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Amaranth: A Healthy Oatmeal Alternative

Try this recipe using vanilla, dried cranberries and walnuts

En español | For decades now we've known that oatmeal is good for us: This hot cereal makes the top 10 of nearly every list of "superfoods." Now amaranth, a nutritious ancient grain, is gaining popularity and availability. Could amaranth be the new oatmeal?

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I had played around with this grain when working on my latest book, Cook Without a Book: Meatless Meals, but I didn't take it seriously until recently, when my husband, David, and I spent the night with our daughter Maggy and her husband.

It was a weekday morning and we were all trying to get out the door — David and I needed to catch a train — when Maggy said, "I'll just put on a little amaranth." David, whose cholesterol numbers were slightly elevated at his last doctor visit, perked up: He's been on a mission to find cholesterol-reducing foods to enjoy. As Maggy ladled up the hot amaranth, she talked about its health benefits, including the fact that it's very high in protein, and full of iron and other nutrients. And some studies have suggested that it may help lower cholesterol levels.

With a little nuts and dried fruit, coconut milk and maple syrup, the breakfast was satisfying and stick-to-the-ribs.

David and I get our amaranth in the bulk section at Whole Foods, but any place that carries Bob's Red Mill brand should have it. For those who don't live near a store where amaranth is available, you can order it from online sources such as Amazon, Walmart and Target.

Everyone in our family loves the warm vanilla amaranth, and agrees that roasted nuts not only add flavor, they also offer texture to this soft, gelatinous hot cereal. Serve it with your favorite dairy, soy or nut milk, and a drizzling of agave, maple syrup or honey. And feel free to substitute equal amounts of other dried fruits for the suggested cranberries, and other kinds of nuts for the walnuts.

Warm Vanilla Amaranth Cereal.

High in protein and iron, amaranth is gaining popularity as a wonderful alternative to oatmeal. — Threemanycooks.com

Warm Vanilla Amaranth With Dried Cranberries and Walnuts

Serves 4

Note: You can shave off 5 to 10 minutes from the cooking time by soaking the amaranth in the salted water overnight.

  • 3 cups water
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 cup amaranth
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries (cherry flavored is nice)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup toasted and coarsely chopped walnuts

Bring water and salt to boil over medium-high heat in a large saucepan or small Dutch oven. Whisk in amaranth; reduce heat to low, and continue to cook to desired hot cereal consistency, about 20 minutes. Stir in cranberries and vanilla; continue to cook until cranberries have plumped, a couple of minutes longer. Serve, sprinkling with walnuts and a drizzling of your favorite milk and sweetener.

Leftover amaranth can be covered and refrigerated for several days. To warm the cereal, simply stir in a little water or milk, and gently reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave.

AARP food expert Pam Anderson is a best-selling cookbook author and blogger at threemanycooks.com.

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