The media is awash in the benefits of “whole grains” these days. So much that the big food companies have jumped on board touting “whole grains” in everything from cookies to crackers to Cheerios. While my guess is that those products might be slightly better for you than their more processed counterparts, I can’t help but feel this is a bit akin to greenwashing.
This is why I find myself trying to cook with whole grains in their original form more and more. The benefits are clear; whole grains are good for the body. They fill you up with soluble and non-soluble fiber which encourages you to eat less and aids in digestion. They are a heart healthy food, scouring the body of cholesterol and can help cut the risk of diabetes. In addition, not only do they taste good, but they are easy on the wallet, especially when bought when bought in bulk.
The new cookbook by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough, Grain Mains: 101 Surprising and Satisfying Whole Grain Recipes for Every Meal of the Day, is filled with recipes featuring whole grains used in a variety of ways. Not only are there vegetarian and vegan recipes, but there are meat recipes where the grain is not just the side dish but the star of the plate.
I like it when a cookbook not only inspires me to cook from its recipes but also teaches me about the food or culture. The book explains about cooking with different whole grains; some more well known (barley, wheat, quinoa), and some lesser known ( teff, millet, and job’s tears). There are rice, corn and oat recipes as well. Oddly, I never thought of fresh corn kernels as a “whole grain” but that’s exactly what they are. From this book, I learned that one of my favorites, pearl barley, is not technically a “whole grain” because the bran (one layer of protection of the grain) has been partially removed in processing. That doesn’t make it bad or unhealthy, just not “whole” (the book recommends searching out hull-less barley).
Besides information on the specific grains (flavor, texture, history, best cooking method) Grain Mains has some other helpful features. Many of the recipes include “Tester’s Notes” which are tips, flavor profiles and advice from the people who tested the recipes. The “Chef It Up!” are tips from Bruce on how to take the dish in a different direction or modify it for a more special meal. There are also notes on how to “Make It Easier” and save some time in the cooking process. I especially appreciated all of those tidbits because those are the types of options I like to include in my own recipes. Bruce is the chef of the duo and Mark is the “voice”. Both do an excellent job; Bruce’s recipes are concise and I really appreciated the Mark’s detailed, but easy to understand explanations.
Since doing a 21 day vegan diet a couple of years ago, I’ve been a fan of the veggie burger (my personal favorite brand is Dr. Praeger’s). I like a veg. burger which isn’t pretending to be fake meat, so of course I found myself drawn to the recipe for a Black Quinoa and Black Bean Burger. This burger was so good. It was hearty and filling, and a bit spicy, with a smoky flavor. The flavor almost reminded me of a Sloppy Joe without the sloppy. I was impressed with how well the texture of the burger held up to eating it on a bun; it didn’t fall apart or smush out the other side.
In addition to the burger, I also made the Sicilian Inspired Wheat Berry and Tuna Salad which was a satisfying and tasty meal (and may appear in a later post). In the future I’m looking forward to trying their Posole Verde, Spanish-Inspired Wild Rice, Spicy Brown Rice Salad with Chicken and Peanuts, and about a dozen other recipes.
The publisher of Grain Mains not only sent me a copy, but also an extra one to give away to one of my readers. That could be you! Interested? Leave a comment below via the Rafflecopter widget to enter. There are some options if you want extra entries too. I’m mailing this book out of my own pocket so you can enter from anywhere, but you must have a US mailing address at which to receive the book.
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