Recipe: Millet (or Rice) with Garlic Scapes

Millet with Garlic Scapes

Millet with Garlic Scapes

Problem:  You’re having rice for dinner, again.  We love brown rice because it’s easy and delicious.  But if you’re craving just a little pizzazz, here’s a solution:  Lightly Fried Millet with Seasonal Garlic Scapes.

1)  Vary It  When cooking a pot of grains for the week, try a different grain.  I’ve been playing with millet–and developing a taste for this fluffy yellow grain.  Cook 1 cup of grain in 2 1/4 cups of water.

2)  Fry It  There’s a reason we all like fried rice.  Added fat up the flavor quotient of almost any bland food.  But you don’t need to add a vat of fat to get the taste benefits.  I used just 1 Tbsp. of a good fat–safflower oil–for four servings.  Hint:  leftover, cold grains are best for frying, after they’ve dried out a bit.

3)  Brighten It  Garlic scapes and green garlic are in season and add wonderful color and flavor to plain old grains.  They’re easy to slice.  I tossed about 1 cup of them in oil before frying the grain.  Sauteeing just a minute or so takes off the raw edge.

4)  Crunch It  While sauteing the garlic, I went one step further (totally optional) and added a handful of pine nuts. Slivered almonds or chopped walnuts are a perfectly fine (and a lot less expensive) alternative.  Toasting for just a minute or so really brings out the flavor.

5)  Finish It  After sauteing the garlic and toasting the nuts, I added about 2 cups of cold millet.  Crumble before adding as it forms into a solid mass when refrigerated.  After adding, leave it alone a couple minutes to brown before turning.  It might pop just a little.  Cover briefly with a lid if necessary.  Once the grain is browned and slightly crispy, turn off the heat and stir in just 1 tsp. toasted sesame oil, if desired.  Serve and enjoy.

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How to Make Healthy, Whole Grain Breadcrumbs

Transform throw away crusts into kitchen gold

The previous post talked about “breading,” an easy building block cooking technique used to create dozens of different, interesting dishes.  Get ready to start experimenting with this technique by making your own breadcrumbs.  Save money by using up old crusts and stale bread that would otherwise go to waste.  Help the environment by keeping food out of  landfills, where it produces methane, a far worse contributor to global warming than carbon emissions.

Out of the Breadbox Bread

Good News for Gluten Free Eaters: Enjoy breaded dishes by making crumbs from your favorite GF bread, like Out of the Breadbox, at Vitamin Cottage.

Start with Whole Not Half  Healthy breadcrumbs can only come from healthy bread, and that means bread made from 100% whole grains, like whole wheat, oats, brown rice and millet.  In the ingredient listing for a bread, the single word “wheat” is code for “white flour.”  Skip that brand and look for one made entirely from whole grains.  Whole grains are so delicious and nutrition rich; why waste money on breads made with half grains, especially when it’s the halves with all the calories and few of the nutrients that go with them!

Gluten Free  Good news for gluten free eaters:  You can use gluten free bread for crumbs.  Be sure it’s whole grain, like Food for Life’s Millet Bread which makes really flavorful crumbs.

Using Food Processor to Make Crumbs

Act Ahead: Whenver you end up with a couple crusts or stale slices, toss them in the food processor and give them a whir.

Act Ahead  Don’t wait until preparing a breaded dish to make the breadcrumbs.  Then you’ll be saddled with the extra step of a  toasting them in the oven to dry.  Instead, weave the process into your normal kitchen routine.  Here’s an example:

  1. Whenever you end up with a crust or two, simply toss them in the food processor.
  2. Process the crumbs when, e.g., you’re next unloading the dishwasher.  Push the button and unload the glasses.  Once the bread has been transformed into crumbs, dump them on a plate.  Put the plate on top of, e.g, the microwave.
  3. Give the crumbs a stir or two over the next couple days to make sure the bottom ones get exposed to air.
  4. Then, while heating something in the microwave, pour the dried crumbs (make sure they are completely dry)  into a storage container; put the plate in the dishwasher.
Large Breadcrumbs

Large crumbs are great for gratin toppings, meatballs and so on. . .

Now you’ve got large crumbs to use for gratin toppings, in meatloaf and meatballs, etc.  To use crumbs for breading, I recommend one additional step:

The Fine Grind  Breading works best when the crumbs are very fine.  They do a better job of sticking to the food and creating an even, solid coating.  That’s why flour and cornmeal are such good breading ingredients.  Breadcrumbs can be made into a perfect breading ingredient by simply running them through the food processor again, after they are dried the first time.  I wait and do this when I’m making a dish, and only fine grind as much as I need, leaving larger crumbs for other uses.

Small Breadcrumbs

. . . but for breading, process again after they are dried for a small, fine crumb

No Food Processor?  An immersion blender with a chopper attachment is a good, and much less expensive, alternative.  If that option isn’t available, there’s always a rolling pin.  In the days before all our specialized electric appliances, we broke crusts into large pieces, dried them and then crushed with a rolling pin.  Putting them inside paper or plastic bags minimized the mess.

Ready to do experiment with breading?  Check out the next post on Breaded Eggplant with Herbed Tomato Topping,  which makes use of plentiful late summer and early autumn produce.

How to Bread Fish, Meat and Vegetables

One building block cooking technique, dozens of dishes

Here at EveryDay Good Eating, we like to take the mystery out of cooking.  We believe everyone can make–and deserves to enjoy–deliciously healthful food, everyday.  That’s why we teach basic, building block cooking techniques that can be mixed and matched to create a wide range of dishes.  Breading is a perfect example.  It’s an easy and inexpensive technique that can be applied to lots of different foods to create dozens of different dishes.

Breaded Eggplant with Herbed Tomato Topping

Breading eggplant adds fast elegance to this somewhat bland vegetable, creating a perfect palette for a fresh tomato topping

Why We Love Breading  Who doesn’t end up with bread crusts that no one wants?  Turn them into breadcrumbs and they won’t end up creating environmental havoc in a landfill.*  Meanwhile, you’ll save grocery dollars and end up with a form of kitchen gold.  Coat an ordinary food with breadcrumbs and suddenly it gets a welcome flavor boost and becomes something special, especially beneficial for blander foods like eggplant and zucchini.  Breading also helps retain moisture for delicate foods like fish and chicken breasts that dry out  easily when cooked.

Basic Breading Technique 

  1. Dipping Eggplant in a Wash

    Step 1: Dip the food in a "wash," here a mixture of olive oil, milk, mayonnaise and fresh herbs

    Dip a food in some kind of “wash,” like egg or milk

  2. Coat it with breadcrumbs
  3. Fry or bake until the breading browns and crisp.

Those are the basic elements of breading, although you’ll see dozens of variations in recipes.  Sometimes, sturdier and moister foods (like chicken breasts) aren’t dipped in a wash at all, or foods are dipped in flour before the wash.  The liquids used for a wash can vary from recipe to recipe.  Finally, delightful variety can be achieved by including herbs, spices and other flavors with the breadcrumbs or by swapping the crumbs for different flours, cornmeal, crushed corn flakes or cracker crumbs.

Dipping Eggplant in Whoel Grain Breadcrumbs

Step 2: Coat the slices in finely ground breadcrumbs. Here we used whole grain, gluten free crrumbs.

Making It Healthy  Breaded foods are often equated to unhealthy foods.  Think chicken nuggets, fish n’ chips and eggplant parmigiana style.  These  foods are coated thickly with white breadcrumbs then thrown in a deep frier where they absorb ungodly amounts of bad fats.   Don’t let these examples dissuade you from experimenting with this easy and delicious technique.

  • Simply use a 100% whole grain breading, whether that’s breadcrumbs, flour, cracker crumbs, etc.  While whole grain breadcrumbs can be difficult to find at grocery stores, they are easy (and free) to make.  Check out this blog on making breadcrumbs, paying particular attention to the note on giving them a second “Fine Grind” after they are dried.
  • Fry in healthful oils, like olive and safflower.
  • Use moderate amounts of oil.  Surprisingly, browning can be achieved nicely with just a tablespoon of oil.  Be sure the oil is very warm to hot (but not smoking) before adding the food so it isn’t just absorbed by the breading.  Although the second side will brown well enough in the skim of oil remaining after the first side is browned, additional oil can be added to brown the second side more thoroughly.  In this case, remove the food after browning the first side, scrape out any remaining bits so they don’t burn, add another tablespoon of oil and heat before adding the food on its second side.
  • Preparing Breaded Eggplant for Baking

    Step 3: Fry or bake. Here the eggplant is baked, but because of the oil in the wash, there was no need to spray slices with additional oil to get a nicely browned crust.

    Bake as an alternative to frying.  The hot air circulating in an oven does a great job of browning and crisping breaded food, if the weather isn’t too hot for turning on this appliance.  Best results are achieved by spraying the food with a little oil before baking.

Ready to try a breaded dish? First, find out how to make your own free, healthful, whole grains crumbs.  Next, check out the post on Breaded Eggplant with Herbed Tomato Topping,  which makes use of plentiful late summer and early autumn produce.

* Food waste produces methane gas which contributes far more to global warming than even carbon emissions.

6 Reasons to Love Tupperware Cupboard Organizers

Why Make the Plunge and Invest Now

Reason 1 : If you’re interested in healthy eating, Tupperware makes it a lot easier.  That statement may sound pretty far-fetched.  I certainly wouldn’t have bought into it–until I got Tupper-ized 20 years ago!

Whole Grain Brown Rice

Whole grains, like this brown rice, are one of the healthful foods experts recommend

Think about it:  What do all the experts tell us to eat for good health?  Fruits and vegetables  get top billing, but close behind are whole grains, legumes and nuts and seeds.  And how are we advised to flavor our foods?  With healthful, no-calorie herbs and spices instead of overly sugary, salty and fatty flavorings.

I took this advice seriously and used all these ingredients while feeding my two pre-toddler children many years ago.  But what a pain in the neck!  Little paper bags of herbs and spices stuffed in a drawer.  Ten unmarked  jars of grains stuffed into a top cupboard shelf alongside seven types of flour.  Flimsy bags of nuts and seeds, stuffed into a bottom cupboard.  Beans in more jars in another cupboard.  Each meal, I could spend five to ten precious minutes searching for things, with hungry kids nipping at my heels!

Then I met “Tupperware lady” Donna Davis, and discovered why Modular Mates are perfect for storing healthy foods, explained below.

Reason 2: Modular Mates’ design makes everything readily and quickly available while maximizing cupboard space. Unlike other containers, Modular Mates provide “front-to-back” rather than  “top to bottom” storage.  That means everything can be accessed from the front of the cupboard, so there’s no digging for containers, bags and boxes that get stashed and shoved

Tupperware's Front to Back Design

Note how Modular Mates utilize the entire cupboard depth, from front to back.

to the back of a cupboard.  It also means every square inch of air space gets used, from the bottom clear to the top.  And with units available in 2″, 4″, 6″ and 8″ heights, there is a space-maximizing container for whatever quantity you buy.

Reason 3: Modular Mates keep freshness in and unwanted visitors out. Things like nuts, seeds and whole  grains and flours are attractive targets for bugs and small critters.  Modular Mates are virtually air tight, however, so they can’t be invaded by outside pests, and the contents inside stay fresh.  (And if bugs should come home with you from the grocery store, at least they will be trapped in one container rather than spreading throughout the kitchen. )

Reason 4: Modular Mates are convenient time savers. Label containers if you can’t readily identify the contents and get top seals with flip up lids for anything that can be poured, like grains and beans.  Then, it’s a snap to find just the ingredient you need and measure them out.

Labeled Tupperware

Take a couple minutes to label containers for easy recognition.

Reason 5: Modular Mates are a life long investment. In my work as a professional kitchen organizer, I’ve found most kitchens could benefit from a Modular Mate investment.  I use the word “investment” deliberately because Tupperware, which lasts for life, should be viewed as a lifelong purchase rather than a consumable or passing fad.

I remember feeling completely ridiculous spending $500 to outfit my kitchen.  But that was 20 years ago and honestly speaking, that purchase has repaid me every time I cook. That means I really bought time savings plus a tremendous amount of convenience for 7,300 days, at a cost of 7 cents per day.  That is the kind of long-term investment thinking we need to get good meals on the table despite our busy and hectic lives.

Flimsy Bags of Beans

Is this what you're facing to make a healthful meal? Time for organization!

Reason 6: Modular Mates are on sale! This could be the best motivator of all.  From January 15 to February 11, 2011, Modular Mates are 40% off.  So take a look around your kitchen.  Could you make better and more frequent use of healthful ingredients if they could be found and pulled out quickly and without a hassle?  Then take some action!

Need some help deciding what to do about your kitchen, where Modular Mates could be of benefit, which containers would be best,  and so on?  Give a call for a kitchen coaching session with Mary Collette Rogers.  Or check out Mary’s book, Take Control of Your Kitchen, the guide to organized, manageable and stress-free meal making.

Ready to order?  Donna Davis has retired after many years as a top salesperson.  But her supervisor, Joannie Flynn, continues in the business after 49 years!  Just email her:  joannie818  @  yahoo.com (without spaces), and she will take care of your order and answer any questions you might have.

Whole Grain Pasta: New Food for a New Year

New Pastas Pass the Taste Test

The new year is a good time to try new things–especially if they’re healthy and not hard at all.  Here’s a great idea from Lauren and Pete, recent Whole Kitchen participants:

The next time you’re buying pasta, STOP.  Instead of automatically grabbing the spaghetti or penne you always buy, take a few seconds to peruse labels and muster up some courage.  How about introducing your family to whole grain pastas, which have a lot more nutrients than traditional pastas.   There are lots of alternatives at the store these days, like those made with brown rice flour, and they easily pass the taste test, even when presented to picky eaters.

Pete is experimenting with the Barilla brand of whole grain pastas.  The company offers one that is 51% whole wheat, as well as the new Barilla PLUS® line, a multigrain pasta with ALA Omega-3.  The whole wheat option is “a little heavier and more chewy than plain white pasta,” said Pete, but it offers a healthy 6 grams of fiber. For a sauce, he “doctors up” Prego Heart Healthy sauce or uses the organic Cabernet Marinara sauce by Muir Glenn.

Barilla PLUS® is an interesting blend of semolina, lentils, chickpeas, flaxseed, barley, spelt and oats. It has almost twice the fiber of traditional pasta as well as 10 grams of protein.  Pete likes the Barilla PLUS® because it doesn’t seem as “heavy” as the whole wheat option.  In fact, most guests “don’t even notice the difference between Barilla PLUS® and normal plain pasta,” he discovered.

Lauren recently took the pasta challenge, experimenting with a pasta bar that had a couple new sauces alongside two or three different choices of pastas, just to prove there isn’t anything too out of the ordinary with pasta that has a little color or a slightly different texture.  Her “bar” turned out to be a good way to elicit comments and start a conversation about the benefits of eating complete grains and other types of flour.  She shares one additional piece of advice:  Be strategic and limit choices to healthy options. When white pasta is available, those looking for the familiar may gravitate to that choice. When it’s not an option, it won’t even be missed.  Remember how our taste buds can happily adapt to healthier foods.

Lauren's Pasta Bar

Pasta Fun! Lauren's Pasta Bar

Want more new for the new year?  Try our Whole Kitchen cooking classes and discover new flavors, new foods, new recipes, new ideas and a whole new way to get great, wholesome meals on the table, everyday.  Next session starts January 13.

How to Make the Best Brown Rice . . .

. . .  and Be a Green Cook at the Same Time

A Bits and Pieces Cooking Tip: Use the cooking water from slow cooker beans to cook brown rice.  Earlier posts have described the benefits and how-tos for making slow cooker beans and how to accelerate the process if the slow cooker is too slow for your circumstances.  Now there’s another advantage to cooking beans this way.  The cooking water can be used to cook brown rice, making it really tasty.

  • This simple trick saves water, a good thing in an increasingly water-constrained world
  • It also saves nutrients.  No need to send them down the drain.
  • Finally it saves time and hassle.  Pour bean water into a quart jar, then store in the frig so it’s pre-measured and ready to go when you’re hurrying to get a pot of rice cooking.

The cooking water for this rice began by boiling some carrot and onion tops too tough to cook. Then some pork chop bones were added. The resulting broth was used to cook pasta, a "bits and pieces" cooking tip from Eugenia Bone. After cooking the pasta, I saved the water for one more use: cooking this rice, which came out almost like a risotto, since the cooking water was so rich by this time.

Pasta water works, too. Good chefs often use pasta water in their sauces with delicious results.

In the same way, cooking rice in leftover pasta water yields very delicious results.  Not surprisingly, the rice ends up tasting a lot like the pasta we all love.  Some tips:

  • When draining the pasta, I pour off the top portion, saving  just two quarts from the bottom of the pot, where all the pasta “dust” packed with pasta flavor settles.
  • If you salt your pasta water (which is a good idea) be sure to adjust the amount of salt you add to the rice before cooking.  In fact, you may not need any additional salt beyond what’s in the pasta water.  Taste a spoonful to see.
  • Gluten free?  No worries.  This trick works with brown rice pasta, too.

See how tempting whole grains can be!

Danger in the Gluten-Free Aisle

Hold the celebration

These labels are a lot more common now than 20 years ago

Not long ago, a news article reported on a conference to support those of us who must live without gluten.  In a food world dominated by gluten products, lord knows we need support, as well as information on all the new gluten-free products coming to market.

One aspect of this gathering gave me cause for concern, however:  the celebration of newly created substances that better mimic white bread products.  The news report quoted one of the speakers gushing over new white flour substitutes–things that had a lot of “modified,” “refined,” and “white” in their names.  These modern miracles, she bubbled, could make soft, tender baked goods, just like white flour.

But does this miss the point?

Sure, we’re getting the technical part of the gluten free diet by eliminating the specific protein called gluten.  But are we missing the bigger call to action:  Eating a more healthful, whole, vividly varied diet.

As the conference speaker pointed out so enthusiastically, we can now go gluten free without having to change anything:

  • No need to cultivate a taste for other grains and whole grains.
  • No need to expand our food horizons to include lentils, leeks, Bosc pears, eggplant, cashews, tofu and the myriad other non-gluten vegetables, nuts, fruits, meats and oils in the food kingdom.
  • No need to give pause and question the quality of our meals, the sources of our food and the sanity of our eating lives.

Just substitute white, gluten free pizza, bagels, French bread and cookies for their white gluten cousins.

So what’s the problem?  Why ruin the party?

Because there’s so much to be gained from moments of crisis! And believe it or not, moments of dietary crisis are as valuable as near-death experiences, divorces and job losses for propelling us off dead center and on to the better lives we deserve.

It’s a widely and well-known fact that we are killing ourselves at the dinner table, and this despite the fact that we come in contact with healthy eating information on a daily basis.  It’s an ironic joke among healthy eating professionals that there’s only one sure way a client will make serious dietary change:  by having a heart attack.

What if gluten problems are meant as teachable moments not just a medical diagnosis?  Gluten intolerance could be a life-changing catalyst, rather than just an inconvenience to be worked around as expeditiously as possible.

This idea is not just theoretical musing.  Twenty years ago, we received a wheat-free, diary-free diagnosis, long before “gluten” was a household world and when the number of non-wheat food products could be counted on my right hand.  With two small children and a full-time business, a transition of this magnitude seemed impossible, and I would have given my right hand for a gluten-free Betty Crocker cake mix at birthday time.  Yet in the way that our biggest challenges bring the greatest rewards, being forced from our comfort zone without a life vest brought unimaginable rewards:

Boring Alert I would never have guessed we were so boring—from a culinary standpoint.  Fully 75 percent of our diet involved some combination of white flour and cheese or milk:  Grilled cheese sandwiches, pizza, PB&Js, mac ‘n cheese, pasta & more pasta, pancakes, quesadillas, burritos . . .  need I say more?  While I was astounded at our monotony, my body was astounded at all the nutrients we had missed out on with such a limited food intake.

What’s a Whole Grain? Nor could I believe how ignorant I was.  Despite 21 years of schooling, I didn’t know what a whole grain from a peanut, why whole grains are important, that wheat is just one grain, that wheat is in practically everything we eat, and that there are lots of other grains that millions of people eat in other parts of the world.  When I was growing up, Wonder Bread and Twinkies were the extent of our exposure to grains.  Now I know that dietary knowledge is power—power to shape and direct my health.

Cheers to the Colorful Plate Forced out of my comfortable bread and cheese cocoon, my taste buds were stretched to the breaking point.  But they were a lot tougher than I could have guessed.  Polenta, bok choy, papaya, cannellini, lamb, buckwheat, kale and dozens of other strange-sounding foods became fast friends, adding color, flavor and delight to our meals.

No Picky Eaters Here Not only did my taste buds rise to the gluten free challenge.  My kids’ taste buds did, too.  As they got older, I never had to short-order cook, I could be as creative as I wanted, we could go out to interesting restaurants, and even to this day, our kids treasure family meal times, wholesomely interesting dishes and vegetable-rich meals.

So in a crazy way, it was good we weren’t able to simply swap white for white.  We were forced to take advantage of a big learnable moment, and instead of just simple substitution we got a complete gastronomic transformation!  Meal making is now an adventure.  Eating and wellness are intimately integrated.  New foods and cooking techniques continually beckon and keep life interesting.  And as we learn more about strengthening our diet, we learn how to eat in a way that feels more right environmentally and socially.

Hooray for teachable moments, even if inconvenient.

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