods company Navitas Naturals a couple weeks ago — who offers organic palm sugar — and shot this fun Navitas-style video for their “Chef’s Notes” video series. In this video we discuss what makes palm sugar so easy to love, how to use it, and showcase my mini-recipe for Palm Sugar Limeade as well (it’s a winner). You can find Palm Sugar in natural food stores and also online.

Sweeten up your diet with dates


If the $32 billion-plus yearly sales of the candy industry have one thing to tell us, it’s that ol’ Mr. Sweet Tooth is a naughty little guy. Yet what if . . . what IF . . . candy was actually good for you? Are these not the things dreams are made of?

Candy junkies looking for a healthier stash have reason to rejoice – and it’s not because of another brightly colored package hitting the shelves. Instead, the source of this sweet party is none other than the oldest known fruit: the date.

Nature’s candy: Known as “nature’s candy” by farmers and consumers alike, fresh dates are soft and smooth, and offer a caramel-like intense sweetness. There are many different types of dates — each with ranging sweetness and softness. The sweetest, juiciest (and most popular) dates include the Medjool, Zahidi and Honey Date varieties. Meanwhile, drier dates like the Deglet Noor are often ground into a paste and used as an ingredient in commercial goods.

The dating process: When first picked, dates look similar to very large yellow grapes on a vine. They are exceptionally hard and crunchy and similar to sugar cane, with high tannins that immediately dry out the mouth. Recently, at a local farmers’ market in Southern California, I had the privilege of trying fresh-off-the-vine yellow dates. I found them rather inedible at this stage, but it’s at this crunchy point in time that farmers will often harvest the fruit from the date palm trees.

Dates waiting to ripen

Dates waiting to ripen

Next, the dates are laid out in the warm sun for a few weeks to fully ripen. The wait is patient, but the transformation is incredible. Once hard and uninviting, the dates turn brown and wrinkly, developing into the softest, most wonderful gems of sweetness — each with a smooth caramel-like flesh and sweet syrupy nectar, protected by a delicate skin.

Prime energy: Dates provide instant energy in the form of glucose, and are one of the best natural sources of potassium – containing up to three times more potassium than bananas (when compared ounce per ounce). They are full of dietary fiber, along with iron, vitamin A, magnesium and may B vitamins as well. And of course, a handful of dates equal a serving of fruit!

Sweet diet: With the highest natural sugar content of any fruit, dates make a fantastic sweetener. Easily peel dates in half to pit them, and enjoy plain, mixed with nuts, or pressed into a paste for unlimited applications. I use pressed dates frequently as a natural sweetener in my healthy dessert recipes to replace the empty calories of sugar.

Date tips: The way to test a date’s freshness is by its moisture level. Generally speaking, a fresh date is soft, while an un-fresh date is dry. Dry dates can be soaked in water for 10 minutes to restore a bit of juiciness. If fresh dates are unavailable, avoid the mediocrity of dry dates and experience fresh dates in their full glory through ordering them directly from farmers online. Dates should be stored in the refrigerator, where they can be kept for months at a time.

The little seed with a lot to offer: Chia

coconut-lime-chia-frescaSummer may be technically winding down, but in Los Angeles the heat wave’s still going strong. Needless to say, I’ve turned into a complete and utter juice monster. The hotter it gets, the more fresh-pressed juice I consume in attempt to keep cool and energized via simple carbohydrates, natural electrolytes, and easy-to-digest bioavailable nutrients.

The downside to my juice party is it’s easy to load up on the sugar, albeit natural. Watering down my beverages certainly helps, but to further balance some of these sugars, I’ve been adding some extra fiber and healthy omega fats to my juice concoctions in the form of chia seeds.

What they are: Chia’s a tiny seed — just slightly larger than a poppy seed — indigenous to South America. On the health food scene, chia may be relatively new in its “superfood” status. Yet these seeds have actually been revered by Mayan, Incan and Aztec cultures for thousands of years. Chia, the Mayan word for “strength,” was originally enjoyed as a staple food source right alongside corn, beans and amaranth in ancient cultures.

Why they rock: Chia seeds are considered a superfood primarily because of two nutritional properties. The first property is their extraordinary amount of fiber — just one tablespoon contains a whopping 6 grams of fiber, or 25% of the suggested RDA! Chia’s second attribute is an excellent healthy essential fatty acid (EFA) content, which is superior to the nutrition in flax because it includes antioxidants — making the fat more stable. Chia seeds are indeed among the best sources of plant-based omega 3 fatty acids – containing around 8 times more omega 3 than salmon, when comparing gram for gram. Bonus: Also tucked into this tiny super seed package is digestable protein, calcium, iron, and many other minerals.

Why they’re . . . strange: So superman may be able to fly, but leave a chia seed in liquid and in under 30 minutes it will soak up NINE times it’s weight in water. The result is a complete transformation in consistency. Each seed goes from small and crunchy, to forming a fantastic flavorless jelly-like membrane around itself that adds a delectably fun texture to foods and drinks.

How to use: Though raw chia seeds’ neutral taste makes them easy to toss into just about anything for a quick nutritional boost, most people find that making a quick chia gel is an especially rewarding way to enjoy this food. The gel base can then be turned into a simple pudding by adding soy or nutmilk, dried fruit, and a bit of sweetener. Or use a spoonful of chia gel as a nutritionally enhanced egg replacement in baking.

Where to buy: Natural food stores are hip to the chia hotness. Or you can always hook up a bag online – I like Navitas Naturals.

Favorite recipe: In Mexico, there’s a fantastic traditional drink known as “chia fresca” which uses soaked chia seeds alongside water, lemon or citrus juice, and a touch of sweetener. With all the fun little crunchy/jelly chia guys floating around, it reminds me a bit of Thai iced tea with tapioca balls in theory. To experience the true definition of delicious hydrating refreshment, try my variation of this Mexican classic: Coconut Lime Chia Fresca.

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