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HFR’s GBG: Composing The Perfect Vegetarian Meal

April 12, 2012

Composing a Meal: The GBG Combo

Grains: Growing up my knowledge of whole grains was limited to rice, barley and oats. Today grains of all sorts of heirloom varieties have become quite the trend. Grains are the oldest cultivated crop in the world. They provide protein, fiber and vitamins. A whole grain is comprised of: bran (outer layer), germ (what sprouts, where the flavor, oil and nutrients are) and endosperm (protein/ gluten). Due to their generous oil content, grains are highly perishable. Removal of the germ or endosperm extends shelf life, but also depletes the nutritional value of the grain. Hence, it can be argued that your typical boxed cereal has about as much nutritional value as the box it comes in. Now not all grains are for everyone. There are millions of people who avoid eating gluten (the protein in wheat and related grains) because their bodies have a difficult time digesting it and as a result makes them feel terrible. Rest assure though, there are plenty of other gluten-free grains to choose from.

Wheat (Farro, Kamut, Rye, Spelt) and Barley

Amaranth – tiny, Poppy Seed like grains, contain substantially more protein than other cereals
Buckwheat/ Kasha – Triangular kernels high in lysine, calcium and protein. Has a distinct nutty flavor. A relative of rhubarb and sorrel.
Corn (pop corn, maize, hominy)
Millet – very small round seeds, high in protein, somewhat corn-like (also used in bird seed)
Quinoa – small spherical grain (yellow, red and black varieties)
Brown Rice – Highest vitamin B, but it lower in protein
Teff – teeny tiny, high in protein and vitamin B
Triticale – a modern artificial cross between wheat and rye, mostly used in animal feed
Wild Rice – aquatic grass, nutty flavor

COOKING GRAINS: 1 cup grain to 1 ¾ cups water, plus a pinch of salt. This works for all types of brown rice, quinoa and millet. For heartier grains like farro and wild rice, soak overnight and cook them as you would pasta: with more salt and water that you will strain when the grains are done and begin to split. Soaking grains over night, prior to cooking them, makes them easier for your body to digest and cuts the requires half the cooking time.

GBG: Grains, combined with beans, create a complete protein. Ever wonder why you always see rice paired with beans? This is why a grain, plus a bean and a green (vegetable), paired with your favorite dressing, or a simple drizzle of olive oil, makes a great meal. This triple threat combination is easy to make, incredibly healthy and tastes great. Meals don’t have to be elaborate. In fact the simpler, the easier they are for your body to digest and absorb. My favorite meals are those composed of a combination of salads: a grain, a bean and a green or other vegetable. Even if I just steam each item, adding a sprinkle of herbs, fruit, nuts, seeds and or oil adds great flavor, texture and added nutrients.

BEANS: It’s time to get over your preconceived notions about dried beans and incorporate them into your diet! They are not boring and they don’t (when cooked properly) make you fart. They ARE however, loaded with protein, soluble fiber, B-vitamins, calcium, iron and micronutrients, which makes them a fabulous substitution for animal protein. Eating beans helps clean out our arteries and intestines. Beans help combat fatty deposits and whisk away toxins from the blood. Beans have very little fat, so they last for long periods of time in your cupboard.

A note on beans: dried beans need to be soaked. Although this may initially seem labor intensive, it’s totally worth it. Soaking beans for 8 hours (I like to put them in water before I go to bed and let them soak overnight), makes their nutrients more accessible, lessens cooking time by half, and eliminates the chance of giving you gas. A pre-soaked bean has already expanded and therefore won’t do so inside your tummy. One cup of dried beans will expand to two cups when soaked and then again when they are cooked. If all of this seems like too much effort, buy organic beans in a can. Labels such as Eden Organic have PBA-free lined cans and cooks the beans in nothing more than water, with the healthy addition of mineral rich Kombu seaweed. Lentils in all varieties and Mung beans do not require soaking before cooking. Lastly, in addition to their incredible nutritional value, beans are cheap!

Soak 1 cup beans in 3 cups water overnight (you will be amazed by how much they expand in an eight-hour period!).
Drain and rinse.
Add soaked beans, plus 3 cups cold water plus 1 teaspoon salt to large pot on stove.
Bring to a boil, cover and cook for 30-45 minutes.
Strain, enjoy.

GBG COMBO FAVORITES: Try some of these combinations for your next lunch or dinner!
Broccoli, Adzuki Beans, Short Grain Brown Rice, Ginger-Miso Dressing
Kale, Black Beans, Millet, Cumin-Lime Dressing
Broccoli Raab, White Beans, Farro, Tomato Sauce
Haricot Vert, Chickpeas, Quinoa, Lemon-Tahini Dressing
Spinach, Split Peas, Short Grain Brown Rice, Coconut-Curry Dressing
Escarole, Mung Beans, Quinoa, Meyer-Lemon Dressing

Don’t feel limited by the word green, as long as you have one green vegetable; add as many others as you like of different colors and textures. Fresh herbs, nuts and seeds also make great add-ons.

GBG+ COMBO FAVORITES: Same favorites as above, taken to the next level…
Broccoli, Adzuki Beans, Short Grain Brown Rice, Ginger-Miso Dressing + Kobocha Squash, Sesame Seeds
Kale, Black Beans, Millet, Cumin-Lime Dressing + Sweet Potato, Pepitas, Cilantro
Broccoli Raab, White Beans, Farro, Tomato Sauce + Olives, Basil, Oregano
Haricot Vert, Chickpeas, Quinoa, Lemon-Tahini Dressing + Fennel, Fresh Parsley
Spinach, Split Peas, Short Grain Brown Rice, Coconut-Curry Dressing + Cauliflower, Cashews
Escarole, Mung Beans, Quinoa, Meyer-Lemon Dressing + Toasted Almonds, Fresh Dill

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