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First off, I’m not suggesting you eat raw teff with a fork. That would be an effort in futility as teff is the smallest grain in the world and would be impossible to scoop up with a fork. I just wanted to showcase its dainty size and figured this would do the trick. Three-thousand grains of teff weigh only one gram, but one pound of seed can produce up to one ton of grain in only 12 weeks. Got that?

Teff is what nutritionists call a nutrient-dense food source because of its high nutrient to calorie ratio. Native to Ethiopia, it’s an ancient grain packed with goodness and rich in fiber, calcium, iron, high-quality protein, and various vitamins. It has a delicate, savory, almost herbal taste as a cooked grain and provides a rich, cocoa color to baked goods when used in flour form. The flour also has a faint chocolate flavor with hazelnut overtones. Do I sound like a grain sommelier? If I do, it’s because teff is one of my favorite grains — it’s power packed, but sweet and girlie (Zena Warrior Princess food). I use it whole to make porridge and polenta and substitute small amounts of the flour in recipes for quick breads and spiced muffins.

My sources for teff are either Bob’s Red Mill or The Teff Company. Wayne Carlson, owner of The Teff Company located in Caldwell, Idaho, worked and lived with a farm family in Ethiopia back in the 1970s. When he returned to Idaho, he was struck by the geological and climatic similarities of the Snake River Valley in Idaho and the East African Rift where teff is grown. He decided to give the ancient Ethiopian grain a try here in America and now some of the finest Maskal teff in the world is grown in Idaho.

I eat a mix of gluten-free oats, teff, toasted and blitzed brown rice* and chia for breakfast once or twice a week during the winter. A nutritious breakfast is a good way to start the day and helps keep your blood sugar and energy levels balanced for several hours. We also have a higher level of enzymatic activity in the morning, so breaking down, absorbing, and assimilating our nutrients is more efficient at that time of the day. That old saying, “eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper” is right. Or, in my case, like a queen, princess, and pauperette.

Here’s one of my favorite winter morning breakfasts. I like mixing my ingredients — this is also a good way to use up small amounts of grains and seeds left in the bottom of various bags. It doesn’t matter, there are no rules, mix and match as you please.

Power porridge
1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats (certified gluten-free*)
1/4 cup teff
1/4 cup toasted and blitzed brown rice*
2 small scoops chia seeds
2 & 1/4 cups water or a mixture of water and organic apple juice (you can also use rice milk)
pinch of sea salt (optional)

Extras
1 teaspoon vanilla
cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cardamom
nuts (pecans, walnuts, almonds)
seeds (sunflower, pumpkin)
dried fruit (raisins, dates, cranberries)
chopped apple

Use a small to medium-sized pot with a lid. Bring liquid (add salt) to a boil and slowly add grains and other ingredients. Mix well, turn heat to low, cover pot and let simmer for 15 – 20 minutes. Check and stir every 5 minutes or so and if it looks like the liquid is too low, add a small amount more. I usually end up adding a little more water as it’s cooking because I like my porridge creamy with a risotto-like texture (plus, I’m at a higher altitude). Top with a dab of honey or maple syrup and some coconut milk (or whatever type you like) and enjoy. I even add a spoonful of vanilla goat yogurt on occasion.

Makes 2 hearty servings, adjust accordingly.

* I use Montana GF Processors Oats (I love these guys). Oats are naturally gluten-free, but are often contaminated with wheat through growing and processing methods. Some people with celiac disease can’t tolerate oats, even the gluten-free version, so talk with your health-care provider and make your own decision regarding oats. You can also use gluten-free buckwheat groats in this porridge mix.

* Toasted and blitzed brown rice makes for a wonderful hot breakfast cereal alone or mixed with other ingredients. Pour one cup of dry rice (brown, wild, or a mix) in a heavy, ungreased saucepan (I use an old cast iron skillet that was my grandmother’s). Heat on medium heat and stir regularly. Let the rice toast for about 5 to 10 minutes until golden brown. It may make some “popping” noises, but don’t let it burn. Cool, pulse in a food processor, and store in the refrigerator (use as needed).

Go forth and eat a hearty breakfast.
Melissa

23 Responses to “teff — mighty grain and power porridge”

  1. Miles says:

    Melissa,
    That’s quite incredible, I had no idea. It must be such a vital food source for so many.
    I’m going to look into this further.

    Miles

  2. I love this post, Melissa. I have to admit I’m a teff “virgin.” I keep reading about it and definitely want to try it. One commenter on a teff post at Ali’s Whole Life Nutrition blog the other day says she uses teff in place of poppyseeds in baking for extra nutrition. I thought that was a neat idea. It was on Ali’s post that I read about the fellow in Idaho, too. Your description of teff …. chocolate and hazelnut, oh my, what’s not to like about that?

    Chia is another thing I have not tried yet, but again I keep reading about all its good qualities.

    I’m in that group of folks who can’t tolerate many oats, even the GF oats. Like you, I use the Gifts of Nature oats. If I make cookies and have a few, I am fine, but if I try 1/4 cup or so for breakfast … not good. (I am starting a new plan to heal my gut even more, so I will revisit this issue.)

    The toasted and blitzed brown rice sounds fabulous. How wonderful that you use your grandmother’s cast iron skillet!

    Finally, your advice on using bits and pieces of whatever you have on hand is terrific. That’s exactly the way I like to eat. I think one gets the best combinations that way and then you’re not eating the same old thing all the time.

    Thanks for all your great nutritional advice! You are inspiring me to eat better and better for sure. :-)

    Shirley

  3. Melissa says:

    Miles,

    Teff would make such a good “humanitarian aid” food. It is literally packed with nutrition. You know how the Ethiopian runners dominate world-class distance races (Olympic marathons, etc.)? They insist on eating teff on a daily basis. Hmmm? It really is a valuable little grain.

  4. Melissa says:

    Shirley — thanks for the comments! Well, girl, it’s about time you jumped on the teff bandwagon. It’s such good stuff. Teff actually comes in 3 different colors, ivory, red, and brown, but I’ve only had the brown version. I love the color it gives to baked goods.

    You know, if you can’t tolerate oats, skip them altogether. There are enough other choices out there that there’s no reason to eat something that is questionable to you.

    And yes, try my toasted and blitzed brown rice. That has been a staple of mine for some time now. I almost always have a little in a glass jar in the fridge, ready for breakfast cereal. I love it!

    What is your “healing” plan? I’m about to embark on my periodic “cleanse.” Maybe I should do posts on cleansing. What do you think? I’m into total food cleanses, no starving myself or fasting for me. I believe your body needs to keep up the process, you just need to eat the right foods and skip all the other stuff. There are some very detoxing foods.

    Anyway, maybe I’ll blog about that. Hmmm? You’ve got me thinking.

    :-)

  5. Kay says:

    I have a bag of teff flour in my pantry, but have been too chicken to try it. I think I’m ready! Before baking with new ingredients, I usually try a little taste plain. Then I wait to see if I react.

    I’m soooo lovin’ the millet & sorghum bread from Karina’s Kitchen, that I’m feeling bold about new grains . . new ancient grains – ha!

    I’m interested in your detox ritual.

  6. Elsie Nean says:

    Melissa,
    I am fascinated reading your blogs. It is such an education and all for free! Thank you so much.
    I have not heard of Teff or Chia before and will look out for these now. Never thought of toasting rice.
    I too, love my cereals for breakfast and make it up with seeds, nuts and fruits. It sets you up for the day :) .
    Elsie

  7. naomi says:

    Melissa it’s great to see someone championing teff and wholegrains in general. A post on cleansing sounds great, very aposite for this time of year too!

    I’m looking for people to host, ‘Go Ahead Honey it’s Gluten Free’ this year. Would you be interested? You get to pick the theme and the month (unless I’ve already alocated it).

    Just drop me a comment or email me at naomidevlin@f2s.com

    x x x

  8. Lo says:

    Mmm. Teff. Ever since I first read about it, I’ve been meaning to try it… but somehow something always gets in the way.

    Thanks for reminding me about this grain that is TOTALLY WORTH TRYING. Maybe this will be the inspiration I need to get moving on the Teff Front :)

    We normally do a spring “fast” of sorts — will be eager to read about your adventures. You should totally blog it!

  9. Melissa says:

    Kay,

    Try it, it’s such good stuff. Just go easy on it — try substituting about 15 to 20% in one of your baked goods recipes. If the recipe calls for 2 cups of GF flour, substitute 1/3 cup of teff flour.

    As for the cleanse, I’ll keep you posted. Maybe we should all do it together.

    :-)

  10. Melissa says:

    Elsie,

    Thanks so much for the kind sentiments. I’ve learned just as much from all of you. I’ll do a post on chia one of these days. It’s an interesting little seed.

    If you love breakfast cereal, you will like the toasted brown rice cereal. I eat instant baby food brown rice cereal mixed with nuts, seeds, etc. while out backpacking and one day I just decided to try making my own brown rice cereal. Toasting it first seemed like a good idea, so that’s what I did. Then I figured I should blitz it up in the cuisinart so it would cook up quicker, so that’s how it all started. If you want a step-by-step recipe for it, I’ll happily do that.

  11. Melissa says:

    Naomi — thanks for the comments. I hope all is well with you.

    I’ve received some interest in the cleansing post — funny, I just threw that thought out there as I am about to embark on my annual spring cleanse/detox. I do it in the fall as well, but with a bit of a twist. It’s such a nice way to do some internal spring cleaning.

    :-)

    As for the GF event, I’d be happy to help, although I’ve never even participated. I’ll email you for details.

  12. Melissa says:

    Lo — go for it! Teff is a wonderful addition to your pantry. And so healthy!

    You know, I might do a series of blog posts on cleansing. I’ve received so much interest in it — even a few emails. Hmmmm? Blog about cleansing? It’s worth some thought.

    By the way, I used a jar of the tomatoes last night. YUM! Thank you!

  13. Elsie Nean says:

    Melissa,
    The toasted brown rice interests me. Presumably it can be kept for a while in a jar? Any more details that you are able to give, will be appreciated.
    I guess it is quite filling and needs my power walk afterwards :) .
    Talking of power, Melissa, you mentioned on the other channel doing power yoga! I am intriqued!
    Smiley greetings and thank you
    Elsie

  14. I have seen several articles touting teff lately. Thanks for the post. I love healthy grains!

  15. I’ll share my plan as time goes on … probably on my blog a bit. But, Melissa, please share your thoughts on cleanses. I’ll be doing those, too. I’ve done them in the past and think they are very worthwhile.

    Teff–thanks for the endorsement of the brown variety. That helps.

    Oats–I haven’t had any in several months. Just one of those foods I wish I could eat. Sometimes I think I am a person who should not eat any grains at all … time will tell. ;-)

    Thanks!
    Shirley

  16. Cid says:

    Melissa,

    Think I’ll give the toasted brown rice a go, sounds tasty. Also thought I’d tell you that last night I lingered around the gluten free counter in my favourite supermarket. While I didn’t have time to read all the information on each packet, it did strike me that there were several types of flour. Good, I thought… now if Melissa drops in, I’ll be able to bake her a cake! More likely though we’ll feast on the sublime Macaron, a tower of them, all natural colours and flavours. You and Elsie will need to do plenty of power yoga before and after visiting me :)

    Cid

  17. Melissa says:

    Elsie,

    I’ll do a specific post on the toasted brown rice cereal. I prepare it and store it in a jar in the fridge and eat it when I want a quick and substantial cereal. I also like mixing it with a little chia seed, grown flax or whatever else I have on hand. It’s good alone or mixed with other odds and ends.

    I’ve been thinking about doing a post on yoga for over a year now and just haven’t done it. You’ve re-inspired me. Stay tuned for that.

    Susan,

    I’ve used teff for a long time now and am a huge fan. I love the stuff, but there are some tricks to baking with it and using it as a grain. Don’t overdo it, it’s best used in a blend of flours.

  18. Melissa says:

    Shirley,

    As a nutritionist, I believe there are people who should go light on grains or maybe even skip them altogether. Or take a break from them. I’ve worked with people who probably shouldn’t eat them at all and that’s what I suggest at times. We are all biochemically unique and what is best for one person may not work for another.

    I think I may do a series of posts on cleansing. I’ll keep you “posted.”

  19. Melissa says:

    Cid,

    Thanks for the visit. I’ll do a toasted brown rice post for you and Elsie.

    Yes, there is a wonderful world of “exotic” grains in our little non-gluten parallel universe. And it’s funny, most are ancient grains.

    I’m saving your macaroon (we spell it with 2 “o”s) recipe for later. I also lifted your tips from Miles’ comment section. These sound like the perfect gluten-free treat! I would love to come and visit! I just know the 3 of us would have a wonderful time, eating, wandering, and yoga.

    And of course, a cocktail and dinner in Miles’ newly remodeled establishment.

    :-)

  20. I think you are a very smart nutritionist. I think I am in the “go light” or “take a break” category, unfortunately, but also, hopefully (i.e., hoping that I will be able to eat more grains as time goes on. :-)

    Thanks,
    Shirley

  21. Cid says:

    Melissa,

    This week I decided to grind some brown and red rice after toasting. I then added a tablespoon or so of this to some milk and simmered (the milk that is, not me :) ) for around ten minutes. With the addition of a teaspoon of brown sugar I can tell you it was delicious. Thank you for the tip Melissa, I love toasted rice porridge.

    Cid

  22. Meghan says:

    I have a bag of teff sitting in my cupboard. Was just reminded and now I know what to do with it!

  23. Elsie says:

    Melissa,
    The toasted brown rice interests me. Presumably it can be kept for a while in a jar? Any more details that you are able to give, will be appreciated.
    I guess it is quite filling and needs my power walk afterwards :) .
    Talking of power, Melissa, you mentioned on the other channel doing power yoga! I am intriqued!
    Smiley greetings and thank you
    Elsie

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