Monday, May 12, 2014

Meatless Monday: A Hearty Plan-Ahead Breakfast

A hot and hearty breakfast is a great way to start the day, in any season.

One of the best breakfasts ever is Martha Rose Shulman’s “Rolled Oats with Amaranth Seeds, Maple Syrup and Apple” from the March 10, 2014 post in her health blog on the New York Times site.

We have been enjoying this breakfast for months now, ever since my friend Mary Ann shared it with me. 

This morning's breakfast.
Amaranth seeds are the add-in that transforms already nutritious oatmeal into an even better for you meal.

This recipe does require a bit of advance planning. It actually calls for you to mix together most of the ingredients in your cooking vessel (whether a microwaveable bowl or a pan) with boiling water and to leave everything soaking overnight. 

Simple enough.

Allow 5 minutes in the morning to cook on the stove (or less in the microwave) and another few seconds to grate the apple on top. 

A little milk of some kind poured over the top is nice, and you may find that's all the additional sweetness you need.

Take it from me, this delicious breakfast will easily sustain you until lunchtime, and even beyond if you happen to run late.

More on Amaranth
Amaranth, although often grouped with the “ancient grains,” is actually a “pseudo cereal.” Most grains, the “true cereals,” are members of the Poaceae family; amaranth is not. In fact, Amaranth is actually a family – Amaranthaceae — of over 60 seed bearing plants with broad green leaves and impressive plumes of flowers. Check out this link at Whole Grains 101 for photos of various amaranth plants in their brightly-colored glory. 

Amaranth, native to South America, has become an important food crop throughout much of the world, with people eating both its leaves and its seeds. It is particularly valuable in arid places since it requires very little water.

One variety, Red amaranth (Amaranthus cruentus), is cultivated in the US for its edible seeds. Prince-of-Wales Feather (Amaranthus hypochondriacus) is known for its striking flowers. The black sheep in the family is the Redroot Pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus), a highly competitive weed wreaking havoc in cultivated fields. It yields up to one million seeds per plant and gets its name because pigs like its taste.

Amaranth is believed to have been domesticated 6-8 centuries ago. It was a major source of food for the Aztecs, and played an important role in many Aztec rituals, including ceremonies in which a deity’s image formed of honey and amaranth grains was venerated, broken into pieces, and then distributed to the worshippers. After the Spanish explorers arrived, they used many means to convert the Aztecs to Christianity, including banning what they considered to be “heathen” practices and any materials playing a role in such ceremonies, including the cultivation of amaranth

In recent decades researchers have been studying amaranth’s health and nutritional properties. They have learned that amaranth is about 13-14% protein, and that the protein found in amaranth contains lysine, an amino acid missing in many grains. Other studies tout its cancer-preventing properties and its potential as a cholesterol-lowering drug. In Mexico there is hope that the re-introduction of this crop into the national diet will help lower the nation's high obesity rate.

Amaranth is also gluten-free. 

There are so many reasons to give this pseudo-cereal a try, and preparing this recipe is a great way to start. You should be able to find amaranth seeds in the bulk section of any good health food store.

Happy Monday. Have a great week.

On Mondays I often blog on food, food issues, or gardening in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.”

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