Virtual Potluck Healthy New Year Challenge: Grande Whole Grains with Spinach and Serrano Ham
Welcome to (the end of) Week 2 of the Virtual Potluck Healthy New Year Challenge sponsored by Bob's Red Mill and California Olive Ranch. This week's theme is Supportive Side Dish. The ingredients used in this week's dish were Bob's Red Mill Grande Whole Grains and California Olive Ranch Miller's Blend Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
So yeah... it's Saturday already in Week 2 of our Virtual Potluck party with Bob's Red Mill and California Olive Ranch. Where did the week go?? Sorry I'm a little late sharing my healthy side dish and tips this week, but don't worry... I still have a great dish to share with you, some great tips, and another giveaway of some amazing products that you will love.
I managed to make it to the gym twice so far this week and also made some pretty great dinners trying to use up the huge bags of salad greens, spinach, cabbage, and Brussels Sprouts we have in the fridge(s). For years now, Mark and I have tried to incorporate vegetables and whole grains into as many of our meals as possible for the benefit of our health and frankly, for the benefit of our taste buds. The "healthy" whole foods actually taste better! That packaged and frozen food may taste good for the first few bites, but after you're done eating it, how do you feel? Probably less than awesome, right?
Well, try eating non-processed, whole foods for a while and see how you feel. Shop the perimeter of your grocery store and only go down the aisles that have things like spices, olive oils, vinegars, etc. for a little added flavor and pastas and rice (whole grain and brown and white in moderation). But really most of what you need to make delicious, healthy meals can be found around the perimeter of the store.
Around the perimeter of your grocery store is the produce section (fresh fruits and veggies), the deli counter (get some turkey for sandwiches for lunch), the dairy section (yogurt, cottage cheese, eggs and cheese), the meat and fish sections (get some lean meats and some beautiful fillets of real fresh fish), the juice section (get some 100% orange or grapefruit juice to rev up your morning) and the bread section (whole grain bread). By purchasing most of your groceries from the perimeter of your store, you will end up with real, whole foods that aren't packed with preservatives and that you can feel good about eating. You don't need a boxed up rice dish with the flavoring and a bunch of preservatives added. You are very capable of cooking up some rice and flavoring it yourself with ingredients you can identify and without added chemicals.
Your goal may be to lose some weight this year (I'm with ya there, sister...), but you also want to feel strong and energetic too, right? Well, eating this way will help you achieve both. If you focus on eating nothing but fat-free, fake-sugared, meal-in-a-can type stuff just to save on Weight Watchers points or calories if you're counting that way, you may lose weight, but you're going to feel weak, tired, and well BITCHY. If instead you eat whole foods and pare down your portions, you'll also gradually lose weight, but you'll feel awesome and your body will thank you. You know, if we're gonna do this... if we're gonna slim down, tone up, and feel the best we can feel, then we're gonna do it right. We'll do it together!
Ok, on that note, let's talk about a great side dish you can prepare using some Bob's Red Mill and California Olive Ranch products - both delicious and good for you.
When trying to decide what to make, I immediately noticed that the Grande Whole Grains reminded me of brown rice, only slightly larger. I read the back of the bag for the cooking instructions and these grains are prepared the same way: 1 part grains to 2 parts liquid (water, chicken stock). Put both in a pot and bring to a boil, then turn heat down to low and cover until the grains soak up all the liquid, which takes about 45 minutes to an hour (as does brown rice). That may seem like a long time, but if you do this step first, you can then do all the prep work for the rest of the recipe and once you've gotten to the point in the recipe where you need the grains, they'll be ready. You can also cook up your grains the day before, pop them in the fridge, them add them to your hot pan of goodness the next day and save even more time.
So since this is a healthy new year challenge, I wanted to make sure these grains and olive oil, which are super healthy on their own, had more good things stirred into them to create not only a healthy side dish, but a tasty one. Nothing will make you stop eating healthy sooner than eating a bunch of tasteless, bland food. I don't care how healthy it is, it must taste good or I'm not eating it. Oh you too?
Ok well before I show you how this deliciousness is made...
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This contest is now closed... and the winner is...
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See how this side dish is prepared after the jump!
Start by preparing the grains by adding 1 cup of Bob’s Red Mill Grande Whole Grains and 2 cups of chicken stock to a sauce pan and stir. Bring to a boil over high heat, then turn the heat down to low, stir again, and cover and let the grains soak up all of the chicken stock, which will take between 45 minutes to an hour. Check them periodically and once all of the liquid has been absorbed, turn the heat off and fluff with a fork. This is how they will look when you first put them in the sauce pan.
While the grains are cooking, prep all your other ingredients. Here is the Serrano ham I used, which is much like prosciutto. What's the difference between prosciutto and Serrano ham?
Prosciutto is a raw Italian style ham, the curing of which is done through a dry salting method using the leg or thigh portion of the pig. The portion to be cured is covered in salt for approximately four weeks, it is then washed and allowed to dry for around six months. After this it is moved to a particular cool type curing shed where it is left to dry in the air for around six months or more. Serrano Ham is a Spanish style of ham with the word Serrano basically translating to mean mountain or highland. This kind of ham is generally aged and cured at a higher altitude than Prosciutto. It is done in a similar way with the salting usually only lasting for two weeks and the final aging being anywhere from six to eighteen months depending on the size of the portion and the particular elevation and climate. Particular breeds of pig are used for making this kind of ham and these are often the Landrace, but a Landrace Duroc cross are also used along with the Iberico pig. If the Iberico pig is used then this is considered a better grade of ham and is often sold for a higher price. It is then known as Jamon Iberico ham. (courtesy of Scott Kessman)
I used three slices of Serrano ham and just diced it up so it would distribute nicely throughout the dish.
I also used a Hungarian hot pepper. These peppers can have a mild heat or they can be hot as hell. The batch of peppers we ended up purchasing turned out to be the latter. Holy crap these were as hot as serrano peppers! So I suggest tasting your pepper first, then determine how much of it you want to use. If it's super hot, use half the pepper.
Mince up your garlic, rough chop your fresh spinach, and chop your onion.
Next, heat the California Olive Ranch Miller's Blend extra virgin olive oil over medium-high heat in a large pan, then add the onions and sauté for a couple minutes, turning the heat down to medium.
Note: Before drizzling this olive oil into the pan, take a piece of bread and drizzle some of the olive oil onto it and hit it with a little sea salt. Call it a chef's snack. I'm just telling you this because this olive oil is SO GOOD. It's a treat, really, while it's also good for you. So enjoy it. Appreciate it. Then go ahead and cook with it.
Add the garlic and stir, cooking another 30 seconds or so until the garlic is fragrant. Season with salt and pepper.
Then add the hot pepper and the dry cured ham and stir, cooking another minute or so.
Next, add the chopped fresh spinach and stir until wilted. This only takes about a minute.
By now your grains should be about done. Fluff them up with a fork and this is how they will look. They will be soft, but they'll still have some chew. You know, like REAL food.
Add the grains to the pan and stir, cooking for a few minutes so all the flavors meld together.
Grate some Romano cheese all over the grains, then stir.
Transfer the grains to a serving dish and top with more grated Romano cheese. Look at this... is this not the sexiest side dish you've ever seen? Flavor, flavor, and more flavor people.
This dish was delicious and would be great served on the side of chicken or pork. It's good served hot or even room temperature, so this would be a great choice to take for a picnic or cookout. The leftovers are also perfect for lunch the next day. So try something new and be good to your body and try this side dish and let me know what you thought! And good luck on winning these products for yourself!