One of the comments I often get from friends who read Green Plate Dinners is that a lot of the items I use in my cooking is unfamiliar to them.
Don’t worry, a lot of the items were unfamiliar to me, too, until I went out and took a chance on trying them (my Mom definitely didn’t have buckwheat in our home growing up). I enjoy trying new things, and have sort of been forced to step outside my comfort zone to find what works for my body.
Over the years I’ve learned that my body is sensitive to certain grains [I have allergic reactions to most gluten], so I’ve become particularly adventurous to find what works for me. Often times, I go to the bulk department to see which grains I haven’t tried yet, then I bring them home and experiment with recipes! If my body accepts the grain, great; if not, Ben gets leftovers.
All of the grains I use for cooking are available at natural food stores [I love shopping in bulk sections even more than I like shopping for clothes] and are inexpensive, especially when you consider their nutritional density [you’re getting more ‘bang for your buck’]. I often times find recipes to try through the blog community before going out and buying a new grain so that I don’t feel completely lost. I also do my research on the grain beforehand to get an idea of what it is and where it’s coming from.
I recently saw a recipe on Oh She Glows for a delicious-looking wheat berry salad. I know already that my body isn’t a fan of wheat, so I first tried the recipe with cooked buckwheat groats [yuck – too slimy], and then I researched spelt berries.
[spelt before cooking / spelt after cooking]
Spelt is a non-hybrid primitive relative of present-day wheat that dates back more than 9,000 years. It has a unique nutty flavor and high water solubility, which allows for its vital nutrients to be quickly absorbed by the body. Ground spelt can be used in place of wheat flour for baking [Bob’s Red Mill].
Spelt is related to wheat and as such is not gluten-free [and therefore not suitable for those with celiac disease]. However, because spelt is not completely similar to modern wheat, some people with wheat allergies are able to tolerate spelt.
Spelt berries are in fact whole kernels of spelt seed rather than “berries”. To use the berries, they’ll need to be cooked. You can either soak them in water first or simply boil them [soaking first lends for a quicker boiling process]. They have a sweeter, nutty taste with lots of chew and bulk.
Nutrition: Spelt berries are high in both dietary fiber and protein [6 g protein + 4 g fiber per 1/4 c serving!], making them an excellent option for vegetarians and individuals trying to lose weight [fiber + protein = more satiated].
This spelt berry salad is really yummy! I took it to a potluck on Friday night and everyone loved it. Any leftovers were quickly taken down by Ben. As it turns out, my body doesn’t do well with spelt, but it was worth a shot, right?
Spelt Berry Salad
- 1 c dry spelt berries – cooked and drained
- 1.5 c beans [I used small red beans] – cooked or canned, rinsed + drained
- 1 English cucumber – diced
- 1 red pepper – diced
- 1 large tomato – diced
- ~1/4 c green onion – diced
- 2-3 garlic cloves – minced
- 1 c fresh parsley – stems removed + diced
- salt + pepper to taste
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp mustard [I used dijon, but the recipe calls for hot]
- 1 Tbsp Tamari/soy sauce
- 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
Prep your spelt berries by either soaking them in water overnight and then simmering them for an hour or by just simmering them for an hour and a half on the stove.
While the berries are boiling, chop away!
Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
In a large bowl, toss together all the diced veggies and beans.
Drain and rinse the spelt berries once they’re ready, then stir them into the salad with the dressing.
Enjoy! Makes about seven cups. Angela says to stir in the dressing just before serving, but Ben enjoyed it even after it had marinated in the fridge for a day, too.
Do you have a go-to potluck meal? Or do you often try new recipes for potlucks like me?
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