Grains of Truth

16 Jun
English: cooked red quinoa

English: cooked red quinoa (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The only grain I used to use was rice; albeit in variety basmati, jasmine, brown, red, wild, but then, the experience of travel opened my eyes and palate to food that were always available but had not seen, noticed or tasted before. I had the opportunity to enjoy bulghur and cracked wheat, buckwheat, quinoa and millet. So now I hardly use rice and most often use quinoa and I love buckwheat as a hearty breakfast or brunch dish.

English: Quinua (Quinoa) plants near Cachora, ...

Quinoa plants near Cachora, Apurímac, Peru.                  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In this post I offer a quick introduction to these whole grains and how to cook them. Later I will add variations of how to use them as salads or create other dishes.

Grains provide a healthy boost of vitamins, minerals, fibre, antioxidants and phytonutrients. Grains are also rich in carbohydrates—the body’s main fuel supply—so we need a fair amount daily – but don’t overdo it.

Grains are made up of three parts: the bran, germ and endosperm. The bran is the high-fibre outer coating. The germ is the protein – the nutrient-dense portion. The endosperm is a source of carbohydrate along with some protein. A grain is “whole” if these three parts are intact. If it’s processed (e.g., cracked, rolled or cooked), it’s still considered a whole grain if it retains its original balance of nutrients. This means it takes longer for digestion to occur, which slows the conversion of starch to sugar, keeping you fuller longer and preventing spikes in blood sugar that can lead to insulin resistance – a major driver of obesityhigh blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. When grains are refined the bran and germ are removed (also removing many nutrients), leaving just the starchy endosperm.   Examples of a refined whole grain are any grain flour, white flour or white rice. Any grain that has been pulverized into flour, whether “whole” or not, cause blood sugar levels to spike dramatically.

Cooking Tips for all Grains

  • Rinse the grains thoroughly.
  • Use a heavy saucepan with a tight-fitting lid.
  • Bring the water to a boil, add the grain, and return to a boil.
  • Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for the indicated time.
  • Once all the water is almost absorbed, replace the cover, remove from the heat, and let sit for about 15 minutes.
  • When cooking grains for salads, reduce the water and cooking times slightly so they retain a chewy texture.
  • Buckwheat groats are available toasted and untoasted. Cooking times are the same.
  • Quinoa should be well rinsed in a fine strainer for 1 to 2 minutes to remove the saponens, a natural, protective coating which will give a bitter flavor if not rinsed off.
  •  Short grain brown rice is sometimes labeled sweet, glutinous, or sticky brown rice.
  • Teff can be enjoyed raw as well as cooked. Sprinkle it on salads or over cooked cereals to increase fiber and nutrition.
  • Bulgur wheat can be covered with 1-inch of warm water and soaked for 1 hour to soften. It is then ready to use in raw salads such as tabbouli.
brown rice

brown rice

Brown Rice

brown rice with coconut milk, tofu, onion & sweetcorn

brown rice with coconut milk, tofu, onion & sweetcorn

Brown rice has been minimally processed, just enough to sort and remove the inedible outer husk, leaving the nutritious outer bran layer intact. You can find brown versions of most types of rice, including short-,medium- and long-grain, jasmine and basmati.*


Bring 1 cup rice and 2 1/2 cups water or broth to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, 40-50 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork. Makes 3 cups.


108 calories; 1 g fat (0 g sat, 0 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 22 g carbohydrate; 3 g protein; 2 g fiber; 5 mg sodium; 42 mg potassium.
*You can also find “quick-cooking” or “instant” brown rice, which is ready in 5-10 minutes. Follow cooking instructions on the package.


bulgurBulgur is available in fine, medium and coarse textures. (If it’s not labeled, it’s usually fine or medium.) Unless a recipe calls for a specific texture, any type can be used. Don’t confuse bulgur with cracked wheat, which is simply that—cracked wheat. Cracked wheat must be cooked for up to an hour; bulgur is cracked wheat that’s been parboiled so it simply needs to soak in hot water for most uses.


Bring 1 cup bulgur and 1 1/2cups water or broth to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered until tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, 10-15 minutes. or pour 1 1/2 cups boiling water or broth over 1 cup bulgur. Let stand covered, until light and fluffy, about 30 minutes. If all the water is not absorbed let the bulgur stand longer, or press it in a strainer to remove excess liquid. Makes 2 1/2-3 cups.

Cooked bulgur wheat

Cooked bulgur wheat


76 calories; 0 g fat (0 g sat, 0 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 17 g carbohydrate; 3 g protein; 4 g fiber; 5 mg sodium; 62 mg potassium.


Millet: korrabuvva

Millet: korrabuvva

Millet is hulled (the outer husk has been removed and the grain isleft intact), leaving tiny yellow balls. Toasting millet in a large dry skillet over medium heat for 4 minutes before cooking helps it retain its shape. It does not contain gluten, so may be tolerated by some people with celiac disease.


Bring 2 1/2 cups water or broth to a boil; add 1 cup millet. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered,until tender, 20-25 minutes. Makes 3 cups.

Cooked millet

Cooked millet


104 calories; 1 g fat (0 g sat, 0 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 21 g carbohydrate; 3 g protein; 1 g fiber; 2 mg sodium; 54 mg potassium.


quinoaQuinoa, pronounced “keen-wah,” is actually not a grain at all, but a pseudocereal, which means it is the seed of a broadleaf plant, while true cereals are the seeds of grasses. The quinoa plant is a relative of beets, spinach and Swiss chard, but we treat its seeds as we would a grain, preparing and eating them in much the same way.

Quinoa is a delicately flavoured grain that was a staple in the ancient Incas’ diet. Toasting the grain before cooking enhances its flavour and rinsing removes any residue of sapon in, quinoa’s natural,bitter protective covering. red quinoa

Available in light brown, red and even black varieties, quinoa is light, yet filling, and has a mellow flavor and a unique cultural heritage. Altitude-hardy quinoa does well in mountainous regions like the South American Andes, where it was known as “chisaya mama” (“mother grain”) to the ancient Incas, who thrived on its nutritious seed, along with potatoes and maize, for thousands of years.

Quinoa is high in magnesium – which helps relax blood vessels, resulting in fewer headaches for migraine sufferers and decreased risk of hypertension and stroke. It is also a good source of manganese, iron, copper, phosphorous, vitamin B2 and other essential minerals, and has the highest protein content of any grain. It is especially high in lysine, an amino acid that is typically low in other grains. Quinoa’s protein is complete, containing all nine essential amino acids – a rarity in the plant kingdom. Quinoa is gluten-free and easy to digest: a must-add to your culinary repertoire.

Once available only in health food stores, quinoa is becoming more mainstream by the day and is easily found in major grocery stores as well.


Bring 2 cups water or broth to a boil; add 1 cup quinoa. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook until the liquid has been ­absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes.  Makes 3 cups.


111calories; 2 g fat (0 g sat, 0 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 20 g carbohydrate; 4 g protein; 3 g fiber; 6 mg sodium; 159 mg potassium.

Buckwheat, Kasha

buckwheatBuckwheat – known as kasha once it’s toasted – is too rarely consumed in its whole-grain form. Buckwheat flour-based pancakes and soba noodles are popular and delicious, but with their higher glycemic load, are less healthful than dishes made from the intact kernels, or groats. Buckwheat is high in rutin, a flavonoid that protects against disease by strengthening capillaries and preventing blood clotting. Coupled with its high levels of magnesium (one cup cooked provides over 20 percent of the Daily Value), which lowers blood pressure, buckwheat is truly a heart-healthy food. Buckwheat is completely gluten-free and suitable for those with celiac disease. Although you can store buckwheat in a cool, dry place for a short amount of time, it is best to keep it in the refrigerator, where it will last up to three months, or in the freezer, for six months.

buckwheat-porridgeTo Cook: Bring 2 cups water to a boil; add 1 cup untoasted buckwheat, 20-30 minutes; kasha, 15-20 minutes


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: