MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – In talking about the latest trends in healthier foods for 2013, one at or near the top of the list is freekeh.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics names it a super food for 2013 because it’s full of protein, fiber and anti-oxidants. Freekeh is a new food to most Americans, but it’s been eaten for thousands of years in other countries.

In the search for healthy, tasty things to eat, each year brings a new group of buzz foods. Last year it was quinoa. This year, it’s freekeh.

“Freekeh is this awesome roasted grain. It’s originally from the Middle East, but we are growing it in California,” said Bonnie Matthews with Freekeh Foods.

With three times the protein and fiber of brown rice, it’s a great alternative to foods like pasta and rice. It has a chewy, nutty texture and taste and has been around for thousands of years.

“In Arabic, freekeh means to rub. What happened is that two villages had a conflict. One guy burnt the other guy’s crop of immature green wheat. When the conflict and smoke cleared, they were left with these roasted grains,” Matthews said..”They were like, well, we’re hungry to lets cook it up.  So they rubbed the husk off that was burnt.  That’s where the freekeh word came from. They cooked it up like rice and realized it was delicious.”

Now Matthews, a Minnesota resident, is leading the pack in production of this buzz food.

“I was looking for healthier foods to eat. I knew that processed pastas and white rice has got to be a thing of the past. I started working out, eating healthier and taught myself how to cook freekeh in one-pot meals and putting it on salads,” Matthews said. In two years, I lost about 130 pounds so that was a crazy story.”

Freekeh cooks up like rice and takes about 20 minutes.

“You can cook it up a lot of ways. For grilling it can be a fast side. It’s great with salmon,” Matthews said. “You can also make awesome summer salads like mandarin salad. “It’s great as a side dish to some veggies. Any kind of recipe that calls for a couscous or rice, you can use freekeh for.”

Matthews will be doing a cooking demo at the Seward Co-Op on Wednesday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. if you want to try it or see her in action. Bags of freekeh cost $3.99 to $4.59 and have four servings per bag.


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