How to make healthy choices every day

Pumpkin Pie Amaranth Porridge

Few things make you appreciate food more than being personally connected to it. I first tried harvesting amaranth in California, and quickly understood why it is such a precious (and costly) little seed. The grains are so incredibly tiny, and need to be fully separated from the husk, which takes, oh, forever. The patience and attention to detail required to collect a measly few tablespoons took the better part of an afternoon, no exaggeration. However, the divine pleasure of actually consuming the cooked amaranth was unparalleled. Consequently, I don’t absent-mindedly wolf down amaranth, or quinoa, rice, buckwheat, millet – any other grain for that matter. The little seed truly humbled me and for that I am grateful. Sometimes we need a visceral reminder of the abundance we experience on a daily basis, especially when it comes to what we eat.

What is Amaranth?

Amaranth, like quinoa, is often lumped into the “grains” category, but it is in fact the seed of a cereal-like herb. The Aztecs greatly valued amaranth, and used it not only as a dietary staple, but also in their worship rituals. They must have recognized the extremely concentrated nutrition in this special, gluten-free seed, which in recent years has experienced a resurgence in popularity.

Amaranth can be used to fulfill protein and calcium requirements, and is especially helpful for those with consistently elevated needs such as nursing or pregnant women, infants, children, and those who do physically demanding work. For the same reason, it is also a very good food for those transitioning to a vegetarian diet.

Amaranth has an extremely high protein complex, with unusually concentrated amounts of lysine, an amino acid rarely found in plants. A combination of amaranth and other low-lysine grain, such as wheat, creates a very high amino acid profile, even higher than those found in meats and other animal products. [1]

Are you still drinking dairy milk for calcium? Amaranth has got you beat; it contains more calcium, and the supporting calcium cofactors (magnesium and silicon) than milk. The calcium found in amaranth is therefore highly absorbable and easily utilized by the body. [1]

Amaranth is available at most health food stores and natural/gourmet grocery shops. Yes, it is a little expensive, but keep in mind how concentrated the nutrition is – in my opinion, it’s worth every penny.

How to use Amaranth

Amaranth is delicious when combined with other grains such as millet and quinoa to make a light and fluffy pilaf. Try it in taboule as a replacement for cous cous. Stir it into soups or stews for a protein boost. You may have even seen amaranth sold in puffed form, as a cereal or granola ingredient, but this is very easy to make yourself at home. Simply heat a skillet on the stove, add a couple tablespoons of uncooked amaranth, place a lid on top and swirl the pan until the seeds pop. You can combine puffed amaranth with nut butter and honey to make a delicious and simple energy bar.

Dessert for Breakfast

The idea for this delectable porridge came from the desire to shake up my own amaranth routine. I used to love making it for breakfast, but I’ve lost interest recycling the same old flavours and toppings. Since my Banana Bread Pancakes were such a hit, I got to thinking about “dessert for breakfast”, and Pumpkin Pie Amaranth Porridge was born.
I also thought about how the flavours of pumpkin pie would work well with amaranth for most peoples’ first experience, as it has a distinct flavour and takes some getting used to. The sweet, creamy, and luscious qualities of the pureed pumpkin and coconut milk will conceal everything but the amazing texture of the seeds themselves, which pop and crunch in your mouth. Consider this porridge the “gateway” dish to amaranth love – and a very sneaky way to eat vegetables for breakfast!

If you cannot find amaranth, try using quinoa instead.

A Note on Soaking

All grains (rice, wheat, barley, quinoa, millet, amaranth…) are most nutritious and digestible if soaked prior to cooking. When we purchase grains in the store, they are in a sense, dormant (i.e. not growing), and therefore have all of their nutrients “locked up” waiting to be released when it is time to germinate. If we take the time to soak our grains in pure water 8-12 hours before cooking them, we not only release that dormant energy, but also the grains’ inherent nutrients and greatly increase their digestibility.

It is not imperative that you soak grains, but to receive the highest amount of nutrition and experience optimal digestion, I highly recommend it. I know it is not always the easiest thing to remember to carry out these steps so far in advance during our busy days, but try to make it a habit and part of a new, healthy routine.

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I also have some exciting news to share with you all. I am now teaching cooking classes here in Copenhagen, starting with an Ayurvedic Cooking class for yogis and those that would like to learn to prepare traditional and medicinal Indian-style food for a sattvic life. If you are living in Copenhagen, or traveling in the area, please feel free to contact me for more information.

Peace and Porridge,
Sarah B

Source: [1] Pitchford, Paul. Healing with Whole Foods. Berkeley, California: North Atlantic Books, 2003.

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