Kamut, The Newest Old Grain, Wins Glenny Over

  • May 29, 2011 9:18 pm

Each week I get invited to do various food-related things in and around New York City. I’d love to go to all of them, but it’s just not possible. Recently Glenny Cameron, editorial assistant extraordinaire, went to a kamut event (yes, there is such a thing) and wrote the following dispatch. I love eating whole grains and inspiring others to, too. So I was happy to have her take on it as well as this breakfast cereal recipe. Dig in.

Recently, there has been an upsurge in chatter amongst foodies and non-foodies alike about ancient grains.  Ancient grains?  What makes them…old?

Basically, any “ancient grain” (the most common on supermarket shelves today are quinoa, amaranth, spelt, and kamut) is given that title because it has been around and unchanged for centuries.  Rice, corn, and some modern forms of wheat, on the other hand, have been specifically bred to accommodate contemporary palates.  These newer grains barely resemble their originals.  Check out The Los Angeles Times article on this subject for a more in-depth explanation.

There are claims that ancient grains are more healthful because of their high protein, fiber, and antioxidant contents.  Some celiacs, those with a gluten intolerance, find that eating these grains does not affect their allergy.  Sounds great, right?  So, when I was invited to an event featuring kamut, I was thrilled to learn more.

Fun facts:

-Kamut (pronounced kah-moot) is the brand, not the wheat, which is actually called khorasan.  Bob Quinn, who is the founder of Kamut International, wanted to assure the quality of the organic, heirloom grain, khorasan wheat, by branding it to let consumers know they were buying a GMO-free, unaltered product.

-There are many theories about the origin of khorasan wheat, but Quinn suggests that it was brought to Egypt by Greek and Roman armies.  In 1949, 36 kernels found their way to Montana. In 1977, Bob’s father, T. Mack Quinn, obtained half a pint.  All of the kamut in the country is now grown in Big Sandy, Montana.

-Kamut is a very versatile grain, which was proven to us invitees over the course of a food-filled evening.  From breakfast cereals, salads, and pastas to crackers, breads and cookies, we had our plates piled high with all things kamut.  And all things delicious!  Kamut has a lovely nutty taste and a dense, chewy texture.  Picture farro, but bigger.

-To find out more about kamut, and where to purchase various Kamut brand products, go to their website:

KAMUT Khorasan Wheat Berries

Here is one of the many recipes we were given in our over-stuffed goody bag.  I went home with my arms full and my appetite sated.  I am certainly a kamut convert, and I suggest you become one too.  Everyone needs more healthy grains in their lives, right?  Why not experiment and enjoy some ancient ones?

KAMUT Chai-Cinnamon Spiced Ancient Grain Cereal

1/2 cup Kamut khorasan wheat flakes

1/2 cup flaxseed

1/2 cup quinoa

1/2 cup steel cut oats

1 tbsp grated fresh ginger

1 cinnamon stick

1/4 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp sea salt

Note: start preparation the night prior to eating.  (It will make your morning routine so much easier!)

In a medium saucepan, bring 3 cups water to a boil.  Turn off heat.  Add all grains, ginger, pepper and salt.  Cover and let stand 2 hours or overnight.

In the morning, set pan over medium heat, bring to a boil, reduce to low and simmer until grains are tender, about 15 minutes (this will vary depending on soak time).

Remove and discard cinnamon stick.  Divide cereal among 4 bowls and serve with warmed milk, chopped nuts, brown sugar, fresh or dried fruit – whatever you prefer!

What You Don’t Know: What’s In Your Makeup

  • May 17, 2011 10:16 am

I cannot tell you how many times a VGP (very green person) leans over to me and quietly says, “Can I ask you a question?” The first few times I thought I was in for something awkward or scandalous or worse. But now I know: they want my makeup list. They’ve greened everything from their cookware to their conditioner, but haven’t been able to take the final leap into natural concealer. I get it. Sacrifice is part of the game when you go green. But looking (or at least feeling) ugly? That’s too far for most of us. Some people find caring about how you look superficial, especially compared to other issues in the environmental movement. To which I say: whatever. Especially as there are important environmental health concerns to consider when it comes to cosmetics.

It takes a while to hit on the products in any given makeup bag. The process of finding the right color foundation, the perfect lip shade, a favorite blush is usually a circuitous one. Here’s the bad news–and the very reason for the whispers from VGPs: the concealer that can erase any sleepless night or banish a blemish like nobody’s business is likely filled with the worst possible wildly unregulated crap. I’m talking carcinogenic, hormone-disrupting,  petroleum-derived ingredients. Things with heavy metals like lead. Nothing you would slather on your skin–your largest organ–if you knew better and really considered it. Now you know better. Time to consider it. If you put this gunk on your lips you know you’re eating it. I don’t have to tell you that. The pink-hued rim of your coffee cup speaks for itself. Grim grim grim. And: no thank you.

Thankfully there are several ways around this conundrum:

1. Have perfect flawless skin. (Ha!)

2. Get a degree in reading cosmetic labels and spend all of your time turning bottles around and researching. (As if.)

3. Memorize the names of a few third party certified natural brands, try out their products to see what works, and wear a minimal amount. Less is more anyway.

I went through this process when reporting the The Complete Organic Pregnancy. It wasn’t fun to have to give up all of my favorite products as my belly grew, but it was extremely worthwhile. Here’s an excerpt from that book where I explain what to avoid and how to find the best buys for your makeup bag.

Beauty products smell good, make us look pretty, and promise instant perfection – flawless skin, think, shiny hair, solid nails.  Unfortunately most are loaded with chemicals linked to birth defects, carcinogens, ingredients derived from nonrenewable petroleum, and preservatives that can end up in breast tissue.  The Environmental Working Group says 89 percent of the ingredients in everyday products aren’t tested for safety.  Which is why – especially when pregnant – organic beauty products are the way to go.  But there’s a catch: our government doesn’t regulate personal products the way it regulates food (though there have been some advances made recently, and hopefully more to come).  This means that any…[cosmetics] company can slap the label “organic” or “natural” on its product.  In the absence of government regulation, the genuine organic- and biodynamic-beauty-product producers (a significant minority) have tried to find a way to differentiate themselves.  Many of them are European companies and adhere to comparatively strict European standards. 

I wear minimal makeup (unless I’m going on television to talk about things like…organic makeup). Here are a few brands I have tested through, am currently comfortable with, and think work well. Nothing is perfect. There have been others in the past and there will be others in the future. These are just my current staples. That said, I still always read labels before I buy any product; ingredients, certifications, and packaging changes. I’m not a manufacturer.

One caveat: the natural makeup world needs to continue their quest to develop products for darker skin tones.

And one tip: try organic olive oil or coconut oil on your lips for moisture and shine; that’s what I wear and I don’t have to give it another thought if I swallow either.

Suki

Dr. Hauschka

Jane Iredale Minerals

RMS Beauty

What have you found that works for you?

Connecting the Dots

  • January 18, 2011 6:42 pm

Our homes hum with electric power, and our neighborhoods are scattered with the poles and wires that deliver it to us. What's less visible is the air and water pollution this system produces.

Generally speaking, the burning of nonrenewable resources creates greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, and emits mercury, nitrogen oxide, and sulfur dioxide that dissolve in rain particles and fall to earth (this is known as acid rain). The mercury contaminates fish in our waterways that we then catch and eat, poisoning ourselves.

Even if you don't live near a coal power plant, the pollution travels. New England forests are being harmed by mercury smog from power plants in the Midwest, and there is evidence now that emissions from Chinese power plants are reaching the West Coast of America. That's quite a system.

Find out where our electricity comes from and how we can do better in "Planet Home: Conscious Choices for Cleaning & Greening the World You Care About Most."

Electronics Recycling

  • January 18, 2011 6:34 pm

Many resources go into creating electronics. Keeping old versions for as long as you're willing to use them reduces both the consumption of these resources and e-waste.

When you're truly through with an item, try to reuse before recycling. Move an unwanted VCR and your old VHS tape collection into a guest bedroom, where it might delight a visitor. Give your out-of-favor TV to a relative or friend who could use it, or donate it to an organization. If all else fails, take it to an electronics recycling event.

Whatever you do, make sure it doesn't wind up in a trash heap. Older CRT TVs contain lead and other toxic chemicals–not something we need more of in our landfills. The Electronics TakeBack Coalition is a good resource for locating responsible recyclers in each state. Unfortunately, not all recyclers are trustworthy, and some don't handle your electronics as they claim they're going to. TakeBack maintains a list of TV companies with take-back programs. Earth911.com also helps connect conscious consumers to electronics recyclers.

Find more tips on conscious consuming and electronics recycling in "Planet Home: Conscious Choices for Cleaning & Greening the World You Care About Most."

What’s Conscious?

  • March 3, 2010 4:00 pm

I'm getting asked that question a lot lately. An email just popped up in my inbox that describes it really well. Read this and then apply it to food and kitchens. And that's what a Conscious Kitchen is!

"When we talk about being "conscious," we're referring to a greater consciousness that allows us to view the world as an endlessly interconnected system and thereby see the unintended consequences of our actions. Consciousness requires reflection, self-awareness, and the constant questioning of our assumptions and beliefs."

– Jeffrey Hollender co-founder Seventh Generation
Think about the interconnected system of the spray on a conventional apple, or really question what a claim on food packaging might mean. Natural might make you feel like you're getting something, well, natural. But questioning this assumption is crucial to locating conscious food. Educating yourself about what labels really hold any meaning means better access to the good stuff. I talk about this a lot in The Conscious Kitchen.