Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Resolutions: Wheat Berry/Roasted Veg Salad

I am not the type of person to keep New Year’s resolutions. Notice I did not say that I’m not the type to make resolutions. I tend to set such gigantic and unreachable goals that it’s just as well that I tend to forget what they even were by about late February. Such a selective memory saves me a lot of regret and embarrassment.

It seems that most folks resolve each year to either live more healthfully (lose weight, lower their cholesterol, stop smoking, go to the gym every day) or save or make more money. I think you can do both of these things together by making certain food and cooking choices. Most of us can probably cook for ourselves and our families more often, saving some cash by lowering the restaurant bill and buying less expensive whole foods (bulk beans and grains are particularly inexpensive). We can also save money by taking advantage of seasonal bounty and respecting our leftovers. You worked hard to purchase and prepare those foods, so don’t throw the leftovers away!

This all, of course, takes time, which is something most of us don’t exactly possess in abundance. (Better time management is probably one of those popular but pesky resolutions as well.) A little planning can help, such as cooking up some whole grains a few days ahead and setting aside some leftover seasonal vegetables. You can then toss them together with an easy vinaigrette that you know by heart and for which you always have the ingredients. Now you have a lovely salad. If you use cooked wheat berries, leftover Roasted Vegetables and Maple-Walnut Vinaigrette, you have the salad I made this week.

If you are not familiar with wheat berries, they are not berries at all, but unprocessed grains of wheat. When cooked, they are quite chewy and nutty and don’t tend to get mushy, at least in my experience, like rice or barley can. They can take up to two hours to cook, but I tried soaking them overnight, as I would dried beans, and was able to cook them in a large pot with plenty of water in about 45 minutes. You can probably find them where other whole grains are sold, such as a bulk foods or health food store, or in one of those fancy organic departments that all a supermarkets now seem to have.

Like any resolutions, simultaneously saving money and improving your diet may best be taken slowly. You might not like wheat berries or Maple Walnut Vinaigrette, so try another grain or another vinaigrette. The point is to make your life as reasonable as possible, and perhaps good-tasting, too. Try not to stress about it. You don’t want to bite off more than you can chew. That can be (literally) both unhealthy and expensive.

Wheat Berry Salad with Roasted Vegetables and Maple Walnut Vinaigrette

3 cups cooked wheat berries
2 cups leftover Roasted Vegetables, cut into ¼- ½ inch pieces
½ cup chopped walnuts, toasted
1 recipe Maple Walnut Vinaigrette

1. In a large bowl toss together the wheat berries, Roasted Vegetables and walnuts. Pour the Maple Walnut Vinaigrette over the mixture and toss to coat.

Makes 6-8 servings and lasts a few days in the refrigerator, as long as the Roasted Vegetables are no more than a day or two old themselves.

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