If you follow my blog, you know that I work at a natural food co-operative. One of the defining features of most food co-ops is the bulk department, where you can buy as much or as little as you want of several different grains, legumes, nuts, granola, etc. Shopping in bulk can be a very economical way to stretch your food dollar, especially if you are willing to put in the extra labor to prepare your food from scratch. If you re-use your own containers, it can also be a way to cut down on the packaging that you bring home and eventually throw away.
As an employee, I have the advantage of knowing which items in the bulk department have the fastest turnover. This is important, since items in open bins can more easily become rancid. This is especially true for whole grains and nuts. I also have the advantage of being able to bring home some occasional mistakes. Breakfast today was one of those free mistakes. One of my busy co-workers must have accidentally put amaranth in one of the rice bins or rice in the amaranth bin. Whichever way it happened, the result was a lovely mixture of white rice and amaranth that ended up on our employee free shelf. Perhaps the strange mixture was intimidating to most people, who probably worried about different preparation methods and cooking times. As someone who mostly eats grains in the form of soaked breakfast porridge, this was definitely not a concern.
Overnight soaking is especially useful for breakfast porridge because it makes it cook faster. Of course, I first started soaking grains to reduce anti-nutrients that are naturally present in all grains. For amaranth, these anti-nutrients include phytic acid and also soapy-tasting saponins that give it a bitter flavor. The anti-nutrients help deter animals from eating the seeds and once eaten, inhibit digestion, allowing some seeds to pass through and get “planted” in nice piles of fertilizer. I’ve found that the overnight soaking creates a porridge that satisfies longer and reduces blood sugar swings. Of course, the large dollop of butter or coconut oil also helps with blood sugar. More and more people are avoiding or reducing grains for health reasons, but I still enjoy a good bowl of porridge, especially when the ingredients cost me almost nothing.
If you do choose to eat grains, amaranth is a good one to consider. It is often called a grain-like seed rather than a grain. The nutritional profile of amaranth is more impressive than most cereal grains. It is very high in non-gluten protein and calcium. It was the traditional grain of the ancient Aztecs and may have comprised up to 80% of their diet. Botanists call amaranth a photosynthetic super performer because it has an above-average efficiency in converting soil and sunlight into nutrition. It is also a very versatile food that can be used as a gluten-free flour, breakfast, soup thickener or side dish. If you want to try amaranth in a savory recipe, try this Tabouli Recipe from Eat the Weeds.
If your tastes are more of the plain oatmeal variety (or if you are trying to introduce a new food to your kids), try the popular suggestion of adding amaranth to other grains. This is exactly what my co-worker accidentally did for me, resulting in this tasty breakfast recipe.
Rice and Amaranth Breakfast Porridge
1 cup Amaranth
1 cup White Jasmine Rice
2 Tablespoons Whey or Lemon Juice
1 teaspoon Sea Salt
Rinse the Amaranth and Rice and place in a glass or stainless steel bowl. Cover with lukewarm filtered water by about one inch. Add 2 Tablespoons Whey or Lemon Juice and cover. Leave in a warm place over night. In the morning, rinse the grains with more filtered water until all foam is gone and the water runs clear. Place the drained grains in a saucepan with four generous cups of filtered water and 1 teaspoon sea salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally. Boil for about a minute, stirring. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently until all of the water is absorbed and the rice begins to turn mushy. The amaranth will retain some of its shape, but turn transparent. The stirring will turn the rice into a pudding-like mush, sort of like cream of rice. Serve the mixed porridge with plenty of butter and maple syrup to taste.