It's that time of year again when everyone is ready to jump onto the get-fit wagon. I could easily say that I should include myself in that group, but I believe it's best to start by taking small steps before diving into a plan that you might not keep up. My first step for the New Year is a healthy one, it's simply to eat more healthy foods, like whole grains and to limit my intake of sugar. I actually love whole grains, but I just don't eat them often enough. Luckily my only downfall sugar-wise is chocolate, so it's easy for me to exclude sweets and candies entirely. But I've recently found myself using agave syrup as my choice of sweetener. That was my first step, what's yours?
Eating whole grains doesn't just mean switching your morning toast from white to wheat. It means eating actual whole grains preferably in their minimally processed forms. In place of white rice try brown. Eat steel-cut oats rather than instant. Try some different whole grains, like amaranth, millet, buckwheat, barley, or bulgur. Bulgur is one of my favorites. If you've ever had Middle Eastern or Turkish food, you've probably already eaten bulgur without knowing. The salad tabbouleh and the meatballs called kofta or kefteh are made with bulgur. It's not an unrecognizable grain, bulgur is actually wheat.
Bulgur is parboiled wheat that is then dried and ground into smaller pieces. It can be purchased in different textures, from fine to course. Cracked wheat is like bulgur, but it has not been parboiled, just cracked. The minimal process that goes into turning the wheat berries into bulgur creates a relatively quick-cooking cereal. Pouring it over with boiling water or simmering it for less than 15 minutes makes it ready to eat. Bulgur has a slight chewy texture and nutty taste. Enjoy it as a side dish, like rice or couscous, or eat it for breakfast like you would oatmeal.
My favorite way to enjoy bulgur is as a breakfast cereal. After boiling the bulgur, which softens it more than soaking would, I combine it with almond milk and top it with raisins, slivered almonds, banana slices, and a drizzle of agave syrup. Bulgur is high in fiber and protein and does not spike your blood sugar, making it ideal for a healthy start to any day. The agave syrup is also low on the glycemic index, making it preferable to sugar or honey. For a true breakfast feel, use amber agave syrup, which has an almost maple syrup flavor. Feel free to be creative and mix in your favorite nuts and dried fruits. Try this porridge for your next breakfast and you may find yourself never going back to oatmeal again.
Bulgur Breakfast Cereal with Dried Fruit and Nuts
1 cup bulgur
2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk, such as almond or soy
1/4 cup flax seed meal
1/2 cup dried fruit, such as raisins, cranberries, or cherries
1/2 cup nuts, such as slivered almonds, chopped walnuts or pecans
1 banana, sliced
amber agave syrup, for serving
Combine bulgur, water, and salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer until bulgur is tender and water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Pour in milk and warm gently. Divide cooked bulgur among 4 bowls. Top each bowl with quarter portion of flax seed meal, dried fruit, nuts, and banana slices. Drizzle with agave syrup to taste. Serve warm. Yield: 4 servings.