Saturday, December 4, 2010

Life Beyond White Rice

Somewhere in the wee hours before last Friday's Novato Charter School Gardening Class it dawned on me that while we are always encouraging children to eat whole grains, going on and on about the higher nutritional value of whole grains...very few actually know what whole grains are.

My lesson plan for the day included a lot of prep work for beds we would use to grow a variety of whole grains in the new year.  I needed the students to help with the mulching and amending of these beds.  How much more interesting that work might become if the kids knew what the goal was.  So, we held a Whole Grains Tasting Feast.

This is a pretty healthy crowd.  I suspect their parents regualrly sneak barley into the soup or flax atop the cereal.  But when asked students if they could identify the grains, (pre and post cooking), they were stumped.  A few recognized millet from their bean and millet days in the NCS Kindergarden, but most didn't believe they had heard of the names of these grains

We tried the following:  millet, quinoa, flax, pearl barley and bulgar.  Qunioa wins, hands down!

Here's A Favorite Recipe -  found on a blog called The Friendly Veg (

Roasted Acorn Squash with Quinoa Stuffing

* 2 acorn squash, halved
* 2 tbsp. olive oil
* 2 cups vegetable broth
* 1 cup dried quinoa
* 1 bay leaf
* several small saffron strands
* 2 cloves garlic, minced
* 1/2 yellow onion, diced
* half a package of soy sausage, like Gimme Lean brand
* 1 bunch beet greens, chopped
* 1/2 cup walnuts, crushed
* 1 tsp. nutmeg
* 1 tsp. black pepper.
* pinch of salt
* pecorino romano cheese for sprinkling, if desired

The Hows:

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Scoop out seeds and stringy bits from acorn squash halves. If desired, rub the inside of the squash with just a little bit of olive oil and cinnamon. Cover a baking sheet with foil or  parchment paper, and roast squash cut-side down for 15 minutes. Remove from oven.

2) To make the quinoa: bring 2 cups of vegetable broth to a boil; add quinoa, bay leaf, and saffron to the broth and reduce heat to a simmer. Stir occasionally until broth is absorbed and quinoa is soft, between 10 and 15 minutes.

3) In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat; add onion and garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add veggie sausage to the pan, using a fork to crumble sausage as needed; cook for 5 minutes, or until sausage starts to brown. Add nutmeg, black pepper, salt, and chopped beet greens to the pan, and cook until greens begin to wilt. Bring heat to low, and stir in quinoa. Remove from heat.

4) Fill each half of roasted acorn squash with quinoa stuffing; sprinkle with grated cheese if desired. Bake stuffed squash for 15 minutes and allow squash ten five minutes to cool before serving.