When my husband and I first met and I made a dinner with couscous, he said “You’re cooking WHAT?” Now, he knows better.
People probably don’t cook with some foods/spices because they aren’t a part of the daily American diet and people see them in recipes but have no idea what it is. So, below I will help you decipher through these “strange” foods!
Quinoa originated in South America has a light, fluffy texture when cooked, and its mild, slightly nutty flavor makes it an alternative to rice or couscous. One cup provides 63% of your Daily Value of manganese and it is a great source of protein, making it an unusual plant-based complete protein containing all 9 essential amino acids. It is also a great source of fiber, phosphorus and iron. Look for red quinoa for an extra boost of antioxidants.
Bulgur is traditionally found in Middle Eastern foods and once you try it, you’ll never use rice again. Bulgur is wheat in its most whole form so it’s a great source of fiber, which is terrific for your digestive system — helping to avoid constipation, heart disease, and cancer. Not only is it more flavorful than rice, but it’s nutrition profile is outstanding — it has one of the highest mineral contents of any food. It is rich in iron, phosphorus, zinc, manganese, selenium and magnesium to name a few.
With its subtle, nutty flavor, amaranth is high in calcium, iron, potassium, vitamins A and C and contains more protein than most other grains. Amaranth contains 8 fatty acids and is sold as seeds, flour and puffed cereal. You can cook it like rice, and it can even be popped like popcorn for an incredibly healthy snack! It originated in Central America and it is also packed with fiber.
Barley is high-fiber and has a nutty taste. Add to soup easily.
Rye is a good source of selenium, which protects cells from damage caused by exercise.
Kamut is an Egyptian grain that is 30-40% higher in protein than more common wheat varieties. It tastes like wheat but with a more buttery and nutty flavor.
Wheatberry refers to the entire wheat kernel (except for the hull), comprising the bran, germ, and endosperm. Wheatberries have a tan to reddish brown color and are available as either a hard or soft processed grain. They are often added to salads or baked into bread to add a crunchy texture. They are an excellent source of dietary fiber. Wheat berries can be sprouted to make wheat grass, which is made into juice and added to smoothies and juice mixtures.
Spelt flour has a mild nutty flavor and is high in protein but low in gluten. It can be substituted for wheat flour in making bread for the gluten and wheat intolerant.
Remember the infamous Chia Pets? Yeah — these are the same seeds used to make the grass! Chia seeds are one of the riches sources of omega-3 fatty acids. They also contain a ton of antioxidants, as well as fiber, magnesium, manganese, calcium, copper, phosphorus, zinc and iron. Phew! You do not need to grind chia seeds and can add them whole in a variety of different ways: in oatmeal, smoothies, over salad and baked goods! The list goes on and on!
Kale is in the same family as broccoli and cabbage. Like many vegetables it is packed with antioxidants that have been show to lower the risk of bladder, breast, colon, ovarian and prostate cancers. Kale has seven times the beta-carotene of broccoli and is rich in fiber, calcium, lutein, iron, and Vitamins C, and K. Also, 1/2 cup of kale is only 36 calories but it provides almost 195% of your daily vitamin A needs.
Couscous is originally from North Africa and it’s made by rolling semolina wheat into small balls so it is considered a pasta. It doesn’t have a lot of flavor so it’s best served with a sauce.
Steel cut oats have a nuttier flavor, the texture is much like mushy rice and they take a lot longer to cook than traditional rolled oats. Their nutritional comparison is nearly identical but steel cut oats are less processed so many people tend to choose to eat them over rolled oats. Steel cut oats contain the “groat” which is the whole oat kernel with the outer most hill removed. They contain a lot of cholesterol-lowering fiber.
Whole wheat pastry flour
There is a big difference between the whole wheat pastry flour and the regular whole wheat flour. Whole wheat pastry flour is a softer flour and is used in this recipe because it has a higher starch content and a lower gluten content resulting in a softer product.
Millet is one of the most easily digested grains, since it is gluten-free, and it can be made creamy or fluffy. Loaded with B vitamins, iron and tryptophan, it’s a wonderful substitute for couscous, pasta or rice, and can also be purchased in flour form. One cup supplies 25 of Daily Value for magnesium.
Sucanat is dried sugar cane juice that then gets broken up to produce the small granules. It is the most minimally processed sugar and retains its natural vitamin and mineral content that has a deep molasses flavor and tastes similar to brown sugar. Did you know that brown sugar is highly processed white sugar with molasses and caramel coloring and flavors added back into it? It’s even more processed than white sugar! You can substitute for sugar 1:1 but it can dry baked goods out slightly, so you may want to add a little extra liquid. If you aren’t looking for that “brown sugar” type flavor you can use pure cane sugar, which is a less processed form of white sugar.
Kefir is cultured milk made from the introduction of kefir grains into raw milk. Kefir has added fiber and is described as a cultured probiotic milk smoothie. Kefir is known for its probiotic benefits, containing 12 live and active strains of bacterium (most yogurts contain 2-3 strains) at 7-10 billion CFU’s (colony forming units) per serving. Probiotics are found to keep the gut and intestinal tract healthy and functioning properly, as well as help prevent infection and illness.
Buckwheat is actually not wheat. In fact, it is related to rhubarb. A great source of protein, it also contains 8 essential amino acids and even has tryptophan, which helps enhance mood and mental clarity. It is also high in vitamins B and E and provides calcium. It can also be purchased in flour form and used to make pancakes or other baked goods. You can prepare it like rice as well.