Now that we’ve spent a little quality time together discussing general food-related topics, I can begin to move this blog towards some of the core ideas I originally had in mind. The real “food-for-thought” behind this blog is to get the message out there that we all need to revert to a healthier eating style while being more aware of what we’re ingesting into our bodies. And it’s got to taste great, too! I like to think of it as a “back-to-the-future” mentality which means reverting back to how things were in the past, when generations from the “old country” didn’t think about highly processed foods, fatty foods, fast-foods, or foods with an enormously high sugar or sodium content simply because they didn’t exist. Our grandparents, or more so, our great-grandparents ate a natural diet, meaning fresh vegetables, fruit, grain, dairy, meats and fish. Whatever they were able to grow on their own or buy or barter for at the local market (no, not the supermarket, but a market similar to today’s farmer’s market) is what sustained them. And I believe they were healthier for it.
I often ask myself why some American food and beverage manufacturers (which will remain nameless) have no conscience when producing products which have a hand in establishing unhealthy eating patterns, resulting in poor overall health throughout the nation all for the sake of making money. Don’t we have enough problems these days? As an American, I have low-tolerance for this bad behavior.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/) state that our American society has become “obesogenic,” characterized by environments that promote increased food intake, nonhealthful foods, and physical inactivity. Let’s just focus on obesity as an example. Obese children and adolescents are at risk for health problems during their youth and as adults. For example, during their youth, obese children and adolescents are more likely to have risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease (such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and Type 2 diabetes) than are other children and adolescents.
With all this in mind, let me introduce you to a simple, nutritious, delicious and economical recipe from my grandmother’s kitchen. The story behind this dish becoming popular in my circle of associates at work is pretty funny, so I’ll share it with you, too. I was shopping in the “bulk-food” section in a very popular natural organic chain grocery market a while back and came across a grain that my grandmother used to make that I had forgotten all about. Needless to say, I bought some, prepared it in her traditional way and brought it to work the next day for lunch. Since we were in “crunch” season and in the midst of preparing catalogs, brochures and marketing materials for a major convention that was almost upon us, there was no way I was going to have an opportunity to get out of the office for lunch, much less think about ordering in.
I must have had at least five visits during that lunch from staff and colleagues stopping in my office for business reasons only to ask what I was eating. Well, I ended up giving several people a taste and that sort of started the “grain-eating-trend” that took place in my office over the next six months. I gave the recipe that I’m about to give you to anyone in the office that was interested. Over the next few weeks, that’s all I saw my staff and colleagues eating for lunch in the office. I couldn’t get over the fact that people were going wild for this healthful dish and that this trend was spreading from my department to others within the company. It got to the point where I could no longer be sure the bin of grain would be full at the natural market since everyone was making a mass exodus to buy it! Not only that, but the price of this simple grain that was once 59 cents per pound was slowly rising due to the amount they were selling. Today, the grain sells for about $1.39 per pound at the same store. Still a bargain, but I never received a commission for increasing their sales!
Regardless, I felt really good that I had an impact on the eating habits in my company, if just for a short period of time. Here’s the recipe:
1-cup hard red winter wheat berries
3 cups water for soaking, plus more for cooking
1 can chickpeas, drained and washed
Cherry tomatoes, halved
Olive oil (extra virgin preferred)
Cooking time: Soaking time overnight plus 30-40 minutes to cook grain.
1. Place wheat berries in a large pot
2. Cover berries with 3 cups water and let soak overnight
3. Drain water, rinse berries, and cover berries with 3 cups clean water. You’ll notice that berries have increased in size due to water absorption
4. Add ½ teaspoon of salt to pot
5. Bring to boil, uncovered, stirring occasionally, cook approximately 30-40 minutes or until grains are at desired softness
6. Drain grain well
7. Take portion to be used (about 1 cup) and mix with olive oil to taste (about 2 tablespoons)
8. Add halved cherry tomatoes and about 1/3 cup chick peas
9. Add granulated garlic, salt and pepper to taste
10. Microwave for 1 minute
As I recall, my grandmother used to make at least twice the portion here. She’d store what she didn’t use for the recipe above in the refrigerator and mix it with whatever she had left over for additional meals. This grain is versatile and delicious and can be served with an assortment of other vegetables and/or meat (that you have left over from previous meals) cut into bite-size pieces. Whatever you have in the refrigerator works well. Try it with pico-de-gallo or even in soup. I guarantee you’ll be having this grain more than once!
Note: You can find hard red winter wheat berries at Whole Foods Market in the bulk food aisle. Most health food stores carry it, too, but prepackaged. If your local supermarket carries a selection of Bob’s Red Mill brand products, you might find it there or order online from Bob’s Red Mill Whole Grain Store at: http://www.bobsredmill.com/bobs-red-mill-whole-grain-store.html.
The Big Tine