Grains


I’ve been quiet recently because I’ve been preparing to give a talk to the Atlanta Perl Mongers. In the meantime, though,  I produced this graph as an example  of the charting software I’m going to talk about.

Worldwide quinoa production, from the Wikipedia article on quinoa.

Quinoa production is largely dominated by  two producers, Bolivia and Peru, with a third adding about 1% of  the commercial market. My understanding is that they’ve tried to grow it in the States in Colorado and Minnesota. Minnesota, lacking the co0l mountain climate of Colorado, grows large healthy plants that don’t seed.

Other sources note the production of commercial quantities in Colorado since the 1980s. For example, one American farm growing quinoa is White Mountain Farm, in Colorado. At the same time, prices have risen in Bolivia to the point the poor can no longer afford quinoa.

The first useful breakfast cereal I found post dietary changes was Cheerios. After that came Fiber One, which uses a little artificial sweetener to mask the addition of fiber in their product. After a while, too much Fiber One and you can feel as if you’re eating sawdust.

Nature’s Path has a good multibran cereal that I use sometimes. This new cereal is also pretty good. Not my find, my wife dug it out on a trip to Whole Foods.

Almost nothing out there can best Cheerios as a cereal for use by a diabetic. Almost nothing has fewer calories. Almost nothing has fewer sugars. And organic Cheerios wanna-bes simply lack the toasty flavor of the original. That said, Nature’s Path Organic Flax Plus Multigrain has a reasonably good taste, and is absent a ton of sugars in its 3/4 cup serving size.  I’m finding it at a number of stores in the Atlanta area.

Cafe Sunflower is a pretty vegetarian restaurant in the strip mall on the southwest corner of Hammond and Roswell Road, near one of the last intersections on Roswell before reaching the 285 loop from the north. We went there recently for lunch, a coworker and I, in part because I’m eating a lot of vegetarian foods for lunch, and in part as a change of pace.

It’s pretty inside. I wish I could say more, but all I remember are the nice tables and solid wooden chairs, the kind that just seem to fit. The staff seemed largely Asian and was quite efficient.  Service overall was good.

We had soft drinks. I had their stir fried vegetables with tofu, my partner had their special, a stuffed pepper, full of quinoa. Of the two dishes, the stuffed pepper was quite spectacular looking, a mountain of quinoa with a slight brown cast to it. I asked him what he thought of his dish, on a scale of 1 to 5, and he rated his a “5”. He had never had quinoa before, and he liked it a lot. I liked my dish, full of vegetables and lego sized chunks of tofu. I was confused by the rice, both short grain in size but chewy as brown rice is. Looking at the menu after the fact, it must have been a short grain brown rice. I’m more used to long grain brown rice.

Verdict: All in all, I liked it. I almost had their three bean chili, and someday I’m coming back to try that one. It looks good, and I assume any vegetarian or vegan, or just someone like me, can find what they want at Cafe Sunflower.

Cafe Sunflower
5975 Roswell Rd NE
Atlanta, GA 30328
(404) 256-1675

Cafe Sunflower/Sandy Springs on Urbanspoon

The DeKalb Farmer’s Market is the grand daddy of all the large markets in this city, and huge doesn’t begin to cover it.  It’s at the corner of Laredo and Ponce De Leon, and the entrance to De Kalb is one of the four ways you can go at that light.  The parking lot is about a block in size and as large as the lot is, it is equally as large inside. Once inside, there is a vast array of vegetables, about as ordered as any market could be, with the produce marked by country of origin, name, and with a drawing of the produce to boot.

The wines, two aisles of them, are separated by country of origin and type. In between the wine are stacks of beers, everything from Miller Light to Belgian ales. Grains and beans? Just to look at two examples, they had red, green, yellow, brown, and French green (a smaller variety) lentils, along with whole mung beans, and plenty of dals. Quinoa? Not only did they have the white and red varieties, but also wild black quinoa, not seen anywhere else that I’ve looked. Nuts and candied fruits are available in large quantities, neatly sealed in plastic bags.

They have good breads, and one thing I bought the day I was here was a sack full of whole wheat rolls. They were tasty and chewy once I got them home, just perfect. Just past the breads and vegetables is the fish section, which in my opinion is the very best part of this store. When my wife is after the freshest fish she can get, she comes here. She comes here because of the selection of live fish, and the ease with which this place can clean those fish. Perhaps something compares in this city, but I haven’t found it yet.

Meats are past the fish, and they serve a startling variety of product. Besides fine beef, you can get rabbit here, quail and cornish hens, duckling, goat from Australia, and lamb from Colorado. You can get bison, if you want it. A selection of fine cheeses is nearby, slices off large wheels, and the dairy section, also nearby, has items unavailable anywhere else.

Before I do nothing but sing praises to this place, I’ll note a few downsides. It is full of people and often cramped here, more so in the smaller aisles. There are shoppers who park in those narrow aisles with their flock of full grown kids for eternity it seems, blocking everything. If you take a cart inside, PUT SOMETHING IN IT IMMEDIATELY. If you do not, your cart will be taken. Though this is an international market, with international vegetables, it is not a particularly good Asian market, and Asian staples like Asian (often called “Korean”) yams just aren’t here. Go to Super H Mart for those kinds of goods. Meats tend to be pricey and if you want cheap meats, a market like Lilburn International Farmer’s Market is a better choice.

Still, there is nothing like it in the city, and it comes with the highest of recommendations.

From Snellville, perhaps the fastest way to this market would be to head down 78, then south on 285, and take the Ponce De Leon exit westward. An alternative path is to take 78 to Scott Boulevard, Scott down to Clairmont Ave. Head south, and take Clairmont until it ends at Ponce De Leon (hang a left when Clairmont ends). If you get forced left on Commerce, just keep going. It runs into Ponce De Leon as well.

Because of the kinds of jobs I do, I’m always looking for something that is cheap, filling, good, low sodium, low glycemic index, requires little refrigeration, and microwaves easily, to serve as a “good lunch”. And although I’m very happily omnivorous, I’m conscious of the kinds of themes that Michael Pollan touches on in the books, “Omnivore’s Dilemma” and “In Defense of Food“. I’m equally aware of the kinds of issues that Mark Bittman touches on in “Food Matters“,  in the article “Vegan Before Dinnertime“,  and in what I regard as his best article, “Putting Meat Back in Its Place.” And I believe this “more plants, less meat” trend is attracting attention not because it’s outrageous, but because it makes both sense and dollars and cents. In the case of the “good lunch”, interestingly, these disparate themes merge. Vegan dishes tend to have all the traits I’m looking for, and I can control the salt content if I cook it myself.

Kashi makes a number of prepared products, some of them good, others really good, but they also make a 7 grain cereal mix:

Kashi 7 grain pilaf.

Kashi 7 grain pilaf.

With 2 cups of water and a cereal packet from the box, you can make a nice hot cereal in about 25 minutes.

Uncooked kashi, with 2 cups of water

Uncooked kashi, with 2 cups of water

I was thinking I didn’t want just cereal, and it would be a shame to waste those nice grains. So I decided on a stir fry. To note, there are very few Kashi based stir fries in the blogosphere, and this one from the Plain Cook site is more complicated than I wanted.

Total time required: ca 40 minutes.

Ingredients:

1 package Kashi 7 grain pilaf.
2 cups water
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 carrots, sliced finely
2 stalks of celery, sliced thin
1 poblano pepper, sliced thin
1 red bell pepper, diced
some green onions
2 cloves of garlic, sliced thin.
ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons of olive oil.

So, we put the kashi in a pan once the water is boiling and simmer 25 minutes. In my case, it wasn’t quite done at 25, there was still some water, but I had started and ended the first 25 minutes with the pot covered. I’m much more likely to leave it uncovered after 10 minutes or so, if I do this again.

Prepare the vegetables as the kashi simmers and just before the kashi is ready, add olive oil to a pan and heat the pan on high. Once the pan is hot enough, add vegetables, and reduce the heat to medium.

Vegetables, ready to stir-fry.

Vegetables, ready to stir-fry.

Let the vegetables cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring, waiting for the onions to begin to turn translucent. At this point add the kashi and let it cook for about 3 minutes more. Afterwards, put the stir-fry into serving bowls and season to taste.

A kashi stir-fry. Season to taste.

A kashi stir-fry. Season to taste.

The recipe above serves about 3-4. In practice, kashi is a bit stickier in the pan than quinoa, so my suggestion is transfer it into microwave bowls (that portion you’re preserving for lunch) as soon as you can.

The vegetables I chose were simply those I had around. You can substitute as you wish (cubes of zucchini would be good here, and I’m personally fond of baby bok choy).

It can be scary what a bachelor (or in my case, a husband in a family with a working wife) can do if they master a few techniques. I don’t cook many different foods, but quinoa is very easy to prepare and tastes good even if it’s plain. Quinoa salads are one popular way to prepare foods with this pseudocereal, but I’ve been fond of a recipe.. no, more a way of cooking that the blogger Feed Yourself demonstrated and I like to use. Although Feed Yourself called it a pilaf, it’s really more of a stir-fry.  This time the point was to make something good tasting out of vegetables I had to cook or let spoil. Oh yes, and also leave enough behind to do lunch the next day.

Ingredients:

4 ounces quinoa (rinse if necessary)
carrots, several of the “bite” sized pieces, diced
celery (rescued pieces), equal to about 2 stalks
1/3 large red onion, diced.
4-5 mini bell peppers, halved, deveined and deseeded, and then thin sliced
2 cloves of garlic, thin sliced.
2 sprigs each, oregano and thyme.
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce (optional)
1 cup water
1 tablespoon olive oil.

Get a 2 quart saucepan and add quinoa and the cup of water (and some soy if you want), cover, heat until simmering,  ca 15 minutes, when the water is gone. Set the quinoa aside. Prep the veggies you need. To note, the combination of onion, carrots, and celery is common enough it has its own name. And in my case, the onion had sprouted, the celery had bad spots, the peppers were showing their age, and the oregano and thyme were almost dry (but smelled so good it was a shame not to use them). I cut the bad pieces out and threw them away.

Put one tablespoon of oil in the frying pan, let it heat on high (I like a drop of water in the pan, to tell me when the pan is hot enough to use. The drop will boil off and that’s your sign). Add vegetables, and turn the heat down to medium. Stir until the onions just begin to change color, about 5-7 minutes. Add quinoa, and the leaves of the spices. Stir for a minute or two, so the quinoa is nice and warm. Pour into a bowl, season to taste, and serve.

Two servings of a quinoa stir fry.

Two servings of a quinoa stir fry.

Notes: on the blog Pink Spots, there is a very nice looking pineapple cashew quinoa stir-fry. The blogger Au Naturel has a recipe she calls an Asian quinoa stir-fry. The blogger Fat Free Vegan has a nice recipe she calls vegetable fried quinoa. The blogger Adventurous Eater likes adding a bit of egg to her quinoa stir-fry.

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