Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Popped Amaranth Breakfast Cereal

amaranth, whole grains, gluten-free, popped, crunchy, healthy, nutritious,

Now that the temperatures are up and the sun is out I am no longer craving warm breakfasts as I did a month ago. Smoothies are okay, but sometimes I just want something to chew on. Instead of grabbing some granola (which is often rich in oil and sugar) I opt for a more nutrient dense and fiber rich option.


For everyone, especially those following gluten free lifestyle, this cereal packs quite the nutrient punch. Amaranth is similar to quinoa, a small “pseudograin” or seed grown on a tall broad leaf plant. Amaranth, like quinoa, is rich in fiber, protein, and vitamins and minerals. Interestingly it contains up to 4x as much calcium and 2x as much iron and magnesium than whole wheat. Plus, amaranth is rich in lysine in comparison to other cereal grains, containing about 2x more lysine than whole wheat. Since amaranth contains more lysine per weight than other grains, it is considered a “complete” protein just like quinoa.

amaranth, whole grains, gluten-free, popped, crunchy, healthy, nutritious,  

So how do you prepare amaranth for breakfast??

Well you can prepare it like other grains into porridge. However, that is my least favorite way to eat it for breakfast. I would rather enjoy amaranth POPPED. Just like corn kernels, amaranth when heated over high heat, pops and creates small puffed crunchy bites. When mixed with other delicious things like roasted nuts and seeds, some dried fruit and spices, the combination is super tasty without a lot of extra oil or sugar. Plus you get that tasty CRUNCH texture. I am all about the crunch!

amaranth, whole grains, gluten-free, popped, crunchy, healthy, nutritious,
amaranth, whole grains, gluten-free, popped, crunchy, healthy, nutritious,

What do you need to pop amaranth?

You don't need any fancy tools in order to pop amaranth. You don't even need oil! It's a very simple and easy. Popping amaranth just requires a few regular kitchen tools to get started. 
  • Deep and wide sauce pan or deep sauté pan with a lid
  • Wooden spoon
  • Tablespoon measurer
  • Hot pads
  • Dry amaranth 

How do you pop amaranth?

Before beginning be prepared to accidentally burn the first batch until you get the heat right. Every stove top is different. But once you got it down...its easy from here on out. Enjoy watching these cute little seeds pop in the pan...and hopefully not jump around your whole kitchen! 

1. Heat your pan over medium high heat until really hot.
2. Start with a test batch. Add 1 tablespoon of amaranth to the pan and stir with a wooden spoon. The amaranth should start popping within a second or two. If they have not started popping the pan is not hot enough.
3. Continue to stir until the amaranth seeds begin to pop, then you have reached the proper temperature.
4. Cover with the lid and shake the pan from side to side until the popping softens.
5. Remove lid and once again stir with the wooden spoon to keep the amaranth from burning as the remainder pops.
6. Pour into a small bowl and repeat! Do not add more than 1 tablespoon at a time. Often the first batch gets burnt because the seeds are on the heat too long. Usually the second batch is just perfect.

Note: Usually 4 tablespoons of dry amaranth makes ~ 1 cup of popped amaranth.

amaranth, whole grains, gluten-free, popped, crunchy, healthy, nutritious,
amaranth, whole grains, gluten-free, popped, crunchy, healthy, nutritious,
amaranth, whole grains, gluten-free, popped, crunchy, healthy, nutritious,

What to do with popped amaranth?

Once you have a batch of popped amaranth you have many culinary options in which to put them to use! I enjoy popped amaranth most as a cereal and in place of rice puffs in a whole foods energy bar. I love crunchy textures...so I just start adding the popped amaranth to everything. Simply get creative!
  • Make POPPED AMARANTH CEREAL and serve with plain yogurt or nut milk.
  • Add crunch to salad with a 1-2 tablespoons popped amaranth.
  • Stir popped amaranth into a pancake mix to increase nutrient density.
  • Use in place of popped rice in homemade granola bars/energy balls.
The recipe below is super tasty and versatile. Feel free to swap out/in your favorite ingredients. For example in place of the walnuts you can use hazelnuts or pecans. In place of the dried currants you can use dried cranberries, dried blueberries, or chopped dried apricots. Play around with this as you like! I love to serve mine with Nancy's plain yogurt or my homemade nut milk (using 1/2 pecans and 1/2 cashews). Yum!! 

Popped Amaranth Breakfast Cereal
Serves 4-6

1 cup popped amaranth (see above)
¼ cup shredded unsweetened coconut
¼ cup dried fruit (I used currants)
1 tablespoon chia seeds
¼ cup pumpkin seeds
¼ teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon cinnamon or cardamom
½ teaspoon coconut sugar/brown sugar
Pinch sea salt
¼ cup walnuts
¼ cup rolled oats


Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium bowl add the popped amaranth, shredded coconut, dried fruit, and chia seeds and set aside.

In a small bowl toss the pumpkin seeds, olive oil, cinnamon/cardamom, coconut sugar and sea salt. Pour on one end of the parchment lined baking sheet, using only about 1/3 of the space. Add the walnuts in the second third and the oats in the final third. Roast for ~8-10 minutes, until fragrant and lightly browned.

Once roasted coarsely chop the walnuts and add to the popped amaranth. Then pour in the pumpkin seeds and rolled oats to the amaranth mixture and stir to combine. Allow to cool (you don't want steam to condense in your container) and then pour into an airtight container.

Serve with ½ cup plain whole milk yogurt (sub soy/coconut milk yogurt as desired) and fresh fruit. Or top with 1 cup nut milk and fresh fruit.

Note: I usually make a double batch because I also love to eat this cereal for breakfast and sometimes as a snack too!

One ½ cup serving of this delicious cereal provides ~220kcal, 23g carbs, 5g of fiber, 13g fat, 7g of plant protein, and 30% of your daily magnesium!!


1. World's Healthiest Foods. http://whfoods.org/genpage.php?tname=dailytip&dbid=231. Accessed April 19, 2016. 
2. Whole Grains Council. http://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/amaranth-may-grain-of-the-month-0. Accessed April 19, 2016. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Collagen Latte.

collagen, latte, benefits, hydrolyzed collagen, collagen peptides

Sometimes life gets busy...good busy. My private practice has been picking up and I started a new job at Peace Health. In addition I have been working on some super fun side projects as well. But I promise you, this post will totally make up for lost time. Not only does this recipe only take a minute or two to make, but the ingredient in it will turn your ho-hum morning routine into something magical. Ready??

......Hydrolyzed Collagen..

collagen, latte, benefits, hydrolyzed collagen, collagen peptides, gut health, skin, joint pain,

 What is collagen?

Collagen is the most abundant protein found in your body and plays a very important role in building connective tissue, skin, and bones. However, as our diets have changed the only way we typically consume gelatin/collagen in the Western diet is via “jello”. Traditionally, humans ate plenty of collagen rich foods by eating nose to tail, including all the tough bits and connective tissue. Now our diets are very limited in collagen intake and generally much more abundant in muscle meat intake.  

Have you ever made a bone broth at home and it became soup jello once refrigerated? If yes, then it was rich in collagen!

But fear not, if you do not like to eat collagen rich foods, jello, or do not have the time to make bone broth at home (even though it is SUPER easy to do), there are collagen powders that can come in very handy, even for a foodie like me.

Collagen Hydrolysate vs. Gelatin

Collagen hydrolysates or peptides, are broken down amino acids, which can dissolve in both warm and cold water. These are digested and absorbed much easier and therefore can be great for those with digestive distress. Clinical studies have found that collagen peptides have a 90-95% absorption rate! You cannot make jello with hydrolyzed collagen. Gelatin on the other hand contains the same amino acids but they are not broken down.  Therefore, in culinary practices, gelatin does not dissolve in cold water and is able to make “jello” when cooled. If digestion is not compromised then, gelatin is fine to consume.

My favorite go to brands are Great Lakes or Vital Proteins. I usually get the hydrolyzed collagen for increased absorption and to make a collagen latte! See recipes below.

collagen, latte, benefits, hydrolyzed collagen, collagen peptides, gut health, skin, joint pain, reduced anxiety, improved sleep  

There are many great reasons to get more collagen into your diet, whether through eating nose to tail, making rich bone broths, or simply supplementing with collagen powder.

1. Collagen Supports Healthy Skin

Hydrolyzed collagen and gelatin contain the building blocks (glycine and proline) for the production of skin cells. Research has found that supplementing with 3-5g per day of hydrolyzed collagen may improve skin elasticity, reduced roughness, and increases moisture.

2. Collagen Supports Bone and Joint Health

After the age of 30 bone density starts to gradually decline due to increased rates of bone resorption. Animal studies have found that collagen peptides may help prevent osteopenia and increase bone mass density by reducing bone resorption! Supplementing with collagen peptides may also help reduce joint pain and inflammation in individuals with osteoarthritis. Even athletes can benefit!

3. Collagen Supports Gut Health

Most individuals with a sensitive gut can enhance digestion with collagen and/or gelatin supplementation. Collagen has the ability to enhance gastric acid secretion and restore a healthy gut lining which is key for individuals struggling with leaky gut, food intolerances, and inflammatory conditions. For those with compromised digestion collagen peptides would be the best route to go.

4. Collagen Improves Quality Sleep

Collagen is rich in glycine, which makes up about a third of the total amino acids. One study found glycine improved sleep quality in healthy humans if consumed prior to bedtime. This can be a great alternative to other sleep  aids that may leave you feeling sluggish and tired the next morning. Plus glycine also plays a role as an inhibitory neurotransmitter, which can help calm anxiety.

So now you have some great reasons why to incorporate gelatin or collagen into your daily routine! I love Great Lakes Hydrolyzed Collagen for when I don't have time to make bone broth. My favorite way is to drink it in a Vanilla or Turmeric Latte as a post work out treat. Because it is very easily absorbed it is perfect to replenish protein stores after a hard workout.

Try out these great ways to boost your collagen intake:

  • Bone broth is very satisfying on a cold day or even when you are craving something a little salty. Make a pot and freeze the other half for use later.

  • Or simply use hydrolyzed collagen or collagen peptides in the super easy ways below:
    • Stir into your favorite cup of coffee.
    • Make a collagen latte! See my two options below.
    • Stir into oatmeal.
    • Blend into smoothies.  

collagen, latte, benefits, hydrolyzed collagen, collagen peptides, gut health, skin, joint pain, reduced anxiety, improved sleep
"Shake it UP" Collagen Lattes

These are prefect for a quick pick me up. You can drink them hot or cold. I prefer the Turmeric Latte hot and the Vanilla Latte iced. You can do the same thing with a cup of coffee too. 

Vanilla Latte

2 tablespoons hydrolyzed collagen
1 cup homemade vanilla nut milk (or any other milk)
1 dollop honey
Ice cubes

In a small mason jar add the collagen powder, 1 cup milk, and honey (or any other sweetener of choice). Screw on a lid and shake well, until the collagen and honey have dissolved. Pour over ice and enjoy.

*Optional: Add a tablespoon of cocoa powder for easy chocolate collagen milk.

Anti-Inflammatory Turmeric Latte

1 cup homemade vanilla nut milk (or any other milk)
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
¼ teaspoon ginger powder
Pinch fresh ground pepper
1 dollop honey
2 tablespoons hydrolyzed collagen

In a small sauce pan warm the milk over medium heat. Add the spices and honey and whisk until combined. Heat until almost simmering and remove from heat. Add the collagen to a small mason jar and pour in the warm turmeric milk. Screw on lid and shake until the collagen has dissolved. Enjoy!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Selva's Healthy Traveling Tips

Another year another adventure! Dane and I just returned from a much needed three week Europe vacation and family gathering. First stop Amsterdam with lots of art museums, second stop Germany full of family and friends, and finally five days of learning how to ski in the Austrian Alps….Dane is super proud! If you haven’t been, to the Alps that is, it is absolutely AMAZING! One lift ticket and your skiing options are endless. Every mountain that you see you can ski, plus you can also rest on almost every mountaintop and enjoy some hearty Austrian food. The perfect conditions for a newbie skier like me.

It has been over three years since I last visited Germany. If you have been a dedicated reader you may recall a few posts during my last Germany get away. I touched on a few of the staples including sautéed beef liver, lavender German cheesecake, a fresh strawberry rhubarb tart, and vegan maultaschen (German version of ravioli). All of which are delicious southern German delicacies. My favorite are the baked goods! The breads are so fresh and hearty, and have the perfect crunch texture. Not surprisingly Germany has mastered gluten-free baking. A country that devoutly uses quality bread in their day to day had to find a way to make the best gluten-free alternative. And I am not talking about toast bread. I am talking about sourdough leavened breads rich in seeds and whole gluten-free grains. If only this devotion to proper bread making would find its way to the states.

However, today I thought I would share my tricks and tips for healthy international traveling. The flights are long, the food usually very poor, and the exercise very limited. But the tips below will help you look and feel your best when traveling long distances. Stay fit and feel great so you can start your trip on a positive note.

#1: Drink Pure Filtered Water.

Staying hydrated is key to long distance flights. More often than not, water is offered only three times during a flight. And usually the water comes in a small plastic cup, which may hold at most 6oz of liquid. Of course you can always ask for more, but sometimes that can be a pain. Therefore, always make sure to bring an empty water bottle to fill up after you pass security.  Many airports are now offering water stations for easy refills. This way you can have a full bottle at your convenience. Plus the more hydrated you are, the more you need to use the restroom, and the more you will move during the flight. For optimal ease, forgo the window seat and plan for an aisle seat so you can freely move when you so desire.

#2: Bring Your Own Food.

Airline meals are often high in sodium and rich in calories. Especially if you are following a gluten-free or low FODMAP diet you must plan ahead and bring your own food. But even if you are not, bringing food from home will ensure that you have the best quality available. Not only can this save you time, money, and stress, but it also helps nourish you body the right way. Below are some TSA approved tips and meal/snack ideas.
  • For ultimate ease stay away from liquids such as yogurt, hummus, and salad dressing. Although you can bring small amounts (~1/4 cup) in food containers, this may be more of a pain than it is worth. Some airlines offer yogurt for sale. For instance Iceland Air sells a local yogurt product for 2 euros. If you bring your own granola or muesli then you are set.
  • Bring cut veggies. Hardy veggies like carrots, broccoli, cauliflower and sugar snap peas are the easiest. But sliced cucumber and red bell pepper can be just fine too! Just make sure to pack them on top of your carry on as not to squish them.
  • Bring whole fruits. Bananas, apples, and tangerines tend to be my favorite go to travel fruit. No mess and no stress.
  • Sandwiches and wraps are really easy travel food as long as they are wrapped or sealed in a container. Just make sure not to use aluminum foil because it may interfere with the x-ray machines.
  • Pack dry goods like instant oatmeal or instant soups. Once on the plane all you have to do is ask for hot water which airlines are happy to offer. My favorite is Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free oatmeal with flax and chia seeds as well as a hearty bean soup for added protein. I just make sure to choose a lower sodium option to reduce fluid retention on long air flights.
  • For healthy snacks try dried fruit, nuts and seeds, single package nut butters, or even kale chips. A whole avocado and crackers is also tasty snack. Sometimes I even pack a little cheese for a simple fruit and cheese plate to go with a glass of red wine J
Leaving the states with fresh food is not a problem. However, when returning to the states, for ultimate ease, eat up all your fresh foods in the airplane. If you have not finished your sandwich or your fresh fruit, leave these behind in order to avoid the cute dog that sniffs your backpack at baggage claim.

#3: Plan Ahead.

Some airlines offer a wide variety of meal options. If packing food is not for you, then visit your airline 24 hours prior to your flight. Here you can often choose a special meal based upon your needs. More often than not they offer gluten-free, vegetarian, and/or vegan meals as well as a wide variety of different ethnic flavors including Indian and Asian. But if possible still pack a little snack or two to help carry you over until you arrive your destination. When hunger strikes we often turn to the easiest and fastest meal option although it may not be the best choice. Also, some airlines such as Iceland Air only offer food for purchase. The options are limited, generally expensive, and usually not the best quality. Be prepared.

I would love to hear some of your favorite ways to stay healthy while traveling! Let me know in the comments below ;)
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