It’s true that for two years of my life I lived on little more than beans and rice. Pinto beans and long grain brown rice to be specific. Now, they’re still a fall back food. They cook easily on their own and offer up that warm comfort that’s hard to match. So last Sunday, after receiving a lovely batch of homegrown pinto beans from my blogging friend, Linda, and a dozen thick corn tortillas from another friend, I decided to make a pot of brown rice to go along. One problem, there wasn’t any.
What I did have in the pantry was an assortment of other grains and legumes; a couple tablespoons of amaranth, some millet, and a bag of locally grown oats and we didn’t let it interfere with our meal.
Amaranth is usually referred to as a grain, but it’s actually a seed. It’s highly nutritious in that it offers a complete form of vegetable protein. Amaranth is gluten free and has eight times more iron than wheat making it a really good food for vegetarians, pregnant women and the general public.
Millet is also a seed and although it’s been used throughout the world for centuries, many people are more familiar with it as a bird seed component. It’s also high in minerals such as magnesium and manganese and a great source of omegas. Eaten regularly, millet has been shown to reduce migraines, heart attacks and type 2 diabetes.
The oats in my pantry are locally grown, raw and non rolled. That means that I have to pick through them a bit but all health benefits remain in tact. I cooked these grains in a single dish accompanied by a handful of pink lentils, some green ones and a fistful of adzuki beans.
If you’re not familiar with adzuki, they’re a little less “bean tasting” than other varieties but like their grain counterparts, they’re a fantastic source of minerals like magnesium, iron, zinc, copper and vitamin B3. Adzuki beans offer high quality protein making them another great alternative to animal products. These are not local and I typically find them in dry bean form at an Asian market.
Prepared as if it was rice with some olive oil, sea salt and water, it worked perfectly in our Mexican meal and the added benefit was using it again, the next evening.
When I arrived home from yoga late, I used this same grain-legume mixture as a base and went through the vegetable drawer. I diced an onion half, minced a couple of bulbs of green garlic, chopped a few carrots, sliced spinach very thin and added the last of the springtime asparagus. First sauteing the vegetables in a bit of olive oil and then ladling in the grains, I allowed the entire dish to warm through by adding a bit of water. This would make a great side dish for any carnivore but we served it as our main dish accompanied by some hummus and pita. One of my sons sprinkled parmesan on his.
This is a convenient way to throw a meal together quickly, to clean out the pantry and fridge and to centerpiece a really healthy family meal. Why don’t we use alternative grains more often rather than falling back on rice? What have you tried lately?