Natural Foods Guides
Here’s a beginner’s guide to Asian noodles, which are easy to find these days. Ten years ago, soba, udon, bean-thread and rice stick noodles, among others, were rare finds. Now, many well-stocked supermarkets carry these authentic noodles. Here’s a brief lexicon of the most commonly used varieties. Shown above, Udon Noodle Soup with Crisp Vegetables. more→
Tempeh (pronounced tem-pay), a traditional Indonesian food, is made of cooked and fermented soybeans. Sold in cellophane-wrapped packages, it’s even higher in protein than tofu. Tempeh is also quite versatile, but has a more distinct flavor and a dense, chewy texture. Though somewhat of an acquired taste, once you do, you’ll be a fan for life. Pictured above, Tempeh Fries with Horseradish-Dill Mayonnaise.
What is kañiwa? Simply put, this relative of quinoa, is similarly a South American superfood grain making a splash in the North American market. Like quinoa, Kañiwa grows in Peru and Bolivia. It’s an excellent source of protein and amino acids, is exceptionally high in iron, and is gluten-free. Dark reddish-brown in color and about half the size of a tiny quinoa seed, it cooks up quickly to resemble a smaller version of red quinoa. Find out lots more information in Kañiwa: A “New” Ancient Superfood.
One major difference between the two is that kañiwa doesn’t have saponins, the coating that gives quinoa a soapy, slightly bitter flavor if not rinsed properly. A good thing, as I can’t imagine a sieve fine enough for its tiny size.
Quinoa brought to market has already been rinsed of much of its saponins, as otherwise it would be quite unpalatable (this procedure is done with a strong alkaline solution). But it’s always recommended that quinoa be rinsed well again at home to remove any remaining bitterness. Kañiwa is actually easier to process due to the absence of saponins.
It’s recommended to toast the grain on a dry skillet or saucepan first, then cover with water in twice its volume. Like quinoa, the water absorbs in 15 to 20 minutes. Truth be told, both times I used it so far I forgot to toast it, and it was just fine (it has a mild, nutty flavor similar to quinoa’s).
A few simple ways to use kañiwa
- Add 1/2 to 1 cup cooked kañiwa to pancake or waffle batter (depending on the size of the batch)
- Serve it as a sweet breakfast bowl with a maple syrup to taste, chopped nuts, and dried or fresh fruit. Finish with a dusting of cinnamon.
- A savory breakfast bowl is good too, with a little vegan butter and a sprinkling of nondairy cheese shreds. Sweet or savory, a it keeps you full for hours.
- Like many a nutritious grain, kañiwa works well in warm pilafs and room-temperature salads.
- Come fall holiday meals, like its slightly larger cousin, a pilaf makes a nourishing and attractive stuffing for squashes and peppers.
Nutritionally, kañiwa’s profile is remarkably similar to quinoa’s. It’s a good source of complete protein, and is a good source of a wide range of vitamins and minerals. One advantage it has over quinoa is that it’s an even better source of iron.
How to cook kañiwa
Kañiwa and quinoa can be used interchangeably, and are cooked in the same proportion to liquid (2 parts liquid to 1 part kañiwa; it cooks in 15 minutes, like quinoa, or just a bit quicker). To that end, please explore our article, How to Cook Quinoa — and Some Great Ways to Use It. You might also enjoy We Love Quinoa, a volume in our Best of VegKitchen affordable e-book series featuring the 30 most popular quinoa recipes on this site, along with many color photographs.
Kañiwa is available from online retailers, you can ask your natural foods retailer if they can order some for you.
For a recipes, see Kañiwa Confetti Salad (shown at top).
- For lots more features on healthy lifestyle, explore VegKitchen’s Healthy Vegan Kitchen page.
- Here are more of VegKitchen’s Natural Food Guides.
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I’ve long considered marinated baked tofu a great product and have wondered why it has taken so long to make its way onto supermarket shelves. Finally, it’s getting there! As always, it’s easy to find at any natural foods store, usually shelved alongside the tofu tub varieties.
If you’re unfamiliar with marinated baked tofu, it’s a firmer, chewier, flavored variety. It comes in cellophane-wrapped packages (usually 8 ounces), and is ready to eat as is or to combine with other ingredients in hot or cold dishes. Here are 5 simple ways to use this fantastic product. more→
When you open your pantry, do images of the rugged mountains of South America, the colorful tablelands of Africa and the fertile river valleys of the Middle East dance before your eyes? If not, you have yet to discover amaranth, quinoa, spelt, kamut and teff, the quintet of nutritional powerhouses known as the ancient grains. The legends behind their origins many millennia past, their loss over time and their ultimate modern revival literally tell the story of civilization. Another great ancient grain to discover (or rediscover) is einkorn. more→
Einkorn wheat, one of the latest of ancient grains to be revived for contemporary consumers, is actually the most primitive form of cultivated wheat. Like amaranth, quinoa, and spelt, and farro, einkorn is taking its place as a nutrition-packed superfood. It’s earth-friendly, too. The grain’s hull makes it resistant to pests, so it’s easy to grow organically. And for a specialty grain, it’s surprisingly economical, comparable to organic brown rice and often less costly than quinoa. For lots more on einkorn’s history, nutritional profile, and more, explore einkorn.com. more→
Grits, or hominy grits, are hulled, dried, and cracked corn kernels. To add variety to your grain repertoire, do try them! Please seek out stone-ground grits, which are much more flavorful than the stripped-down quick-cooking grits sold in supermarkets. They make a soft bed of (naturally gluten-free) grain for bean and vegetable dishes. or even as a pleasant side dish. Grits can also play a starring role in simple preparations, rather than just being used as a bed of grain. more→
Tofu has been such a plant-based staple for decades (not to mention the millennia in which it played a starring role in Asian cuisines) that it’s easy to forget that there are still plenty of newbies discovering it all the time. That alone merits this primer, though even for tofu aficionados, fresh inspiration is always welcome. more→
Are you looking for some healthy vegan milk alternatives that can please your taste buds at the same time? Well, the market is flooded with dozens of non-dairy milk beverages and quite a few of them are worth trying. Sounds interesting? Read on below to learn more: more→
Wondering how to cook quinoa to perfection? Quinoa is a delightfully versatile addition to a vegan diet. Quinoa is high in protein and fiber, and you can add it to salads, chilis or you can make a basic, easy side dish with quinoa. Or you can eat it for any meal as a healthy quinoa bowl. The best part is that quinoa is easy to cook, even easier than rice. Below are several methods on how to cook quinoa just right.
If you want to know how to cook quinoa as a basic side dish, it’s as easy as boiling pasta. You get a pot of water or veggie broth boiling, and then stir in your quinoa. You want one part of uncooked quinoa to two parts liquid. Then you simply simmer the quinoa on low heat until it’s done. This usually takes roughly fifteen minutes, but check the consistency of the quinoa. Just don’t open the pot too much as that can affect cooking times.
You’ll know it’s done when all the water is absorbed or it’s the level of softness you like. You can play with the texture by adding some water to make a more porridge consistency or you can use a little less water for a drier grain that separates. When you’re finished, you can also fluff and separate the grains a bit for some added presentation.
A cool little trick to get a more rich, toasted flavor is to brown your raw quinoa in a pan before you boil it. It gives quinoa even more of a nutty flavor. You’ll simply add oil to a pan over medium-low heat and then add your quinoa. Make sure there’s enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan and enough quinoa to evenly toast it in one layer. Toss it until it’s evenly browned.
Cooking quinoa in a rice cooker
Because quinoa is a grain that’s similar in texture to rice, you can also use a basic rice cooker to cook your quinoa. This is also easy, as it requires one part raw quinoa to two parts liquid (water or broth). Add both the liquid and the quinoa to the cooker. Then you simply turn on your rice cooker and let it cook. Usually it takes about thirty minutes with this method. Fluff it with your fork at the end.
The soaking method
There’s considerable debate out there as to whether you should soak your quinoa before using it. The theory, outlined at thenourishinggormet.com, states that soaking the quinoa before cooking is supposed to make it more easily digestible and get rid of anti-nutrients.
What the heck are anti-nutrients? These are synthetic or natural compounds that interfere with the absorption of nutrients from food. An example is phytic acid, which is common in grains and can bond with vital nutrients, making them harder for the body to absorb.
Soaking quinoa also makes the grains lighter in texture and easier on the stomach.
You do this by soaking quinoa in warm water in a warm place with an acid enzyme like raw apple cider vinegar. You use one part warm water to one part quinoa for soaking, and add a couple splashes of your raw apple cider vinegar. Let soak for 12-24 hours. Then strain and rinse the quinoa well before cooking.
Dragon fruit is probably one of the weirdest fruits you’ll come across at the store. From the outside it looks bright pink and green and irregular. When you cut into it, it looks like peppered ice cream. You may even be wondering how to eat dragon fruit.
But dragon fruit is a delicious addition to any vegan diet, as it’s high in vitamin C, good fatty acids, B vitamins, carotene and even packs in some protein. Meet your new favorite superfood. Here’s some background on the fruit and, of course, how to eat dragon fruit.
Dragon fruit comes from Central America and is also called the pitya. It’s also grown in Southeast Asian countries like Thailand and Vietnam. It grows off a cactus-like plant. It’s crunchy and has a mild sweet taste like a more muted kiwi. The little black seeds in the fruit are totally edible, again, like the kiwi.
For the basics of how to eat dragon fruit, you just cut into it, right down the middle. Then you scoop out the white fruit, which comes out very easily. It’s commonly served up in its own skin as a bowl, since the bright pink makes a great presentation. You can also quarter it and peel off the pink skin, since the skin will taste bitter. From there you can cube it, slice it or ball it. Then add it to your favorite fruit salads or just eat it by itself plain. Many people eat dragon fruit chilled, as that’s said to bring out the flavor better.
If you’re in the store looking for a dragon fruit, the fruit should feel slightly soft as you press your fingers into it. (Like a mango.) Just make sure it doesn’t feel mushy. The fruit itself should look bright pink, and make sure there are no dark spots or bruises.
Creative ways to eat dragon fruit
Once you’re familiar with the basic fruit itself, you may be wondering what else you can do with it. There are several great uses for dragon fruit. For instance, a popular use for dragon fruit is to add it to a tropical fruit salad. You merely cube the dragon fruit, along with pineapple, mango and banana.
A neat idea for parties is to make a tropical fruit kabob with cubed dragon fruit and kiwi on a skewer. Then you simply stick the skewers on the grill until there is a nice little browning of the fruit where the grill grates were. You can end by sprinkling them with sugar.
It also makes a sweet addition to any fruit smoothie or smoothie bowl. You can blend it up with soy or almond milk. You can also optionally add anything else you’d like, such as berries, sugar, juice or even nut butters. Melon-balled bits of dragon fruit make a wonderful garnish on top, too.
Dragon fruit even makes a wonderful frozen treat. You can juice or blend the fruit alone or with other fruits, and then add it to a popsicle mold. A neat idea is also serving a basic vegan sorbet scooped into a halved, frozen dragon fruit that has a little bit a dip cut into the middle. Than you can eat the sorbet with the frozen fruit for a refreshing treat.
Contributed by Aimable Johnson. Quinoa is a food that has been embraced by the health food crowd. A ‘superfood’ grain from South America, it has become extremely popular due to its numerous uses. With quinoa established, now it’s time to meet its cousin, kañiwa. more→