It’s been about two weeks since the start of your Health Quest mission and I hope in that time your diet and exercise routine has become a regimen. It takes discipline, especially in the first few weeks/months, to make the changes needed to make the time for exercise and planning when, what and how you will eat. And once you have that program “down pat”, you have to look at ways to keep yourself focused on the goal and interested in the longer term — rather than focused and interested in the French fries/ice cream/chocolate cake that is calling your name…….
One thing I can help you with is making sure you have new — and good — choices for healthy eating. Many people start their food life style changes by eliminating certain kinds of foods, such as “white” carbohydrates. These “white” carbohydrates include bread, potatoes, pasta, rice, sugar,etc. If these are foods that you typically enjoy, eliminating or reducing them can make a dent in your level of satisfaction from eating, not to mention leave you scratching your head for an answer to the “what’s for dinner” or “what side dishes can we have for dinner” questions.
So I thought I would offer a few ideas for ways to include sensible, healthy and quite delicious alternatives to the “white” carbohydrates. Two grains come to mind: bulgur and quinoa.
Bulgur: This funny name packs wonderful taste and great nutritional value into a little tiny grain. Wikipedia says bulgur is “a cereal food made from several different wheat species, but most often from durum wheat.” It is a whole grain, usually sold par-boiled and dried, and it has a delicious light nutty flavor. It is sold in organic and conventional forms, and comes in 4 grinds: fine, medium, coarse and extra-coarse. (Generally you’ll want to use fine or medium grind, as it reduces cooking and prep time.)
Bulgur contains more fiber, vitamins and minerals than white rice, and it has a lower glycemic index than white rice. See my recipe for Bulgur with Leeks, Cranberries and Almonds for an easy and delicious way to add fiber and vitamins to your diet.
Quinoa: Quinoa originated in the Andes in South America where it has been an important food item for more than 6,000 years. It has a light fluffy texture and a slightly nutty flavor when cooked. Most boxed quinoa is pre-rinsed and ready to cook, which is much like cooking rice where you use 1 cup of quinoa to 2 cups boiling water and cook 14 -18 minutes until the liquid is absorbed.
Quinoa has a very high-protein content with a balanced set of amino acids, making it an unusually complete protein source. It is a good source of dietary fiber, phosphorus and iron and it is gluten-free.
See my recipe for Herbed Quinoa for an easy and tasty side dish that can be made ahead.
Bulgur with Leeks, Cranberries and Almonds (serves 6)
3 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter
1 1/2 cups chopped leeks (white and pale green parts only)
2 1/2 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
1 1/2 cups bulgur
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted
Melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add chopped leeks and sauté until very tender, about 12 minutes. Add chicken broth and bring to boil. Stir in bulgur and boil 5 minutes. Add dried cranberries. Remove from heat, cover and let stand 15 minutes. Fluff with fork. Mix in sliced and toasted almonds. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Nutritional information per serving:
Fat : 11g
Saturated: Fat 4 g
Sodium: 98 mg
1 1/2 cups quinoa (1/2 pound) Note – buy boxed and rinsed quinoa if possible
2 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup thinly sliced scallion greens
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
If quinoa is not rinsed, per the box instructions, then rinse quinoa in 5 changes of water in a bowl, rubbing grains and draining in a large fine sieve after each rinse.
Cook quinoa in a large saucepan of boiling salted water 10 minutes. Drain in sieve and rinse under cold water.
Set sieve with quinoa over saucepan filled with 1 1/2 inches boiling water (sieve should not touch water) and steam quinoa, covered with a kitchen towel and lid, until fluffy and dry, 10 to 12 minutes. (Check water level in pan occasionally, adding water if necessary.)
Toss quinoa with oil and salt and pepper to taste in a large bowl. Cool then toss with scallion and thyme.
Note: ·Quinoa (without scallion greens and thyme) can be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Bring to room temperature and toss with scallion greens and thyme.
Nutritional information per serving:
Fat : 8.7 g
Saturated: Fat 1.1 g
Sodium: 10 mg
Kathy Patrick is a personal and entertainment chef in Rome. She writes the weekly Healthy Gourmet column weekly for Health Quest. If you have a healthy cooking question for Kathy, e-mail her at email@example.com