Sunday, October 7, 2012

Ancient Grains ~ Amaranth


This is one of the earliest known plants used for food.  It was used in the western hemisphere by the Aztecs, who highly valued it.  It was (and is) considered a super food due to the energy it provides athletes.  Amaranth is in the Chenopodiaceous family (things like spinach, beets.)  It is said to taste faintly like corn and can be popped like corn as well.  It is often flavored with onions and garlic.  The leaves are eaten as well.  It is used to make tortillas, a candy-like bar (still eaten today during Day of the Dead); it is a common staple in Mexican cuisine.  Amaranth is easy, low maintence plant to grow in your garden.

Health benefits include: high quality protein, fiber, calcium, magnesium, iron, copper and phytosterols.    When compared to wheat, it has higher fiber and protein.  It has a great balance of amino acids and contains more lysine, cysteine and methionine then are typically found in other grains in only small amounts.    The Phytosterols in the amaranth help combat cholesterol because they compete for absorption in the intestines, the cholesterol is then blocked from being absorbed and is excreted.  Some sources say it helps increase immune system function and helps to balance hormones.


Basic Cereal
1 cup amaranth seeds
4 cups water

Combine seeds and water in pan, bring to a boil over a medium high heat.  Lower heat and simmer, stirring occasionally.  Cook for about 20-25 minutes.  During the last 5 minutes, it will sputter and stirring consistently will reduce the sputtering.  Flavor with fruit, raw honey, coconut milk and/or cinnamon sugar.

Amaranth Flat Breads
1 cup amaranth flour
1/3 cup corn meal
1/4 tsp salt
About ½ + cup water

Place amaranth flour, corn and salt in a small bowl. Mix to combine. Add water. Mix well until smooth. Add more water or flour to make sticky but manageable dough. Knead for 1 minute. You are looking for a soft dough that holds together.  Place more amaranth flour on the counter. Flour your hands. Remove a piece of dough. Roll between the palms of your hands with a good amount of pressure to form a smooth ball which leads to a more uniform circle when rolled out. 

Balls about the size of a ping pong ball will make a 4” bread.
Balls about the size of a tennis ball will make a 9" bread.

Place the ball of dough on the floured counter. Press into a disk. Flour a rolling pin and roll until they reach the thickness of a corn tortilla, or just use your hands to pat into a circle.

Heat a skillet rather hot. On my electric griddle I set it to it’s hottest, 400 degrees. No need for oil. Place the amaranth bread on the hot, dry skillet. Cook until top begins to bubble. Turn over and cook other side until more puffing happens. This should take about 3-4 minutes or so per side. Remove to a rack to cool. Store in zip lock bags. They don’t stick so you can stack several together. These freeze really well.  Double or triple the recipe and mix in a standing mixer.

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