By now quinoa has made its presence loudly known as the trendiest member of the whole-grain family, and that's a good thing. But there are plenty of choices out there, ranging from "ancient" and heritage grains to good old oats. Whole grains may help lower the risk of heart disease and diabetes, and they have a positive role in weight control. They also stave off hunger better than processed grains and simply taste delicious.
What quinoa brought to the table was speed, but it's not the only relatively quick whole grain. "So many grains are actually done in less than 30 minutes, some as quick as 10 minutes," says Megan Gordon, this month's hero and author of Whole-Grain Mornings. Her fast favorites include bulgur, millet, and amaranth. "If you become familar with fast-cooking grains, you're going to have a side dish or the beginning of a meal in a matter of minutes."
Gordon, who's also a cooking instructor, food writer, and owner of Seattle-based Marge Granola, is happy to share her love with the grain-curious, especially when it comes to baking.
"A really great starter flour, beyond whole-wheat, is spelt flour. It acts like white all-purpose flour in recipes, so you can actually substitute 100% in many recipes, and it'll work just fine," she says. "Or choose a whole-grain flour you might not be familiar with, and start slowly experimenting, using a quarter of the amount in the recipe."
Whether you're already a convert or still unsure, "Curiosity and exploration can get you into the kitchen and trying something new—and delicious—with whole grains," Gordon says.
MEGAN'S 3 TIPS FOR GOING WITH THE GRAINS:
- Buy in bulk. "The turnover in the bulk section is higher, so you're often getting fresher product. Buying from bulk bins is also less of a commitment. If someone recommends millet, for example, why not buy half a cup and take it for a spin before buying a bigger, more expensive package?"
- Try a new one each month. "There are a lot of whole grains out there. It's hard to figure out where to start, so if you just choose one new grain each month, you'll get acquainted with how to cook it. Before you know it, you'll be developing your own recipes."
- Make a weekly batch. "Most slow-cooking grains, like barley or farro, are good for five to seven days in the fridge. During the week, you can toss them with eggs for a heartier scramble. You can add some into your pancake batter, which gives them a great chewiness. You can make pilafs or stir into salads in the evening."