Archive for February, 2011

Curried Winter Squash Cubes

These flavorful little squash cubes are one of my new favorites.  When I make them, I have to work hard to make sure I don’t scarf them all down before I have a chance to use them as a colorful addition to whatever soup, salad, or grain dish I’m making.  I generally choose delicata or buttercup squash for roasting, but, those don’t keep as long into the winter as some other varieties like butternut and acorn squash, so I’ve been using butternut squash with great results and I’m sure they would work with any variety.  As I said, they are a delicious snack on their own, but I’ve also been adding them, along with sauteed greens and quinoa to a yummy stew I’ve been making, and they make a wonderful addition to a roasted vegetable salad.  They do take a while to cook, so maybe get some other veggies for roasting, or stick them in the oven while you are baking something else.  It’s kind of a non-recipe, since I’m not providing amounts, but I wanted to post it just in case you wouldn’t otherwise think of it and would therefore miss out on this delicious and nutritious snack/accompaniment!

  • 1 large butternut (or other) squash, seeded and cubed
  • olive oil
  • turmeric
  • curry powder
  • salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  (If you are putting these in with something else, they are fine anywhere from 350-400 degrees).  Place the squash cubes in one layer (or close) on a large ovenproof skillet or tray with sides.  Pour enough olive oil to coat the cubes generously, then sprinkle with turmeric and curry powder.  Amounts are totally up to your taste, but don’t be too skimpy.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and give them a stir to evenly coat with oil and seasonings.  Put the cubes in the oven and bake them undisturbed until they are very soft and beginning to brown.  You can take them out at this point, or if you are turning the oven off, leave them in with the door open if you like them a little chewier.  Enjoy!


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Kitchari Cleanse and Kitchari with Quinoa, Curried Winter Squash, and Sautéed Greens

Several people asked about my kitchari cleanse after I mentioned it a couple weeks ago, so I would like to share a bit about it with you.  In case you aren’t familiar, Kitchari is a porridge made with mung beans and basmati rice and mildly seasoned with ginger and dahl-like spices such as cumin, turmeric, coriander, etc.  Eating only kitchari is considered a “mono-diet” (eating just one food) and the theory behind it is that it provides enough sustenance to keep most people going for the duration of the cleanse (usually 3-10 days), but gives your body a rest from digesting the myriad of foods we typically eat in a day.  I decided to do it because I was feeling very ungrounded and “spinny” and, while most cleanses or fasts would be totally outrageous for me (especially in mid-Winter), simplifying my diet seemed like a really appealing idea.

So, what’s so good about kitchari?

  • Mung is the most easily digested type of bean.
  • The combination of beans and rice makes a complete protein and, as evidenced by the cuisine in many areas of the world, provides good, solid, satisfying nutrition.
  • The spices typically used in kitchari aid in digestion, among other things including decreasing inflammation
  • Kitchari can be made in many variations to suit individual preferences.
  • It is absolutely nourishing, warming, and delicious – a true comfort food that’s good for your body.

Why might one do a kitchari cleanse?

I cannot necessarily speak to all of the reasons, but after doing it myself, here are some benefits as I see it:

  • It can help change less-than-optimal eating patterns.  For example, I ate more sweets than normal over the holidays and then continued to crave sweets as a result.  Doing the cleanse helped me regain my blood sugar balance.
  • It can be used as an elimination diet.  Assuming you feel good eating kitchari, you can add foods you are questioning back into your diet slowly to see if they change how you feel.
  • It helps create more space and awareness around eating.
  • It gives your body a rest, as I mentioned before, but I find that it also gives your mind a rest.

I did the cleanse for a few days and have been on a modified version of it for the past couple weeks.  I went into it thinking I would just stay on it until it seemed like the right time to get off and, while I have had some non-kitchari meals, I’m still finding that I am enjoying the simplicity of the (modified) cleanse.

Even during the true kitchari-only days I added some variety by serving it in different ways (with the rice in it, with the mung beans in a separate bowl next to veggies and rice, and using different vegetables either as garnish or stirred into the soup).  And, in case you are wondering about snacks, I did eat fruit sometimes between meals.  After the first few days, I started to replace the rice with quinoa for one meal, or eat mung bean pancakes with grains and veggies on the side instead of the porridge version.  Then, I started to use red lentils, which are a little harder to digest than mung, but still very digestible, for one of the meals.  Now, I am eating kitchari or something close to it for 2 meals a day and eating something different for 1 meal; when needed, I eat other foods for snacks, as well.  I’m not being rigid about it, because that would defeat my purpose, as our state of mind while we eat also has a significant effect on our digestion and assimilation of nutrients.

Doing the kitchari cleanse was not difficult and I feel much better as a result.  I’m glad to be off my little blood sugar roller coaster and I feel more grounded and clear.  I will definitely keep it in mind when I need a little pick-me-up in the future during the colder months.  Since I don’t think I’ve ever read about a cleanse or fast without seeing a warning to talk to your healthcare provider before undertaking any major dietary changes, I’ll pass on that warning too…

I’ve posted recipes in the past for mung bean pancakes as well as kitchari, but here’s another version.  It’s simple, with just parsley cooked in, but I like to garnish it with Curried Winter squash cubes and sautéed greens.  It’s not traditional kitchari, but it’s a delicious variation.

  • 1 cup split mung beans (can also use red lentils or other small lentil or bean), soaked 2-8 hours
  • 3 Tablespoons ghee (or olive oil for a vegan version)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • pinch asofaetida*
  • 1 strip kombu, optional (can be soaked with the beans)
  • 1 heaping Tablespoon grated ginger
  • 1 cup finely minced parsley
  • lime juice, to taste
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • Cooked quinoa (or grain of your choice) for serving
  • Curried Winter squash cubes and sautéed greens for garnish

Asofoetida, also known as “hing”, is a spice used as a digestive aid and commonly paired with beans for that reason.  The smell of the raw spice is strong, to say the least, and has been compared to stinky feet, so it needs to be stored in an airtight container.  However, it mellows when cooked and is thought to have a taste reminiscent of sauteed onions and garlic.  Just a pinch of it is all you need.

Rinse the soaked mung beans well and set aside.  Heat a large pot over medium heat, add the ghee and cumin, and cook for about a minute or so, then stir in the turmeric, cayenne, and asofoetida.  Mix the beans into the spice mixture, then pour enough water over the mixture to cover it by 2-3 inches, add the kombu and ginger, and bring it to a boil.  Once it boils, turn the heat down to low and let the soup simmer until the beans and soft and creamy.  Add the parslty, 2 tablespoons of lime juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a few grinds of pepper, stir well and give it a taste.  Adjust seasonings as needed, keeping in mind that this is a cleansing meal and should have just enough salt to pull the tastes together.  Serve over quinoa and garnish with plenty of curried squash cubes and sautéed greens.  Enjoy and be nourished!

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Roasted Winter Fruit

This is a simple and delicious recipe that could be spiced up and varied in so many ways, and also one that could be used in many different recipes.  Roasting brings out the sweetness in both fruits and veggies, so roasted fruit relies on its own self for it’s yummy flavor.  Here in my house, half of the fruit went in our mouths before it even made it through the roasting process and the rest didn’t last 5 minutes, but if you have more will power than we did, you could use your roasted fruit as a topping for pancakes or waffles or a filling for crepes, you could eat it over ice cream in the warmer months or under nut cream in the colder months, you could bake it in to muffins or cakes for a rich, sweet treat.  I’m sure there are so many other options, but I’ll let you use your imagination.  This fruit is about Winter Fruits because, well, it’s Winter.  So far, I’ve done bananas on their own and apples and pears together, but I think that many fruits would lend themselves well to roasting – pineapple, mango, peaches, cherries, blueberries, plums, apricots…I haven’t tried, but I would probably keep other berries and grapes for eating fresh.  I used fruit that was getting a little too ripe and that was just fine.  It gets very soft along the way, but if you let it go just a bit longer, it will caramelize and become just a little bit chewy and it will be an absolute treat.

  • 1 piece of fruit per person, sliced or cut into bite-sized chunks
  • coconut oil or ghee to generously coat the bottom of your pan
  • cinnamon
  • vanilla
  • optional – other warming spices such as ginger, cardamom, even cloves, a sprinkling of citrus juice, mint to garnish (or thyme or rosemary for a little contrast)

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Find a skillet or oven proof dish with sides that will allow you fit all of the fruit in one layer.  Warm a large skillet over low heat on the stove, so your coconut oil or ghee will melt.  It should easily cover the bottom of the pan.  Sprinkle some cinnamon and vanilla directly over the oil and give it a stir, then add the fruit and stir it again so that it’s coated in the oil.  Now put it in the oven and do not disturb it for 20 minutes.  Take a look, when you can see that it’s starting to brown on the bottoms and any juice that’s left (though there may not be any) has thickened, you can take them out.  Or, if you want them browned on both sides, turn on the broiler and leave them in for another minute or two.  Once removed from the oven, allow the fruit to sit for 10 minutes or so to continue to cook.  Alternatively, you can leave it in the oven after you have turned it off if you want it a little chewier.  Of course, every fruit has a different moisture content, so keep an eye throughout the entire process for sticking.  If the fruit appears to be sticking, try to just loosen it with a spatula and, as a last resort, deglaze the pan with water or a little citrus or other fruit juice.  Enjoy!

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Grain Sprouting 101

Well, I think it’s time for a lesson on sprouting.  Don’t click away, it’s really, really simple, really!  You don’t need special equipment or special knowledge – just bowls, strainers, and fresh, clean water, plus whatever you are sprouting, of course.  I’ll focus here on whole grains, but the same concepts apply to beans, nuts, and seeds.  I’ll also focus on the simplest way I know.

So, why bother sprouting?  Think about what happens when you buy seeds to plan in your garden, or when someone does.  They are dormant, waiting for the proper conditions to bloom.  Sprouting opens up the seeds so vitamins, minerals, amino acids, proteins, and phytochemicals are active and available.  In addition, sprouting is thought to neutralize or at least decrease anti-nutrients, phytic acid in the case of grains, which are compounds in food that interfere with nutrient absorption.   And, it makes the grains more alkalizing.  So, essentially, you get a lot more bang for your buck by soaking and sprouting your grains.  And, honestly, it’s hardly a bother…

What will you do with your sprouted grains?  There are a lot of options.  They can be steamed and eaten as you would any cooked grain, with the added benefit of all that extra nutrition.  They can be used to make bread – sourdough, yeasted, tea breads, or raw breads.  They can be dried in a food dehydrator or low oven and ground  into flour, or made into raw crackers or cereals.  You can dehydrate them and store them in a jar to use in any of the above ways at your convenience.

What you’ll need:

  • bowls large enough to accommodate the food you want to sprout, plus water to cover by at least a couple inches
  • wire strainers (or sprouting jars*) large enough to accommodate the sprouted grains, which will have expanded to take up 2-3 times the space of the original quantity; or nut milk bags for very small grains like amaranth and teff
  • plenty of fresh, clean water
  • if you are going to dry and store your sprouts, a food dehydrator or trays for your oven

*It’s not necessary to buy special sprouting jars.  If you are going to spend money on something, I would recommend buying additional wire mesh strainers, which can be used for other things too, or using mason jars with a screen inserted to allow for easier draining.  You can purchase the screens, which fit into the part of the mason jar lid that screws onto the jar, at McGuckins if you are here in Boulder and I’m sure they are available at most kitchen stores.

You can sprout as many grains as will fit into your sprouting apparatus; we’ll use 1 cup here just for the sake of simplicity.  If you are using a larger quantity of grains, you’ll want to increase the water level above the grains proportionally.

  • 1 cup of whole raw grain, such as quinoa, buckwheat (not roasted), amaranth, teff, or barley, wheat, spelt, rye, etc if you eat gluten grains
  • clean (not tap) water
  1. Rinse the grain, then put it in a bowl or sprouting jar with enough water to cover the grain by 1-2 inches. The amount of water absorbed will depend on the type of grain and the amount used; if you use a larger quantity, you’ll want to cover the grain by 3-4 inches or more.
  2. Set the soaking grain aside to soak overnight. Some grains can be soaked for shorter periods of time before sprouting, but I find it simplest to just soak them all for 6-8 hours.
  3. Drain the soaked grain, then rinse thoroughly. If you are using a strainer, you can just spray the grains, stirring from the bottom to be sure all the grains are rinsed.  If you are using a sprouting jar, you can fill it with water, swish it around, then drain; repeating this a few times to get a thorough rinse.  I find it much easier to use tap water for the rinsing, then I give it a final rinse in filtered water.
  4. Set the rinsed grains aside.  Put the strainer over a bowl to catch drips; or invert the sprouting jar over a bowl.  You want to be sure that the grains are damp, but not sitting in water, so they need to be in something that will allow draining and a little air flow.
  5. Rinse the sprouting grains periodically until they are sprouted to the desired length. A general rule of thumb is to stop sprouting when the “tail” is about the size of the grain, but this is a matter of preference.  Just the process of soaking the grain begins the sprouting process and results in the benefits of sprouting.  Longer sprouting times increase nutrient levels, but you may prefer the taste of the shorter sprouts.  Either way, the nutrition of your grain will be significantly improved over the dormant grain.
  6. Use sprouts immediately, store them covered in your refrigerator for 2-3 days, or spread them out on dehydrator sheets or baking trays, then put in dehydrator or oven to dry. If you have a dehydrator, the grains will dry well at 105-110 degrees.  If you are using your oven, turn it to its lowest temperature (this varies considerably depending on the age of the oven), allow it to heat up, then turn it off and put the grains in to dry.  You can turn it back on periodically to warm it up, but try to keep it at a temperature where you can easily touch the trays with your bare hands without getting burned.  Even if the lowest setting is 300 degrees, as it is on my oven, you don’t have to let it reach that heat.  Stir the grains around periodically and, if you need to use the oven, just take them out before heating it up, then put them back in when you are finished and it’s cooled down a bit.
  7. Store dried grains in sealed containers (mason jars are great for this) and keep them in your pantry.  They will keep quite well.

Several recipes on my blog use soaked and/or sprouted grains; Sprouted Lemon Poppyseed Bread is a fun one!

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