Insights by Goldie: Let us help you set your natural foods table in 2005

by Goldie Caughlan

This article was originally published in February 2005

Are the mid-winter blahs dampening your enthusiasm for food shopping and preparation? Need some re-inspiration?

Then consider attending one of our free PCC Natural Foods Kitchen classes. These fast-paced, information-packed, 90-minute sessions are dynamic walk, talk and taste events, taught right in the aisles of your neighborhood PCC, usually every month.

Our goal in these classes remains as it has been during the past two decades: to share our enthusiasm and appreciation for delicious and healthful whole, natural and organic foods. The class focus is on minimally processed and mostly organic ingredients with timesaving tips for shopping, storage, cooking and meal planning. Sample recipes help put most meals on the table in less than 30 minutes.

You’ll be offered samples of several tasty foods, intended to whet your appetite and further interest. Pre-registration for these classes is strongly advised since class size is limited to facilitate easy movement as a group within the store and to better address questions. See the class description on the last page of the current PCC Cooks program schedule, available in all PCC stores or online at PCC Cooks, Natural Foods Kitchen. Or call 206-545-7112 for information and to register.

Natural Foods Kitchen basics: Grains and beans

We usually start class in the bulk foods section, since whole-grains and beans are indispensable in a well-stocked natural kitchen. Several can be prepared within 30 minutes.

Whole grains, especially fast-cooking varieties

QUINOA (say keen’-wa) — Add 1 cup rinsed grain to 2 cups water, chicken or veggie broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Delicious hot or cold. (My favorite!)

BULGUR WHEAT — This is whole-wheat, cracked, cooked and dried. Soak 30 minutes, drain (no need to cook) and use cold in salad. Or, prepare like quinoa, but cook for 10 to 15 minutes. Buckwheat groats, toasted or raw — Prepare like quinoa, but cook for 10 to 15 minutes.

MILLET — Rich in unsaturated fatty acids with a slight nutty flavor and reputed to be more alkaline than other grains. Can be prepared and cooked like quinoa, cooking for 20 to 25 minutes. For a softer texture, use three parts liquid to one part grain.

WHOLE-WHEAT COUSCOUS — A nearly instant, whole grain pasta. Best not cooked. Just add 1 cup boiling water, veggie or chicken broth to 1 cup dry couscous. Cover, let stand and fluff with fork after 5 to 8 minutes.

BROWN (UNREFINED) RICE — Prepare like quinoa, but cook for 45 to 50 minutes. Plan ahead, cook extra and refrigerate for up to five days, or freeze up to a month.

Beans and other legumes

RED LENTILS — Digestible yet still hold their shape for use in salads after boiling just 10 minutes. For soup, cook an additional 15 to 20 minutes.

GREEN OR BROWN LENTILS — Digestible after boiling 18 to 20 minutes for use in salads. For soup, boil an additional 20 minutes.

SPLIT YELLOW, GREEN PEAS AND OTHER BEANS — Pre-soak for a few hours, drain and cook in fresh liquid until very tender for better digestibility.

PRESSURE-COOKED LARGER BEANS — Can generally be cooked tender, even without soaking, within 40 to 45 minutes. Soaked beans can pressure-cook in 30 minutes or less. Cooked beans can be refrigerated for up to five days, or frozen for a month. Hint: freeze any soup or cooked beans in ice cube trays until firm, then store cubes in freezer bags for instant additions to soups and other dishes.

CANNED BEANS — More expensive than home-cooked, but an excellent value nutritionally. Always keep a few canned beans at the ready for fast meals.

Natural Foods Kitchen 30-minute menu

Egyptian lentil soup
Cooked quinoa, brown rice or other grain
Carrot sticks (serve raw or add to soup for 3 to 5 minutes cooking)
Steamed kale or collards (try with vinegar and oil dressing)

Egyptian Lentil Soup

Makes 5 cups

1/2 onion, minced

1 or 2 garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 cups red lentils (no soaking required)

4 1/2 cups water, or broth (or substitute 1 small can diced Muir Glen fire-roasted tomatoes in place of 1 cup water)

1 teaspoon cumin powder

2 teaspoons Garam Masala powder

1/2 teaspoon or more curry powder (to taste)

salt to taste (after cooking)

3 to 4 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro, leaves and stems (optional)

Place all ingredients except salt in pot, bring to a boil, reduce to medium heat, cover and cook for approximately 20 to 25 minutes. Salt to taste. Add cilantro. Meanwhile, prepare quinoa as soon as soup starts cooking. Then prepare greens, while both pots are cooking.

If you’re using organic carrots, scrub (don’t peel) trim and slice on the diagonal, stack and cut into thin, matchstick-sized strips. Serve as raw crunchies or add to cooking soup for the final 2 to 5 minutes.

Wash one bunch of kale or collards (or a mix of both). Discard yellow leaves or tough stem ends. Cut stems in one-inch pieces up to the leaf and place in large steamer. Add leaves, cut in two-inch pieces. Steam for about 8 minutes or until just tender. (Try to avoid letting color change from bright green to drab. This best retains nutrients, flavor and color appeal.) If desired, toss with light splashes of balsamic or apple cider vinegar and a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Serve warm or cold.

Serve soup with grain and greens on the side, or as a lentil sauce over the grain. Either way, try some crumbled feta cheese or a dollop of yogurt atop the soup or sauce. Yum!

Also in this issue

Letters to the editor, February 2005

Grocery bags; Local food and food security; Squash, gift ideas, Newsbites; and more