You’ve heard the news: Whole grains are a must-have in your diet. But what if you can’t figure out how to fit them in (or just don’t know what the heck “whole grain” means)?
Here’s some help.
Whole grains do more than protect the heart. According to many studies, the greater our whole grain intake, the lower risk there is for cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Eating just three servings a day has shown to lower risks.
I have gotten pretty good at reading labels for nutritional information, but I must confess that I confuse whole grains with fiber quite often. While researching for this column it was made clear to me that for a processed food such as cereal, bread, or pilaf to be considered whole grain (stay with me), the product must contain all three whole-grain components: the germ, the endosperm, and the bran.
The bran is full of fiber, while the germ and endosperm have many of the beneficial nutrients, antioxidants, and other compounds believed to give us the “whole grains” health benefits.
For example, a bran cereal may be loaded with fiber compared to a whole-grain cereal. But the bran cereal won’t necessarily have the added beneficial antioxidants that the whole-grain cereal has.
When choosing products that use whole grains read the list of ingredients. If the word “whole” precedes the word “grain,” it is a whole grain product. If the word “refined” appears, it is not a whole grain product; it is refined — stripped of nutrition and fiber.
The phrase “refined whole wheat,” is a marketing phrase that actually gives you a nutrient-devoid product.
The first place to look for whole grains, especially more common ones like bulgur and barley, is near rice at most markets. Less common grains can sometimes be found in bulk bins at supermarkets and natural-foods stores.
Here is a Partial List of Whole Grains:
Whole kernel corn Rolled oats/oatmeal
Popcorn Hulled barley (non-pearled)
Brown rice Wild rice
Buckwheat Whole rye
Bulgur 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 (or chicken stock) for most uses.
Note: I have a great recipe that uses bulgur with lentils in a salad, and another recipe that uses wild rice in a salad; e-mail or write me if you would like these recipes. If you have a favorite recipe that utilizes whole grains and you would like to share it, please send it to me.
The cornmeal and whole wheat flour added to these hearty biscuits contribute deliciously to your daily whole-grain intake. These go so well with a soup, chowder, stew, or chili. Skip the seed topping to serve as a breakfast biscuit.
Makes 24 biscuits
Tip: Measure the cornmeal as you would flour, lightly spooning into a measuring cup to prevent a dry, tough biscuit.
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup stone-ground whole-grain cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
2 cups low-fat buttermilk
1 egg white, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons poppy seeds
2 teaspoons sesame seeds
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Lightly spoon flours and cornmeal into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flours, cornmeal, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl; stir with a whisk. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add buttermilk; stir just until all is moistened.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll dough to a three-quarter inch thickness; cut with a 2 and a half inch biscuit cutter into 18 biscuits. Gather remaining dough, roll and cut into 6 more biscuits. Place 12 of the biscuits on a baking sheet lightly coated with cooking spray.*
Brush tops of biscuits with half of egg white.
Combine poppy seeds and sesame seeds in a small bowl, and sprinkle half of seed mixture evenly over biscuit tops.
Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes or until biscuits are golden; place on a rack.
Repeat with remaining 12 biscuits.
*(I achieved better results by baking one sheet of biscuits at a time).
GOOD TO HEAR
For Christmas dinner this year I decided to try your recipe for egg nog. I have never made it or tasted homemade egg nog. There were only four of us for dinner, and I just did it. It was a hit!!!, and it made the dinner more “fancy”. Now they want me to make it for New Year’s also. I just had to thank you for a nice suggestion and recipe.
Brenda, Salem N.H.
In November there was a recipe in your column for Stuffed Acorn squash. I cut it out and now can’t find it. If it is not too much trouble could you send it to me? My husband and I love acorn squash and that was a new way to make it that I wanted to try.
Fran & Joe, Methuen
Dear Fran and Joe,
I’m happy to send you the recipe, which I actually received feedback about from two other readers. They preferred the stuffing to be less sweet, so substituted a bagged dry stuffing for the raisin bread and said it came out good.
I love “cooking chat” and always learn something.
We eat a lot of salmon. I am looking for a recipe for a topping that uses yogurt. We had it in a restaurant once and liked it.
Here is a recipe that I like and happens to be good for the waistline.
Combine 1 cup low-fat plain yogurt with 2 tablespoons EACH sliced scallions and chopped cilantro; 1 tablespoon EACH honey and curry powder. Blend well and serve at room temperature.