Monday, 18 February 2013

Grain discovery series - Amaranth

I am a big believer in having variety in your diet. As a society we're over run with meat, wheat and dairy. There is wheat and dairy or derivative(s) of one or both in everything and if you're not eating wheat or dairy as an additive in some pre-packaged or fast food thing you ate, you probably had say: toast for or with your breakfast, maybe a sandwich for lunch and then maybe you had some pasta with dinner? Ok, maybe that's not every day, but I think my point is made. That's a lot of wheat!!!! Haha

My mission here is not to judge. Wheat is fantastic... But there is such a thing as too much of a good thing and too much of any one thing, even great things, isn't good.

I have been seeking alternatives to wheat and dairy for the past few years, not to replace them entirely, just to add some variety to my diet. Several years ago I discovered quinoa and that has become a godsend for me... But lately, I'm feeling like maybe I rely too heavily on that. So, I'm going to write a little series on my exploration of the grain and grain-like seed world. Today: amaranth!

Amaranth is a grain-like seed, similar to quinoa. It actually originated in the same region of the world. Nutritionally, amaranth, like quinoa is a complete source of protein and the protein compound found in it is highly digestible. Like quinoa, its also high in the amino acid lysine (great for tissue growth and repair). It's also high in calcium, magnesium, fiber and iron.

The seeds are verrrrry tiny, tinier than quinoa even. When boiled, they sort of resemble caviar. Amaranth can be boiled on the stovetop, similarly to how you would cook rice, oats or quinoa. It can also be popped like teeny-tiny popcorn. The first time I prepare it, I boiled it the way I would quinoa. I have decided that as a side for dinner, it isn't my favourite. To me, the texture reminded me of a more dynamic cream of wheat. I think because the seeds are SO tiny. Quinoa is a little bigger, so it's a bit like rice when cooked. Amaranth is not. However, I have used it the way I used to use cream of wheat as a breakfast food with maple syrup or honey and it was fantastic!!! I have also popped it like popcorn and I have to say, next to my coconut "whipped cream" discovery, this is my new favourite thing ever!!! As such, I'd like to share the love.

To pop amaranth, you need only a pot and 2 tablespoons of amaranth at a time. When I was researching how to do this, I found everywhere was suggesting using a pan. I don't recommend this at all unless you want to eat half of your popped amaranth off the floor... Or share it with the family dog, I suppose. Anyway: heat the pot on the stove top. I put the pot on the burner and turn it on high, leave it until its hot. Then drop your 2 tbsp of amaranth in the pot. Put the lid on the pot and take it off the burner and, holding the pot handle(s) start swirling the amaranth around the bottom. It should start popping. Don't swirl for more than 10-15 seconds or you'll burn it. Sort of like microwaveable popcorn you'll hear a second where the amaranth stops popping, that's the sweet spot. Transfer into a mason jar or other container and repeat this process until you have the desired amount of popped amaranth.

There are a lot of uses for popped amaranth. You can put it in a granola recipe, sprinkle it on yogurt... Be creative with it! I really like to drizzle honey on it and eat it with a small amount of vanilla almond milk.

Bon app├ętit!
Talia

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