Monday, September 15, 2008

Healthy start: quinoa breakfast porridge

Thanks so much for your empathy and commiseration about my computer failure! It turns out that both my hard drive and logic board died, and when I returned to pick up my computer, they handed me a completely revamped device void of any programs or data. It was one of those stereotypical computer repair experiences: they looked at me blankly, informed me of what had happened and then gave me that judgmental: “that’s why you should always back up”. Luckily, I have been backing up automatically regularly – to two different hard drives, but I have never tested the back ups. So I was still slightly panicked when I left the repair shop and dreaded having to re-load and re-set up everything from the operating system to email. To my great surprise, when I restored my computer absolutely everything re-loaded, settings, passwords, software, everything – restored to the minute my computer crashed – how wonderful is that? Please back up your computer – mine is only a year old and I never imagined something this catastrophic would happen!

Last week had one great piece of news despite the computer saga: I placed first in last month’s DMBLGIT for my jam jar muffin image. Thanks so much Andreea for hosting and to Alessandro and Simone for judging. You guys made my week – thanks again. See here for the roundup and all the other amazing images that placed.
I also wanted to share that a few weeks ago I had my first “cook and style” shoot for the New York Times Dining Section. It was featured on Wednesday, August 26 and was for the Feed Me column by Alex Witchel. This particular article was about burritos – and I cooked, styled, and shot the image. It was terrifically fun and I hope that there will be more of the same to come in the future.
The fresh air and wild blueberries of Maine inspired the recipe for this week (see throughout for some memories from the trip). Actually, it’s been on my “to-cook list“ since it was featured on 101cookooks. It’s from Chef MD's Big Book of Culinary Medicine: A Food Lover's Road Map to Losing Weight, Preventing Disease, and Getting Really Healthy by John La Puma, M.D., a book I most likely never would have taken notice of had Heidi not written about it on her blog.
The book sounded so compelling I bought it and true to promise it is chock full of wonderful advice on healthful eating. What I like most about it is the detailed discussion about the health benefits of different ingredients. What’s least effective is that it has absolutely no photos to accompany the recipes which I’m sure was an important cost consideration but it certainly gives the book little visual food appeal. Fortunately, Heidi’s photo of the breakfast quinoa recipe and her review of the dish drew me in.

Quinoa is a grain that I am just learning about. It has wonderful health benefits including cholesterol lowering benefits and has a high protein content for a grain. It comes in blond and red varieties (the red being very pretty in this dish). Regarding preparation, it seems most prefer to rinse the grain, let it dry, and then toast it in a dry skillet to bring out its nutty flavor and remove the bitter-tasting saponins that coat it. I cooked the porridge this way and was not disappointed. The porridge is a cross between oatmeal, grape nuts, and wheat germ in consistency and flavor.
It’s cinnamon-y and fruity and has just he right toothsome texture. You can add whatever nuts or berries most appeal to you and can substitute honey for agave although the latter is quite nice in this. If you rinse the grain the night before and allow it to dry in a strainer, the dish is very quick to prepare in the morning and easier than oatmeal since you don’t have to worry about scorching. Give it a try.
Quinoa breakfast porridge (from Chef MD's Big Book of Culinary Medicine: A Food Lover's Road Map to Losing Weight, Preventing Disease, and Getting Really Healthy, reprinted from 101cookbooks)

1 cup organic 1% low fat milk
1 cup water
1 cup organic quinoa (rinsed. can also toast the dry grains to bring out their nutty flavor)
2 cups fresh blackberries, organic preferred (I used a combination of blackberries and blueberries)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup chopped pecans, toasted* (or other nut - I used sliced almonds)
4 teaspoons organic agave nectar (can substitute honey)

Combine milk, water and quinoa in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer 15 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed. Turn off heat; let stand covered 5 minutes. Stir in blackberries and cinnamon; transfer to four bowls and top with pecans. Drizzle 1 teaspoon agave nectar over each serving.

Serves 4.

*While the quinoa cooks, roast the pecans in a 350F degree toaster oven for 5 to 6 minutes or in a dry skillet over medium heat for about 3 minutes.


Peter G | Souvlaki For The Soul said...

Congratulations for DMBLGIT and for your New York Times debut! Great images from Maine. As for the quinoa, I had no idea there was a red variety and am now keen to track some down (my initial experience with quinoa was a little "meh").

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the wonderfully shot virtual vacation.

kimberly salem said...

wow, that is great news about getting your computer restored!! i definitely need to be more consistent about backing up. also, congrats on your DMBLGIT win! :)

Dr John said...

You're right...I would have loved to include photos for the recipes, but your own well-lit, beautifully colored pictures and lovely words are perfect.

Thanks so much for the shout-out: we're out to help people find recipes that work for them (in flavor and in health) and teach them to someone else. You're doing culinary medicine!
And thanks!
John La Puma, MD

Anonymous said...

So many congrats are in order - hats off to Sabra!
DMBLGIT - 1st place jam jar muffin image.
Quinoa breakfast porridge - looks delicious!
'Cook and Style' shoot - NY Times Dining Section.
Maine vacation photos ( especially the porch chairs )
Doggie pics on flickr ( ZULU is beautiful )

Anonymous said...

just discovered you blog via your beautiful pictures in Flickr....
Looking forward to seeing all your great recipes and pictures !
Hello from Geneva/Switzerland :)

Anonymous said...

great pix - congrats on the NYT gig!

i love quinoa for breakfast, i always make extra for dinner so i can have it the next day. i've never toasted the grains before cooking, though - will try that next time.

bee said...

congrats!!! and thanks for a wonderful recipe with quinoa.

Ivy said...

Stunning pictures and great recipe!

Irene said...

Wow, what beautiful pictures from Maine!

Cate said...

Congrats on DMBLGIT! Love the picture of the pup. :)

Sabra said...

Thanks so much for all of your comments!
Dr. La Puma - I'm so honored that you took the time to comment! Thanks for your nice note.
Peter: thanks re: the congrats. Give quinoa one more try (and try rinsing and / or toasting it)
Thanks Larry : )
Thanks cate, irene, corinne and ivy re: the photos - I really appreciate it.
Bee and Michelle: hope this gives you some more quinoa inspiration.
Kim: thanks re: DMBLGIT. And I'm glad I gave you a reminder about backing up. I'm completely paranoid now!
Thanks again everyone.

Nate @ House of Annie said...

I haven't had quinoa for breakfast before. Been meaning to try.

Would pistachios work in this as well?

Sabra said...

I think whatever sounds good to you and would get you to enjoy such a healthy meal would work! Somehow pistachios seem less breakfast-y to me but it's really up to you!

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