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Cooking with whole grains

Updated: June 16, 2011 03:21 PM EDT
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By Dawn Jackson Blatner, R.D.
From Charge Up! For Good Health
 

Think you've tried cooking with every whole grain by now? Doubt it. There are many delicious, easy-to-cook choices beyond oatmeal, brown rice, and whole-wheat breads and pastas.

These less-famous whole grains are just as nutritious as the old standbys, supplying fiber and other nutrients to keep you full, lower your cholesterol, and maintain healthy blood sugar levels. But here's where they have the edge: You're not tired of them! Add these four newbies to your next shopping list, and your meals will taste more exciting than they have in months.


Quinoa


Native to South America, quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wa) has a slightly crunchy texture and nutty flavor. It's also gluten-free, so it's safe if you're allergic to wheat or have gluten intolerance.

Cook It:
Bring 2 cups of water or vegetable broth and 1 cup of quinoa to a boil. Simmer for 8 to 10 minutes.

Serve It:
Swap it for brown rice in any recipe, or use it to make a cold salad for a picnic. It tastes fabulous tossed with chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, olive oil, lemon juice and parsley.


Millet


Although it's also an ingredient in birdseed, this grain is anything but for the birds. It has a wonderfully mild flavor that's somewhat reminiscent of corn.

Cook It:
Bring 2 1/2 cups of water or vegetable broth to a boil and add 1 cup of millet. Simmer for 25 to 40 minutes, until it's fluffy like rice.

Serve It:
Just like quinoa, it's a great sub for brown rice. But you can also add raw millet to muffin or pancake batter for a whole-grain boost. Mix 1/4 to 1/3 cup in it with the rest of your dry ingredients, like flour and baking soda.


Bulgur


Sometimes called Middle Eastern pasta, bulgur is whole wheat that's been precooked and broken into pieces.

Cook It:
Add about 2 cups of boiling water or broth to 1 cup of bulgur, let it soak for about 25 minutes in a covered pot and, voila, it's done. Or, you can boil it just like pasta for about 10 minutes.

Serve It:
Mix it with dried fruit and chopped nuts and have it for breakfast instead of oatmeal. Or, make the traditional tabbouleh salad with cooked bulgur, parsley, mint, tomatoes, olive oil, onions and lemon juice.


Wheat Berries


These whole-wheat kernels get a chewy texture and nutty flavor when boiled.

Cook It:
Soak them in room-temperature water overnight to soften the kernels. Then, bring a pot of water to a boil (you'll need 2 1/2 cups of water for each cup of wheat berries) and simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour. Since they take a while to cook, make a big batch and freeze the extras.

Serve It:
Pair it with fruit. My favorite go-to dish for a summer party is a cold salad made with wheat berries, dried cranberries, walnuts and green onions tossed in vinaigrette.


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Dawn Jackson Blatner, R.D., is a Chicago-based spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. She also teaches cooking classes and is the author of The Flexatarian Diet. 

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