A is for Amaranth

Amaranth is an ancient crop making a new debut in the last 20 years. It is a tiny seed, mostly tan with a few black seeds mixed in. It has a mild flavor, similar to rice but without the rice aroma. And it is a nutritional powerhouse.

standing in amaranth

yours truly out standing in amaranth photo by vsimon

Ancient Aztec runners and warriors ate amaranth because it provided energy and endurance. Nutrition Data shows that 1-cup serving of cooked amaranth is about 250 calories, 4 grams fat, 5 grams fiber, and 9 gm protein. That will keep you fueled on your busy day.

It is also like taking a tasty supplement in a bowl. Certain minerals and vitamins are lacking in many gluten free foods. Not here. That same 1-cup serving of amaranth naturally provides about 30% of our iron, 10% of our calcium, 15% of our folate and 15% of our B6 minimum daily needs.

photo by lsimon

Start the day with creamy crunchy hot amaranth.

It is all about the texture. It is creamy as you expect hot cereal to be, with a pleasant lingering little crunch.

1 cup amaranth seeds

4 cups water

Put seeds and water in a saucepan and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes. Stir occasionally. For even more iron, use a cast iron pan.

This recipe serves 4, and doubles well. Make enough for the week and you will easily have a quick satisfying breakfast. It thickens as it stands, so you may want to add more water before reheating. Top it with fruit, nuts and ground flax seeds for even more fiber, texture and flavor.

Use up leftover plain cooked amaranth in meatloaf or meatballs instead of gluten free breadcrumbs.

Or try popped amaranth seeds. You get light airy bits that look like tiny double snowballs stuck together. With wonderful toasty flavor and scent. Simply put a ¼-cup amaranth grains in a heavy saucepan covered with a lid. Bring heat to medium high and slide the pan side to side to shake up the grains. Once you hear a faint pop, you only need to cook for a minute or two to pop the seeds. They burn easily so remove from the heat quickly and pour into a cool bowl. They are yummy with milk as a cold cereal. Eat them quick for maximum crunch.

Updated 1-12-10 Interested in amaranth greens? Click here.

Interested in harvesting amaranth grains. Click here.

Rhubarb Sauce

 

Bite on a stalk of cool spring rhubarb and feel your mouth pucker up. As the weather turns to summer heat, the stalks loose some of their puckery tang.

 Rhubarb is often a love it or hate it food. The mere mention of the word usually elicits a reactions, a smile or a grimace. Or a comment, ya or nay.

 
Only the stalks are edible. They can be green or red, the red is prettier. Good quality chopped rhubarb is available in the freezer section year round.

 

Rhubarb is an excellent source of bone building vitamin K. And it has 2 grams of fiber per 1 cup serving. It is also less than 30 calories per cup. But you will need to add sweetener to it. Sugar, brown sugar, agave nectar, honey, and sorghum or maple syrups all work well. You can also use Splenda, or the new stevia based sweeteners to avoid adding extra calories. Since the sourness of the stalks change over the growing season, it is a good idea to start with less sweetener and add more only if needed.

 

Rhubarb Sauce

4 cups chopped fresh or frozen red rhubarb

½-1 cup sweetener of choice

½ cup dried cranberries, dried cherries, or raisins (optional)

 

Put rhubarb, and dried fruit if using, in a medium saucepan. Add just enough water to keep the rhubarb from sticking to the pan. Fresh rhubarb might take ½ cup. Frozen might not need any, it oozes moisture as it heats up. Cook for 5-10 minutes, or until the rhubarb is soft. The soft pieces will be whole one minute, and completely fall apart a minute later. I like some chunks, so I take it off the heat as soon as it is tender. Add sweetener to taste.

 

If you have an abundance of rhubarb, make sauce and freeze it for later use. It freezes well and can be a welcome addition to next winters meals.

 

Rhubarb sauce is excellent with roasted pork or lamb. Or as a topping for ice cream! Veggies for dessert? When it tastes this good, why not?

 

 

 

 

Asparagus

 

 

Rebirth. Every year.  

It is so miraculous! 

 

In the north, spring brings welcome warm winds and sun on your cheeks. And shoots of early perennials leap from the earth. In March, I inspect our garden for the earliest signs of life. In April and May, I am signing the praises of fresh tender asparagus and using it any way I can think of.

 

Sure, you can buy it fresh in many markets through out the year. It is often expensive and I ignore it most of the time. Too often, it looks like tired little soldiers with droopy heads. The quality of super fresh asparagus is so superior that I buy it only when I can get it from local growers. In the spring, it is olive green with a crisp snap of the spear. Thick or thin stalks, which is better? It is a personal choice, I prefer thick. And for me, frozen and canned asparagus just do not measure up.

 

Asparagus is a dieter’s delight. It has less than 30 calories per cup! But it is rich in iron, folate, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamins A, C, and K. And a 1-cup serving even has 3 grams of fiber. Serving roasted asparagus is such a treat you will not feel deprived in any way.

 

Simple Roasted Asparagus
So spring-y, so simple, so quick.

Serve warm, room temperature, or chilled.

 

Fresh asparagus spears, 5-7 per person
Olive or canola oil
Salt and pepper to taste

 

Preheat oven to 450-degrees. Using a vegetable peeler, trim the bottom end of the spears.

Arrange the spears in a single layer on a rimmed sheet pan. Drizzle with a bit of oil and rub it around the spears.

 

Roast for about 10 minutes. Season to taste.

 

Variations
Lemon punch– sprinkle fresh lemon juice and grate the zest over the top before serving.
Orange dream– drizzle thawed orange juice concentrate over the spears. Use calcium fortified OJ concentrate for a little boost of calcium.
Sweet tang– drizzle with good balsamic vinegar when the spears come out of the oven.
Crunchy and salty crust– top spears with grated parmesan before roasting.
Soft and creamy finish– about half way through roasting, top with crumbled goat cheese.
For even more texture and nutrition– top any of the above with chopped nuts.