I guess the economy must be pretty bad after all - now I'm eating bird seed.
Grocery prices recently have gotten so out of hand that there's a new camaraderie in the aisles. "Is that for your cat or for you?" a lady I've never met before today cackles, as I pick up a box of kitten chow. "I wonder how much dog food costs," mourns another woman, holding a package of ground beef indecisively. Everyone's feeling the pinch, and wouldn't you know it, I'm trying to improve my diet at the same time, eating more fruits, more veggies, and more whole grains.
Buying whole grains in Memphis means an expensive trip to Whole Foods. In this economic climate, Whole Foods is trying to push its image as "Not THAT expensive - no really!" They hand me a flyer as I walk through the door comparing the prices of selected super-swanky goods to the ordinary goods at competing grocery stores. On the back page is a list of whole grains, with nutritional information and price per serving. Nifty.
According to the flyer, one of the cheapest and healthiest grains they sell is millet. I'm all in favor of B vitamins, iron, folic acid and calcium at 14 cents a serving. Plus it's gluten-free, which doesn't concern me directly, but might enable me to invite my vegan-soy-allergic-gluten-intolerant ('Is there ANYTHING you CAN eat?') friend over for dinner some day.
Unfortunately, when confronted with a bag of millet, my husband and I are struck by the same thought. We stand silent for almost a minute. I'm the first to say it out loud. (He tries to be game about new experiences.)
"This is bird seed," I say.
"Yep," he says.
"No, I mean it, we have a 50 pound bag of this in our storage shed. Millet. For feeding birds."
"Yep," he says.
I can't remember what I paid for the 50 pound bag. It was at the hardware store sometime last year and it wasn't much. It certainly wasn't four dollars per two pounds. "What happens if we eat THAT birdseed instead of THIS birdseed? Will we die?""No idea," he said. And the birdseed remained on the shelf.
But! Readers here at Salon demanded I try the birdseed and report back.
The results of our investigation:
1) You can't eat the 50 lb bag of birdseed that's in the storage shed instead of the 2 lb bag at Whole Foods because bird seed for birds is unhulled. People seed is hulled. The hulls are tough and indigestible. I found this out by reading, not by experiment.
2) Birdseed tastes like popcorn.
It does! Just like popcorn.
In fact it's delicious.
Try it, really, you won't be sorry.
1 cup of millet makes a whole friggen lot of cooked millet. If you live alone or with one other person you might want to start with a half cup.
Toast the grain first in a skillet. I used a little spray olive oil, but you can also do it with a dry skillet and close attention. When the grain turns tan and smells nutty, put it into boiling salted water. The package said 2 cups water per cup millet, the internet said 4 cups, I split the different and put in 3 cups water and it came out dandy. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer until liquid is absorbed, about 30 minutes.
We dropped some carrots and chopped onions in with our millet. Millet takes 30 minutes to cook so it's perfect for cooking carrots.
1/2 cup leftover cooked millet, cold
Spray olive oil, balsamic vinegar, black pepper
1 individual bag steamable frozen peas
Whatever salad veggies you have in your fridge.
Spray a little oil directly on the cooked millet and fluff it up first.
3 grain Redneck Jambalaya
I call this "Redneck Jambalaya" because it's what happens when you want to make Jambalaya and realize you have no chicken stock and no tomato sauce in the house. So I subbed a packet of chicken flavoring from ramen noodles, and a V8. Dumped in all the veggies I needed to use before they got too old (essentials for red jambalaya are bell peppers, onions, celery, and tomatoes) plus all the leftover barley, brown rice, and millet in the fridge. Plus a rough approximation of Cajun seasoning, some shrimp, some ground turkey, and I think frozen peas. I don't even remember. It was delicious though.
Whole Grain Salmon wrap:
6 oz. can salmon in water
1 cup cold cooked millet
1 green onion
1 stalk celery
1 medium radish
lemon juice as needed
3 tbls non-fat sour cream
1 tsp minced garlic (heat with oil in the microwave for 30 secs to bloom the flavor)
3 squirts tabasco
salt and pepper to taste
basil, cumin, coriander, turmeric - about 1/4 tsp each
olive oil, spray or use 1 tsp
4 whole grain tortillas
2 sheets Hanayaki (roasted) nori (sushi seaweed wrap) OR 1 cup fresh baby spinach
Now, this one I'm proud of. This is the most awesomest sandwich ever.
Dice all the veggies quite fine. Spray them lightly with olive oil and pepper them.
Mix your salmon with the sour cream, spices, tabasco, and millet. Add lemon juice until everything is nicely moist. Then stir in the veggies.
Here's the beauty part: tear a sheet of nori in half. Lay it on the tortilla, add filling, and roll everything into a wrap. You should end up with 4 wraps. If you don't have nori use spinach. The spinach is good but the roasted nori with the salmon is delicious. I get my nori at the Korean market, but you can get nori at Walmart these days.
There you go! Have fun eating bird seed!