The whole truth: Cooking with whole grains

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 8, 2011

By Emily Wilder
For The Salisbury Post
Have you noticed a postage stamp logo on your favorite cereal or bread packaging? It’s right there on the front, that black and gold icon. Do you know what it means? It is issued by the Whole Grains Council to identify products that are 100 percent whole grains, or contain at least half a serving (8 grams) of whole grains.
But you might be wondering what exactly is a whole grain? It is the seed (or kernel) of the plant in its complete, natural state, and it has three main parts: the bran, the germ, and the endosperm. When the seeds are processed, or refined, the bran and the germ are often removed, resulting in lost protein and nutrients. In their entirety, grains contain antioxidants, B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium, iron, and fiber, which according to the Whole Grains Council, reduce the risks of heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and obesity. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend adults eat at least half their grains as whole grains.
But, you don’t have to look to that handy little stamp as the only source of whole grains, you can start with the whole grains themselves! They may even already be in your pantry. On the list you will find barley, buckwheat, cornmeal/polenta, millet, steel cut and old-fashioned whole oats, quinoa (pronounced keen-wah), brown and wild rice, and wheat berries.
Keep in mind, every little bit counts! Start small and soon you will be seeking out the satisfying, nutritious taste of whole grains. Easy ways that add up include switching white breads and pastas for whole wheat, and white rice for brown or wild rice. You can also use crushed bran cereal in place of bread crumbs, top your toast with rolled oats, and add quinoa or barley to ground meat recipes for texture, flavor, and nutritional value.
To stock up your pantry, purchase grains in bulk, since they keep well and are more affordable without expensive packaging. They can be stored for a few months in an airtight container in a cool, dark cabinet or up to a year in the freezer. If you are purchasing a packaged product, read the ingredients and look for 100 per cent whole grain or 100 per cent whole wheat with no refined or processed grain ingredients. Be careful of misleading statements such as “made with whole grains” that may also include refined flour.
Whole grains are local! At Hoffner Organic Farms in Mt. Ulla, wheat is planted in October and harvested in June. The wheat is then ground using a family-sized grinder and made into all-purpose flour. I had the opportunity to try their soft white wheat flour, made from the type of wheat typically grown in North Carolina. I use this flour for all my baking needs, from cookies and cakes to pizza crusts and muffins.
Basic preparation for any of the other grains is similar to rice. Add boiling water and let them simmer until desired tenderness. On my Green Kitchen blog (, you’ll find a link to cooking times, as well as other resources for whole grain information and preparation.
Quinoa-Black Bean Cakes
2 cans organic black beans, well-drained
1/4 C. finely chopped red onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 C. cooked quinoa, cooled (follow instructions on box)
1/3 C. grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper
1 egg or egg substitute equivalent
whole wheat bread crumbs
Dipping sauce: ketchup, Texas Pete, garlic salt, pepper, agave or brown sugar (mix to taste)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a bowl, mash black beans, stir in onion, garlic, spices, quinoa, and egg. Mix well, mashing again if needed. Add cheese and bread crumbs to thicken until desired cake texture. Form into palm size patties no more than 3/4-inch thickness. Transfer to cookie sheet (use foil or non-stick spray) and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until solid, depending on the original consistency. Serve with tangy dipping sauce over a bed of lettuce.
Whole Wheat Pizza Crust
2 C. whole wheat flour
1 package Fleischmann’s pizza crust yeast
1 tsp. sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
2/3 C very warm water (120- 130
3 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine one cup flour and other dry ingredients, add water and oil. Mix well and gradually add in remaining flour, mixing until dough ball forms, knead well until smooth and slightly elastic. Press dough into greased pan. Bake 2-3 minutes, then add toppings as desired and return to oven for 10-12 more minutes.
Wheat Berry Salad
1 C. wheat berries
1/2 C. chopped walnuts
1/2 C. dried cranberries
3-4 stalks of celery, chopped
1/3 C. green onion, chopped
1/4 C. extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbs. lime juice
2 Tbs. maple syrup
1 Tbs. spicy brown mustard
1-3 Tbs. water
Soak the wheat berries in water for 3-4 hours, or overnight, and then place in boiling water for 30-45 minutes. While they are cooking, combine walnuts, cranberries, celery, and onion. In a jar, combine lime juice, olive oil, maple syrup, mustard, and water, shake/stir until well mixed. Drain the wheat berries and add to walnut mix. Pour the liquid mix over the other ingredients, stir to coat everything, and chill for 1 hour. Serve cold.
Brown Rice Stuffed Peppers
4 large bell peppers (yellow, red, orange or green)
1 C. Swiss Chard, ribs removed and chopped (or spinach)
2 C. brown (or wild) rice, cooked
1/2 small white onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 C. monterey jack cheese, grated
salt, pepper, basil to taste
optional: mushrooms, sausage (cooked), crumbled tempeh,
marinara sauce for topping
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut the top off peppers and remove seeds and inside, place standing up in an oven-safe casserole dish. Heat oil in a large skillet on medium-high, add onion and garlic. Sauté 1 minute, add spices and optional ingredients, sauté 2-3 more minutes. Reduce heat to medium and add chard. Sauté until wilted, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cooked rice. Spoon mixture evenly into pepper shells until full. Top with grated cheese and marinara and bake for about 25 minutes until warmed throughout.
Oaty Sundae
It might sound a little extreme, but adding raw, old-fashioned oats to frozen yogurt is one of my favorite summertime treats! To keep dessert as guilt-free as possible use the following ingredients to make a whole-grain sundae.
Low- (or non-) fat vanilla frozen yogurt
Dark chocolate chips melted (a few seconds in the microwave does the trick)
Old-Fashioned Oats
Sprinkle oats and cinnamon and drizzle melted chocolate over the frozen yogurt.
Barley and Lentil Stew with Kale
2 C. lentils, soaked 30 minutes, rinsed
1 C. barley (pearled or quick cook)
1 medium white onion, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
4-6 cloves of garlic, minced
32-40 ounces low sodium
vegetable broth (or water)
2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1 small bunch of kale, ribs removed, torn into small pieces
salt, pepper, garlic powder, cumin to taste
Parmesan cheese
In a large soup pot, heat oil on medium-high. Add garlic, onion, and carrot and saute 2-3 minutes until translucent. Add broth/water and spices. Bring to a boil and add lentils and barley. Simmer 30-40 minutes, adding extra broth/water, as needed to maintain desired soup consistency. Add kale leaves and stir well. Simmer 10-15 more minutes. Serve with a dash of Parmesan cheese for topping.
Warm Quinoa and Bean Salad with Feta
2 C. quinoa, cooked (follow instruction on package/label)
1 can dark red kidney beans, rinsed
1/2 red onion, diced
1/2 red pepper, diced
2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
1 Tbs. agave (or honey)
1 Tbs. spicy brown mustard
basil, garlic powder, pepper to taste
feta cheese
Combine cooked quinoa, beans, onion, and pepper. In a jar, combine remaining ingredients except feta and shake until mixed well, pour over quinoa mix and top with feta. Serve room temperature or chilled.
Emily Wilder writes the Green Kitchen blog at