Tag Archives: currants

You say Quinoa, I say Millet

28 Apr

Quinoa has created quite the buzz over the past couple of years.  It’s commonly labeled with terms such as ‘Superfood,’ ‘High in Protein,’ ‘Gluten-Free,’ and the like.  Even the United Nations is in on the fad, declaring 2013 as the International Year of Quinoa.

Don’t get me wrong, I love quinoa and think it’s a great food. But I also believe there are ample pseudo-grains (quinoa is technically a seed) that deserve the same attention that quinoa has received in recent years.

My biggest qualm with the nutritional benefits bestowed upon quinoa is its reputation for being a protein powerhouse.  Yes, quinoa is a complete protein based on its amino acid profile, but the quantities of several amino acids obtained in a standard serving are minimal.  Furthermore, quinoa contains little to no more protein than other grains.  Quinoa should be chosen as a grain option, not as a protein replacement.  If you’re a vegetarian, include legumes or soy-based foods (e.g. tofu, tempeh, edamame) in combination with quinoa for a healthy, balanced meal.

A rarely discussed benefit is its lower carbohydrate content (and in turn, calorie content) compared to other grains, making it an ideal choice for diabetics or for those struggling with weight management.

The nutritional profile of quinoa compared to other grains (or pseudo-grains) can be seen in the below table.  It’s clear that quinoa is not a stellar source of protein after all…

Per ½ cup serving Protein (g) Carbohydrate (g) Calories (kcal)
Quinoa 3.2 16 88
Brown Rice 2.7 24 115
Millet 3.2 22 109
Spelt (a wheat species) 5.6 27 130
Barley 1.9 23 102

Source: Canadian Nutrient File

Finally, nutritional merits aside, news reports earlier this year documented the uglier side of the quinoa boom. What was once a staple food to farmers in Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador is now becoming unaffordable, forcing locals to turn to non-traditional foods.  Some consider this to be a tragedy, while food economists argue that commoditization of food can be a useful tool in helping poor areas improve their standard of living.  This is a debate that falls outside of my area of expertise but is certainly worth thinking about.

If you’re tired of quinoa, try this millet-based recipe for a change.  Millet is a cinch to prepare and has many of the nutritional perks of quinoa. The spices, chili pepper, and currants give this dish a punch of flavour and can brighten up an ordinary weeknight meal.

Curried Millet

Curried Millet
(from Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health)

See below for delicious variations on this basic recipe.

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds (optional)  *I couldn’t find these anywhere!
1/2 cup minced onions
3/4 cup millet
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 to 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes or cayenne
1-1/2 cups water or vegetable broth
1/4 cup currents
1/4 cup chopped cilantro or parsley (optional)

  1. In a saucepan on medium-high heat, warm the oil, then add the mustard seeds, if using, and cook until they begin to pop, about 2 minutes.  Add the onions right away so the mustard seeds won’t burn and cook for about 3 minutes.
  2. Add the millet and stir constantly until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the spices and salt and cook for a minute, stirring constantly.
  3. Pour in the water, cover, and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the liquid has been absorbed and the millet is tender, about 20 minutes.
  4. Stir in the current and the cilantro, if using, and fluff with a fork. Cover and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes.  Stir to fluff again. Serve hot, at room temperature, or chilled.

Variations (try as many as your heart desires!): Use scallions instead of onions. Use 1-1/2 tsp of your favourite curry powder in place of the spices. Replace the currents with chopped raisins, dried cranberries, or dried apricots. Use coconut milk in place of 1/2 cup of the water or broth.

Makes 4 servings. Per serving (3/4 cup): 192 kcal, 32 g CHO, 4 g fibre, 5 g fat (1 g saturated), 5 g protein, 183 mg sodium.

Cook 1 New Food a Week: Celeriac (and Apple Slaw)

15 Apr

It’s not January but I have a new resolution:  to cook 1 new vegetable (or grain, or other wholesome food) a week.  Lately I’ve been surprised by the number of foods that exist that I haven’t ever tasted or attempted to cook.  How can this be?!  I’m supposed to be a foodie!  More importantly, I’m beginning to realize that I need to know a LOT about food as a dietitian.  Exhibit A:  Last week I came across multiple unfamiliar items while reviewing a patient’s food records.  Sweetsop? Bodi? Eddoe?  Even if the name of the food sounds familiar, it’s tough to have a clue about its nutritional profile if you’ve never tasted or cooked it.

This week I started with a relatively basic vegetable… the humble celeriac, or celery root.  I’ve eaten celeriac at restaurants but never have I been so courageous to tackle this unfortunate looking root at home.  Celeriac is unique amongst root vegetables in that it has a relatively low starch content.  Gram for gram, celeriac has one-third the calories and carbohydrate content of potatoes.  As a result, mashed celeriac (or a mashed potato-celeriac combo) can lighten up a meal and make room for other foods… such as that slice of bread.

Celeriac aka Celery Root

Cooked celeriac has a mellow yet distinguishable flavour– like a milder version of raw celery stalks.  When eaten raw, I’ve read that celeriac is supposed to have a strong and pungent taste.  Interestingly, I felt quite the opposite in this Celeriac Apple Slaw.  The apples and currents provided a whack of sweetness which was balanced by tart lemon and earthy fresh basil.  A perfect spring slaw. And the perfect way to give celeriac a try.

A dismal photo of the Celeriac Apple Slaw (it tastes better than it looks!)


Celeriac Apple Slaw
(from Moosewood Restaurant: Cooking for Health)

1 lemon, zested and juiced
3 cups peeled and grated sweet, firm apples
2.5 cups peeled and grated celeriac
2 tbsp orange juice
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup currants or raisins (I only used 1/4 cup… half a cup seemed like a lot!)
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup minced red onions
1/4 tsp salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper

  1. In a large bowl, combine lemon zest and 3 tablespoons of lemon juice.  Add the grated apples and stir well– the lemon juice will prevent discolouration.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and toss well.  Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Makes 6 cups.  Per 1 cup serving: 96 kcal, 3 g fibre, 3 g fat, 163 mg sodium.

Colourful Moroccan Quinoa Salad

4 Mar

It’s official.  I’m the worst blogger ever.  Since January of this year I’ve been averaging one post per month.  Yikes!  Common excuses that keep me away from the computer include being too busy and the fact that I should use my time to do “real” work (or clean my apartment, or watch Top Chef).  In actuality, I’ve been in a bit of a rut for most of February.  It could be the weather, being in a rotation that I don’t love, or just the time of year.  Life is not overly busy and yet I don’t feel like doing ANYTHING.  Except for sitting on the couch after a day of work and watching TV.

Despite my lack of motivation, I’ve managed to do a fair bit of cooking and baking over the past couple of months.  I made this Moroccan-spiced quinoa salad a couple of weeks ago and it was an instant lift-me-up.  It’s colourful, bright in flavour, and full of wholesome ingredients.  A bowl of sunshine on an otherwise dreary day.

On a more positive note, it’s March and I already feel like my spirits are lifting.  Next weekend is one of my favourite times of the year.  Any guesses?  Drumroll please…

Next weekend we “spring forward” for Daylight Saving Time!  I may be the only person on the planet who gets excited about turning the clocks forward.  Yes, it’s a drag to lose an hour of sleep but I firmly believe that the joy of leaving work in daylight is worth a day or two of sleep deprivation.  Spring is just around the corner…

Moroccan Quinoa Salad


Moroccan and Rollin’ Quinoa Salad (from The Looneyspoons Collection)

1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
2 cups reduced-sodium vegetable broth
1/4 cup dried currants
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp honey
1/2 tsp salt (I omitted the salt)
1 cup canned no-salt-added chickpeas, drained and rinsed (I used an entire 19 oz can)
1/2 cup each finely chopped red bell pepper, grated carrot, and diced English cucumber
1/3 cup chopped green onions (I think I would use a little bit less next time)
2 tbsp olive oil (I used only 1 tbsp)
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tbsp minced fresh mint leaves (I omitted the mint)
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

  1. Combine quinoa, broth, currants, curry, cumin, coriander, honey, and salt (if using) in a medium pot.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes or until quinoa has absorbed all liquid.  Remove from heat.  Let stand covered for 10 minutes.  Fluff with a fork and leave uncovered to cool completely.
  2. Whisk together olive oil and lemon juice in a small bowl.  Set aside.
  3. When quinoa is cool, transfer to a large mixing bowl.  Stir in all remaining ingredients, including the olive oil and lemon juice mixture.  Mix well and refrigerate for at least an hour or two before serving.  Tastes even better the next day!

Makes 6 servings.  Per serving: 231 kcal, 7.4 g fat, 5.4 g fibre, 256 mg sodium