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.
Quinoa chicken chili
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 chicken breasts or 12 tenderloins
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 cups chicken broth
2 (4-ounce) cans chopped green chilis
3 (15-ounce) cans white beans (undrained)
1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed well
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
2 teaspoons cumin powder
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper (or to taste)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 or 3 leeks, chopped (white only)
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
4 green onions, chopped
Heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add the onions and chicken, sautŽing until the chicken browns. Stir in the broth, green chilis and spice blend. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes Stir in the white beans and quinoa. Simmer an additional 15 minutes.
Slow-cooker fruited millet cereal
1 cup millet
1 quart water
1 teaspoon salt
1 medium apple, peeled and diced
1 cup raisins
1/ 2 cup coconut, sweetened or unsweetened
Place all ingredients in the slow cooker and stir. Cover, set cooker on low heat and cook for 8 to 9 hours.
Chocolate peanut butter mousse-filled cupcakes
For the cupcakes:
23/4 cups sprouted spelt flour or whole-wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1/2 cup canola oil
11/4 cups light agave nectar
1 cup soy milk
1/2 cup firm silken tofu
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
For the filling:
12 ounces light firm silken tofu
1/2 cup light agave nectar
1 cup smooth peanut butter
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup agave syrup
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup coconut oil, liquid but cool
Chopped toasted peanuts, for garnish (optional)
Mix together agave, cocoa and vanilla. Slowly add coconut oil and mix until glossy.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 cupcake pans with 18 paper liners and fill the empty cups half full of water to prevent scorching.
To make the cupcakes, mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder together in a large bowl. In a food processor, blend the canola oil, agave nectar, soy milk, tofu, vanilla extract and vinegar, scraping down the bowl often. Blend until very smooth, with no chunks of tofu visible, about 2 to 3 minutes. Combine the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients. Stir well and spoon into the prepared cupcake pan, leaving some room at the top of each cup. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Remove the cupcakes from the pan and place on a cooling rack. Cool completely before filling and frosting.
To prepare the filling, blend the tofu in a food processor until very smooth and creamy, approximately 1 to 2 minutes. Add the agave nectar and blend again. Add the peanut butter, vanilla extract and salt, and blend thoroughly until very light and smooth. Refrigerate 1 to 2 hours to firm before filling the cupcakes.
To assemble the cupcakes, you will need a pastry bag fitted with a large, plain, smooth tip. Fill the pastry bag with peanut butter mousse and insert the tip halfway into the top of a cupcake. Squeeze filling inside each cupcake just until it starts to expand.
Dip cupcakes into warm ganache and sprinkle with chopped peanuts if desired. Let cool.
Adapted from epicurious.com
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