A Gluten-Free Ancient Grain: Amaranth

6 years ago

In my last post, I talked about our recent discovery that my youngest son "A" has numerous food allergies. First I want to thank all of you who have reached out and shown your support and encouragement, as it has reminded me how important family and community are when one is faced with challenges.  Some of you have also shared some terrific suggestions (including introducing me to a whole world of gluten-free/special diet bloggers) for which I am grateful for. If there are any recipes, ingredients, or other information that you think might be helpful, I would love to hear from you.

One of the first challenges I faced was what to make for breakfast now that my son has to eat gluten-free. Oatmeal, or vegetarian refried beans with a poached egg, a piece of fruit and a glass of milk had been my little guy's go-to breakfast foods during the school week. Sometimes I would make banana or pumpkin muffins. But now that gluten, dairy, eggs, yeast and sugar are a problem, he can't have any of these foods. I've had to search for alternative breakfast foods. Even oatmeal, which says gluten-free on the package, apparently, can be troublesome for those with gluten allergies, as oats contain a relatively similar protein.

When my son first went gluten-free, breakfast was simply a corn tortilla spread with vegetarian refried red beans ("frijoles rojos volteados") that I found in the ethnic aisle at the grocery store.  High in fiber and protein, and low in saturated fat (cooked with vegetable oil versus the traditional lard), this was an easy, healthy breakfast alternative. However, after a week of eating the same thing every morning, "A" wanted something different (can you blame him!), and I needed a few more choices. Cold cereals have not worked because my son has never been a cold cereal eater, and he doesn't like the taste of nut/grain milks unless they're mixed into hot cereals or smoothies. I have also looked at non-dairy yogurts, but found the sugar content was high.

I wanted to make something nutritious and filling, something hot, creamy and comforting, like the bowl of oatmeal he used to enjoy, so I began exploring alternative gluten-free grains. "A" had tried quinoa as a hot breakfast cereal (it was "ok"), but he had never tried amaranth, buckwheat, millet, chia, teff, or sorghum. 

I had some amaranth in my cabinet and had been meaning to try making it, so this was the perfect time to give it a go. Amaranth is considered an ancient grain (although technically it's a seed), cultivated for over 8000 years in Central and South America. Amaranth seeds come from a leafy plant (which is also edible), and are the size of poppy seeds. Amaranth is one of the most nutritious "grains," containing more fiber and protein than most other grains, and is also high in calcium, magnesium and iron. One cup of cooked amaranth has 5 grams of dietary fiber and 9 grams of protein.

My first attempt at making Amaranth Porridge was in the crockpot. I thought it would be a great idea to have breakfast ready as soon as "A" woke up. It was a disaster. The top was dried and crusty the next morning. I have since found a crockpot recipe that calls for placing a towel over the top of the crockpot before putting the lid on...maybe this works? Anyway, I started over, this time cooking a pot of amaranth on the stovetop. Amaranth takes about 20-25 minutes to cook to a creamy consistency. With a little honey, cinnamon and coconut milk, amaranth tastes like cream of wheat. Thank goodness my little guy liked this! I've read that amaranth can also be used in baked goods and popped like popcorn, so that will be on my list of new things to try.

Creamy Amaranth Porridge

Most recipes I've seen call for a ratio of 3 cups of water to 1 cup of amaranth. I've found that 4 cups are needed to achieve the creamy consistency I was looking for. I used raw honey as a sweetener as it is unprocessed and contains anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal phytonutrients.  Add your favorite dried or fresh fruit, and some toasted nuts on top when serving. Stirring towards the end of the cooking time is especially important to ensure a creamy consistency. This can be made ahead of time and reheated with a little added water.

1 cup amaranth seeds
4 cups water
fresh or dried fruit of your choice
raw honey, ground cinnamon, and light coconut milk for serving

Combine amaranth seeds and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then lower heat to a simmer and cook, stirring, until creamy, about 20-25 minutes. Be sure to stir constantly the last five minutes of cooking (porridge will sputter). If porridge seems thick, add more water. Stir in fruit, raw honey, cinnamon and coconut milk before serving.

 

Enjoy!

Jeanette


 

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