Amaranth and quinoa porridge

Every PhD student’s life is marked by a bit of academically sanctioned torture that’s known as a “qualifying exam.”  In my case, the qualifying exam is a month long written test followed by a 3 hour oral exam.  It’s a scary test, but preparing for it is even scarier — my desk is currently hidden under teetering piles of papers and books.  Thankfully, the prep is almost over.  I start my exams in 10 days.

Because of this exam situation, I haven’t left my desk as often as I’d like over the past month.  That also means I’ve been eating less fresh fruits and veggies and more stuff from the pantry (or the proverbial pantry, as our tiny kitchen definitely does not have a real pantry).  One of the dishes that’s become a new staple over the last month — and one I absolutely adore! — is a multigrain porridge.

I’ve always liked a warm breakfast cereal.  I started veering away from the usual flaked grains one day when I laid my eyes on a bag of amaranth that had been sitting around the house for a while.  I cooked a bit of it.  Then I mixed it with some other grains.  At points I was stirring together some combination of amaranth, quinoa, short grained brown rice, jasmine rice and millet, seeking a lightly sweet and creamy breakfast porridge.  I also added different types of milks, spices, fruits and nuts.

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Zucchini, corn and cherry tomato casserole

I knew I wanted to make something with zucchini and corn.  I also wanted there to be leftovers — something I could easily eat for lunch over the next couple days.  For the first time in my life, it occurred to me that a casserole might be the answer.  So I made one.  And it will definitely, definitely not be my last casserole.  It hit the spot.

This dish is total comfort food.  It’s particularly nice when you wake up in August with a cold that’s left your head in a cloud (colds in August = not fair), or even when all the news stories are just so miserable that it feels good to make something simple and grounded.

Contrary to my previous thoughts on casseroles, this is a light dish.  You could eat it as either a main or a side course.  If it’s a main, you may want to pair it with a tossed green salad.  Also, this recipe isn’t fussy.  If you have little bits of leftover grains around your house, you might mix them in place of or in addition to the rice.  I can picture something with millet, quinoa, farro or wheat berries being totally yummy. Continue reading

Apricot cobbler (for breakfast!)

OK, fine, you can eat this cobbler for dessert (and you’ll love it), but breakfast cobbler!  It’s easy to prepare, can be made ahead of time, has lots of fresh fruit, little sugar, whole grains, almonds and yogurt.  And let’s not forget that it tastes awesome.

I threw together this not-so-sweet cobbler after reading Good to the Grain, one of my new cookbooks.  The author, Kim Boyce, talks about using whole grain flours in baking not explicitly for health reasons (though, they do provide more nutrients, protein and fiber), but because of the complex and wonderful flavors they often impart.  I was sufficiently inspired that, as I thought about how I wanted a nutty topping for my cobbler, I added in some whole wheat flour.  I don’t usually use whole wheat flours in desserts, but I wasn’t trying to be virtuous.  I just wanted its nutty flavor.

Then, as I rifled down some cobbler for breakfast the next morning (tell me I’m not alone in eating leftover dessert for breakfast), I realized that my breakfast was actually pretty healthy.  In fact, it had less sugar and bad fats than most pancake and muffin recipes, let alone those devilish things at the bakery down the street.  It also had good stuff like fruit, whole grains, almonds and yogurt.

Thus was the dawn of Breakfast Cobbler.  Possibly the greatest I-feel-like-I’m-being-bad-but-I’m-not breakfast ever.  So, really!  Bake this cobbler.  In the morning, put a big spoonful in a bowl, heat it up, top it with a dollop of yogurt and feel almost as virtuous as you would if you were eating a bowl of oatmeal and fruit.  Or maybe eat it directly from the pan with a fork (who would ever do a thing like that…?). Continue reading

Smoothies

After a couple weeks on the road eating and drinking a bit too much, we’re trying to make this week extra healthy.  So far, there’s been lots of salad, roasted veggies, hummus and lentils (…and a couple ice cream sundaes…oops).  Now we’re moving into smoothies, our go-to when we want to put ourselves on a healthy path.  I love, love, love our smoothies for packing a big vitamin and fiber punch.  We also mix in enough veggies that they’re substantial, while reasonably low in calories.

To make a smoothie, I start with the same base every time (with a little variation here and there):

  • 1 orange
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1/3 – 1/2 banana (I like just a touch for creaminess and potassium, without giving the smoothie too strong of a banana flavor)

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