September 8, 2010

For the Love of Whole Grains

It was almost a year ago when I discovered wheat berries. They are the entire wheat kernel, that tiny piece of grain that gets dissected to make many kinds of flour, wheat germ, wheat bran, and so much more. So you process the kernel to make an ingredient that you must then mix with other things until you finally have a loaf of bread. Or cake, if you prefer. But wheat berries are like eating a loaf of bread from a spoon. They are nutty and chewy and delicious.  

They do require some cooking before they are edible. Before that, straight from the bag, they look like seeds. After cooking them, I usually just put them in an airtight container in the fridge. They can be frozen, too, if you're not sure you'll eat them fast enough. If you add them to oatmeal, they keep it from getting mushy. My favorite use of them is in Creamy Wheat Berry Hot Cereal from Eating Well. But they're great in soups, in salads, and with your salmon. Even my husband will eat them in the hot cereal and he won't eat oatmeal by itself.

Which brings me to my second favorite whole grain: oatmeal. I used to refuse to eat it because when you cook it for breakfast it gets so gooey and soft. Then I discovered baked oatmeal. Now when I make it for breakfast, I just put in a little less liquid so it doesn't get soupy and then add cinnamon and ground flax seed. It's the best with fresh peaches on top! I also found a recipe for healthy cookies that used oatmeal as the main ingredient. They're almost like granola bars but they don't stick together quite as well. 

I was inspired by a book I found at the library, Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day.  I've baked a couple of the recipes, including the 100% Whole Wheat and Flaxseed Bread. We tried it with kalamata olive tapenade, fresh bruschetta (made from those countless tomatoes my garden is producing!), peanut butter and King Syrup (one of the very, very few foods made from high fructose corn syrup that are allowed in my house). I just can't imagine putting any of those on a squishy slice of white bread. 

I spent my childhood eating pasta at least two times a week. So when I heard all the hype about how carbohydrates are so bad for people, I just didn't believe it. Turns out carbs don't make people fat, just the awful carb-loaded foods they're eating do. There are too many delicious whole grains to waste time eating that junk. Besides, the browner your bread is, the closer it gets to the color of chocolate!

Oatmeal for Breakfast
1/3 cup old-fashioned oats
1/3 cup milk (my favorite is Almond Breeze Unsweetened Vanilla
1/3 cup cooked wheat berries
1 tsp. ground cinnamon (sometimes I use more due to my love of this spice)
1 tsp. ground flax seed
Fresh fruit or dried cranberries 

Pour oats and milk into a microwaveable bowl. Microwave for 2 minutes. Add wheat berries, cinnamon and flax seed and stir together. (I usually just sprinkle the cinnamon from a shaker and put a spoonful of flax on top; no need to be precise in the measurements there.) Add fruit topper.

If you like your oatmeal sweeter than I do, then you might need to add a bit of sugar.

Note: The best fruit topper I've found so far is a fresh peach. Bananas have a very similar texture to the oats, so I think they make it too mushy. Apples are good, but don't add the juice flavor like peaches do. Blueberries are also delicious on top, either by themselves or in combination with any other fruit.


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