Whole Grains: Wholly Delicious

Grains in their natural form are a rich source of vitamins and minerals. Many of the benefits discovered in whole grains can help fight against cancers and insulin resistance.

Diets staples in the United States have become dependent around refined flours and sugars.  Helping your family eat healthier can be a challenge.

Understanding the anatomy of grains can help learn the part to build into your diet. The “Whole Grains Council” explains whole grain this way: Whole grains are cereal grains that contain cereal germ, endosperm, and bran, in contrast to refined grains, which retain only the endosperm. Whole grains can generally be sprouted while refined grains generally will not sprout. Wholemeal products are made by grinding whole grains in order to make wholegrain flour. Whole grains are a natural source of protein as well as a source of carbohydrates and are made into many different kinds of foods.

You can use ingredient labels as an aid – you want foods with whole grains in the beginning.  You do have to use caution using only the fiber section of the label; the food can still be loaded with sugar and refined flours.

Brown rice recently joined the ranks of healthful whole grains recognized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Brown Rice Casserole with Chicken
2 cups water
1/2 cup brown rice
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 leeks, chopped and rinsed
1 1/2 pounds mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups low-fat milk
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 cups frozen French-cut green beans
1/2 cup sliced almonds

Combine water and rice in a small heavy saucepan; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to maintain a simmer, and cook until tender, 35 to 40 minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, place chicken in a large skillet or saucepan. Add lightly salted water to cover and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer gently until the chicken is cooked through and no longer pink in the middle, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a clean cutting board and let cool.

Heat oil in a Dutch oven or large high-sided skillet over medium heat. Add leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, until just starting to brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until their liquid has been released and has evaporated, 12 to 14 minutes.  Sprinkle the vegetables with flour and stir to coat. Add milk; bring to a simmer and cook for 1 minute, stirring. Stir in Parmesan, sour cream, parsley, salt and pepper. Remove from the heat.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 9-by-13-inch (or similar 3-quart) baking dish with cooking spray.

Cut the chicken into bite-size pieces. Spread the rice in an even layer in the prepared baking dish. Top with the chicken, then green beans. Pour the sauce over the top and spread evenly. Sprinkle with almonds.

Bake the casserole until it is bubbling and the almonds are golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

How to cook Quinoa:
1 cup quinoa

Rinse 1 cup quinoa until the water runs clear. In a medium saucepan of lightly salted, boiling water, cook the quinoa until tender, about 15 minutes; drain. Makes 3 cups.

Herbed Quinoa Salad
3 cups cooked and cooled Quinoa
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped mixed fresh herbs (such as parsley, basil and cilantro)
1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper

In a large bowl, combine 3 cups cooked and cooled quinoa, 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 1/2 cup chopped mixed fresh herbs (such as parsley, basil and cilantro) and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper.

Whole Grain Crusted Chicken
1 to 1 1/2 cup brown Minuteâ„¢ rice (uncooked)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 cup rye flour
2 eggs, beaten
4 boneless skinless chicken breast, pounded to make even
salt and pepper to taste

Process rice in food processor until coarse, add Parmesan and 1/4 teaspoon dried basil.
Pound chicken.
Dredge chicken in flour then egg then in rice mixture.
Brown chicken in olive oil until golden brown.

Whole Grain Pasta with Garden Fresh Vegetables
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 red bell pepper, cut into very thin strips
2 small zucchini, sliced thin
1 cup mushrooms, sliced (whatever kind you like)
1/2 cup black olives (optional) (your choice of type)
1 Tbs fresh oregano (or 1 tsp dried)
1 tsp fresh sage, minced
1 tsp fresh mint leaves, minced
1/2 lemon, zest and juice
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 pound whole grain penne pasta

Cook pasta al dente, set aside. Squeeze the juice from the lemon into a large pasta bowl. Mix in the remaining ingredients and stir well. Allow the sauce to rest for at least 15 minutes. Add the pasta to the sauce and toss well. Serve hot or warm.

More good news about whole grains: you’ll feel fuller longer, since whole grains and fiber take longer to digest.  Try adding barley recipes, quinoa recipes, brown rice recipes or bulgur recipes to your next meal.  Start your day with whole-grain muffins or yogurt topped with granola; try hearty salads with wheat berries or quinoa; swap out white rice or potatoes for sides of brown rice at dinner tonight.

About Dori Fritzinger

I live and work with my multi-generational family in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina. We have a farm of cows and calves, wool sheep, dairy goats, rabbits, ducks, geese, chickens, honey bees, a horse and a donkey. We have a goat's milk soap and bath products line available on our farm web site. I enjoy reading, quilting and doing embroidery.