Sunday, 10 August 2014

Pink Lemon Bulgur Salad (+ some notes on gluten)

It has been a very full and wonderful weekend!  As I mentioned in my last post, I went to a vegan potluck last Thursday.  It was really fun to spend an evening having interesting conversations and lots of delicious vegan food! 

I brought my savory red velvet cake, and those who came brought so many amazing dishes, including chickpea bread, several yummy curries, vegan waldorf salad, vegan chocolate cake, scones, and hempseed muffins!  As you can see, we had quite a feast.  :)

 During the weekend I went home for the wedding of a friend from my home church.  It was a beautiful and joyful wedding outdoors on a large farm, and it was so nice to see the bride and groom as well as some other friends I hadn't seen for a while. 
Today, my family drove me back to Toronto, and we went to church together and then had lunch at a vegetarian restaurant called Hibiscus in Kensington Market.  They specialize in buckwheat crepes, and their menu includes many vegan options. 

Above you can see the pecan, pear, and vegan cheddar, and tomato, mushroom, and vegan mozzarella crepes my mom and I shared.  Our family also tried their salad which was probably my favourite part of the meal and included kelp noodles, kale, quinoa, shredded beet, and many other tasty ingredients.  Although I think Fresh is still my favourite restaurant in Toronto, it was great to try another place that shares yummy plant-based foods.  :) 
Now that I'm back to my Toronto home, I felt like making something light and simple, using some of the ingredients I had left from before the weekend.  This vibrant bulgur salad satisfied that nicely. 

Pink Lemon Bulgur Salad


Bulgur - 1 cup raw*
Beet - 1 raw, shredded
Olive Oil - 1 tablespoon**
Lemon Juice - 3 tablespoons
Garlic - 1 clove minced
Ginger - 1/4 inch minced
Pepper - 1/2 teaspoon
Salt - 1/2 teaspoon***
Dried parsley - 1 tablespoon
Dried dill - 1 teaspoon****


Cook bulgur in 1.5 cups of water at a simmer until water is absorbed and bulgur is fluffy, about 3-5 minutes.  Add shredded beet and stir well to combine.

Mix together remaining ingredients to make a dressing, and pour over the bulgur mixture.  Stir well until incorporated.  Adjust seasonings to taste.  Serve as a side dish, or over salad.  I had mine tonight over a kale salad and topped with sunflower seeds.  This recipe serves about 4, depending on how you use the dish.


* Feel free to substitute for another grain as desired.  I think this salad would also be tasty using quinoa or brown rice. 

** I was feeling like a lighter salad tonight, so I used only a tablespoon of olive oil, however if I were serving this for others I would add a few extra tablespoons.  I also would have added more lemon juice, however I ran out, so I made do with what I had!  I would recommend at least 4 tablespoons (I like my salads nice and tangy).

*** I tend to go lighter on garlic and salt when I make food for myself, but again if I were serving others I would probably use 2 cloves of garlic and 3/4-1 teaspoon of salt.  Feel free to adjust according to your tastes. 

**** If you have them, fresh parsley and/or dill would be lovely in this salad.  You could use around 1/4 to 1/2 cup of each.

I hope you enjoy! :)

My first gluten-containing blog recipe

For this salad, I used bulgur, which is whole grain parboiled wheat.  You may have noticed that this is the first recipe including wheat/gluten which I have on my blog.  Although I sometimes like to try making recipes using alternative ingredients to wheat, since I like to challenge myself to experiment, and since I know that many people have been avoiding gluten lately, I don't myself avoid gluten. After doing some personal research on the topic, I feel that it isn't necessarily beneficial, unless of course one has celiac disease or a diagnosed allergy or sensitivity to wheat or gluten.  There are a number of reasons for this. 
Firstly, although people may attempt a gluten-free diet in order to attempt weight loss or to feel better, I think the results of this are not due to the removal of wheat/gluten itself.  (Interestingly, those who truly have celiac disease often experience unhealthy weight loss when their diets do contain gluten, since their bodies produce a reaction to it that damages their intestinal wall and makes it difficult for them to absorb essential nutrients.  Once they remove gluten from their diets, they are able to gain back lost weight and nutrient status healthfully.)  If people choose a gluten-free diet because they need to lose weight or want to feel healthier, they may as a result cut out many processed grain products which are high in sugar and low in most nutrients, and choose more whole foods - in this case the general improvement of diet is likely responsible for any beneficial effects they may experience.  On the other hand, gluten-free dieters who think gluten is the sole source of their problems may think they are improving their diet simply because they remove the protein, while choosing as alternatives mostly processed products which have been modified for a gluten-free diet - many of which use white rice flour, which is even lower in essential nutrients than wheat, and add extra sugar in order to make the products more palatable.  In this case, many people end up unhealthfully gaining excess weight on the diet, and may actually miss out on micronutrients such as some B-vitamins which are found in wheat.  Processed gluten-free products should be used primarily in moderation for those who truly cannot handle gluten, but still want to try some of their old favourite treats on occasion. 
Secondly, those who truly think they have a problem with gluten should be examined by a doctor before attempting a gluten-free diet.  The reason for this is that the intestinal damage which allows doctors to diagnose celiac disease only occurs when gluten has been present - if people try to start the diet before going to the doctor, they may be misdiagnosed.  Those who are sensitive to gluten may feel even worse reintroducing gluten into their diet if they want to go to get tested and are required to have gluten again after being on the diet for a while.  It is important for those who have celiac disease to have accurate diagnosis and to completely remove all traces of gluten from their diet, since even a very low gluten diet will not be sufficient to prevent intestinal damage.
Thirdly, living a gluten free life is difficult!  For those who really must avoid gluten, it is not convenient to need to choose only specialty products that have been kept free of contamination, many of which are more expensive than their counterparts which contain or may have come into contact with gluten-containing foods.  For those who would otherwise experience severe health problems, this extra cost is worth it in order to keep them healthy!  For most people, it would be more beneficial to spend their time and effort focusing on finding whole foods that best meet their nutrient needs.
Overall, if you are looking for a healthy diet and are not specifically diagnosed as sensitive to gluten, I recommend choosing a diet rich in whole plant foods like vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains. :) *

*Please note that while I have had a long-standing interest in nutrition, and am currently pursuing my master's degree in nutritional science, I am not a certified clinical nutritionist or registered dietician.  If you require specific dietary assistance, please look for someone with professional qualification and experience in dietary counseling.

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