Monday, March 16, 2015

Did you say crackpot?

One of the first recipes I tried from Good Food, Great Medicine was the homemade granola. It was love at first bite. The fact is that I have always loved cold breakfast cereal in the mornings. It takes weeks to go bad and I feel like a king when I stand in the grocery aisle in front of all those options. Then the day came when I discovered that even whole grain cereal might not be living up to the promises on the box. I was already avoiding the sugary cereals– your Cap n’ Crunches and Cookie Crisps– but surely the bland grown up versions were okay? Unfortunately I learned that, even without added sweetening, these commercial ready-to-eat breakfast cereals are so highly processed that they behave more like sugar in your body and are anything but natural (p. 97 GFGM 3rd edition). The more I thought about it though, the more it made sense – how often do you come across a honey oat cluster bush or a peanut puff tree? So I made the painful break from my beloved breakfast.

Here is a fresh batch of homemade granola (p.131). It is cooked low and slow
 to preserve the healthy oils in the nuts and seeds. It also has just a little bit
of honey and cinnamon for sweetening. These are all whole food ingredients,
but moderation is always good to keep in mind. If left to one's own devices,
 this granola would disappear faster than you could say Abracadabra!
It was difficult at first, and I still wanted something to satisfy my cravings for cold milk and crunchy cereal. That was when I found my new love, homemade granola. I was surprised by how easily I could throw together the ingredients and leave them in the oven for a couple of hours without fuss. I like to add all sorts of roughly chopped nuts and seeds to my version. My nut chopper speeds up this process and spares my hands from my somewhat overzealous chopping. I find the granola to be especially scrumptious with plain full-fat yogurt, fruit such as a banana or berries, some cinnamon, and a drizzle of honey to curb the tartness of the plain yogurt. It is also good when served with whole or 2% milk, or kefir (p. 143).

My morning yogurt parfait. 
I will admit that a hot breakfast filled with protein and good fat sticks by me a bit better than the granola. For example, I like ground beef with vegetables from the night before or a piece of fresh fruit. Sometimes I break the beef up while it sautes in a pan, or I form it into a hamburger patty (for breakfast!) with a slice of cheddar cheese on top. If I don't feel like beef, some fresh ground sausage (p. 49), lamb, or black beans (p.22) are tasty alternatives. Or I might cook a couple of whole eggs, fried, scrambled, etc., with a little cheese, some sauteed vegetables, and/ or a piece of fresh fruit. Frittatas are another egg option, and they can be cooked the night before and reheated for a savory hot breakfast the next day (pp.133-134). I usually cut the frittata into portions and eat a piece each morning.

This is my version of the Spinach Frittata (p. 134) with eggs, sausage,
feta, and a whole lot of vegetables. I replaced the spinach with a red pepper and
bunch of asparagus. Nothing against spinach, but it seems to go straight to my forearms.
One of the most simple whole grain breakfasts is the crock pot cereal (p. 128), with a handful of chopped nuts, milk, and a bit of honey. Nicknamed Dr. Hassell’s "Crack Pot Cereal", it is a mixture of intact whole grains (half oat groats and half whole rye or barley) cooked overnight in a crock pot. I find these grains in the bulk sections of local grocery stores. I also occasionally cook up some steel-cut oatmeal (p. 129) and use the leftovers to make the Nutty Oatmeal Custard on the same page. This smells irresistible when its cooking, and waiting the ten minutes it takes to set outside the oven feels like an eternity. Another way I start my mornings with whole grains is to toast one or two slices of Breadzilla and top them with nut butter and jam or butter with honey. (To make your own nut butter, see page 149 in GFGM).

Nutty Oatmeal Custard (p. 129). I made this for a brunch with friends
and it was eaten in no time.
Breadzilla (p.252) toasted with peanut butter (p. 149) and blackberry jam.
Now all I need is a glass of whole milk to wash it down.
If I find myself hankering for a leisurely weekend breakfast that is on the sweeter side, I turn to waffles with toppings galore.  
Here is my waffle using the oatmeal pancake recipe on page 130.

Buon Appetito!


Miles’ Postscript: Malea raises a couple of important issues. The first is that commercially prepared ready-to-eat cereals, even the whole grain ones, have been processed to such a degree that the starches are metabolized very quickly and act more like sugar than grain (GFGM p. 46). Plus there is usually added sugar and starch, especially in commercial granola. The second issue involves the rumor that grains are harmful to health, based on opinions presented in some current books. The hard evidence shows the opposite: true whole grains are associated with better health overall, lower death rates, and less heart disease, stroke, infections, obesity, and diabetes (GFGM p. 23). The best whole grains are the absolutely unprocessed grains, like the Crack Pot Cereal that Malea mentioned. We should mention, however, that it is wise to limit even whole grains if you are struggling to meet your weight loss goals (p. 76). Focus first and foremost on filling up on vegetables, protein, and good fats. 

Worried about the fat in whole milk yogurt? Don’t be. Dairy foods, such as plain unsweetened yogurt, kefir, and aged cheeses, are also associated with better health outcomes, and dairy fat has a unique nutritional profile that we talk about on page 31. So eat well, with lots of variety, mostly at home, and not too much!