Maple Trout Lilli, Nebraska Knoll’s inventive and curious Food Correspondent, writes:

Spring is on its way – the days are getting warmer and longer, skies are bluer and our bodies are ready to reset.  I’ve been experimenting with different grains and came across quinoa’s much overlooked cousin, amaranth.  For the Aztec people, amaranth was not only a dietary staple, but an important aspect of religious rituals, as the women would shape a mixture of amaranth seeds with honey to be eaten ceremoniously. Its unique flavor and high protein content serves well as a morning porridge, leaving you energized, clear and happy all morning.

AMARANTH PORRIDGE

Ingredients:
3 cups water
1 cup amaranth
¾ cups milk – (I used almond milk)
1 ½ tablespoons maple syrup
¼ teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons coconut oil

Toppings:
Blueberries, sliced almonds, pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, etc

Instructions:
1.  In a medium pot bring water to a boil and add amaranth.
2.  Cook over low heat, with the lid on for 20 minutes or until most of the water has been absorbed, stirring occasionally.
3.  Remove from stove and add milk, maple syrup, vanilla, cinnamon and coconut oil.
4.  Top w/berries and seeds of your choice.

*******

In Mexico the amaranth seeds are popped like popcorn and coated with maple and molasses.   They are reminiscent of the cracker jacks we had as kids.  I upped the nuts because the peanuts in cracker jacks were the best part.

ALEGRIA (meaning Joy)

Ingredients:
½ cup amaranth 
½ cup nuts or seeds of your choice – I used maple cashews.
½ cup maple sugar
1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses

Instructions:

1.  Line a 9×9 pan with parchment paper.

2.  Heat a wide-bottomed pan with a lid over medium-high heat.  Add 1 tablespoon of amaranth to the pan, cover and cook on medium-high heat until most of the grains have popped (30 seconds). Transfer to a bowl.  Repeat with remaining amaranth, 1 tablespoon at a time.  Add nuts/seeds.  They are tiny, yeast-like granules and will turn white like tiny popped corn.

3.  Place sugar in a larger deep pot over medium heat.  When sugar crystals slowly begin to melt (don’t walk away like I did and burn it) add molasses and gently stir or swirl to incorporate.

4.  Remove from heat and immediately add popped amaranth and seeds.  Stir well to coat.

5.  Quickly transfer to parchment-lined pan and spread evenly.  Cut to desired size.

—MTL

[Editor’s Note: This festive snack tastes more lively than the cracker jacks I recall. I just ate some crumbly leftovers with a spoon -yum. AC]

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