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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

Virtual Potluck
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...

 Would you like to find out how you can win some Bob’s Red Mill Grains and California Olive Ranch Olive Oil?  Here's how! 

Mandatory Entry:

To enter: You must visit the California Olive Ranch Facebook page and retrieve this week's Virtual Potluck Code Word. Then, use that code word in a sentence in the comment section below.

Additional Entries:

For extra entries, do any or all of the below and then come back here and leave a comment for each:

  1. Follow Bob's Red Mill on Twitter
  2. Follow California Olive Ranch on Twitter
  3. Follow Virtual Potluck on Twitter
  4. Tweet about the contest:I just entered to win @Bobs_Red_Mill & @CA_EVOO products from @TaratheFoodie #virtualpotluck Enter here:“ Comment again, letting me know you've done so, by providing the link to your tweet.
  5. More Blogs, More Ways to Win: Get additional entries in each week's giveaways by visiting our host blog for this event, Groovy Foody, and finding other participating VP bloggers sites to comment on. You have 48 chances to win great products!
If you are chosen as the winner, you win BOTH products: the Bob's Red Mill Grande Whole Grains and the California Olive Ranch Miller's Blend Extra Virgin Olive Oil

California Olive Ranch would also like to offer FOODIE readers a 10% discount by entering coupon code ‘BLOGFRIENDS’ upon checkout at their online store.   

Contest will end on Monday January 16th at 6 pm EST and a winner will be chosen via

This contest is now closed... and the winner is...
Faith Tiemann!
Follow her @FCJewelryDesign on Twitter.

grande grains millers blend

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!

Grande Whole Grains with Spinach and Serrano Ham

grains, whole grain, serrano, ham, peppers, spinach, side dish

See Grande Whole Grains with Spinach and Serrano Ham on Key Ingredient.

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  1. Your use of the Miller’s Blend and the Grande Whole Grains Blend looks very appetizing. The colors are wonderful. I bet the smell and taste of this dish is awesome. The picture of the finished grain alone is very appealing and it seems like a very versatile product. I like your idea of the chef snack, not only is it fun to eat while you cook, it's also nice to know if a product tastes good on its own before adding it to a dish. Good job!

  2. Faith Tiemann1/14/12, 2:32 PM

    I would love to try the Millers Blend olive oil on a piece of Breslin you suggested-and I must make this dish!

  3. ConnieBolickLee1/14/12, 3:27 PM

    I would like to use Miller's Blend Oive Oil in some of my tasty recipes.

  4. ConnieBolickLee1/14/12, 3:33 PM

    I follow Bob's Red Mill on twitter

  5. ConnieBolickLee1/14/12, 3:34 PM

    I follow California Olive Ranch on twitter

  6. ConnieBolickLee1/14/12, 3:35 PM

    I follow Virtual Potluck on twitter

  7. I would lov eto try to make this with millers blend oil

  8. I follow virtual potluck on twitter

  9. I follow bobs red mill on twitter

  10. I follow california olive ranch on twitter

  11. Miller's Blend sounds like the perfect oil for your amazing grain dish. I am now very hungry! Thanks for the inspiration...I will be making this soon!

  12. Amazing! I would love a big bowl of this right now!

  13. @ThymeForTwo1/15/12, 1:19 AM

    Love that ##VirtualPotluck Miller's Blend ... Especially at high altitude!

  14. Your dish looks like mac and cheese!!
    And I loved the 'chef's snack' with the Miller's Blend.. the one who cooks definitely deserves a treat in my book :)

  15. I follow Bob's Red Mill on Twitter (handle picatasi)

  16. I follow CA Olive Ranch on Twitter (handle picatasi)

  17. I follow Virtual potluck on Twitter (handle picatasi)

  18. I tweeted about the contest:!/picatasi/status/158446725466554368

    sweepinpianista at gmail dot com

  19. Now that my son is a year and half (!), I have finally regained my taste buds and my flavor preferences. I've been experimenting with different olive oils to see how their flavor characteristics work in different dishes. I would love to try the Miller's Blend olive oil. Here's hoping I win the giveaway!

  20. I tweeted about the contest:!/jenroland/status/158582893105512449

  21. I followed Bob's Red Mill (@jenroland). The funny thing is that I am here in the Portland area, and I am a huge fan of Bob's Red Mill. Why hadn't I followed them before?

    Just realized I hadn't left my email in the previous comments: jennifer AT jennifer DASH roland DOT com

  22. I followed CA Olive Ranch (@jenroland).

    jennifer AT jennifer DASH roland DOT com

  23. I followed Virtual Potluck (@jenroland).

    jennifer AT jennifer DASH roland DOT com


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If you are commenting to enter a giveaway, please do not comment as "Anonymous". If you choose to comment as "Name/URL", please use your Twitter handle as your Name or provide a URL that provides us a way to contact you in the even that you are the winner. Thank you! ~ FOODIE