Take advantage of the goodness of whole grains

Grains have been a staple food around the world for thousands of years. They are edible seeds of a family of grasses. Nutrition dense, they support the heart, immune system, brain and skin.

Grains have been a staple food around the world for thousands of years. They are edible seeds of a family of grasses. Nutrition dense, they support the heart, immune system, brain and skin. Fiber rich they help lower cholesterol and deliver ample amounts of protein. Because of their high nutritional levels, whole grains, which are complex carbohydrates, require a much longer time to digest, thereby keeping the body satiated longer and preventing overeating — a major weight and overall health benefit.

The following are some examples of grain foods: wheat, bulgur, oats (oatmeal), brown and wild rice, rye, corn, spelt, barley, millet, quinoa, buckwheat, sorghum, farro and amaranth. Botanically, buckwheat is not a grain (nor wheat). Its seeds however, are cooked and used as a grain.

Some, but not all grains, contain gluten, a group of proteins that are present in their starch. Gluten intolerant individuals must avoid consuming those particular grains. Gluten-free whole grains are: quinoa, amaranth, millet, brown and wild rice, sorghum, corn, buckwheat and gluten-free pasta, as long as they are not packaged in establishments which do not separate them from gluten containing products.

Consumed in moderation, amazing whole grains can be eaten as side dishes, as breakfast cereals, and their flours in pastry, breads, pancakes and pasta. Add them as thickeners to soups and stews, or use them in meatloaf instead of white bread crumbs. Enjoy these easy and scrumptious recipes.

RICE, APRICOTS AND CASHEWS PILAF

2 servings

¾ cup uncooked brown rice

¾ cup dried apricots

2 tablespoons olive oil (not extra virgin)

1 yellow onion, chopped

½ cup roasted cashew halves

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

½ teaspoon ground allspice

¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ cup orange juice

Rinse rice in a fine-mesh strainer. Drain. Cook rice and 1 1/2 cups water until all water has been absorbed, about 45 minutes. Remove from the stove. Let cool. In small bowl cover apricots with boiling water. Let stand 15 minutes. Drain, let cool and chop into small pieces. Meanwhile, heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Stir in onion, cover, and cook slowly about 12 minutes until onion is translucent, stirring occasionally. Add apricots and cashews to onion, and cook 5 minutes. Mix in cloves, allspice, cinnamon and orange juice. Gently stir the onion mixture into rice. Serve hot or cold.

BEST TURKEY OR CHICKEN MEAT LOAF

2 servings

1 egg

¾ pound ground turkey or chicken breast

¾ cup Old Fashioned oats

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 small yellow onion, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

8 pimento-stuffed green olives, chopped

¼ cup olive oil

¾ cup water

1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce, divided

Preheat oven to 350F. In large bowl, beat egg with fork. Add all other ingredients, except the tomato sauce. Add ½ cup tomato sauce to meat mixture and mix well. Transfer to an ungreased baking loaf pan, packing the mixture and eliminating air pockets. Level the top with back of spoon. Spread remaining ½ cup tomato sauce evenly over entire loaf top. Cover and seal tightly with aluminum foil, and bake 90 minutes. Remove loaf from oven, and let stand for 15 minutes before serving.

QUINOA AND GREENS

2 servings

¾ cup uncooked quinoa

1 1/2 cups water

1 small yellow onion, chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 large leaves chard or kale

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Rinse quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer. Drain. Cook quinoa and water slowly about 25 minutes, until all the water is absorbed. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Stir in onion. Reduce heat and cook slowly about 12 minutes, until the onion is translucent, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, rinse chard (or kale) and dry with paper towels. Remove stems and shred leaves. Reserve stems for another use (stews, soups, stir-fries). When onion is done, add garlic, salt and pepper, cover and cook 2 minutes. Add half of shredded leaves, cover and cook a few minutes until they wilt. Mix in remainder of leaves and cook a few more minutes until all greens are wilted. Mix greens mixture into quinoa and serve immediately.

Judy E. Buss is a syndicated food/health columnist, blogger for the American Holistic Health Association, nutritional cooking instructor and speaker.

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