Katie Green's Food Blog: Cereal Grains
Mud? Check. Mosquitoes? Check. Snow? Check. Bears? ...
I think the difference between the imitation wilderness that you experience hiking up Mount Si with everyone and their mom versus somewhere else far from the beaten path can be the knowledge that you are out there with no one else around and a recent reported bear sighting.
We drove two hours southeast of Seattle to hike the 9 mile Grand Parks trail this past weekend. If heights make you queasy, I suggest you don't look down as you make the drive up the mountain to the trail. We walked through a national forest, meadows of blooming wildflowers and our fair share of mud (Apparently, one of the joys of hiking is getting muddy. Who knew?), stopping only when absolutely necessary, as the mosquitoes would set up camp around us. With the knowledge that a bear could be close by in the back of my head, and bear scat near the path, that sense of vulnerability and truly being out in nature are different experiences. It felt like I was in The Sound of Music as I envisioned running through the fields of blooming wildflowers. Contrasting this image, I also felt slightly like Frodo, waiting for the black "bear" riders to attack if I ventured off the path. And then, all of a sudden, there was Mount Rainier. Up close and personal. We are actually considering returning in a few weeks after the wildflowers have all bloomed, deep woods mosquito repellant in full force.
Rustic Chocolate Chip Banana Oak Cakes
Adapted from eatmedelicious.com
Containing oats, bananas and dark chocolate, these bars pack the nutritional strength to help you increase your strength. Oats add fiber, control blood sugar, reduce cholesterol and provide a complex carbohydrate to fill you up and fuel you for the day. Bananas are high in potassium and magnesium, while recent research in mice has shown that a compound in dark chocolate (epicatechin) may help increase capillaries and mitochondria, making muscles more resistance to fatigue when taken prior to exercise and thus increasing endurance. Researchers say that this benefit only requires about 1/2 of a square of a typical dark chocolate bar per day. In addition, dark chocolate is high in antioxidants and is linked to improved vision immediately after eating it, and lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Spray an 8-inch square pan or cake pan with Pam.
Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl (processed oats, rolled oats, sugar, milk powder, spices, baking powder and salt).
In a medium bowl, whisk the applesauce, milk and vanilla. Slice the peeled bananas as you add them to this bowl and then mash them into the wet ingredients until smooth (a potato masher works well for this).
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and fold together until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips, walnuts and banana chunks.
Pour into your pan and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean, the center is set and the cake is lightly browned. Cool in the pan for 15-20 minutes before removing. Once removed, place on a cooling rack. Cut into squares or slices and store in the fridge for up to 3 days, or in the freezer until you've forgotten what they are.
Adapted from Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson
The hardest part of this recipe is finding the ingredients. I went to 3 different groceries before I located farro at Metropolitan Market. It is a cereal grain also referred to as spelt, and it's not cheap, so don't be caught off guard by sticker shock. However, a little farro goes a long way. It is high in fiber, protein, controls blood sugar levels, and also activates the immune system, helping the body cope better with stress.
The other ingredient in this recipe you may not have used or tried yet are lentils. They can be bought at pretty much every restaurant, and some places even have them in bulk. They come in a variety of colors (red, black, green, etc), but they are all nutritionally the same. You may choose other colors depending on the presentation of your recipe as well as the texture, as the red lentils cook down more and become much mushier. Lentils are gaining in popularity as they cook quickly (they do not have to be pre-soaked like beans do), and are high in protein and fiber. They are also inexpensive and very versatile (salads, soups, burgers, side dishes, cookies, etc).
Also prominent in this recipe are sweet potatoes: high in beta carotene, Vitamin E and fiber. If you follow the recipe, and compliment the soup with a homemade lemon yogurt, you also get the extra protein and calcium benefits from the yogurt.
It is important to read all of the directions ahead of time for any recipe. This is particularly important when working stovetop as vegetables, etc may need to be chopped and ready to add at a certain time of cooking. Thus, read a recipe thoroughly first so that any ingredients that need to be prepared and ready to go, are. Otherwise, you will find yourself rushing to cut ingredients up and throw them in while things may start to burn.
Over medium-high heat, heat the oil in a large pot. Add the onions and sweet potato as well as a generous pinch of salt. Sauté the onions for about a couple of minutes until they are soft. Stir in the curry powder and cook for a minute, until fragrant. (This is a typical cooking method prior to add the liquid.)
Throw in the farro, lentils and 6 cups of broth. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for 50 minutes (it is more important that the farro and lentils are cooked rather than the exact time of cooking). Check occasionally to ensure your pot continues to simmer during the cooking time (It takes some experience to learn what temperature on your stove, your pot will simmer at. Typically it is medium-low or medium heat.) Taste test your soup and add more salt if necessary (If you used water rather than broth, or low-sodium broth, you will likely need to add more salt.)
To make the lemon yogurt, which can be done while the soup is cooking, use a small bowl to mix the yogurt, lemon zest and juice together with 1/4 tsp of salt. Serve the soup with a spoon full of yogurt on the side and top with a bit of olive oil if desired. (This is where it's important to have high quality olive oil for the taste. When the olive oil is cooked, it loses its flavor. Therefore, use inexpensive olive oils when they will be heated. When using directly as a salad dressing or topping, try to save the expensive oils for these uses.) Because I used green rather than black lentils, my soup looked nothing like that in the book. But sometimes that's ok. It still tasted great.
Makes 8 servings.
More picture from the Grand Parks Hike.
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