Stuffed Poblano Peppers with Amaranth

A few months ago, I discovered amaranth at my local food co-op and decided to give it a try.  I had read about this lovely little grain in the Thrive Energy Cookbook by Brendan Brazier and I first tried it out as a rice substitute in this stuffed poblano peppers recipe.

Amaranth

Amaranth is a tiny grain that looks a little like quinoa and packs a serious nutritional punch.  This gluten free grain contains:

  • Three times the average amount of calcium
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Vitamin C – Amaranth is the only grain documented to contain this!
  • Complete protein

I love amaranth because it cooks up quick and is super versatile.  In addition to using it as a substitute for rice, you can make it into porridge and eat it for breakfast!

To cook amaranth, rinse 1 cup under cold water.  Boil 2 cups of water on your stovetop and add the amaranth.  Reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the water is absorbed.  To make a thicker porridge-like consistency, use a 1:3 grain to water ratio and mix in desired spices.

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Stuffed Poblano Peppers with Amaranth

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 2 poblano peppers
  • 1 cup cooked amaranth
  • 1 cup cooked pinto beans
  • 1/2 cup corn
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • Sharp cheddar cheese, grated (omit or use a dairy-free alternative to make this vegan)
  • Avocado, tomato, cilantro and lime for garnish

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350*F.  Cut the peppers in half and remove the stem and seeds.  Brush the peppers with olive oil and place on a baking sheet.  Bake in the oven for 15 minutes or so to soften the peppers.
  2. While the peppers bake, mix the amaranth, beans, corn, cilantro and green onions in a bowl.  Add some cumin, cheyenne, salt and pepper, to taste.
  3. Remove the peppers from the oven.  Fill each pepper with the amaranth stuffing.  Top each with a little shredded cheddar cheese and place back in the oven until everything is warmed through and the cheese is melted.
  4. Serve with avocado, tomato, cilantro and lime.  Enjoy 🙂
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Homemade Graham Crackers

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Last month Nick and I attended a birthday bash at Crater Lake for our bestest bud.  Neither of us had ever been there, although it has been on our list since the day we moved to Oregon!  Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States.  It was formed around 7,700 years ago when Mount Mazama volcano collapsed and created a large caldera that eventually filled with rain and snow melt.  It is an understatement to call Crater Lake breathtaking.  There are really no words to describe how blue the water is.  I also loved the huge lava rock formations and the trees that surround the lake.

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There is a road that goes around the perimeter of the lake and twice a year the park closes part of that road to cars so cyclists can enjoy it all to themselves!  We enjoyed the 33 mile scenic ride, which included over 3,800′ of climbing, PLUS the 10 mile ride each way from our camp ground that included another 800′ of climbing.  By “enjoyed” I mean our legs and lungs were screaming with each climb.  However, at each break, our minds were BLOWN.  It was awesome in every sense of the word.

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We all took turns preparing the meals for the group and enjoyed a variety of campground gourmet.  The item that really topped my list, though, were homemade graham crackers that my lovely friend Christine brought.  They had a thicker texture than store-bought crackers and were way more flavorful.  An added bonus: we can identify all of the ingredients!  Of course, we took that health train off the tracks by making s’mores with these glorious crackers…but hey, what’s a camping trip without s’mores?

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Christine found her inspiration for these Homemade Graham Crackers from The Post Punk Kitchen, with a few additions and changes.  Below is her recipe.  I can’t wait to make these at home and enjoy as a snack with tea or fruit!

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Homemade Graham Crackers

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups Bob’s Red Mill Graham Flour
  • 1/3 cup turbinado sugar (this adds some extra texture and crunch, you can also use regular sugar)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 2 tbsp molasses
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon extract
  • 1/4 cup milk of choice

Instructions

  1. Preheat the over to 350* F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.  Make a well in the middle and pour in the oil, molasses and vanilla and cinnamon extracts. Mix the liquid ingredients into the dry until well combined and crumbly.
  3. Add the milk and stir to combine.  Use your hands to knead the dough a few times until it holds together.  Christine recommends if the dough is dry and crumbly to roll out, you can try adding a tbsp or so more milk.
  4. Line your work surface with parchment paper.  Place the dough on the parchment paper and work dough into a rectangle.  Sprinkle with flour and use a rolling pin to flatten out the rectangle until it is about 10 x 14 inches.  The dough should be about 1/8 inch thick.
  5. Trim the edges and cut the dough into 8 crackers.  You may be able to get some more crackers from the trimmed edges, so roll it out and cut them up!  No need to waste good dough, right?  Very carefully transfer the crackers to the baking sheet.  Poke each cookie with a fork a few times.
  6. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes.  12 minutes gives softer cookies, that according to the Post Punk Kitchen, are better for making ice cream sandwiches!  What!  That sounds like something I need to do!  14 minutes gives you crispy cookies.  You decide how you like ’em.
  7. Let cool completely on the baking sheet.

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Nom.  Now let’s go camping!  Oh, wait…it’s winter now.  We can still camp in our living rooms, yeah?  😉

 

Life is too short to eat plain oats!

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Oats are a classic breakfast staple.  It seems like I am not the only one who feels a bit nostalgic about a warm bowl of oatmeal in the morning.  That feeling reminds me of my grandmother and the warm cereal has been a necessity in my survival of Portland winter mornings (I know, it’s so obvious I am from Southern California when I complain about the winter here!  Go ahead and roll your eyes East Coasters, I won’t be offended!  (-: ).

There are several options for oats, including old-fashioned rolled oats, quick oaks and steel cut oats.  The various types are the same food, just cut differently, giving the oats a different texture and cooking time.  We know from Quaker brand commercials and packaging that cooked oats is a great food for those who are working to prevent or are currently dealing with heart disease or diabetes.  This is because oats contain beta-glucan, a fiber that has been shown to have positive benefits on cholesterol levels.  Beta-glucan also enhances the immune system and gives oats their blood stabilizing quality.  Their high fiber content also allows oats to remove cholesterol from the digestive system, thus keeping it out of your bloodstream.

Oats are also great for the following:

  • They increase appetite-control hormones
  • Oats may reduce asthma risk in children
  • They are low in calories and fat, but high in protein
  • Oats also contain lignans, which are thought to protect against heart disease and hormone-dependent cancers (i.e. breast cancer)
  • Oats contain unique antioxidants that prevent free radicals from damaging LDL cholesterol, which in turn reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Oats are a great source of carbohydrates too, which can prepare you for a work out or get you fueled for your long day ahead
  • Oats are also very inexpensive, especially when purchased from a bulk bin!

For 1/2 cup dry (1 cup cooked) of whole grain rolled oats, you get 190 calories, 3.5g fat, 32g carbs, and 7g protein.

For more information on all the amazing benefits of oats, head on over to The World’s Healthiest Foods and The Whole Grains Council.

Because oats are so low in calories, it makes them a great base for fun breakfast creations!  Here are a few of my recent favorites!

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Ginger Peach Oats with Raspberry Protein Oats

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 2 bags of Trader Joe’s Organic Ginger Peach Tea
  • 1 fresh peach or apricot
  • 1/4 cup frozen raspberries
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
  • Splash of almond milk
  • Chia seeds
  • Sliced almonds

Steep the bags of tea in one cup hot water.  Meanwhile, microwave the frozen raspberries for approx 30 seconds or less (until melted and mushy).  Mix in the protein powder and chia seeds and splash of almond milk until desired thickness.  Next, cook oats in brewed tea on the stovetop until done.  Top the oats with sliced almonds and the fresh peach.  Pour the sauce over the top and enjoy!

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Chocolate Orange Protein Oats

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp orange extract
  • 1 tbsp cacao powder
  • Stevia drops to taste
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
  • Almond butter
  • Fresh orange

Cook the oats in 1 cup water with the orange extract.  Once done, stir in the protein powder and cacao powder.  Top with almond butter (I used Vanilla Espresso Almond Butter by a company called Wild Friends….I can’t even explain how amazing this almond butter is) and an organic mandarin orange.

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Coconut Blueberry Protein Oats

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp coconut extract
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
  • Frozen or fresh blueberries
  • Unsweetened shredded coconut
  • Coconut milk

Cook oats in 1 cup water and coconut extract.  Once done, add the protein powder.  Top with blueberries, shredded coconut and coconut milk to taste.

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Coconut, Strawberry and Banana Protein Oats

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp coconut extract
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
  • 2-3 fresh organic strawberries
  • 1/2 banana
  • Unsweetened shredded coconut

Cook oats in 1 cup water and coconut extract.  Once done, stir in the protein powder and top with fruit and coconut.  Could also add coconut milk as well.

The plain flavor of oats allows you to add ANYTHING your heart desires!  Play around, experiment and try new combinations!  Let me know how it goes!  🙂

The Wonderful World of Bulk Bins!

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In the last year, I have discovered the wonderful world of bulk bins!  Bulk bins can be found in some grocery stores (Fred Meyer, WinCo, Safeway), health food stores (Whole Foods), and food cooperatives* (People’s Co-op in Portland).  They contain food staples such as beans, rice, flour, nuts, dried fruit, and spices.  There are typically plastic or paper bags nearby that you simply put however much you want of a particular food into, label it with the provided number or food name, and take it to the register!

Why do I love them so much?  Let me count the ways!

  1. Image-15Saves Money:  Buying in bulk saves some serious dough.  The most drastic price difference is seen in spices.  Typically, you’ll pay $3-5 for a bottle of cinnamon, but I can refill my spice bottle for less than $1!  When you see the prices on bulk bins they can seem pretty steep (especially for spices), but notice that this pricing is per pound.  I’d venture to guess you aren’t buying a whole pound of oregano, so don’t worry about that seemingly large price tag.  Also, items like pasta, spices, and flour are light in weight so that per pound price won’t add up quickly.  I recently purchased 1.12 pound of lentils for $1.67, 1.27 pounds of black beans for $1.77, and 1.42 pounds of pinto beans for $3.25.  If you buy canned beans, you get 15 ounces (about 1.9 cups) for somewhere between $1-3.  However, one cup of dried black beans yields 2.25 cups of cooked beans.  Trust me, it adds up over time!  And yes, you can save on organic foods this way too.
  2. Portion Control:  So, you’re trying a new recipe and it calls for 1/2 cup of bulgur.  If you’ve never heard of bulgur you may be wondering, what the heck is it and will I even like it?  At the grocery store, you can purchase 28 ounces of Bob’s Red Mill bulgur for $7 and hope you enjoy this new grain or buy the grain, use 1/2 cup, and never use it again!  However, if you find your needed ingredient in a bulk bin, you can purchase just the amount that you need.
  3. Saves Packaging:  I have saved a bunch of jars from things like pickles and jams, and now use them to hold foods from bulk bins.  I also use large storage jars I have purchased from places like Bed Bath and Beyond or Amazon.com.  Most of the time, there is a scale near the bulk bins where you can weigh the empty jar, write the tare weight, and then fill it with your food item.  The tare weight allows the person ringing you up to only charge you for the weight of the food and not the jar.  Don’t forget to weigh the empty jar with the lid on!  Reusing glass or plastic jars saves you from throwing away plastic packaging or recycling boxes and cans from packaged foods.  Not only does reusing jars reduce waste in our landfills, but you can also make your pantry super cute!  A little chalkboard paint or printable labels, and you’ve got well-organized and lovely food storage.  Check out BooBearyBinks or here for ideas.  My jars are not quite as cute yet.  I’m thinking this will be a great project when I am done with school!
  4. Nothing but almonds in my almond butter!!

    Nothing but almonds in my almond butter!!

    New Foods:  I have been introduced to so many new foods because of bulk bins!  Hazelnut butter and goji berries are my recent favorite finds and tries from bulk bins.  Sometimes, I literally stand in front of the bulk bins and Google things I’ve never heard of on my cell phone!  It’s fun to see a grain I’ve never heard of, purchase a cup or so, and give it a try!

  5. Clean Foods:  Foods in bulk bins are often just the food.  For example, dry beans in a bulk bin are only beans, while beans in a can may contain other nonessential (and possibly unhealthy) ingredients.  The nutritional information and ingredients will be on a label on the bin, so read carefully.

What I always buy from bulk bins:

  1. All types of beans (black, kidney, garbanzo, cannellini, pinto etc).  Image-16
  2. Lentils
    (Yes, buying beans and lentils in bulk means they are dry and require some time to cook (1-2 hours).  If you plan ahead, it really isn’t a big deal.  I typically cook a cup of beans at the beginning of the week and stick them in the fridge so they are ready to be thrown into meals.  See Vegetarians in Paradise for charts and cooking guides for beans and grains.)
  3. Rice
  4. Dried fruit (cranberries, raisins, etc)
  5. All types of nuts (almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, etc)
  6. Almond butter or hazelnut butter
  7. Honey
  8. Agave
  9. Olive Oil
  10. SpicesImage-17
  11. Oats
  12. Quinoa and quinoa flakes
  13. Chocolate or carob chips
  14. Goji berries
  15. Chia seeds
  16. Pasta
  17. Whole grains
  18. Popcorn
  19. Shampoo and conditioner (refill old shampoo/condition bottles)

If you have a store near you that has bulk bins, give them a spin.  You’ll never want to go back to packaged foods 🙂

*Food Cooperatives are also amazing!  Cooperatives (or co-ops) are worker or customer owned businesses that provide high quality, usually local, items at a great value to their members.  They not only provide food that supports safe, sustainable growing and manufacturing practices, co-ops can also be an amazing community resource.  I am a member-owner at People’s Co-op in Portland, OR and they have an amazing array of free or sliding fee scale classes every month, including yoga, canning and jarring, cooking classes, movement and meditation, as well as provide opportunities to learn and discuss ways to improve our local and national food system.  Being a member-owner means I have made an investment in the store and I am eligible to receive a small percentage of the amount of money I spend at People’s each year when the store as a profit and participate in elections through the Board of Directors.  They also have a Hands-on-Owner program in which you can work in the store for a discount on purchases.  Furthermore, food co-ops provide an opportunity for you to invest money back into your community and small businesses, rather than into large corporate supermarket chains that do not have the same interest in caring for your community and nearby farmers.

Because patrons are also owners in a food co-op, they have the opportunity to decide what types of foods the store offers.  For example, at People’s, members voted to not sell products that contain meat (except dog food), and the Board of Directors has approved product guidelines that prohibit products that contain artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.  This makes shopping there easy, because I have confidence that the products I am buying are going to be “clean” without me spending a ton of time reading every single label.  The investment is not large ($180) and can be made in $30 per year payments.  This has made it affordable for me while I survive on a student budget!

Search for a food co-op near you here!!  ❤

All of the photos in this post were taken at People’s Co-op.

Baked Goat Cheese and Arugula Salad with Pearled Barley

I was headed to work that night, so I ate mine from a glass tupperwear.

I was headed to work that night, so I ate mine from a glass tupperwear.

Spring is in the air!  The weather has been treating us well in Portland, with less rain and more of that much needed sunshine, and the excitement of summer produce and festivities is making my heart so full it could burst.  In celebration of the warmer weather, I made this baked goat cheese and arugula salad with strawberries and pecans the other night.  Although it took a little over an hour to put together, the salad was so refreshing and light, yet still filling and absolutely delicious.  I typically test my cooking skills by how much hot sauce Nick uses, and he hardly used any on this dish!  Score!

I served it with a side of pearled barley seasoned with thyme.  Whole grain barley is a high-fiber, high-protein whole grain that boasts quite a list of health benefits.  Pearled barley, unfortunately, has been through a process that removed its hull and nutritious bran layer.  Barley groats are hulled but still have that bran layer.  Pearled barley is the most commonly used form of barley and is easily added to soups or cooked on its own as a rice substitute.  Some of barley’s health benefits include the following:

  • Barley is has a low glycemic index (measures how foods that containing carbohydrates raise blood glucose levels)
  • Good source of soluble fiber, which is effective at lowering cholesterol and is beneficial at slowing the absorption of sugar
  • Barley is also a good source of insoluble fiber, which may be beneficial in helping the body to maintain regular bowel function
  • Naturally cholesterol free and low in fat
  • Barley contains Vitamin B3, Vitamin B1, selenium, iron, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, and copper.
  • Barley also contains antioxidants and phytochemicals, which studies have indicated may decrease the risk of certain diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

For more information, see Barley Foods and The World’s Healthiest Foods.

I had some pearled barley in my pantry from a soup I made a while ago, so I decided to use it as our grain with the salad.  Cooking it with thyme and onions made a tasty, yet mild, side to the flavor packed salad.  We had quite a bit of barley left over and used it the next day with black beans, lime, cilantro and avocado to make a power bowl.

Pearled Barley Recipe

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cup pearled barley
  • 1 small onion
  • Thyme (2 sprigs fresh or dried)
  • 3 cups water
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan.  Add the pearled barley and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the barley is lightly browned.  
  2. Add the onion and thyme and cook over low heat, stirring, until the onion is softened.
  3. Add the water and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat, cover, and cook until the water is absorbed and the grain is tender.
  4. Fluff the barley with a fork.  If you used fresh thyme, remove the sprigs and serve.

Click here and here for other yummy-looking ways to eat pearled barley.  I may have to try these too 🙂

Baked Goat Cheese and Arugula Salad Recipe

Original Recipe from Clean Eating Magazine.

Serves 2.

  • Olive Oil (in a spray bottle would be best or you can use cooking spray)
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cup whole-wheat panko bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon thyme (fresh or dried)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 egg whites
  • 4 oz goat cheese
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons chopped raw unsalted pecans
  • Baby arugula
  • Fresh Strawberries
  1. Image-14To caramelize the onions, lightly spray a large skillet with olive oil and heat over medium-high.  Add the sliced onions and stir frequently for about 1-2 minutes.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until very soft, sticky and light caramel color (about 1 hour).  Remove the skillet from heat and let cool at room temperature for 10 minutes.

 

 

2.  While the onions are cooking, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  In Image-11a small bowl, lightly beat the egg whites and set aside.  In a separate medium bowl, combine the bread crumbs, thyme, salt and pepper.  Using your hands, press the goat cheese into 4 balls and then flatten each into 1/2-inch-thick patties.  Dip the patties in egg, turning to coat completely.  Next, dip each patty into the panko mixture.  Repeat the process twice with each patty.  Transfer patties to a small plate, cover loosely with plastic wrap and stick in the freezer for 20 minutes.

 

3.  Line a medium baking sheet with foil and mist with olive oil.  Arrange the cheese patties in a single layer and mist the tops with olive oil.  Bake for 6 minutes, flip the patties and bake for another 6 minutes, until golden.

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4.  Turn the oven heat off, add the pecans to the baking sheet and leave in the oven for an additional 3 minutes.

5.  For the dressing, whisk the lemon juice, dijon mustard, and some salt and pepper.

Plate the arugula with sliced strawberries, caramelized onions, pecans, dressing and two patties per person.  And…devour 🙂

Brown Rice, Goat Cheese and Walnut Patties

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I had some goat cheese in my fridge that needed to get used and found this great recipe in an email from Everyday Health.  These come together really quick once the rice is cooked.  I cooked the rice while working on homework and finished them up before starting a 12 hour shift at work!  I ate a couple patties with an arugula, tomato and avocado salad.  Yum!

Time Saving Tip: The recipe makes 6 patties, so there were some left over for Nick’s dinner that evening and for one of us to grab for lunch the next day.  I always make large portions of recipes to save time in meal prep the following days.  You could also make these and freeze them for grab and go meals during a really hectic week.

Brown Rice Versus White Rice

Brown rice is a whole grain that has just had the outer layer removed through milling, while white rice is brown rice that has also had its bran and much of its germ removed, which reduces its nutrient content.

Photo courtesy of lundberg.com

Photo courtesy of lundberg.com

Reasons to Switch to Brown Rice:

  • Brown rice has twice the manganese and phosphorus as white rice.  One cup of brown rice will provide you with over 80% of the recommended daily value for manganese!
  • It also has 2.5 times the amount of iron, 3 times the amount of Vitamin B3, 4 times the amount of Vitamin B1, and 10 times the amount of Vitamin B6!
  • Brown rice boasts a high fiber, which assists in weight loss
  • Brown rice is also a good source of the minerals selenium and magnesium.

See realfoodforlife.com and www.whfoods.com for more information.

Recipe:

Adapted from everydayhealth.com.

You’ll need:

  • 1/2 dry cup brown rice, cooked in 1 cup water
  • Olive Oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2-3 medium carrots, sliced
  • 1/2 cup walnuts (or pecans, or whatever you have in your pantry!)
  • 1/4 cup soft goat cheese
  • 1 large egg white
  • Salt, pepper, thyme

Directions:

  1. Cook the rice.  Once the water is absorbed, remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Cook the onion until soft, and add the carrots.  Cook on low, stirring often, until the carrots soften and the onion is lightly browned.  Remove from heat.
  3. Preheat the over to 400 degree F.
  4. Transfer the cooked vegetables and brown rice to a food processor (my food processor is small so I had to do this in two batches).  Add the walnuts (or whatever nut you are using), goat cheese, egg white, thyme, salt and pepper.  Pulse until well blended but still course.  Transfer mixture into a large bowl.
  5. Heat about 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Scoop 1/2 cup of the mixture on the skillet and press down with a spatula to form a 3-inch patty.  Repeat until you have 6 patties.  Cook the patties until well browned, about 3-4 minutes on each side.
  6. Lastly, transfer the patties to a baking sheet and bake for about 10-15 minutes.

These are simple and versatile!  Play around with various additions and enjoy 🙂