Gnowfglins: Soaking Grains

I’m wrapping up Lesson 2 in the GNOWFGLINS e-course on healthy and traditional cooking, and tonight’s dinner featured a technique I learned this week: soaking grains. Well, I actually learned this last month in the Nourished Kitchen Real Food Challenge, but for that challenge, I soaked flour for baking. Today, I soaked rice and made it from scratch.

I’ve never made “real” rice before; all of my rice experience is of the boil-in-bag, instant variety. This was the other extreme!

It’s important to soak grains to prepare their nutrition to be fully utilized by the body. Whole grains contain enzyme inhibitors and other natural substances that can actually interfere with digestion and block absorption of minerals and vitamins. Soaking the grains in an acidic solution neutralizes these substances to make the grains’ nutrients more available in digestion.

I started with a cup of dry brown basmati rice. I soaked the rice in 2 cups of filtered water with 2 tablespoons of raw apple cider vinegar. (Lemon juice or other acidic liquids could also be used). I let my rice soak for 9 hours, though overnight is even better. One benefit (besides the nutritional benefits) – this process cuts down the actual cooking time of the rice.

When my rice was ready to go, I drained the soaking liquid and replaced it with filtered water (though you could cook the rice in the soaking liquid – I wasn’t sure if I’d like the tang of the vinegar in my rice, so I played it safe).

Then, I cooked the rice and turned it into Nutty Carrot Rice!

To go with my rice, I made an Italian breaded chicken breast. I actually get 2 meals out of 1 chicken breast, so I made 2, which should feed me well next week.

Add some baby spinach with vinaigrette on the side, and you’ve got… dinner!

Chicken and riceThe rice was very good – a nice departure from plain ol’ boring rice. It had a bit of a kick to it – I guessed at the cayenne pepper and used 1/4 teaspoon, and I think I probably should have cut back to 1/8th. (I like spicy food, but “spicy” to me is “mild” to the rest of the world). It complemented the chicken very well, and had a nice, nutty flavor. Nutty rice with a kick! Mozzarella cheese would have been good on the chicken, too. I didn’t have any!

The rice recipe makes 6-8 servings (I ended up with 7), so I’ll be eating rice for a while….

Try it out! This was an easy combo, and the whole meal clocked in around a half hour prep, a half hour cook time, and around 375 calories (assuming you eat the entire chicken breast). Lots of vitamin A, too.

[recipe-show recipe=nutty-carrot-rice]

[recipe-show recipe=italian-breaded-chicken]

Real Food Challenge, Week 4

It’s the final week of the Real Food Challenge! I’m a little sad, but excited to continue experimenting and putting to use everything I’ve learned!

First up: the topic of meat. This is one of the topics that sent me head-first into the world of organic foods, after watching with horror and disgust (and quite frankly, anger) the movie Food, Inc. Just the sight of the labels of the big meat companies makes me want to write a million letters to my government representatives (not to mention, avoid it like the plague!) Thank goodness I have shopping options locally to buy organically raised meats. Grass-finished for me!

Next – eggs! I was so excited to discover a farm literally a couple blocks from my house that sells organic eggs. One of these days (when it gets warmer out!), I may even walk there to get my eggs!

I’m going to need some time before I take the step involving homemade broth…. I have issues with bones in meat! The thought of making a broth from chicken feet makes me want to hide under my desk and claim vegetarianism. I have an odd internal struggle with eating meat. I’m an animal lover, and really the only way I can manage to eat meat is if the meat doesn’t remind me of the animal. I’m over-sensitive in this regard, but it is what it is and I am what I am. I can’t eat chicken on bones, for example, and I’m certain that I will never be able to make a broth from a chicken’s foot!

For this same reason, organ meats are going to be hard for me – though the idea of blending them into a bolognese sauce sounds like it might be possible. It’s on my longer term list of things to do.

I don’t eat seafood, so day #26 is out! Well, OK. I’m not ruling this one out completely. I’ve never really tried most seafood, and while I’ve already blown away my New Year’s resolution of trying 10 new foods this year (finished that up in January!), I might…. might…. try seafood this year. I’m thinking maybe a non-fishy fish. The good news is that if I do, I will definitely be sure it is wild-caught, and with that, the most tasty and nutritious version possible!

Day #27 asked us to give back to the movement. I can’t wait until spring springs here in Chicago, because I have big plans to get involved with my local farmers’ market. I’m also hoping to give back by sharing what I learn via this blog and my Facebook.

This has been an exciting ride! I’m looking forward to trying some of the techniques I didn’t have time to get to during the month of February.

For those who didn’t get to complete the Real Food Challenge, here are the guidelines as described by (Thanks, Jenny!!)

  • Stay natural & unrefined.
  • Avoid modern, processed foods.
  • Sour, sprout, or soak.
  • Love healthy fats.
  • Brew mineral-rich stock.
  • Eat grass-fed, pasture-raised, and wild-caught.
  • Keep dairy raw and fresh.
  • Get your good bacteria.
  • Get involved.
  • Maximize nutrient density.

I’m proud to check most of those off of my list as new habits! Thanks again to Jenny and Nourished Kitchen. This challenge has been fun and eye-opening – and I will continue to work on the lessons in the coming weeks and months.

Quesadillas with Stealth Ninja Squash

Another smashing success in the Stealth Ninja Vegetable Experiment!

I made 2 more recipes out of the cookbook, Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food: Chicken Quesadillas (with Stealth Ninja Butternut Squash), and Guacamole (with Stealth Ninja… well, I guess the avocados are pretty Out There with their Green Flags Flying… hmmm).

In addition to butternut squash, the quesadillas also had stealth ninja white beans! What a crazy amount of ninja going on in there!

I did not have my camera nearby, so alas, I have no photos, but the prep was super easy (and therefore not worthy of Adventure status here at Epic Organic). All I can say is – these quesadillas were wonderful and the guacamole was heavenly! I used all organic ingredients and can’t wait to have the leftovers for lunch tomorrow. Insanely delicious, and again – not a single sign of odd vegetable tastes anywhere (aside from the flamboyant avocados). If you’re a fan of chicken quesadillas, these are gooey-delicious and filling (and a great source of vitamin A!)

Here are the recipes as I prepared them, along with approximate nutrition info at the bottom of each one:

[recipe-show recipe=quesadillas-squash]

[recipe-show recipe=stealth-ninja-guacamole]

Stealth Ninja Vegetable Experiment: Beets

Here we go – Phase Two of the Stealth Ninja Vegetable Experiment. Before you dive into Phase Two, check out the first phase, where I chopped, steamed, roasted, and pureed all of the vegetables that will be used in this experiment.

Now that I’ve got a fridge and freezer full of pureed vegetables, it’s time to try cooking something with them!

The first recipe I will try takes advantage of pureed beets. Beets are new to me – I’ve never eaten them before, so they’re officially New Food #10 that I’ve tried in 2010. I certainly didn’t expect to hit this New Year’s Resolution within the first month of the new year! That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop trying new foods, though.

I chose to use the beets first because there aren’t many recipes in the Deceptively Delicious cookbook that I wanted to try that use beets. This recipe could optionally use pureed spinach, sweet potatoes, or broccoli.

Cut up chicken breastFirst up in this cooking adventure: cut up a chicken breast into chunks. This, too, is new to me (and almost earns an Adventures in Chopping designation!) I’ve never cut up a raw chicken breast before. I’m not much of a fan of handling raw meat. It makes me think of where it comes from, and being an animal lover, I’ve always had a bit of a hard time reconciling my love of animals with my enjoyment in eating meat. Ignorance is bliss, I suppose (though I do feel better about my meat choices since switching to eating organic meats. At least this chicken wasn’t a genetically modified FrankenChicken).

I got out my One Big Knife and sliced up the chicken breast. (The recipe calls for a pound of chicken breasts, but I only had 1 thawed, so I went with that).

Next, I mixed up the bread crumb mixture. Wow, it smelled delicious!

Bread crumb mixture

Then came the pureed beets mixed with egg. This would be the dip that would hold the bread crumbs on the chicken nuggets. Stealth Ninja Beets

Chicken Nuggets, beforeOne by one, I dipped the chicken pieces into the stealth ninja beet mixture, then coated each one with bread crumbs and it aside. When they were ready to go, I heated up the skillet.

I cooked the nuggets 3 minutes on one side and 4 minutes on the other. I may have needed to go a little longer over slightly lower heat, as my breading was starting to burn. They smelled great, though! Chicken nuggets, cooking

At long last, all of the chicken nuggets were cooked, and it was time to give these puppies a day in court.

Chicken nuggets, afterThe obvious thing here is, well, they’re red. I can just imagine a picky eater shunning these nuggets because they look weird. I’m guessing that the best bet, color-wise, would be to make these with pureed sweet potatoes instead, to get the closest match possible to the color of the chicken and breading. (Green nuggets from broccoli or spinach would look equally weird, I suspect).

However, this isn’t about looks so much as it is about taste – at least for me, as I’m getting pretty used to eating funny colored things that happen to taste good.

So, I sat down with my funny looking chicken nuggets and a cup of ranch dressing, and…

Chicken nuggets, ready for dipping

Nom nom nom!

They were mighty, mighty good! No sign of beets in the flavor. I could eat these chicken nuggets all day long! So, despite having eaten beets tonight, I still could not tell you what they taste like – and that’s A-OK with me!

In conclusion, the first Stealth Ninja Vegetable Experiment, Beets Edition, was a success.

What stealth ninja vegetable will I try next? *dun-dun-duuuuuuuun!* You’ll have to wait and see!

[recipe-show recipe=chicken-nuggets-with-stealth-ninja-beets]