I have been trying to find some healthy but tasty recipes. One thing I have found interesting are the “super grains” available today. These grains, all used for thousands of years, have several health benefits—high in protein, high in fiber and contain all eight essential amino acids. Some of the tastiest super grains include:

  • Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is an ancient grain that grew throughout South America. It has 60% higher protein levels than most grains, is naturally gluten-free, has twice as much fiber as traditional grains and is high in magnesium, calcium, potassium, Vitamin B2 and the phytonutrient quercetin.
  • Amaranth was a staple of the ancient Aztecs. It is also gluten-free, contains 50% more protein levels than traditional grains, helps lower total cholesterol levels and increases “good” cholesterol.
  • Buckwheat is not really a wheat. This gluten-free grain is actually more biologically similar to rhubarb than grains. It is high in protein and fiber, contains the phytonutrients quercetin and rutin as well as Vitamin D-chiro-inositol, which is deficient in those with Type 2 diabetes. Buckwheat has been shown in studies to lower elevated blood sugars and lessens brain cell loss following an ischemic stroke.
  • Chia is actually seed rather than a grain, but we use it in cooking much the same way we use other grains. Chia seeds are a source of Omega-3 fatty acids. Studies found that 37 grams of seeds daily for 12 weeks can reduce diastolic blood pressure by 6.3 points. It also lowers triglycerides and increases good cholesterol in studies.
  • Farro is an ancient grain from the “Fertile Crescent” where it was a favorite of Egyptian kings. It was brought to the Roman empire early on and is a favorite grain even today in Italy. While it has gluten, it contains much less gluten than our wheat. In Italy toda, you will find Farro Piccolo, Farro Medio and Farro Grande (which is also the same as spelt). The Farro Piccolo is often used in a way similar to risotto or simply boiled with sea salt and a splash of olive oil.
Quinoa

Quinoa. Photo courtesy Pereg Natural Gourmet Food

With this fascination with grains, I was thrilled to recently receive some recipes from a New Jersey-based company called Pereg Gourmet. Pereg Gourmet produces premium, natural spices and spice blends as well as ancient grains and quinoa products. They also sell quinoa flour, basmati rice, couscous, faro, salad toppings and more. I discovered that Pereg products are kosher certified by the Orthodox Union (OU), are dairy and lactose-free as well as all natural, with no additives or preservatives. Many of their products are certified gluten-free and non-GMO.

In celebration of the middle of summer, and a need for healthy, fresh food, here are four recipes courtesy of Pereg Gourmet (you can find additional recipes on their website at www.pereg-gourmet.com). If you are interested in a great cookbook about super grains, check out Supergrains by Jenni Muir.

Note: click on links in the recipes to order Pereg items from Amazon.com

Tricolor Quinoa Coconut Breakfast Porridge

Pereg Tricolor Quinoa

Pereg Tricolor Quinoa. Photo by Pereg Gourmet

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes
Yield: Two servings

Ingredients
  • ½ cup Pereg Tricolor Quinoa
  • ½ cup light coconut milk
  • 2 Medjool dates, pitted and diced
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup raw pecans, roughly chopped
  • fresh berries, to serve
Preparation
  1. Preheat toaster oven to 300°F.
  2. Vigorously rinse quinoa in a mesh strainer to remove thebitter outer layer.
  3. In a saucepan, combine quinoa with ¾ cup water and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 15 minutes.
  4. Roast pecans in oven until fragrant and toasty, 5-7 minutes. Set aside.
  5. When quinoa is ready, turn off heat and let stand 5 minutes.
  6. Fluff quinoa with a fork. Add coconut milk, dates, salt, cinnamon, ginger and vanilla extract to quinoa and return to low heat, stirring and cooking until creamy and thoroughly warmed, 3-5 minutes.
  7. Divide into two bowls. Top off with additional coconut milk (or other non-dairy/milk of choice), toasted pecans and fresh fruit.

Farro Mushroom Risotto

Pereg Farro Mushroom Risotto

Pereg Farro Mushroom Risotto Photo courtesy Pereg Gourmet

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes
Total time: 50 minutes
Yield: Five ½-cup servings

Ingredients
  • 1 TBLS extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups shiitake mushrooms, cleaned, de-stemmed and diced
  • 2 TBLS butter
  • 2 medium shallots (about ¼ cup), minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/8 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup Pereg Gourmet Farro
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 cup shredded parmesan
  • 1 TBLS Greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • 2 TBLS chives
Preparation
  1. In a large 4-quart saucepan, heat the 1 TBLS olive oil over medium heat. Add in the shiitakes and sauté, about 3 minutes, until soft. Remove from pan and set aside.
  2. Melt the butter in the same pan over medium heat. Add in the shallots, garlic and salt and sauté until shallots are slightly browned, about 2 minutes. Then add the farro and stir until the farro is slightly toasted and coated in butter.
  3. Add in the white wine and let simmer until the wine evaporates, about 2 minutes.
  4. Turn the heat down to low and add in the stock ¼ cup at a time, stirring continuously with each addition. Do not add more stock until the previous ¼ cup has been completely absorbed.
  5. Keep adding until the farro is cooked and mixture is creamy, about 30-40 minutes. You may not need all the stock.
  6. Stir in Parmesan cheese and Greek yogurt immediately and then stir in mushrooms. Garnish with pine nuts and chives.

Grilled Sesame Ginger Vegetable Couscous

Pereg Sesame Ginger Couscous

Pereg Grilled Sesame Ginger Couscous Photo courtesy Pereg Gourmet

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Total time: 25 minutes
Yield: Four 1-cup servings

Ingredients
  • 2 large carrots, washed, peeled and cut in half the long way
  • 1 cup button mushroom tops, cleaned
  • ½ bunch asparagus, trimmed
  • 3 TBLS sesame oil
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 ¼ cups Pereg Gourmet Couscous
  • 1 ¼ cups water
Ingredients for dressing
  • 1 TBLS ginger, minced
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 TBLS sesame oil
  • 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 TBLS rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp honey
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced (white and light green parts)
  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
Preparation
  1. Place the carrots, mushrooms, and asparagus in a large bowl and toss with sesame oil, soy sauce, and black pepper. Let sit for 5 minutes.
  2. Heat the grill or grill pan to medium-high heat. Put the vegetables on the grill or in a grill basket and grill while basting vegetables with extra marinade. Grill until the vegetables are tender and slightly charred Set aside to cool.
  3. Meanwhile, cook the couscous. Bring the water to a boil and add couscous. Remove from heat, stir, cover, and let sit for 10 minutes until the couscous absorbs the liquid. Drain any extra liquid and cool.
  4. When the vegetables are cool, slice the asparagus and carrots into diagonal bite-sized pieces and slice the mushrooms. Combine with couscous.
  5. To make the dressing, whisk together ginger, 2 teaspoons soy sauce, sesame oil, olive oil, rice vinegar, honey, cayenne pepper, and scallions. Dress the couscous and garnish with cilantro. Serve at room temperature.

Israeli Couscous Salad with Beets, Goat Cheese & Walnuts

Pereg-Israeli-Couscous

Pereg Israeli Couscous Photo courtesy Pereg Gourmet

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes
Total time: 50 minutes
Yield: Four 1-cup servings

Ingredients
  • 1 cup (1 package) Pereg Gourmet Israeli Couscous
  • 1 ¾ cups water
  • 4 medium red beets, tops removed
  • 4 TBLS extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup arugula
  • 3 TBLS lemon juice
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • ¼ cup red onion, sliced thin
  • ½ bunch scallions, sliced thin (light green and white pieces)
  • ¼ cup crumbled goat cheese
  • ¼ cup walnut pieces
Preparation
  1. Heat oven to 450°F.
  2. Drizzle beets with ½ TBLS olive oil and wrap the beets loosely in tin foil. Roast for 40-60 minutes until tender. Cool, peel, and dice the beets into ½-inch cubes.
  3. Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the couscous and ½ TBLS olive oil and stir. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 10 minutes until the liquid is absorbed. turn off heat, stir in arugula to let wilt and let stand for 5 minutes. Set aside.
  4. to make the dressing, whisk together lemon juice, salt, pepper and remaining 3 TBLS extra virgin olive oil. Add the red onions and let sit for 30 minutes. Combine couscous, beets, red onion, scallions, and dressing. Garnish with goat cheese and walnuts and serve at room temperature.
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