Fall means canned pumpkin has resurfaced at grocery stores. I usually go for boxed to avoid the bpa lining commonly used in canned goods. While I can never seem to cook a pumpkin and then leave it uneaten long enough to puree, having a couple of boxes in the cabinet leads to creativity in the kitchen. Once half a box is being stored in the fridge, then I see its usefulness in everything. Porridge, yes please. Green smoothie, why not?
This meal is perfect for the cooling weather. In fact, the proportion of fresh, raw foods in my diet shifts with the seasons. In the winter, dinner salads are less frequent and often replaced with steamed or braised greens.
And sometimes if I’m sitting at home and want to feel cozy, lunch just begs to be a porridge like this one. (Update 10.25.14 – I recently included an amaranth porridge for a me-time Saturday lunch in the personalized plant-powered meal plan I designed for a client.) I still make sure to include veggies with it – perhaps some steamed broccoli would do the trick.
I’m about to get a little wordy about two ingredients in this porridge. No hard feelings if you scroll down & skip straight to the recipe!
The recipe could easily be made with oats, but I wanted to show an under-appreciated grain some love!
Amaranth is a small (pseudo)grain with a full distinctive flavor.
The reason I call amaranth a pseudo-grain is that it doesn’t actually belong to the grass family (Poaceae) like oats, barley, rye, wheat, etc. Though it is actually a seed from an entirely different part of the plant kingdom, it has a similar nutrient profile to grains so often gets lumped in with them.
But you’re probably not a botany nerd like me so what you really care about is that it’s packed with nutrition. The protein content is about 14% of calories – high for a grain – and it includes lysine, an amino acid often low in grains, bringing rise to the old protein-combining myth that said vegans had to include both legumes and grains at every meal to get the full amino acid profile. That has since been disproved, and we now know that it is over the entire day – not the meal – that we must intake all our essential amino acids.
If you are vegan or vegetarian, it’s a great grain to include in your diet because it boasts high levels of two minerals you might run low on: calcium and iron. It’s also a good source of magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. And, though you probably get 1000+% dv if you eat lots of fruit, it’s the only grain that has Vitamin C, helping with iron absorption. (source)
When you cook it up, it becomes really thick and gooey and turns into a porridge superstar. You can purchase it bulk online, but you can also find it readily in health foods stores. It is naturally gluten free. And like millet and quinoa, amaranth is said to be alkaline forming rather than acidic to the body.
If you’ve got a serious case of the brown rice boredom, mix it up with this grain.
What’s stevia and is it a whole food?
You’ll see that my recipe below uses stevia to sweeten it. Well this good question comes with a lame answer: it depends.
Stevia is an herb which grows like a weed (or so I’ve heard). It’s been around for a while, especially as a sweetener for diabetics because it has no effect on blood sugar. It’s also zero calorie and you only need to use a teeny-tiny amount.
Stevia is incredibly sweet – really, if you eat it fresh you will only be able to handle a couple leaves. The farm I used to purchase a regular CSA box from offered stevia a couple of times a year. I dried my own and ground it into a powder. It worked really well and didn’t have the bitter aftertaste often associated with this sweetener. However, though it is a weed and I challenge you to grow it, you’ll be lucky if you can find the fresh leaves or freshly dried powder for sale.
Liquid or powdered stevia is processed. The white color of the powder comes from bleaching. But, since I usually only add one or two drops and I don’t use it every day, it doesn’t bother me too much.
That being said, there is a lot of variety in flavor quality, and I’ve bought a lot of crappy tasting stuff until I found a good one. Save yourself some searching and wasted money and just order Stevia Botanica online. It’s what I use. Since it will last me over a year for one bottle, it’s worth shelling out fourteen bucks for a no-cal, natural sweetener.
Now get on your jammies and let’s make some porridge!
Spiced Pumpkin Amaranth
- 1/2 cup non-dairy milk (unsweetened)
- 1/2 cup dry amaranth
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 5 drops liquid stevia (or 2 chopped dates)
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger to taste
- 1 Tbsp ground flax seed
- Bring the milk and 1/2 cup water to boil.
- Add the amaranth and let simmer 15 minutes.
- Add the pumpkin and stir in the vanilla, stevia, and spices.
- Let cook for a few more minutes until all the liquid is absorbed and the mixture has a texture similar to porridge.
- Remove from heat and let cool a minute or so before mixing in the flax.
- Serve and enjoy curled up on the couch under your favorite blanket.
Now your turn. How does your diet change with the seasons? What is your favorite warming meal for fall days?
This recipe has been shared on Healthy Vegan Friday. Feature photo by Todd Moore.