What exactly is a whole grain?
According to the Whole Grains Council, they are grains, or foods made from them, containing the essential parts and naturally occurring nutrients of the entire grain seed in its original proportions.
If the grain has been processed – cracked, crushed, rolled, extruded, and/or cooked – the food product should deliver the same rich balance of nutrients that are found in the original grain seed.
Basically, 100 percent of the original kernel – bran, germ and endosperm – must be present to qualify as a whole grain.
The following are examples of the most familiar and generally accepted whole grains and flours – amaranth*, barley, buckwheat*, corn (including whole cornmeal and popcorn), millet, oats (including oatmeal), quinoa*, rice (brown rice, colored rice and wild rice), rye, sorghum (also called milo), teff, triticale, wheat (including varieties such as spelt, emmer, farro, einkorn, Kamut, durum and forms like bulgur, cracked wheat and wheatberries).
(*Amaranth, buckwheat and quinoa are considered pseudo-grains and are normally included with true cereal grains because their nutritional profile, preparation and use are so similar, according to WGC.
Wheat became a staple grain in the human diet because it contains large amounts of gluten, a stretchy protein that enables bread to rise.
Two main varieties of wheat are dominant -durum and bread wheat.
Durum wheat is made into pasta, and bread wheat is used for most other wheat foods.
Look for the term “whole wheat” on a product’s label to make sure you’re getting all the bran, germ and endosperm. If it simply says “wheat,” it has been refined.
Quinoa is a relative of Swiss chard and beets. Long cultivated by the Inca people in the Andes Mountains, quinoa is a small, round grain that is either white, red, purple or black.
Though much of the quinoa sold in the United States is imported from South America, farmers in high-altitude areas near the U.S. Rocky Mountains are now growing quinoa.
It is high in protein and is a complete protein it contains all the essential amino acids our bodies can’t make on their own.
You can find quinoa flour in the natural foods section of your supermarket.
To make your own, grind raw quinoa in a clean coffee grinder.
(To clean a coffee grinder, simply grind white rice in it.)
In the past, rye was seen as a weed in more desirable wheat crops. However, because it has the ability to grow in areas too wet or too cold for other grains, it became a traditional part of cuisine in Northern Europe and Russia, followed by colonial America.
Unlike other grains, rye contains a high level of fiber in its endosperm, not just in its bran. Because of this, breads and crackers made with rye flour have a lower glycemic index than products made from wheat and most other grains, making them a good choice for diabetics and people who are trying to stabilize their blood sugar levels for other reasons.
Oats are unique among grains, in that they almost never have their bran and germ removed in processing.
In the United States, “old-fashioned” oats refer to those that have been steamed and flattened; regular oats, quick oats and instant oats have also undergone the same process, just to different degrees – the more flattened and steamed, the quicker they cook and the softer they become.
Scientific studies have shown that oats (and barley) contain a special kind of fiber called beta-glucan that is effective in lowering cholesterol.
Research also indicates that oats contain a unique antioxidant _ avenanthramides – that helps protect blood vessels from the damaging effects of LDL cholesterol.
Olive oil orange bread
Yields 1 loaf
1 cup all-purpose einkorn flour
1 cup spelt or whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup almond flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Zest and juice from 2 oranges
1/2 cup agave nectar
1/2 cup whole milk
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon sliced almonds
Preheat oven to 350 degree. Grease an 8-by-4-inch loaf pan.
In medium bowl, combine flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In large bowl, combine orange zest and juice, agave nectar, milk, oil and vanilla. Beat on low speed until well mixed.
Add flour mixture and beat on low speed until combined. Add eggs and beat for 2 minutes.
Pour into prepared pan and sprinkle with sliced almonds.
Bake for 45 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.
Cool completely in pan on wire rack, then turn out to serve.
This method combines a little of the manual labor of bread making with the ease of a bread-making machine.
Yields 1 loaf.
3/4 cup warm water
1 tablespoon honey
21/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
13/4 cups all-purpose organic einkorn flour, plus more for dusting
3/4 cup rye flour
In large bowl, whisk together water, honey and yeast; let stand until foamy, 10 minutes.
Stir in salt, seeds, oil and flours. Form into ball and turn out on lightly floured board.
Knead for 5 to 10 minutes, or until smooth, adding more flour as needed to prevent sticking.
Place dough ball in lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for 1 hour.
Turn out dough and knead for 1 to 2 additional minutes, forming ball.
Place dough on sheet of parchment paper and place in 4-quart slow cooker.
Cook on high for 2 to 21/2 hours. Lift bread out and cool on wire rack for at least 1 hour before slicing and serving.
Multigrain chewy cookies
Yields 18 large cookies
11/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup stone-ground whole-wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
11/2 sticks butter, softened or melted
1 cup coconut palm sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded or flake coconut
3/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips or dried fruit like cranberries or cherries (or combination)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In medium bowl, combine oats, flour, baking soda and salt.
In large bowl, cream butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla.
Add oat mixture, then stir in pecans, coconut and chocolate chips. Batter will be very thick.
Using 1/4-cup measuring cup, drop dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets.
Bake for 16 minutes, or until edges are browned, rotating trays from upper to lower racks and front to back, halfway through baking time.
Cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool completely.
Excerpted from GRIT, Celebrating Rural America Since 1882. To read more articles from GRIT, please visit www.Grit.com. Copyright 2014 by Ogden Publications Inc.
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