Archive for December, 2010

Quinoa: Grain or Protein?

excerpted from The Family Groove

Believe it not, both! Not only does quinoa have the highest nutritional value of all of the grains but it also contains all 8 amino acids making it a complete protein!

If you are looking for a healthy substitution to some of the fat and sugar laden side dishes during the holidays, for a healthy side dish to bring to a party or even for something healthy to serve to your family, then look no further!

Although quinoa has been a relatively unkown grain until the past few years, it was actually developed in the Andes region of South America and cultivated by the Incas who called it their “mother seed” or “mother grain” 5,000-6,000 years ago!

Quinoa is gluten-free grain that is light-brown grain oval in shape. When it is cooked, quinoa has delicious nutty taste and looks very similar to brown rice. Not only is quinoa very high in protein containing all 8 amino acids (equal to milk and twice that of other cereal grains) but it is also bursting with vitamin B and E, iron, zinc, potassium, and calcium! Quinoa is truly a “superfood” that I recommend everyone should add to their diet!

Because quinoa only takes 20 minutes to cook (as opposed to 50 minutes with brown rice), it is the grain I almost always prepare! With juggling kids, household, job and what else, who has an hour to cook a grain these days?

Quinoa can be cooked in large batches and stored in the freezer to use when needed. Another win-win for saving time! If you were to look in my freezer you would see containers stacked on top of one another full of quinoa that I can pull out and defrost for a main course or side at dinner, for dessert or even for a delicious breakfast cereal.

For those of you who live in New York City, Candle Café has THE most delicious salad with quinoa called the Aztec Salad! Whole foods also has a good quinoa and cranberry salad with walnuts in the prepared section. As you know, I always favor homecooked and below are a few of my favorite recipes but in a pinch it is nice to know somewhere to pick up something healthy and delicious!

For a Side dish:

Quinoa, Cranberry and Pecan Salad
2 cups quinoa
4 cups water
1 lemon
½ cup olive oil
Sesame oil (drizzle)
1 cup chopped parsley
1 cup chopped scallions
1 chopped red and yellow peppers
½ cup cranberries
½ cup chopped pecans
Salt and pepper to taste
Pour 2 cups of quinoa into 4 cups of water and bring to a boil. Cover and allow to simmer on low heat for 20 minutes until all of the water is absorbed. Combine all of the remaining ingredients into the bowl and stir well. This salad can be served at room temperature, aside a simple green salad for a healthy lunch or it can be served with a main course for a more substantial dinner.

For a Main Course:

Quinoa and Apple Stuffed Acorn Squash
2 acorn squash
2 coarsely chopped apples and/or peaches
2 cups cooked quinoa
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp cinnamon & nutmeg

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Halve acorn squash and remove the seeds. In a small bowl combine the olive oil, nutmeg and cinnamon and brush mixture on tops and insides of acorn squash. Bake in the oven for 35 minutes or until done.

At same time, cook 2 cups of quinoa in 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil then cover and simmer for 20 minutes until water is absorbed. In a bowl, mix the cooked quinoa, apples and/or peaches, maple syrup, squeeze of lemon and a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg. Fill the squash with the mixture and cook for an additional 20-30 minutes until done. This is a delicious side dish for the holidays or a meal into itself!

For breakfast:

Hot Quinoa “Oatmeal”
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
½ cup rice, soy or almond milk
Honey or agave nectar
¼  cup blueberries
¼  cup pecans (or walnuts)
Pour 1 cup of quinoa into 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Cover and allow to simmer on low heat for 20 minutes until all of the water is absorbed. Add milk and continue stirring. Spoon cereal into bowls, add a squeeze of honey or agave, and top with fresh blueberries and a handful of pecans or your other favorite nuts and enjoy!

For dessert:

Quinoa “Rice Pudding”
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
½ cup rice, soy or almond milk
½ cup raisons or cranberries
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon and nutmeg (to taste)
1 tbsp honey or agave nectar
Pour 1 cup of quinoa into 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Cover and allow to simmer on low heat for 20 minutes until all of the water is absorbed. Add milk, vanilla, spices, agave or honey and raisons and continue stirring until dried fruit is soft.  This is a delicious and healthy dessert and one that my kids love. As a side note, this dish can also be made with brown rice or any other grain you have cooked and have on hand.

Gluten Intolerance: Real or Imaginary?

If you are anything like me, I used to completely roll my eyes when a mother would explain that her child was on a gluten-free or dairy-free diet or had this or that food sensitivity. And, it is almost comical the lengths we all have to go to in order to make sure everyone’s food needs are met at birthday parties and bake sales!

Well, embarrassing to say but I have joined the group and have taken my son completely off gluten and dairy!

It all started with we decided to take Oliver to visit a doctor who practices up in Rhinebeck named Dr. Bock who wrote Healing the New Childhood Epidemics: Autism, ADHD, Asthma and Allergies. For those of you who are not familiar with Dr. Bock, he has clients coming from all over the world and he literally heals (or at least greatly improves symptoms) of many children with ADHD, autism, asthma, and allergies through supplementation and diet change.

With Oliver, after a battery of blood tests and an in-depth interview, it was revealed that he has a gluten and dairy intolerance as well as having an iron and zinc deficiency. When Dr. Bock put him on supplements and on the new diet, we saw the results of that immediately. The main thing that we saw that set him off was GLUTEN!

Unfortunately, gluten is in everything, or at least everything a 10 yr old boy loves! Gone are the beloved morning bagels, the donuts that my husband would take him to have for “treats,” the pizza, pasta, cookies, and even the garlic knots and sandwiches he craves at school.

The good thing is that Oliver has seen the positive changes and likes how he feels. In fact, he likes the way he feels so much that it is now him that takes staying on the diet so seriously. When he does lapse and has something with gluten, either by accident or on purpose, we all see the immediate difference. Our journey has been helped immensly by the chef at our son’s school who is an advocate of healthy living as well and we are deeply greatful for everything she has done and continues to do.

Has it been hard at times? Sure! But the benefits of seeing my son so much happier, taking his school work so much more seriously and, overall, just being a more positive member of our household, make it 100% worth it! These days there are so many wonderful gluten-free (and even dairy-free) subsitutes that it has made it fairly easy to do and we have actually all had fun trying the new foods.

So, for those of you wanting to learn more, read on. At the end, I will give you a list of our favorite foods if you want to experiment a bit and see if it resonates with you.

So, what is gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in grains such as wheat, barley, spelt, kamut, rye, semolina, pumpernickel, faro and bulgar. Just because something is “wheat-free” does not mean it is gluten-free! Also, because oats are commonly processed at plants handling non-gluten-free grains, they are generally placed on the gluten grains list.

What is a gluten sensitivity?

A gluten sensitivity is a “state of heightened immunologic responsiveness to ingested gluten proteins in genetically predisposed individuals.” (Pediatrics, Aug 2001.) Someone who is sensitive to gluten might have bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, reflux, skin issues such as excema and other rashes, congestion, wheezing, headaches, night sweats, or have dark circles under their eyes. An individual can also exhibit signs of exhaustion or depression. In children, you often see hyperactive or restless behavior normally associated with ADHD.

Most people just assume that a gluten sensitivity is a disease of the digestive system but this it is actually a disease of the entire body and symptoms can vary widely from individual to individual.

Is a gluten sensitivity the same thing as celiac disease?

No!!! While a gluten- sensitivity can be annoying, celiac disease is downright debilitating and dangerous! Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder caused by the inability of the body to digest and breakdown gluten protein into amino acids and results in the intestinal villi, the surface of the small intestine, being damaged. When the villi are damaged or destroyed, it causes malabsorption of carbohydrates, fat, protein, vitamins and minerals.

Symptoms are similar to that of gluten-sensitivity but much more pronounced and debilitating. It is estimated that 1 out of every 133 Americans has celiac, most of which go undiagnosed. The only cure for celiac is taking gluten out of the diet completely.

How do I know if I have a gluten-sensitivity or celiac?

If you exhibit any of the above symptoms, then go immediately to your doctor and ask for a gluten allergy test. You can definitely put yourself on a gluten-free diet but without a proper test there is no way to know. Also, with so many cases of celiac going undiagnosed, you don’t want to take a chance with your health!

So, if you have a gluten-sensitivity or celiac, just what can you eat?

The grains brown rice, millet, quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat and corn are all gluten-free! There are so many amazing gluten-free alternatives using these grains to replace your old pasta, bread and other staples so don’t despair.
Breads:My all-time favorite bread is Udi’s sliced sandwich bread, which comes in whole wheat and “white.” Because my son was only used to getting sliced grainy bread, the first time I served this to my son in a pb&j, he told me ‘thank you for giving me white bread.” Udi’s also makes delicious Gluten-Free Muffins andbagels , which have become morning staples in our house.

Another favorite bread is the Food for Life Millet bread, which makes yummy sandwiches, garlic bread and the most delicious croutons. Food for Life also has a delicious Raison Pecan Bread, which we use for yummy cinnamon-raison toast in the morning! For tortillas, I suggest the rice tortillas from Food for Life or corn tortillas that don’t have any other added flours.Pamela’s, Red Mill, andNamaste, which makes great bread mixes!

Pasta: My favorite brand of pasta is Tinkyada, which is a rice-based pasta that cooks and tastes just like the “real stuff.” My kids literally have no idea that it is not regular pasta. Key here is that it is not brown like the whole wheat pasta so win-win! Other brands I like are Ancient Harvest, Bionaturae, and even Amy’s has a gluten-free, rice Mac n’Cheese!

Pancakes: Arrowhead Mills has an amazing gluten-free pancake mix and my family also likes the Namaste. Other good brands are Pamela’s and Bob’s Red Mill. For young children, being able to have their favorite treats is essential for having them stay on their diets, which leads to my next section…

Cookies/Treats: My kids adoreGlow Cookies and they come in a wide variety of flavors- Chocolate Chip, Double Chocolate Chip, Ginger Snap and Snickerdoodle! Emmy’s Macaroons are also delicious and come in Dark Cacao, Coconut-Vanilla, Chai Spice, Mint Chip, and Chocolate-Orange. Put any of these out and I can promise you that no one will even notice the difference!

Ice Box Bakery also has a frozen, ready- to- slice Gluten-free Chocolate Chip Cookies. These are fun because the kids really feel like they are having regular cookies and they are technically “homemade.” Gluten-Free Cookie Jar Company’s Chocolate chunk cookie, Sugar cookies, Double chocolate chip cookies, Vegan-chocolate chip cookie, Chocolate chip brownie, Mint chip brownie and Cheesecake swirl are out of this world!

Another healthy alternative to cookies, are the coconut milk based “ice creams” made by Luna and Larry’s Coconut Bliss, which are sweetened with agave nectar not sugar!  Some of our favorites are Chocolate Hazelnut, Dark Chocolate, Vanilla Island, Mint Galactica, Naked Coconut, and Naked Almond Fudge! Yum! So Delicious also makes a good “ice cream” and has products using soy milk as well as coconut milk.

What else can I do other than take gluten out of my diet?

As I mentioned before, taking gluten out of my son’s diet was just part of our approach. When an individual has a gluten sensitivity, they have also had problems digesting and assimilating the nutrients in their food so they often will have nutritional deficiencies. Not only must you take the culprit (in this case gluten) out but you also have to build up their nutritional profile through vitamins and good food choices.

The gluten-free approach may not work for everyone but, if it does, it can literally change your life.