The colder it gets, the more I crave protein. As a vegetarian, I often find myself struggling to get enough, especially if I’m cleaning up my diet with low-saturated fat and low-sugar vegan choices. Whole grains are often my answer for a couple of reasons. A mixture of beans and grains will create an easy-to-prepare complete protein and some “grains” like quinoa are complete in and of themselves.
Further, it’s winter, so I am all about warm, hardy food. And while I just adore steel-cut oatmeal and my hubby’s gluten-free pancakes, I want more variety and maximum nutrition—whole grains are, again, a great choice because I can turn last night’s main dish into a warmed-over bowl of pure satisfaction the next morning.
My Winter Wheat Berry Bake (Remember those wheat berries from Green Gal Tabbouleh?) makes great use of whole grains, winter veggies, nuts, dried fruit and warm spices. Have it for dinner AND for a nutritious, low-sugar, on-the-go breakfast next day! If you want all the protein you can get in the dish below, try switching out one of the cups of rice for a cup of pre-cooked lentils. Lentils are a powerhouse of nutrition and are mild enough to go from dinner to breakfast with ease.
- One cup wheat berries (Soak about eight hours or overnight and then precook in water until tender but chewy.)
- Two cups of rice, maybe long-grain brown and wild rice mix (Precook one cup dry rice until tender in two cups vegetable stock—your own or a trust-worthy commercial brand (I like “No-Chicken Broth” by Imagine.)
- One cup each, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, onion and celery, all very finely diced (You can vary the veggies depending on what you like—more or less or none of something. Maybe substitute diced, peeled beets and turnips? Just keep in mind that beets will “color” your creation and both beets and turnips lend a decidedly earthy quality to the dish—which can be wonderful!)
- Four to six cloves garlic, minced
- One-half to three-quarters cup of nuts (I absolutely love pine nuts in this dish, but, BOY, are they pricey—especially when they are organic. So use what you have and stay organic AND within your budget—e.g. slivered almonds work well.)
- Three-quarters cup dried fruit (My favorite is dried cranberries, but apricots, raisins and cherries also are great choices. Be sure dried fruit is unsulfured, as well as organic.)
- Spices—whichever you like. (I use a combo of cumin, turmeric, ground mustard seed and a dash of allspice.)
- One cup extra vegetable broth
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Combine the precooked grains (and lentils, if you are using them), the diced vegetables, the garlic, nuts, spices and dried fruit in a big mixing bowl. Mix in the salt and pepper to taste.
- Spread the mixture into a large roaster dish (at least 17 x 9 x 3)
- Drizzle with vegetable stock—about a half-cup to start.
- Bake for one hour at 325 degrees, giving it a good stir halfway through and checking to see if it is a little dry and needs a bit more stock. If you add stock and are still concerned about it getting too dry, cover it with aluminum foil for the last 30 minutes.
This is very healthy and very low-cal. So go for a big bowl, especially at breakfast. It will carry you through the day.
Well that’s about it–pretty simple, huh? The preparation step is, perhaps, the most work.
Serve immediately for dinner as a main vegan course or a meat-lovers side dish. Store your leftovers in the frig and use some extra stock to warm them back up in the pan next day—nothing better on a cold January morning.
Interested in vegan sources of complete proteins? Learn more from experts at Positive Health Wellness. Then, get cookin’!