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Healthy Green Kitchen Healthy Green Kitchen - Page 239 of 246 - Simple Food. Balanced Living.
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popped amaranth treats (also known as alegrias)

popped amaranth treats (also known as alegrias)

Amaranth is a tiny seed originating from South America and the Himalayas. It is similar to quinoa in that it cooks like a grain, yet it is completely grain-free (so there in no gluten in amaranth).

raw amaranth seeds

raw amaranth seeds

Amaranth nutrition: amaranth has an impressive nutritional profile. It contains a significant amount of protein and is particularly high in the amino acids lysine and methionine. It is also high in minerals, specifically magnesium and calcium.

Though I have never had the pleasure of trying the real thing, I learned that popped amaranth treats are sold by street vendors in Mexico and India. They are typically sweetened with a sugar solution and in Mexico, there are called alegrias.

While toying with some new amaranth recipes, I came up with version, sweetened with a combination of pomegranate molasses and agave syrup. These have a really unique flavor, and make a nice gluten-free and vegan snack or dessert.

Pomegranate molasses is available in Middle Eastern or natural food stores and I love its’ tangy sweetness. Many different alternative sweeteners could be used in this recipe, though. You can try brown rice syrup, maple syrup or standard molasses, (or honey, but then the amaranth cookies won’t be vegan) or any combination of these; you could also add a little cinnamon. If you are not using the pomegranate molasses, you might also want to add some lemon or lime juice.

If you don’t have or want to use pumpkin seeds, you can use a different nut or seed, such as chopped toasted almonds or sunflower seeds. You can also make these nut or seed-free, and just double the raw amaranth to 1/2 cup. Another type of dried fruit can be substituted for the cherries or leave it out completely. Next time, I might try these with dark chocolate chips…

Popped Amaranth Treats

1/4 cup amaranth seeds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup dried cherries, preferably without sugar
1/4 cup pomegranate molasses
1/4 cup agave syrup

Rinse amaranth seeds in a fine mesh strainer and let sit for about 30 minutes so they are dry. Place a wok or cast-iron skillet over high heat. Add the raw amaranth. Stir around with a wooden spoon as the amaranth seeds begin to turn brown and toasty. Then they should start popping. Be aware that if the pan isn’t hot enough or if you add too much amaranth at once, your seeds may not pop, and they might just burn. (For this reason, you may want to add only a tablespoon of amaranth at once, and remove them as soon as they’ve popped).

popping the amaranth

popping the amaranth

If the pan is hot enough though, and if you continue to stir the seeds around, most of them should pop and turn white. Watch that they don’t burn. When most of the seeds have popped, remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

In a small pot, heat the pomegranate molasses and the agave syrup. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. You want the syrup to thicken and reduce somewhat, and this will happen after 5-7 minutes.

While the syrup is thickening, toast the pumpkin seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat until they pop (this will take 1-2 minutes; stir often and watch that they don’t burn). Add to the popped amaranth, and then add the dried cherries.

Pour the syrup over the seeds mixture, and working quickly so that all the syrup is incorporated before it starts to dry and harden too much, mix all the ingredients well. Using your hands, press into small balls (you could also press the mixture into a pan lined with parchment paper, and then cut into squares or rectangles). Allow to to cool before eating.

For more information about how to cook amaranth, see the easy amaranth recipe on my gluten-free grains page.

It’s been about a month since I first posted about our new organic garden, so I thought I’d share some photos of my kitchen vegetable garden now that it’s early July.

Despite the fact that the weather was terrible and it rained nearly everyday in June, my organic vegetable garden is growing very well. I attribute this to the fact that my veggies are planted in raised beds, and the soil is enriched with lots of compost.

Organic Garden Early July Highlights:

Here are my scarlet runner beans climbing up their cage; I’ve got lettuces you can’t see planted in the center…

scarlet runner beans

My squash plants are growing by leaps and bounds, and they’ve got gorgeous blossoms I love to use in recipes:

squash blossom

Here is one of my lacinato kale plants:

Tuscan kale

Here is our first ripe cucumber- my daughter and I ate it right after I took this picture:

first cucumber

I am a big fan of companion planting so my beds are filled not just with veggies, but with herbs, and lots of flowers, too. Here you can see some zinnias near my San Marzano tomatoes (these are awesome for sauces and they are just 1 of the 10 heirloom varieties I am growing!):

first sanmarzano

My herb spiral has filled in a lot: I’ve got dill, basil, lemon balm, oregano, winter savory, lavender, parsley and more growing in here…

herb spiral

That’s it for now- I’ll share more organic kitchen gardening photos as the summer progresses!


Red velvet cake has always fascinated me, but I really have no idea why. I’ve never even tasted it (the whole food coloring thing doesn’t sit well with me), let alone attempted to make it.

I wanted a festive dessert for the 4th of July, so I decided to make a somewhat healthier, all-natural version of red velvet cake, one that is colored with beets.

I am not trying to pass this off as a substitute for one of those traditional red velvet cakes made with an entire bottle of food coloring. I repeat – this is not a bright red cake! This red velvet cake with beets has more of a deep reddish-brown hue. I think it’s beautiful as well as delicious.

It is very rich, though- appropriate for an occasional celebration, but not suitable for your everyday healthy diet!

I’ve made chocolate cake with pureed beets before, and I really liked the results. Contrary to what you might imagine, beets in baked goods can add natural sweetness and moisture without adding a pronounced flavor.

Using The African American Heritage Cookbook‘s red velvet cake recipe as inspiration, I adapted my beet chocolate cake recipe into a red velvet cake.

To top the cake, I did not make the typical cream cheese frosting that usually accompanies red velvet cake. I opted instead for a creamy frosting made with organic ingredients. Then I covered the cake with fresh berries (ala Ricki Heller’s Sweet Freedom cover!)- it was a big hit with my 4th of July guests!

Recipe for Red Velvet Cake With Beets

Inspired by The African American Heritage Cookbook by Carolyn Quick Tillery.


For the cake:

*6 organic beets, boiled for 40 minutes, and then cooled, peeled, and chopped coarsely
*1/2 cup organic applesauce
*1/2 cup organic butter, softened
*1 1/2 cups organic sugar
*2 eggs, preferably organic and free-range
*1 teaspoon organic vanilla extract
*1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice
*1 cup organic plain yogurt
*2 tablespoons organic cocoa powder or organic raw chocolate powder
*1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
*2 cups sifted organic spelt flour or all purpose flour
*1 teaspoon fine sea salt

For the frosting:

*6 tablespoons organic spelt flour or all-purpose flour
*1 cup water or organic milk
*1 cup organic butter
*1 cup organic sugar
*1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


For the cake:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour two 9 inch round layer pans. Combine chopped cooked beets and applesauce in a blender and blend until smooth.

2. In a large mixing bowl in an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Add vanilla, and then add the beet mixture, mixing well. Add the vinegar and the yogurt and mix well again.

3. In a separate bowl, mix the cocoa or chocolate powder, baking soda, flour, and salt together. Add to the wet ingredients and mix until well blended.

4. Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for approximately 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pans on a wire rack for 5 minutes before removing from pans and allowing to cool completely. When the cakes are cool, you may frost them.

For the frosting:

Bring flour and water to a boil, reduce heat, and stir constantly until thick and slightly clear. Cool in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight. Cream together butter, sugar, and vanilla. Add the flour mixture and continue to beat until fluffy. Keep the frosting refrigerated before use.