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Happy National Nutrition Month!

National Nutrition Month begins Friday, and we're celebrating by sharing some of our favorite recipes. They're sure to be delicious, nutritious, and easy on the pocketbook.

Alameda County Community Food Bank provides food for 49,000 people each week — so we take healthy food seriously.

One way we do this is by putting farm-fresh fruits and vegetables first. With a refrigerator bigger than most houses in the county, we can store seasonal produce for distribution among our 275 member agencies.

Another is through nutrition education and Cooking Matters classes, which empower our agencies and clients to shop for and prepare balanced meals even on tight budgets.

At a recent class, our nutrition educator was sharing the benefits of eating whole grains. Whole grains contain the entire grain kernel ― the bran, germ, and endosperm. Refined grains have been milled, a process that removes the bran and germ. This is done to give grains a finer texture and improve their shelf life, but it also removes dietary fiber, iron, and many B vitamins.

Brown rice, oats, whole wheat bread and quinoa are common sources of whole grains.

Many people don't even know how to pronounce quinoa, let alone how to cook it. So, our nutrition educator showed how to make a delcious quinoa salad that's packed with protein, fiber, and nutrients — with ingredients she found on Food Bank shelves.

Here it is:

Quinoa Salad with Chickpeas, Orange and Cranberries

Salad

  • 3/4 cup quinoa (any color! it comes in red, yellow, pink and black!)
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 can garbanzo beans/chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
  • 1/2 cup of dried cranberries
  • 1 1/4 cup mandarin orange segments (canned or fresh)
  • scallions (options)
  • 1/2 c slivered almonds
  • feta cheese to taste

Dressing

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 T vinegar (optional)
  • 4 T fresh lime, lemon or orange juice
  • pinch of salt

Putting it all together:

  1. Rinse the quinoa in a fine strainer (the grains are tiny!) and place them in a large pot or rice cooker with salt and water. If using the rice cooker: Allow the quinoa to cook until the cooker shuts off. Stovetop: Bring quinoa to a boil, then cover and cook for 15 to 20 minutes.
  2. Remove quinoa from the pan or rice cooker to allow it to cool.
  3. Whisk oil, vinegar, juice and salt together at the bottom of a large bowl.
  4. Mix in quinoa, beans, cranberries, orange segments, scallions, almonds and feta.
  5. Stir to combine the dressing. Enjoy!

This salad is quick and adaptable to whatever you have in your fridge or pantry, or whatever your family likes. Serve it in a wrap, on top of greens, or on its own! Leave out the feta to make it vegan.

It will keep well in the fridge for 2-3 days.

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What are your favorite whole-grain recipes?

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