If you’re gluten intolerant or have a food sensitivity to oats and cereal grains and think you have to give up hot cereal for breakfast, take heart. There are a couple work-arounds; one is brown rice and the other is quinoa. I tried both recently, adding my favorite dress-ups: apple, raisins and agave nectar. The result? I can do this…you can do this!
Things were very different in my diet before an attack of esophagitis caused by acid reflux. If I didn’t have time for oatmeal in the morning, I’d pop a granola bar in my purse and munch it along with a cup of coffee on the way to the office. My doctor put me on the Paleo Diet to help reduce inflammation and quell the gastrointestinal eruptions. She also drew blood to send off to a lab to find out what food intolerances might be contributing to my body’s faulty digestive system.
Getting used to the Paleo Diet was no small adjustment. Lean meat, poultry or fish at every meal; no cheese, bread, chocolate or tortilla chips. Having to eliminate even more foods from my diet after the blood test came back was more than disappointing. I felt deprived, especially during the first meal of the day. No more oatmeal, eggs, celery sticks slathered in peanut butter. I needed something quick and filling to get me out the door that wasn’t on my foods-to-avoid list.
Rice would have been my #1 oatmeal alternative suggestion except that it takes too long to cook and clean up after. If it’s the weekend and you have leftover rice from dinner the night before, than it’s a no-brainer. I’d suggest the short brown rice variety; it’s closer to the look of oatmeal and well…I just like the cute little short grains. They’re often found in bulk in the grocery store and are usually organic. Sometimes I do a combo of brown and white rice like jasmine or basmati.
I wouldn’t call quinoa quick–not as quick as the 4 minutes it would take to turn 1/4 cup of rolled oats into porridge–but a little quicker than 20 minutes to cook brown rice, and just as filling and satisfying with the fruit and sweetener. And it turns out these little balls pack a nutritional punch. Quinoa happens to be not a grain but a seed, mostly grown in Peru and related to spinach, swiss chard and beets. It’s considered a complete protein source unlike grains, packs a considerable level of essential fatty acids which means it’s effective in fighting inflammation, and it’s rich in antioxidants and fiber.
The first time I cooked quinoa I undercooked it. I had to add more water and put it back on the stove. I guess I expected the little seeds to quickly split open like cranberries. Get it going on a full boil and look for the creamy, translucent texture before you take it off the heat.
1/4 cup quinoa
1 cup water
1/8 cup raisins
1/4 cup diced apple
Agave nectar to taste
Rinse quinoa and drain. Put in small pot and add water. Cook on medium heat. Let it come to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer for 5 minutes. Stir occasionally. Take off heat when seeds open and quinoa turns translucent and water has been absorbed, about Let sit for 15 minutes.
Add raisins and apple. Lightly drizzle with agave nectar and serve.