Get ready for a delicious, healthy, & cancer fighting recipe that is packed with flavor & super powers!!!
A long while back, I received a package of Freekeh & if my memory serves me, I think it might have been in a Vegan Cuts Snack Box. Intrigued, I flagged some recipes that highlighted this new discovery, then promptly put in in my panty & forgot about it….
Fast forward to this past week when I attended a “Fighting Cancer with Foods” seminar at UCSD’s Moore’s Cancer Center with my Mom. I’ve been pretty quiet here on the blog about this, but she was diagnosed with a rare form of incurable blood cancer this past summer. I’m doing all I can to support her during this time – through learning about more about nutrition, introducing her to mindfulness practice & yoga, & developing healthful recipes that have anti-inflammatory & cancer fighting benefits. Even though this type of cancer cannot be cured or reversed, we are hoping to slow it’s progression through a holistic diet, exercise, meditation, & more.
When it came to the topic of blood sugar at the nutrition class, we learned that even something as healthy as brown rice can cause a spike in insulin, & studies have shown that women with high blood sugars may be more likely to develop cancer, even if they do not have diabetes. Therefore lower glycemic foods should be consumed. We asked about quinoa, & were told that it was a better choice over brown rice & most grains. But then, I remembered that I still had that freekeh hiding out in my pantry, & wondered how it would measure up? I decided it was high time to dig it out, do some research & finally cook it up. It turns out that I might just be harboring the latest “super-grain” in my kitchen! So what the freak is freekeh, you ask? Good question, I was curious myself!
Well, freekeh is considered an ancient grain, more specifically, it is wheat that has been harvested while it’s still young & green, & is then roasted. According to legend, it was created by accident nearly 2,000 years ago when a Middle Eastern village was attacked & their crop of young green wheat was set ablaze. The villagers salvaged the wheat, rubbed off the chaff (freekeh means “to rub” in Arabic, hence the name), & found that the roasted kernels inside were delicious. Thus, freekeh was born, & is now a mainstay of Middle Eastern & Mediterranean cuisines.
Freekeh has a smoky flavor & a nutty, chewy texture, & is often compared to bulgar, barley, farro & quinoa. Studies have found that because it’s harvested when it’s young, the grain retains more protein, fiber & minerals than in mature wheat. Freekeh has 6 grams of protein per serving, & has 3 times as much fiber as brown rice & twice as much fiber as quinoa. It also ranks low on the glycemic index making it suitable for managing diabetes & people with cancer. It is also low in calories, & the high fiber content helps to keep you feeling pleasantly satisfied. Low cal & filling – WIN!
To my GF pals, sorry to burst your bubble…freekeh does contain gluten—but the gluten is denatured in the harvesting process, so some find that freekeh has fewer side effects than other wheat products; however, if you have Celiac disease you should avoid it.
So what do you do with it? It’s perfect in place of brown rice or barley in pilafs, risottos & salads. It’s also wonderful served as a breakfast “cereal” with cinnamon, fruit & almond milk, or served parfait style with coconut yogurt & fruit.
For this dish, I substituted the freekeh where I would normally use brown rice & quinoa. I wanted to honor freekeh’s Mediterranean roots, & create a healthy recipe that my mom would benefit from & enjoy. How about some curried lentils & greens? I had a beautiful bunch of locally grown collard greens on hand, which I sauteed up with coconut milk, curry spices, & chopped tomatoes. Then I added in some seasoned green lentils & spooned it over the freekeh. Freak yeah!
This recipe has tons of flavor from the coconut milk & curry spices, & loads of plant based protein & fiber from the lentils & freekeh. And it’s a cancer fighting super hero! We’ve already learned about the benefits of freekeh, so lets take a look at what else this dish has to offer:
~ Tumeric, the yellow-colored spice found in curry powder is one of the best foods spices for cancer. Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, functions as both an anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant, & it may help prevent cancer.
~ Collard greens outshine it’s cruciferous cousins when it comes to lowering cholesterol & fighting cancer. Collard greens also provide detoxification support & are an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin A, manganese, & a good source of vitamin E.
~ Lentils, in the legume family, are considered one of the world’s healthiest foods, & contain health-promoting substances that may help protect against cancer. They are a very good source of cholesterol-lowering fiber, & this high fiber content helps to prevent blood sugar levels from rising rapidly after a meal. Lentils also provide good to excellent amounts of seven important minerals, our B-vitamins, & protein—all with virtually no fat.
- For the lentils -
- 1 cup whole small green lentils, sorted & rinsed
- 2 1/4 cups low sodium organic vegetable broth
- 1 tsp. mixed herb seasoning, such as Trader Joe’s “21 Seasoning Saute”
- ¼ cup dry white wine
- Himalayan pink, or sea salt & fresh black pepper to taste
- For the greens -
- 1 bunch collard greens, chopped in ½ inch strips
- 1 medium tomato, chopped
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 15-ounce can lite coconut milk
- 1 Tbsp. Thai red curry paste
- 1 Tbsp. Madras curry powder
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- ¾ tsp Himalayan pink sea salt
- fresh ground pepper
- freekeh, to serve (grain/rice of choice)
- Make the freekeh according to the package instructions.
- In a medium sauce pan, bring vegetable broth to a boil. Add green lentils, spices, & wine. Reduce heat to low, cover, & simmer for about 35 to 40 minutes, until lentils are tender & most of the liquid has has been absorbed. Season with salt & pepper.
- Meanwhile, wash & chop the greens. In a large skillet, heat coconut oil over medium high heat. Add the greens & saute for several minutes until tender & bright. (If the lentils are not done by this point, turn off the heat).
- When the lentils are cooked, add them to the skillet with the greens. Over medium high heat, stir in coconut milk, tomato, Thai red curry paste, Madras curry powder, tomato paste, Himalayan pink sea salt, & fresh ground pepper. Cook until heated through. Taste, & add additional seasonings as desired.
- Serve over freekeh. If desired, add a dash of Sriracha for some heat.
So, what are you waiting for? Go out, get your greens, lentils & freekeh on! And take care of your bodies, friends. Even though cancer can still strike even the healthiest of people, we should continue to do all we can to help fight & prevent it.
(freekah photo via michelle’s kitchen)