Meatless Mondays Good Grains to the Rescue
Text Graphic of Whole Grains I am often asked if there are foods that I miss in my quest for healthy. I remind folks that on the weekend we allow ourselves a ?cheat? on Saturday Nights. This move to healthy...
I am often asked if there are foods that I miss in my quest for healthy. I remind folks that on the weekend we allow ourselves a ?cheat? on Saturday Nights. This move to healthy is a life-style change, not a diet and we do not want to feel deprived! This ?cheat? might include meat and potatoes or maybe a pasta, desserts will be permitted this special evening as well as a glass or two of wine. As a ?foodie? I can promise there are a few foods that I really do miss from this new diet of Greens, Beans, Vegetables, Fruits and Seeds. Growing up in the Dairy State, I think that cheese should regularly be enjoyed. I miss cheeses served with some fruit and crusty bread and chased by a fabulous glass of wine or two. Today, there are so many new and wonderful fresh cheeses to also enjoy. And along with my cheeses, I miss pasta. Over these past few weeks, I have had the opportunity to enjoy some homemade pastas and these are always a treat. For me, homemade pasta is a labor of love, but do enjoy the taste and velvety texture of fresh pasta.
I have worked to find healthy alternatives for pasta for a Meatless Monday?s Centerpiece and I have a few options of whole grains to consider. We are fortunate to have a Trader Joe?s just around the corner and their Harvest Grain Blend of Israeli Style Couscous, Orzo, Baby Garbanzo Beans and Red Quinoa is a favorite in my pantry. This is a bit of a cheat as there is some Orzo within the blend, but this is a great alternative to pasta.
Other favorites are, Farro, Barley and Wheatberry. I am sharing three very different recipes for these whole grains for this Week?s Meatless Monday blog.
I see these whole grains as a blank slate, so I will flavor these with homemade stock. A chef this week noted that my crockpot version was great for chicken and beef.
But he suggested I try his stove top version for my veggies. I did and I was very pleased with the results. So, here is an update on how to create Homemade Vegetable Stock:
Homemade Vegetable Stock
Full gallon freezer bag loaded with vegetable discards. My bag this week included: ribs of kale, carrot and zucchini ends after a shredding project, onion skins and bruised onion skins, very small garlic cloves, celery leaves, asparagus tips, and mushroom stems.
- Cover these frozen vegetable discards with 5 cups of water.
- Season this with salt and pepper to your taste.
- Bring to a simmer on the stove in a Dutch oven for about 35 minutes.
- Strain off the golden liquid and use as your homemade stock.
- This will yield about 4 cups of vegetable stock.
Farro with Mushrooms, Asparagus and Onions
This dish resembles a traditional Risotto, but this is a bit healthier of a version.
- 1 ½ cups uncooked farro
- 3 cups homemade vegetable stock ? see recipe above
- 1 pound of mushrooms, prepared on the stovetop following this recipe. BLOG http://cilantrocooks.com/cilantro-blog/mystic-mushrooms
- 1 pound of asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 ½ inch pieces
- 1 medium onion, small dice
- 3 ? 5 cloves of garlic, fine mince
- Olive oil
- Prepare the farro in the vegetable stock.
- Prepare the mushrooms in a vegetable stock with a tablespoon of butter as directed above. Finish these mushrooms with sherry and thyme as seasonings.
- In a separate sauté pan, sauté the onions in olive oil for about 5 minutes.
- Then, add in the garlic, being careful not to burn the garlic.
- As the final step, add in the cut asparagus and quickly sauté this spring vegetable.
- Assemble this dish by combining the farro, mushrooms and the sautéd vegetables.
- Salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve immediately.
- Can be garnished with Parmesan cheese.
Serve these Roasted Vegetables over a plate of prepared Barley
Roasted Vegetables over Barley
- 1 ½ cup barley
- 3 ? 4 cups of vegetable stock ? see directions above
- Roasted Vegetables: Options include: zucchini, eggplant, onions, carrots, red, yellow or orange peppers, mushrooms.
- Prepare the barley in homemade stock. See recipe above.
- Prepare the roasted vegetables in the oven or on the grill.
- Top the hot vegetables over a bed of barley.
- An optional finish would be to drizzle this platter with some infused olive oil. Heating about ¼ cup of olive oil on the stovetop adding the herb of choice and infusing the flavors for about 5 ? 7 minutes. I love the flavors of thyme or rosemary with these vegetables.
- Garnish with parsley and chives.
Wheatberry Salad ? As a sweet treat --adapted from Souper Jenny?s in Atlanta
- 1 cup dried soft wheatberries (hard wheatberries should be soaked overnight)
- 1 crunchy, firm apple, small dice
- 1 pear, small dice
- ¼ cup dried dates, chopped
- 1 cup Mandarin oranges, drained
- ¼ cup pecans, toasted and chopped. Almonds or Walnuts could be substituted. Always toast the nuts for added flavor.
- 3 tablespoons of maple syrup, honey or Agave nectar
- ½ cup fresh orange juice
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Optional -- ½ cup feta cheese, crumbled
- Rinse the wheatberries.
- Boil these wheatberrries to a boil within 5 cups of water.
- I have infused this water with some added citrus for added flavor. Maybe the juice of another orange or a lemon or both.
- Lower the heat and simmer for 45 ? 50 minutes or until the wheatberries are cooked, but still are firm. You are looking for a chewy consistency on this whole grain.
- Drain off the simmering water and place in a large mixing bowl.
- Add all of the other ingredients and mix while the wheatberries are still warm.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- This can be served warm or it is also very good chilled as a side salad.
These recipes are three very different treatments of whole grains. The farro and wheatberries have a very nutty flavor and really add great texture to dishes.
What are your favorite whole grains and your favorite preparation idea?