My Whole Grain Manifesto – take back your inner grain!

February 23, 2008 in cookbook, review

Whole Grains: Bulgur wheat, roasted garlic, carmelized onions

Whole Grain Goodness: Bulgur wheat, roasted garlic, carmelized onions,
with a bit of liver on top

Today I am reviewing the cookbook The Complete Whole Grains Cookbook: 150 Recipes for Healthy Living by Judith Finlayson, a great resource for those who have already gotten the Whole Grain message and also for those who want to learn more about how to cook and use whole grains.

I think you would need to be returning from a 50 year roundtrip to Mars to not know that whole grains are superior to processed grains. We all must have gotten the news by now that our bodies experience measurable benefits from eating whole grains and NOT eating processed, depleted grains.

But, finding easy to eat, on the run foods made with whole grains is STILL a challenge.

One of the questions you should ask yourself is why we eat processed grains (think wonder bread, twinkies, white wheat pizza dough, “wheat” bread that is just colored and not whole, etc). Its not because we are stupid, ignorant, mean-spirited, or some how not living the right life.

Not at all.

Its because we live far from “real” food (have for more than 50 years, more like 100 years) and we have ready access to mostly industrial, High Throughput Food.

That High Throughput Food REQUIRES that the food is STABILIZED (think xantham gum, think methylcellulose, think high fructose corn syrup, think red dye # 2, think wonder bread and twinkies, think power bars).

Watch any one episode of “Unwrapped” on the Food Network and you will see what I mean by High Throughput Food (HTF) .. the ingredients and the recipe must be scaled up 1000% or more, it must be formulated so that ingredients can be pumped through plastic tubing (think xantham gum again, any thickening agent), mixed by drums (think edible wax), fried instantaneously (think acrylamide), temperature and photo-stable, etc etc.

Now, regarding whole grains, there is very little place in the HTF paradigm for them. In a nutshell (or grainshell as the case may be), there are three general parts of a grain – the bran, the endosperm (starchy party) and the germ (the embryonic plant – it’s the protein component that lies inside). It is the nascent embryonic plant that uses the surrounding starch of the grain to sprout and begin the next part of it’s lifecycle.

The bran and the embryonic part of the germ spoil very easily. They do not play nicely with machines, they are not shelf stable, they are not photo-stable. They are picky cranky bits of fluff that are banished from processed grains (like polished white rice).

Whole grains are the enemy of the High Throughput Food (and mass, long term storage) paradigm and so we have been served up depleted easy-to-use processed grains for a long time.

In some ways, some of us never had a chance.

Take back your grain!

Use this cookbook to acquaint yourself with the ways of cooking whole grains. Its not hard.

Your body and those of the people you feed … they will benefit dramatically for it. Their blood sugar will not spike, they will get actual food-derived folic acids and other vitamins and trace minerals. They will learn to feed themselves and their future families whole grains.

You?

You will be the revolutionary that cared enough to start it all, nothing less than that.

In this cookbook, Finlayson presents delicious recipes such as:

  • Wild Rice and Smoked Turkey Salad with Dried Cherries
  • Asian-Style Beef and Wheat Berry Salad with Arugula
  • Amaranth Banana Walnut Bread
  • Curried Sweet Potato and Millet Soup
  • Moroccan Chicken with Couscous and Cinnamon-Spiked Prunes
  • Mussels in Spicy Lemongrass Broth with Chinese Black Rice
  • Peppery Shrimp with Couscous
  • Best-Ever Buckwheat Burgers with Bulgur in Tomato-Mushroom Gravy
  • Chewy Oatmeal Coconut Cookies with Cranberries and Pecans
  • Barley Pudding with Cherries and Almonds
  • Oatmeal Shortbread Squares

They sound like pretty spiffy recipes huh? This book is more than a grouping of tasty recipes. Finlayson ENABLES you in your Whole Grain conversion by telling you in simple language about the various types of whole grains you can get (I get mine from Bob’s Red Mill) and how to cook them. From those basic concepts, you will be jumping into those recipes and making your own right away. Each recipe comes with a handy table that tells you what nutrients you are getting per serving.

She even covers some more esoteric grains such as:

  • Amaranth
  • Job’s Tears
  • Millet
  • Quinoa
  • Rye
  • Sorghum

The recipe I tried was the basic preparation for bulgur wheat pilaf, page 244. I didn’t have many fancy ingredients on hand and I really wanted to start from First Principles, get to know the whole grain for itself. I could not stop myself from embellishing the bulgur with carmelized onions, roasted garlic cloves and some sea salt. I was making chickens livers at the time that I did the shots for this post so I added that too.

Bulgar Pilaf (From the cookbook)

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup coarse bulgur
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste – optional
  • 1 1/2 cups water or stock

Directions:

In a saucepan with tight lid, saute onion in the oil for 3 mins. Add the garlic, salt, pepper to taste and saute 1 more minute.

Add the bulgur, the tomato if using, and water. Stir, bring to a boil. Reduce to low, cover, simmer 10 minutes, remove from heat. Stir, cover tightly, let stand until liquid is absorbed, likely about 10 minutes.

It could not be easier!

Whole Grains: Bulgar wheat, roasted garlic, carmelized onions

Whole Grain Goodness: Bulgur wheat, roasted garlic, carmelized onions,
with a bit of liver on top

How did I like it?

It was flavorful, hearty, tasted full bodied, and was very filling! I didn’t experience my usual blood sugar issues like I do with white rice (though I adore white rice – its like candy, literally).

Next, I am going to experiment with quinoa and amaranth! I will let you know how it goes.

Please let me know if you use whole grains and what your favorite recipes are!

Book Details: