Whole Grains

When most people think of whole grains their mind goes to whole wheat pasta, or checking the bread label for the “whole grain” seal of approval. That is all well and good, but the whole grains I’m talking about today are the actual whole grain, before cutting, rolling or grinding into flour. Whole grains offer us a wealth of vitamins, including lots of happy B-complex vitamins, and minerals like magnesium, selenium and iron. Most of the nutrients are contained in the bran and the germ, and will stay there forever, as long as properly stored. However, as soon as we crack into that grain, the nutrient profile starts to go down. In one day, your whole wheat flour has lost 80% of it’s vitamins! Not only that, but if we’re eating foods made with white flour, the bran and germ are removed, along with the vitamins and minerals, and we’re left with only starch.

If you’re not already convinced to start working more of these little puppies into your diet, you will be. Not only will they make you happier when you eat them every day (B vitamins and complex carbohydrates increase serotonin), but the variety and deliciousness will make your taste buds happy. Pictured above are 12 grains that I found in my kitchen. And there are way more that I don’t happen to have right now, including millet, teff, freekah, red wehani rice, and more. Whole oats and popcorn are also whole grains.

If you have problems digesting grains, try soaking them overnight, or at least a few hours. Make sure to rinse and add fresh water to cook. Or you can try chewing every bite very well.

For inspiration, here are the twelve whole grains that are most popular in my kitchen.

Short Grain Brown Rice

This is the king of the whole grains. Serve it with your stir-fry. Throw a handful into your soup.  Use it anywhere you would normally use white rice. To cook, bring 2 cups of water to boil in a heavy bottomed pot. Add 1 cup rice and a pinch of sea salt. Turn the heat as low as it will go, cover and simmer for 45 minutes – DO NOT LIFT THE LID! Check it after 45 minutes, though it might need up to an hour for all the water to absorb. Let it sit, covered, for 5 minutes, to unstick from the bottom of the pot.

 

Brown Basmati Rice

I like to use basmati with curries, or anything Indian-inspired. It’s a little lighter than short grain rice, so I prefer it in the warmer months. Cook it the same way as short grain brown rice.

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Sweet Brown Rice

Yes,  it really is sweet. It’s also quite sticky. Use it in your sushi rolls, or eat when you are feeling a little down in the dumps. Chew it well and you’ll be smiley in the morning! Again, use the same cooking method as short grain brown rice.

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Quinoa

This little grain is actually a seed, pronounced keen-wa. It’s light, delicious and quick cooking. It may come with a bitter coating called saponin, so be sure to rinse. To cook, bring 1 1/2 cups of water to a boil, stir in 1 cup quinoa and a pinch of sea salt. Cover, turn as low as possible, and simmer for 20 minutes. Again, don’t life the lid until it’s done. Let it sit for 5 minutes to unstick from the pot before serving.
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    Red Quinoa

This is exactly the same as the regular quinoa, but red. It adds a dramatic look to everything you add to it. It’s great as a base for a grain salad, or sweetened to eat for breakfast.

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Buckwheat

Another quick cooking grain, buckwheat is also known as kasha when roasted. Use two cups of water for every 1 cup of kasha, and simmer for 15-20 minutes (raw buckwheat groats may need up to 30 minutes). Taste for doneness. It will have a chewy bite, but should not be hard. You may need to drain the extra water when it is done cooking.

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Pearled Barley

Barley, in it’s whole, unhulled state, takes about an hour to cook. So I keep pearled barley around instead. Some of the bran is sanded off, which reduces the cooking time quite a bit, and also makes it creamy. I like to use it in risotto. Cook the same way as traditional risotto, adding hot water or broth (up to 4 cups for 1 cup of barley) gradually, stirring constantly, until soft and chewy.

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Farro

Farro also comes pearled or semi-pearled, but here I have whole farro. I love it in a grain salad, or used in a risotto. To make risotto, follow the directions under pearled barley, but know that it will take longer if you are using the whole grain. It can also be cooked like rice, but may need to be drained. Farro has a delicious chewy texture that pops in your mouth.

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Wheat Berries

A few different types of wheat berries can be found at most health food stores. Red and white, hard and soft. For eating whole I prefer hard red winter wheat. It has a texture similar to farro, and cooks up the same way. I love it dressed in pesto as a side dish.

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Amaranth

This tiny little grain is actually a seed. Try cooking it up as a porridge, 3 parts water to 1 part amaranth. Or pop it like popcorn!

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Wild Rice

This dramatic black “rice” is actually a grass. It’s a little on the pricey side, so I save it for special occasions.  It’s great as a salad, or in a soup, or in anything you are using to impress people. Cook it like you would brown rice, but know that once the grains have split, it is done, even it there is still water left in the pot. Just drain and go.

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Whole Grain Purple Sticky Rice

I’ve saved the best for last. This is just to show you how cool rice can be. It’s purple! I also have red jasmine rice, and have had green and even black rice before. Just keep your eyes peeled for special heirloom grains. Make sure they say whole grain, and check the package for directions.

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And this is what happens when you let cats on your photo shoot!

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