Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Freekeh-Foods product review and giveaway

background img src freekeh-foods.com
Disclosure: I received 2 packets of freekeh to review from Freekeh-Foods and Fit Approach.  The opinions in this post are honest and my own.

Every weekend, I cook a collection of vegetables and a big pot of whole grains for use in weekday meals. Brown rice and quinoa are regulars, and last week, a new grain was added to my rotation - freekeh (pronounced free kuh).

While new to me, freekeh, (also called farik), is far from new. It is an ancient grain with Middle Eastern roots. Some say it was an accidental creation, made over 2,000 years ago when a young wheat field was set on fire. They rubbed off the burned chaff and found something quite delicious.

Today, freekeh producers harvest the heads of immature wheat and carefully burn it.  This toasting stops the enzymatic process (the process by which the simple sugars of the grain are converted to starch).  The toasting also imparts a smoky flavor.  The charred heads are threshed to separate the grain and chaff.  The grain is then dried and cracked.

NJ Image cracked freekeh
freekeh - cracked green wheat

 Freekeh-Foods sent me two packets of organic freekeh to try; original (or plain) and Rosemary Sage. Btw - they also make a Tamari flavor - sounds delish.

NJ Image Freekeh packets

Wanting to taste the essence of the grain, I tried the original first. It cooks similar to rice with a 2.5:1 ratio (2 1/2 cups of water to 1 cup of cracked freekeh). Simply mix the two in a saucepan, bring the mixture to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 25-30 minutes.

NJ Image cooking freekeh

Then fluff.
The texture is more dense and chewy than rice.

NJ Image Brown Rice and Freekeh
brown rice on left - freekeh on right
It is also more flavorful.  Freekeh has a slightly sweet, slightly smoky flavor that is lovely. I appreciate that the grain is not so bland, I can eat it plain (and I did). At the same time, the flavor is not too overpowering, it works well in many different types of dishes.  Before getting to the good freekeh eats I enjoyed last week, note the nutrition.  It spanks rice and quinoa.

NJ Freekeh Nutrition Image

Now for the eats. The toasty flavor paired beautifully as a side with grilled veggies.

NJ image freekeh with grilled vegetables

It was also scrumptious as the base in a naked burrito bowl.

NJ image freekeh burrito bowl

That was so good, I had made it again later that week.

I also enjoyed it with a vegetable stir fry. 

NJ image vegetable stir fry with freekeh

 (The picture doesn't do this use justice - the freekeh was better than fried rice.  With some hot chili sesame oil and Braggs liquid aminos in the stirfry... this was one of the most flavorful meals I've had in a minute.)

Here are some other freekeh recipe ideas from the Freekeh-Foods website:

Image Freekeh as a Breakfast Cereal

Image Freekeh in Chili

Image Freekeh in Paella

I thoroughly dig this healthy grain and prefer it over quinoa. The family enjoyed it as well.  My husband commented on how flavorful it is and our 10-year old gave it a thumbs up.  

Want to give it a try?  Freekeh is available in many health food stores. The following chains also carry the Freekeh-Foods brand.

Freekeh can be ordered online at the freekeh-foods website (6 packets per case) or pick up single packets on amazon.

Want to give freekeh a try?  Click the giveaway link below for a chance to win a free bag.  All entries will be verified. Winner will be announced September 6th.


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A Better Baked Potato

Happy National Potato Day!
Yep - such a thing exists.

When I think about it, this is not much of a surprise.  Some say the potato is American's favorite vegetable, with an estimated 456 billion pounds consumed in this nation each year.

Fried, chipped, hashed, smashed or mashed - I enjoy them all from time to time.  But by far, my favorite potato preparations are in a soup (paired with leeks or broccoli) or baked.   A fluffy, baked potato is hard to beat.  It is filling, and the subtle flavor of the potato goes where ever you desire - just change up the toppings.

As much as I enjoy baked potatoes, I rarely made them at home.  It takes a long and mine were usually a bit dry and mealy. Out at restaurants, the texture was on point, but the potatoes are typically too large and too loaded with high fat, high sodium ingredients.  Ever had (or seen) a Jason's Deli baked potato?

A few simple changes have put baked potatoes back on a reasonable rotation in my eating.

Change 1: To beat the time and dry/mealy issue, I 'bake' them in my pressure cooker instead of the oven.

Scrub the potatoes clean, poke a few holes with a fork and place on a steaming rack in pressure cooker with about 1 cup of water.  Bring the cooker to pressure and cook for ~ 20 minutes.  Let the steam release naturally before opening. The outcome - a super fluffy potato in about 1/3 the time of the oven baked method.

NJ Baked Potato Toppings

Change 2:  A few topping swaps keep the potatoes in line with my plant-based eating focus.

Instead of butter and sour cream, I use avocado and a bit of salt.  It adds creaminess and a delicate flavor that in my opinion beats the boots off the dairy standards.  Plus, consider this nutrition element:

1 tbsp (14.2g) of  butter has 7 grams of saturated fat
~1 tbsp (14.6g) of  avocado has 0.3 grams of saturated fat

A good to you and good for you swap.

Next load it up with veggies.  In this case, I added sauteed baby bella mushrooms and sweet onion.

A good plate!

Other swaps:
Want salty? Instead of bacon, consider capers or olives.

Want cheesy? Instead of cheddar, consider Parmesan Reggiano, blue cheese or Swiss. These varieties have bold flavors, so a little goes a long way. To skip dairy, try nutritional yeast.

Want variety?  Top with hummus and marinated artichokes or black beans with salsa and guac. Herb and spice toppings are also the bomb.  Rosemary marries perfectly with potatoes; paprika or jerk seasoning give a delicious kick.  Basil with tomatoes, olive oil and a bit of garlic – also very yummy.

What are your favorite non-typical toppings?

Friday, August 14, 2015

An apple made my day

I regularly ask our kids for input on meals, and this is what our 6-year old wanted for lunch. 

Image of daughter's lunch bag

Sometimes she asks for a cookie or bag of chips and in it goes - we embrace moderation. More often than not, she wants a combo she calls a healthy lunchable.  I'm grateful to see her palate leans towards fruit and vegetables, and she likes a variety of foods on her plate.
The best part of this morning's lunch packing came when she grabbed an apple, asked for a note card, and wrote a message for her teacher. The child was beaming as she said "I hope Mrs. Parker will love the apple and it will give her energy!"  She was excited about giving.
I beamed as well. Baby Girl gets that food is fuel. Healthy foods taste good and food is a gift. Beyond the health and food messages, this act showed me she thinks of others and knows it is a blessing to be a blessing.
That apple made my day!
Our children are always looking, listening and learning.
When we look and listen, we can learn from them as well.