Friday, March 21, 2008

Know Your Whole Grains

No one eats perfectly. I sure don't. I haven't tried a lot of these grains and don't cook others enough. On the road of health, it helps to know what you're steering towards. (Like my pompous sounding car metaphor? I made it up.) My plan is to add more nutrition entries at some point. Here is my first.


General Whole grain tips.

-Most whole grains freeze well after they are cooked. Then you can unthaw them later and add them to soups or make a quick salad.

-The cooking times will vary. Rice may take 40 minutes one time and 50 minutes another. Taste for doneness. (This is true for dried beans as well.)

-Toast the raw grains before you cook them to add a nutty flavor. Toasting is good with brown rice. But, I don't think it makes much difference with steel cut oats.

-Soaking before cooking will shorten cooking time.

-whole grains have a shorter shelf life then non whole grains. They contain natural oils which will eventually get rancid. Keep in the refrigerator or freezer to extend shelf life.

-Salt. Add salt to the water when you cook whole grains. (or anything you boil in water for that matter) Well, if you are making a sweet dish, use just a dash. Add less salt if you are cooking in broth. Broth is salty on its own.

-The bigger the better. The larger each grain is, the better for you. You want your body to be doing the job of breaking down the grain. It will stay in your stomach longer and make you feel full longer. Example, steel cut oats are better then rolled that are in turn better then instant.

-If you like oatmeal, try a 10 (or 8 or 12 or whatever) grain cereal. It isn't any healthier for you (oats are already whole grain). But, it has a more interesting flavor.

AMARATH-You will sometimes find this in healthy baked goods.

BARLEY-Most often pearl barley, sold under the Mother's brand in supermarkets. Whole hulled barley is also available. I never make barley, and I should. I like it. I'll have to get on that.

BROWN RICE-Regular, medium, or short grain. Brown Basmati has a nuttier flavor (I don't notice a big taste difference however. There is a big taste difference between white rice and white basmati.) Cook 40 to 50 minutes. I like to make Oven Brown rice. Add sauteed onions and garlic and cook in broth to add flavor. Cooking rice in broth makes a huge difference.

BUCKWHEAT-Buckwheat groats are toasted and called kasha in eastern Europe. I don't know much about Kasha except it is usually a breakfast food.

-Buckwheat flour is used in baked goods, notably pancakes. Buckwheat has no gluten.

CORN-Cornmeal-Get whole grain cornmeal, not enriched. The stuff at the supermarket is usually enriched. Hodgkin's Mills makes a whole grain cornmeal and they carry it at Walmart, so I'm sure they have it in the health food section of the supermarket or maybe even by the cornmeal. See my cornbread recipe.

-Poletna is made from coarsely ground cornmeal. It makes an Italian cornmeal pudding. Anything with a porage texture scares me. So, I have no info about polenta.

-Masa Harina is corn flour used to make corn tortillas. Corn tortillas and therefore corn chips are whole grain. So corn chips are a better for you then potato chips.

-Hominy-Sold canned in the Mexican food section of the supermarket. It is also sold dried, but I don't know if they have it in Bismarck. I read in someone's blog the dried is vastly superior (in taste) to canned. Hominy has all the fiber of corn, but has lost some of the vitamins. It has a satisfyingly chewy texture. Check out my Posole recipe (ya know, when I post it).

-Grits-Grits are made from coarsely ground hominy. I know nothing about grits. I'm from North Dakota.

FLAXSEED-Flaxseeds must be ground to get the nutrition from them. Your body cannot digest them whole. Grind them in a coffee grinder or buy them ground. They will last a month ground in the refrigerator. Add them to baked goods, on top of cereal or in a smoothie. If more people buy them they might plant more flax in North Dakota and I could see more beautiful flax fields.

MILLET-I've never tried millet. To my knowledge, no culture has made this a staple of their diet. So, I don't have high hopes for it.

OATS- Like all whole grain, the bigger the grain, the better for you. Your body spends more time digesting, so you stay full longer.

-Instant oats are precooked and dried to make the cooking time shorter.

-Quick cook oats are more thinly sliced then rolled oats and cook in 3-5 minutes.

-Rolled Oats- Rolled oats have been husked, steamed and rolled. Simmered for 10ish minutes for oatmeal. They are a great addition to baked goods, pancakes, bread. Oatmeal cookies anyone? I make granola quite often.

-Steel cut oats (A.K.A. Irish or Scottish Oats)-Steel cut oats are cut into pieces with steel blades. They make a creamier, nuttier, chewier oatmeal. Steel cut oats have a lower glycemic index then rolled oats. They take 40 minutes to cook. I've seen recipes that require soaking first to shorten the cooking time. I make overnight oatmeal.

-Oat Bran-Add oat bran to baked goods or sprinkle on cereal.

-Oat Groats are the whole kernel oats.

-Oat flour- Used in baking. Oat four had no gluten and cannot be used alone for bread.

QUINOA (Keen-Wa)-I don't make this enough. Quinoa is quite the impressive grain. It's a complete protein, which is good for vegetarians. It has a natural insecticide coating. I'm only guessing, but I'd think that would mean they need to use less pesticides when growing quinoa. Because of the natural insecticide, you should rinse quinoa before cooking it. If there is any of the insecticide left, it will make the quinoa taste terrible. I have never encountered this. I know people who never rinse their quinoa and don't have a problem. So, it's up to you. Quinoa is also quicker cooking. It cooks in 25 minutes which is half the time of brown rice. You can find Quinoa is in the health food section of the supermarket. Anything you would serve with rice you can serve with quinoa.

RYE-Rye berries- Used in similar ways to wheat berries. Cooks in 30-40 minutes. Look in the health food store.

-Rye flour-Rye flour is low in gluten and must be mixed with white wheat flour to be made into bread. Trust me I tried several times to make whole wheat rye bread (Pumpernickel actually). Won't rise. But, the hard crust cooked around the dough tasted fantastic. When I couldn't find a recipe for whole wheat rye bread on the Internet, I decided to give up. Anyway, be aware, rye bread is only part whole grain.

Update-Laurel's Kitchen cookbook and this woman say you can make 100% whole wheat rye bread. It must just be me.

SPELT-It's a cousin to wheat. Some people with wheat allergies can eat it. Use spelt flour in place of wheat flour.

TRITICALE (Triht-ih-kay-lee)-It's a hybrid of wheat and rye. It comes in berries like wheat berries or flour.

WHEAT- Whole Wheat Flour-Used in baking. Look for 100% whole wheat (or whole grain) bread. If it just says wheat, it's white flour with Carmel color. I've been fooled more then once. The biggest culprits are bagels and English muffins. Turn the bread over and look for Whole wheat flour as the first ingredient. The important word being whole. If it says wheat flour it means white wheat flour.

-Wheat Berries-Wheat berries are the whole grains of wheat. They can be cooked and eaten for breakfast, made into casseroles or salads (like a pasta salad, but with wheat berries). See Lora's Weird Wheat Berry Salad, and Wheat Berry Pilaf.

-Bulgar Wheat- Is wheat berries that have been steamed and crushed. It comes in fine, medium and coarse grain. Medium is the most common. It can be found in bulk sections and health food sections of your supermarket. Boxes of tabbouleh mix are Bulgar. See my recipes for Tabbouleh and pineapple Bulgar salad. (when I get around to posting them.)

-Whole Wheat Couscous-Is a whole wheat pasta that is in the shape of a small round ball. (Think half rice size, but round) The best thing about couscous is that you cook it by adding water (or broth), bring it to a boil, remove it from the heat and let it sit, covered for 5 minutes. How's that for last minute healthy cooking.

WILD RICE-Wild rice is technically not rice. It's a aquatic grass grown in lakes in Minnesota. (and other places) Use in soups, stews, and salads.

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