Miz Chef

Cooking Up a Healthy Life


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Warm Black-eyed Pea-Spinach Wheat Berry Salad

It’s been a kooky few months for me. I’ve been really busy cooking and photographing my food for volume two of my revised cookbook, now called Vegetarian Italian: Traditions. The Kindle version of volume one is currently on Amazon, and I’m waiting VegItalCover FINAL_Page_1for the print version to be available.

The thing is, all other cooking has been put on the back burner (no pun intended). I’ve even put off photographing dishes for my next cookbook, just to get volume two of Vegetarian Italian done.

Well, I’m almost there. I actually have one dish left to photograph, and this weekend, I found myself able to cook a little for the fun of it—something I haven’t done in a very long time.

I had some cooked wheatberries in the freezer, left over from a batch I had made a couple of months ago, as well as some black-eyed peas, and decided to use them.

A wheat berry is the entire wheat kernel (except for the hull)–meaning, it has its bran, germ, and endosperm intact. That makes them healthy whole grains. There are several varieties: winter and spring, hard and soft, red and white. Soft wheat is considered to have higher protein and, thus, less gluten. So, if you have wheat sensitivities (as opposed to Celiac disease) and want to use wheat berries, you’re better off using soft wheat. 

In the end, I wanted to do something simple but tasty, and this is what I came up with. I hope you like it.IMG_2509

Warm Black-eyed Pea-Spinach Wheat Berry Salad

2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced 3 cups cooked wheat berries
½ teaspoon paprika
6 plum tomatoes, chopped
2 cups cooked, chopped spinach
1 ½ cups cooked black-eyed peas
1 cup peas
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon walnut oil

Heat the oil in a wide pan; add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about one minute.

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Sprinkle in the paprika, then immediately add the tomatoes. Stir and sauté 2 or 3 minutes.

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Stir in the spinach, black-eyed peas, and peas and sauté another 3 minutes.

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Add the wheat berries and peas, mix and continue cooking until heated through. Season with salt and pepper; adjust to your taste.

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Transfer to a serving bowl; drizzle walnut oil over the top.

Makes 6 servings.IMG_2507


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September is Better Breakfast Month

How many times have you heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day? A million times since you were a kid, right?

I’ve never been much of a breakfast person. I can’t really eat first thing in the morning. My stomach just will not accept food when I first get up. It amazes me to know that some people roll out of bed, shuffle into their kitchens, and start eating. My routine is, I go to work, have a cup of coffee, and right around 10:30 or so, I’m ready to eat a little something. I know that’s not a great way to start my day, but it’s the best I can do.

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Multigrain Morning Porridge

What I do try to do, however, is to make it a good, energy-inducing breakfast: oatmeal with walnuts or pecans; yogurt with fruit and seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, chia, and flax); whole grain bread with some kind of nut butter. Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of green smoothies. The point is not only to curb hunger but to give your body and brain the proper fuel to do what it needs to do throughout the day. It appalls me to see people eating doughnuts, crullers, sugary muffins, and soda for breakfast. (I think muffins are good if they have nutritional components to them, like high-protein flours, nuts, and natural sugar alternatives.)

Breakfast porridges are a great choice and can be made with any grain you like, such as steel-cut oats, quinoa, millet, and barley. Below is my recipe for multi-grain porridge. I had the original recipe for this porridge in my collection for a while but never gave it a try. Not because it didn’t appeal to me (otherwise, I wouldn’t have clipped it), but because I so rarely make homemade porridge for breakfast. During the week, I never eat breakfast at home—I prepare whatever it is I’m going to have the night before and take it to work. On the weekends, I still don’t have time and usually just grab leftovers from the fridge. But whenever I can, I’ll make some kind of porridge. IMG_0151

I made some modifications to the recipe, based on what I had on hand and my personal preferences. The good thing is that this stays well in the fridge for a few days, so I can make a big batch and just reheat it.

Clockwise from upper right: Wheat berries, grits, amaranth, oats.

Mulitgrain Morning Porridge

Adapted from “Multigrain Breakfast Porridge” by
Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough, Cooking Light, Oct. 2007

½ cup wheat berries, rinsed
¾ teaspoon sea salt
1/3 cup steel-cut oats
3 tablespoons regular grits
¼ cup amaranth
¾ cup coconut or almond milk
¼ maple syrup
¼ cup dried blueberries or other dried fruit
½ cup chopped walnuts or other nuts

Bring 5 cups water to a boil. Add the wheat berries and salt; reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered until almost tender, 20 to 30 minutes.IMG_0153

Add the oats, grits, and amaranth and stir. Continue simmering until all grains are tender, about 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in coconut milk, maple syrup, and fruit and cook another 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in nuts. Serve hot.

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This porridge will keep for several days in the refrigerator. To reheat, stir in a little more coconut milk or water until it reaches the desired consistency. Heat over medium-low heat or in the microwave for 1 to 2 minutes.

Makes 4 servings.