I forget that it can be a little daunting sometimes, cooking with wholefoods and knowing what to do with half the stuff. There is SO MUCH information out there, some great, some not so much. It may seem easier to stick your head in the sand, or cover your ears and sing a Bowie classic, but can I tell you if you stick with it the results are so worth it! Starting today I am putting together a series on how to convert your pantry, one step at a time, to a wholefood style larder (that just sounds more luscious than pantry doesn’t it?).
So grab a cuppa, and settle in to read all about the first on the agenda, due to popular vote, WHOLEGRAINS.
Note** I have edited this post about three times now, it is SUCH a big topic, and I want to do it justice, it is really hard to condense this information! Please let me know if you would prefer to hear about it from another angle. I am starting with some general info and three gluten free ‘grains’ – Buckwheat, Quinoa and Oats (controversially). The other grains and how to prepare and cook them all is to follow.
Grains have a bit of a checkered reputation at the moment. There are a lot of people restricting them greatly, or not eating them at all. And then there is the other side of the fence with a lot of people eating mainly grains.
We need to understand also that wholegrains are a whole different ball game to refined grains, and require a completely different set of digestive skills. Remember your mother or grandparents telling you to chew your food 32 times? They were actually onto something! This is what it takes to get the salivary glands to start working correctly. Not to get all nerdy on you, but the saliva sets off a reaction of other enzymes that are needed for digestion further along the digestive tract for proper break down of the food, but also for sucking as many nutrients out of it as we can. Not much of this really gets a chance to get going when we eat refined carbs, and we kind of go straight to that peak – crash situation, rather than the slow burn of complex carbohydrates. Preparing grains properly helps with this digestive process.
If you are new to wholegrains, what I recommend is choosing one that you like the sound of most, buying some, and getting to know it over the week. Have a play and see if you can sneak it into a few recipes to see if it works for you or not.
Having a wholefood pantry is not about having every single whole food. It is about replacing the refined foods with the whole!
For me, I like to have a supply of quinoa, buckwheat, oats, and wholegrain rices. This makes me happy, I can achieve anything with this. The rest is bonus. If you are nervous about converting your pantry, just choose one refined food in your cupboard that is no good and get rid of it. For example, cornflakes. Or VitaBrits. Or other sugary packaged cereal. Or white bread. They’re not giving you nothin’! Replace it with porridge, muesli, a good wholegrain toast, cooked eggs (quicker to make than you think), a smoothie – the last two aren’t whole grains, but you get the idea. If you do it gradually like this, it gives you time to adjust, and time to learn about your new addition.
Things that will make your life easier:
JARS. Much to my husband’s disgust, I have a wonderful collection of jars that I’ve saved and built up over time. They are seriously the most useful thing in my kitchen. Storage for grains/legumes, storage for coconut milk, nuts and seeds, left over soup, and to use for making up dressings so you can just give it a big shake and go. I love jars. Get some!
If your local health food / produce store sells grains in bulk, all the better! This gives you the opportunity to try out small amounts. Buying in bulk once you have found love will be cheaper too.
In terms of storage of grains, they keep best in an airtight container, in a cool dark place. You can add a bay leaf to deter creepy crawly things.
Buckwheat is so cute! Little alkalising kernals of love.
Not only are these love kernels full of zinc, manganese, potassium and protein, it contains RUTIN. Funny name, awesome bioflavanoid that helps to strengthen blood vessels and capillaries, and increase circulation to hands and feet, among other things.
I remember back when I was studying, going to a ‘cooking class’ that taught us how to cook different wholefoods and the like, and being given this big plate of boring buckwheat cereal to try (basically buckwheat cooked with water for a long time). Don’t get me wrong – highly nutritious, but a bit bleugh. I prefer to use buckwheat toasted in cereals, muesli, trail mixes, little cacao truffles, salads and the like. To toast it, just swish it around for a few minutes in a heavy based pan until it starts to go a slightly darker shade, and smells delicious and toasty. You can also cook it like rice and use it in replacement of brown rice or potatoes. If you haven’t tried it before, a lovely introduction can be making it together with 1/3 rice and 1/3 quinoa as an accompaniment to curries, stirfrys etc. They all cook in the same amount of time.
You may be more familiar with buckwheat flour, which is used often in pancakes and Japanese soba noodles.
If you want to try something awesome, track down some Loving Earth Chocolate Buckinis – activated buckwheat kernels with coconut, goji berries, cacao nibs, and other delightfulness – what a treat! Have a crack at making your own combination of this.
If you haven’t tried quinoa, you had better get some, you can even get it in the supermarket these days! I have also posted about it’s talents and how to cook it here, so you can check that out if you like. Sneaking it’s way onto the grains list, it is actually a seed, and therefore is lovely and alkalising for us.
Quinoa is fabulously versatile – breakfast, lunch, dinner, sweet, savoury, it does it all!
Try combining some with your oats in porridge – delicious! Mix some cooked quinoa with some berries, some ripe banana, coconut flakes, a sprinkle of cinnamon and a swirl of coconut milk or yoghurt – yummo! Use it as a tabbouleh as in the link above, or a salad like this roasted carrot salad.
In place or combination with rice with dinner, in place of pasta – it’s light, slightly crunchy and packs a nutritional punch!
I love oats, and have recently posted about them here in more detail. So are they gluten free? The oat itself is. The problem lies in that oats are often grown along side wheat or other gluten containing grains, and processed in factories that also processes gluten grains with the same equipment. You may be able to track down some gluten free oats, which are oats that have been grown away from other crops etc. Those with coeliac disease might like to avoid oats. If you have an intolerance to gluten, in most cases oats are perfectly fine.
What can’t you do with oats? Porridge, muesli, in biscuits, cakes, as a flour, oat milk, as part of a crumble topping for a dish, or in stews or casseroles.
I have included a baked porridge recipe below, but a simple bowl of porridge or homemade muesli is just as wonderful!
Baked Porridge with Blueberries and Walnuts
I first learned about baked porridge form 101 Cookbooks, and it has been a winter fave since! I love this version that I have been adapting over time, as I always have the ingredients, and if not, it just doesn’t really matter too much, substitute with something else or just leave it out – winning! Except the oats, you kind of need them…
100g rolled oats
2 handfuls of walnuts
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of sea salt
1 cup milk of your choice
1 tsp natural vanilla extract, or 1/2 vanilla bean scraped
1 tbs maple syrup or honey
1 tbs chia seeds (or 1 egg if you prefer)
2 tbs butter or coconut oil (melted)
1 ripe banana
1/4 cup blueberries (or any other berry, frozen is fine)
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.
Put the chia seeds in a small bowl or cup and cover with 3 tbs of water. Set aside and let sit for 5 minutes.
Place the oats, 1 handful of the walnuts, baking powder, cinnamon and sea salt into a bowl and combine.
Whisk together the milk, vanilla, maple syrup, and butter. Add the soaked chia seeds – they should be pretty gelatinous by now! Whisk together.
Slice the banana and layer it across the bottom of an oven safe dish. Sprinkle 1/2 the blueberries on top, and then spoon over the oat mixture.
Tip the milky mixture over the top, and adorn with the rest of your berries and walnuts.
Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the top looks delicious! Enjoy. x
P.S. I am so appreciative of everyone that took the time to comment on the last post for the Jude Blereau competition. In an oversight by me, I didn’t ask for your email addresses… There are still a couple of people that I don’t have details for. If you could reply to your comment, or private message me on facebook that would be wonderful. xx