The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

On The Table

March 6, 2013

Amanda Stone: Go-to grains for all meals

JOPLIN, Mo. — Whole grains have become the "it" words of the healthy eating world in the past few years. It makes sense to me to eat foods that are closest to their natural form. Whole grains are a perfect fit.

To demystify the term a bit, "whole grain" refers to the kernel of grain complete with the bran, germ and endosperm. These fancy words simply mean that your bread, rice, pasta or whatever is better for you. We need that stuff that's processed out of white flour products. It's full of fiber, protein and vitamins.

My favorite grain isn't a grain at all. Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is actually a seed, which is why it's a complete protein offering all nine essential amino acids. I substitute quinoa for rice or couscous in all recipes. It tastes great all by itself and it cooks quickly. My go-to cooking method involves throwing 1 part quinoa and 2 parts water in my rice cooker. It's done in about 15 minutes, and I don't have to worry about stirring, scorching or boiling over. If you don't have a rice cooker, I recommend getting one. I steam veggies in mine all the time as well.

Quinoa is ideal for vegetarians and Meatless Mondays. There's no concern about where the protein in your meal is going to come from.

Amaranth, buckwheat, quinoa and rye are all considered ancient grains. Although they're fairly new to Americans, they've been staples for humans for thousands of years. Put some trust in your ancestors and give them a shot. These grains are readily available in our neck of the woods.

If you're not feeling adventurous, start with whole grains that you're more familiar with. Oats, corn and brown rice fit the bill. Take baby steps by substituting white rice with brown. Brown rice is easy to digest, making it great for gluten intolerance. Add a handful of uncooked oats to your yogurt, burgers or meatloaf. Corn has a bad reputation for being a starchy vegetable, but remember that it's actually a whole grain. Popcorn is a great whole-grain snack as long as you don't load it with butter and salt.

An easy way to start loving whole grains is to toss a handful into a pot of soup or a salad. My first choice is quinoa or barley, but millet and rye are fine choices as well. When added to soup, grains add a meaty texture and fill you up quickly. I love them in salad, too. It's an unexpected treat, and they help make a salad a great main course.

Take baby steps with familiar grains, or get wild and try sorghum, farro or teff. Most importantly, take some steps to eat whole grains daily. I consider most whole grains to be interchangeable, so if you don't have quinoa, substitute barley, for example. Try these recipes for breakfast, dinner and even dessert.

 

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