Fee, Fi, Fo, Fonio

Move over, quinoa; there’s a new ancient grain in town. Protein-rich, gluten-free, and quick-cooking, fonio is the best kept secret in wholesome superfoods. Though little known in the western world, this African staple has all the makings of the next big healthy craze.

Neutral yet subtly nutty in flavor like good old brown rice, fluffy like fresh couscous, and faster to whip up than a pot of pasta, the only barrier to mainstream adoration is distribution. Though the supply chain is especially stressed by the current pandemic, fonio has long suffered from inaccessibility. No one’s out there flying the fonio flag, demanding more, so most consumers and home cooks simply don’t know what they’re missing. They say ignorance is bliss, but this is more akin to an act of negligence, cruel and careless.

Uses for fonio know no limits. Receptive to marinades and sauces the world over, it thirstily drinks in the flavors of a stew while retaining toothsome tenderness. Use it cold in salad; serve it hot as a side; form it into patties and pan fry; blend it into batters, cakes, and cookies; don’t even bother cooking it, and use it instead of breadcrumbs; the only way you can do fonio wrong is to keep it off the menu.

For basic cookery, all you need is 1 part fonio to 2 parts boiling water. Combine and let rest for about 5 minutes, fluff with a fork, and enjoy. You don’t need a stove, a microwave, or even electricity; it’s really that simple. Your hard work will be rewarded with a nutritional dynamo, rich in B-vitamins, iron, and calcium.

That said, there’s no need to stick with the bare basics, of course.

Golden grains spring to life with savory aromatics and a touch of spice. It’s the kind of side dish that could very well steal the show, and considering the protein quotient, which is bolstered by tender chickpeas, it’s not a stretch to call it a one-pot meal all by itself. Kernels of corn enhance the sunny yellow appearance, but a bit of contrast would be a nice option, be it from green peas, red bell peppers, or even dark, chewy raisins.

Oh, little fonio, this is just the start. There are big things in store for this tiny grain. Just wait until the rest of the world catches on. Quinoa had better watch its back.

Continue reading “Fee, Fi, Fo, Fonio”

Bowl’d Over

Trends come and go, but good food is forever. The acai bowl is one particular dish that may have suddenly risen in popularity thanks to the superfood craze of recent years, but it has proven a worthy addition to anyone’s short list of standby recipes. Little more than a smoothie thick enough to eat with a spoon, something about that small variation in texture gives this treat real staying power. Though skeptical at first, the attraction became immediately clear after I ordered up my first bowlful of sweet, tropical fruit puree while attempting to beat the heat in Honolulu.

Beginning with a basic formula, expect to get a silky-smooth blend of frozen acai, bananas, apple juice, and ice, topped off by fresh cut fruits and granola. Honey often comes standard when ordering out, easily omitted upon request. Besides, the whole mixture is already so sweet, it’s hard to imagine that the sticky topping would really be a beneficial addition.

The real beauty of this cool, creamy, and yet simultaneously crunchy formula is that it’s infinitely adaptable. No matter what fruits, liquids, or toppings you pick, you’re only minutes away from a frozen delight, even before pulling out the blender. At a time when temperatures are only rising and the last thing you want to do is labor over a hot stove or waste a glorious day indoors, few snacks are better suited to summer fun.

Acai bowls strike me as a “choose your own adventure” sort of recipe, where there are no hard and fast rules, except to follow your intuition. Add more or less liquid until you’re happy with the texture, mix up the flavors, and go wild with the trimmings. In fact, though it may be sacrilege to some, I fully endorse omitting the acai for a considerably less pricey option.

Yield: Makes 1 – 2 Servings

Basic Acai Bowl Blueprint

Basic Acai Bowl Blueprint

Acai bowls strike me as a “choose your own adventure” sort of recipe, where there are no hard and fast rules, except to follow your intuition. Add more or less liquid until you’re happy with the texture, mix up the flavors, and go wild with the trimmings. In fact, though it may be sacrilege to some, I fully endorse omitting the acai for a considerably less pricey option.

Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes

Ingredients

Basic Acai Bowl Blueprint

  • 1 Frozen Banana OR 2/3 Cup Frozen Diced Mango or Papaya or Pineapple OR 3/4 Cup Sliced Frozen Peaches, Apricots, or Plums
  • 2 (3.5-Ounce) Packets Frozen Acai Puree OR 1/2 Cup Frozen, Seedless Raspberry, Blackberry or Blueberry Puree (or 1 Cup Frozen Berries- If you don’t mind seeds)
  • 1/2 Cup Ice
  • 1/2 – 3/4 Cup Apple Juice or Orange Juice or Coconut Water or Non-Dairy Milk

Optional Nutrition Boosters:

  • Kale or Spinach, Ground Flaxseed, Protein Powder

Crunchy Stuff:

  • Granola, Cereal, Hemp Seeds, Pumpkin Seeds, Cacao Nibs, Sliced Almonds, Toasted Coconut Flakes

Fruity Stuff:

  • Sliced Bananas, Sliced Strawberries, Blueberries, Raspberries, Jam or Preserves, Goji Berries, Dried or Freeze-Dried Fruits

Sweet Stuff:

  • Chocolate Chips, Candied Nuts, Sprinkles, Mochi Bits, Chocolate-Covered Espresso Beans, Vegan Marshmallows

Instructions

As you can imagine, once you know what an acai bowl consists of, the procedure is pretty much self-explanatory. Toss all the ingredients for the bowl itself into your blender and puree until smooth, being careful not to run the machine for too long to prevent the mixture from warming up. Top with crunchy additions, fruit, and more decadent options as desired. Don’t be afraid to look beyond these basic ideas- The different blends are endless!

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

2

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 139Total Fat: 8gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 569mgCarbohydrates: 30gFiber: 3gSugar: 77gProtein: 5g

Stress Snacking

After a fitful summer hibernation, the monster that is structured education has awoken once more, rising swiftly and ferociously back to full intensity. My fall semester may have only just begun yesterday, but already the pressure is on. Taking on an extra class was a woefully bad idea; even one class feels like too much, too soon. As a self-admitted stress snacker, this is bad news for my eating habits- Already the cravings for all things hand-held and satisfyingly junky are coming on strong. This time, though, I was prepared, thanks to a serendipitously timed package from YogaEarth, filled to the top with healthy treats.

Purveyors of various “super foods,” natural beauty products, and various supplements, their main claim to fame are the appropriately titled Keen-Wah Decadence Bars. Though it may just sound like cute hyperbole on paper, the name turned out to be stunningly accurate. Rather than the standard crunchy-granola nutrition brick, these bars are enrobed in chocolate like actual candy bars. Soft and fudgy no doubt from the heat, that coating at first overwhelms the whole package, but slowly melts to allow other flavors through, lending much needed sweetness through each bite. While the interior yields a subtly earthy, slightly salty flavor, that chocolate exterior effectively tricks the tongue into believing that this is a fully-fledged treat. Rich and satisfying, that high fiber count definitely gives it more staying power than your average chocolate snack, without imparting a gritty texture. Rather, it feels almost like biting into a soft baked cookie.

Plain is the most “healthy” tasting, with fewer additions to jazz things up. A surprising raisin-like sweetness accents the dark, woodsy cacao, which cuts the decadence factor in a pleasing way. Cayenne Cinnamon effectively spices things up, leading with the comforting, familiar warmth of cinnamon, slowly escalating to the smoldering burn of cayenne. It won’t burn your mouth off, but this invigorating combination certainly satisfies one’s inner heat seeker. The last option of the trio, the Coconut Almond, is most likely to appeal to the widest audience. A fresh, raw coconut flavor hits immediately after the initial taste of chocolate subsides, but there’s no dried or dessicated coconut here. Impossibly capturing the essence of a whole young coconut, the pieces do add a more fibrous texture, but this can be forgiven for such a clean, bright taste. Chunks of raw almonds are scattered throughout, adding a nice periodic crunch. Picking between the three bars would be a tricky task, but all said, these are definitely some of the tastiest meal supplements I’ve had.

Another noteworthy snacking option are the Chocolate-Covered Goji Berries. Who needs raisins or sweetened cranberries when you can have a fruit that really packs a punch? A deep, dark, and intense cocoa scent hints at their smoky, bitter edge, almost like espresso. Their mesmerizing shine is hard to resist, but luckily, that strong flavor satisfies with just one modest handful.

For an option that’s slightly less decadent but just as healthy, their Meridian Trail Mix is one that stands out amongst the pack. Rather than weighing down the blend with filler like oily, cheap peanuts, every ingredient adds something noteworthy to the party. Touted as “cacao-cashew-berry-crunch,” that description sells the mix short, as it contains expected nuts like almonds and cashews, but also more exotic additions such as goji berries, mulberries, and cacao nibs. This is one trail mix that actually makes me want to hit the trail, if only as an excuse to munch on another serving!

Stress may drive me to the comfort of snack food, but at least I have healthy options from YogaEarth on hand that will power my educational exploits, rather than impair them.