Feb
28
2014

Freekeh: Why This "Supergrain" Is Taking The World By Storm

Why I'm freaking out about Freekeh

Freekeh: Why This "Supergrain" Is Taking The World By Storm

Move over quinoa, because a new hot supergrain is about to take the spotlight in the nutrition and food world. Freekeh (pronounced "free-ka") is red hot right now, and for good reason. I had never heard of it until one of my fellow Yummy Mummies mentioned it. I then did some research and found out quickly that eating this ancient grain—touted for its many health benefits—is a nutritional trend worth following. 

The word "Freekeh" is derived from the Arabic word "al-freek" which means "what is rubbed," referring to how they rub the grain to rid it of its shell. Native to Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt, Freekeh is a type of durum wheat that is harvested young (when it is still "green") and when the grains are still moist, "milky" and soft. Small piles of these grains are dried in the sun and then set ablaze—yep, set on fire—so that the chaff and straw burn off. The fire is controlled carefully though, so that the precious seeds do not burn, but rather roast to perfection. The grains are then dried in the sun further, polished and cracked before they are sold. Because this type of wheat grain is harvested when it is so young, it boasts a plethora of health benefits that mature wheat and other common whole grains can't compete with. 

Unfortunately, Freekeh isn't widely available yet in Canada. But you can find it in a few major grocery stores down the ethnic or specialty food aisles, certain health food stores, as well as specialty Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food stores. I highly recommending doing some research in your city or town to find a stash of these healthy, delicious smoky-flavoured grains though—it's well worth the effort. Greenwheat Freekeh, an Australian company, is leading the industry when it comes to both research and development of modern processing technologies for Freekeh. In fact, this company is the first and only in the world to develop technology to harvest this soft young wheat grain. 

Here are just a few reasons why Freekeh has won me over from a nutritional standpoint:

  1. It contains 4 times the fibre of brown rice. Dietary fibre is beneficial for many reasons including digestive health, stabilizing blood sugars, weight management, fullness and satiety, and heart health. The type of fibre in Freekeh also appears to act as a "prebiotic" which means that it fuels healthy bacteria or "probitics" in the digestive tract.
  2. It provides more protein than most grains, which means that you will feel fuller and more satisfied for a longer period of time after eating it.
  3. Freekeh is considered to have a "low glycemic index," which means that it helps to control blood sugar levels and may play a role in weight management. 
  4. It is free of chemicals, GMOs, additives and preservatives
  5. Unlike other grains, Freekeh contains Lutein and Zeaxanthin, two antioxidants that are very important for eye health.
  6. Freekeh is a rich source of Calcium, Iron, Potassium, Magnesium and Zinc unlike other more well known grains such as rice.

 

Is it gluten-free?

Some claim that Freekeh is safe for those who need to avoid gluten (i.e., those who have Celiac Disease), but the truth is, Freekeh is NOT a gluten-free grain (it's a form of wheat after all). There may be something unique about the immaturity of the wheat grain and the way that the grains are roasted (the roasting may "denature" the gluten) that may rendor it safe for those who avoid gluten. But until there is more research done, it's best to play it safe and avoid it if you follow a gluten-free diet. 

How to prepare it on the stove top:

  • Combine 5 cups of cold water (or broth or a combination of the two) with 2 cups of Freekeh, 1 tsp salt and 1 tbsp olive oil (optional)
  • Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Cover with a tightly fitting lid, turn heat down and simmer for 10-15 minutes (cracked grain) and 40-45 minutes (whole grain)
  • Uncover and test one of the grains to make sure that it is tender and the liquid has been fully absorbed. 
  • Serve on its own as a side dish, with a stir-fry or let cool and use as the base of a salad. You can also add Freekeh to soups, casseroles, or as a comforting and filling breakfast with fruit and yogurt.  

And speaking of food fads, check out these hot nutrition and food trends for 2014.

And if you're thinking about trying Freekeh for breakfast, read here about why eating breakfast will make your life way better

 

Feb
28
2014

Zucchini Ribbon Salad With Sun Dried Tomatoes and Feta

In a salad slump? Try this simply but delicious recipe that is sure to become a family fave

Zucchini Ribbon Salad With Sun Dried Tomatoes and Feta

Most nights, I serve salad with dinner because I find that it's easy to toss organic greens into a bowl and top it with chopped veggies and a vinaigrette. I've been finding lately though that I'm getting sick of the same old salads.

In other words, I'm in a salad slump.

It's easy to get stuck in a "recipe rut," whether it's salads, main dishes or sides; rotating through the same three or four week after week. When you are a busy mom, it can sometimes seem daunting to experiment with new recipes because it's just easier to throw together an old stand-by dish that you know your family will like and eat. But adding a fresh new recipe to the mix can brighten up a meal, pleasantly surprise your family members and give you that culinary confidence boost that you need. 

March is Nutrition Month and this year, Dietitians Of Canada has chosen the theme "Simply Cook And Enjoy." I love this theme because I find that too often, people are turning to processed, ready-made foods or ordering food in because cooking seems too time consuming or difficult. The truth is, cooking healthy meals for your family doesn't have to mean creating pin-worthy, fancy and complicated dishes day in and day out. The messages that we're sharing as Dietitians will hopefully encourage Canadians to just get cooking. It's a simple way for the whole family to connect, eat better and enjoy. 

A great place to start is by making a new salad, which is what I did last month to get out of my salad slump. I have to admit, before I tasted this recipe, I had never really eaten zucchini raw or in a salad. I had always grilled it or added it to a stir-fries or roasted it along with root veggies at Christmas. My sister-in-law made this delicious zucchini salad while we were in Hawaii last month and I fell in love with it. I tried it again when we returned home and we now can't get enough of it. The zucchini is sliced with a carrot peeler lengthwise so it looks looks like beautiful green ribbons piled on top of eachother when you're done.

Enjoy!

Zucchini Ribbon Salad With Sun Dried Tomatoes And Feta

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

5-6 small-medium sized zucchinis
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes, slices thinly lengthwise
1/4-1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1/8 cup fresh mint, chopped (optional)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
1-2 garlic cloves, minced (depends on how garlicy you like it!)
salt and pepper to taste

Directions: 

 With a carrot (or potato) peeler, peel zuchini lengthwise while rotating zucchini until you reach the seedy middle part (stop there)

 Top peeled zucchini ribbons with sun dried tomato, feta, nuts

 Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper and drizzle over the salad right before serving. 

Recipe adapted from Chatelaine Magazine's "Zucchini Pasta Salad" 

If you'd like to try out a couple of my most popular, easy but yummy weeknight meals, check out my Thai Peanut Chicken Thighs Recipe and this Easy Stuffed Peppers Recipe

Feb
17
2014

15 Things You Should Never Say to Pregnant Women

If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all

15 Things You Should Never Say to Pregnant Women

Dear person who is about to talk to a pregnant woman, 

A friend of mine who is pregnant—and might I add, looks beautiful—has had the misfortune of being spoken to by complete morons who have no regard for her feelings and clearly don't understand (or choose to overlook) the fact that it requires some weight gain and body shape changes in order to grow a baby. And that this all happens at different rates and stages, depending on the woman. Being someone who has housed two humans myself (one of which was only 7 short months ago), I thought it appropriate to send out a reminder of how not to speak to a pregnant woman about her body. 

Don't Waste Your Money Buying These Five Baby Products

Please think about the fact that the woman you are about to talk to is growing a human being inside of her. A HUMAN BEING. Also, remember that this woman has feelings—no wait—her feelings are on steroids and her emotions are on a hormonal rollercoaster that doesn't stop until long after this human being that she is growing all by herself comes out in an intense and painful way.  

Please do not say the following: 

"You're so ____(insert "big," "humongous," "huge," "large")!" 

This is just plain rude. Who says this ever to anyone? 

"Are you having twins?!" 

Just don't even go there. Even if you truly think this person is having twins, they're likely not, so just don't. 

"Wow, you've really popped!"

No shit! There's a baby in there!

"Your baby is going to be huge!" 

Gotta love this little gem. I heard this many a time when I was pregnant with both of my babies. Do you have a magic ultrasound machine that you carry around with you at all times that can measure and weigh babies in utero? No? Then shut up. 

"How much weight have you gained?!"

Who do you think you are asking this question? It is none of your business no matter who you are!

"Looks like you're truly eating for two!"

Who says this? No really, who says this?!

"Oh really, you're only 4 months along?!" 

Translation for a pregnant woman: Wow, you are WAY too big to only be 4 months along, so just imagine how humongous you're going to become later in your pregnancy! Would you say that to this same person?! No, ok then zip it. 

"Oh, you're carrying all over (motions with hands over entire surface of own body)."

What does that even mean?! It sounds like what you're trying to say is that she has gained weight all over her body and she really should only be carrying a basketball of a baby out front. You've just squashed this woman's already vulnerable self-esteem. 

"Wow! You must be getting close!" 

But what if she's not close at all? What if she's only just entered her second trimester? 

"That baby growing inside you is so big!"

Really encouraging words to a woman who might be a bit nervous of labour. 

"I think your baby is coming early. Your dates must be wrong. You are way too big" 

Yep, this was actually said. 

"You are so much bigger than any other pregnant woman I have seen before"

Really? Are you kidding me? This is so insulting and mean. Who would say this?!

"Isn't it a little early to have a bump?"

Everybody starts showing at different stages of pregnancy, and this is dependent on many things. Why make this woman feel awful and as though it is wrong to be showing a little bump earlier than someone else? 

"How BIG is your husband?"

Translation: You are HUGE!

"It's amazing how much fat is already gathering on your hips"

This was said right after my friend made the announcement of her pregnancy. I kid you not. A nice "congratulations" would have sufficed I think. 

More Crazy Sh*t People Say To Pregnant Women

 

Here are some more appropriate things to say to someone who is pregnant:

You look great! 

You're glowing. 

How are you feeling? 

You look fantastic.

I bet you can't wait to meet your little sweetheart.

Or... just smile. 

Interested in learning about proper nutrition during pregnancy? Here's some great information on how to manage digestive issues during pregnancy and here's another one highlighting the six most important nutrients during pregnancy

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