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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Whole Grains

Whole grains. We're always hearing about how important they are for us. Lots of fiber, essential vitamins and minerals. All that good stuff. And then, if you live out in the sticks, you're given your options. Dry cereal or factory baked bread.  Mind now - I totally love bread. If I had to pick a single Desert Island Food it would be bread. But I have yet to find a store bought whole grain bread that meets my picky standards. Something in the recipe, possibly whatever it is that gives these breads any shelf life at all, just ruins it for me: Gummy, sugary, just disappointing all around.  Even the fancy bakeries in the city have let me down.  I'm looking for a bread that's hearty, fragrant, rich, full bodied, fun to chew and that means, like the little red hen, I have to bake it myself. Fortunately,  I like to bake bread and often do, but I can't always bake it and to get me to light up my oven in the summertime requires a visit from the queen.

Dry cereals don't appeal to me. A filling size portion of dry cereal needs to be a cup and a half.  I love me some hot oatmeal - and I like grits well enough. I like all good tasting grain products. But I'm tired of what is available locally - which is whatever you can get from Walmart or Food Lion: Some interesting flours but only a few and besides - flour means baking and I am curious about what these grains taste like just plain.

And so, my 2011 food quest is to sample Whole Grains in as many ways as I can. I started with what's already in my house which was Quinoa flour and pearled barley. I already knew I liked barley and I was curious about what the cookbook authors meant by quinoa's earthy taste.

Duh. Earthy means it tastes like dirt.

LOL well, no. It just had that hint of dirt - earth - scent and taste when I dipped my finger into the flour and tasted it. And the authors (dang. I don't have the book near me) did warn me that the earthy tasting flour does well cut with something sweet in the bread, like pine nuts. I didn't have any pine nuts and I really didn't want to make a sweet bread.

I used their recipe which is a pretty basic bread recipe ... 3 cups liquid to 6 cups dry. I used 3 cups whole wheat, 2 cups all purpose and 1 cup quinoa and, as per the recipe, double the yeast. which is good since I had to quit making the bread mid-way and put  it in the refrigerator after the first rise. As such, it came out a little denser than I think it would have been if I'd been able to stick with the normal time schedule. Happily, I like dense bread.

Unhappily, the quinoa gives a slight bite or tang to my bread. It fades quickly and can be completely masked by a nut butter - almond or peanut worked. Interestingly, jelly and blueberry butter did NOT mask the tang.

I don't call it good bread unless it's good with nothing on it - so I would give quinoa a go-by  as a flour product. I'm not sure what I'll do with the rest of this bag of flour either, since I'm really not tempted to bake anything more with it ... but I am still researching recipes. I may change my mind.

As for the barley - oh. well. YUM.

I already knew I loved barley. I love it in soup and BD insists it be put in pot roast - and sometimes I comply. The down side to barley and most of the whole grains is it takes a long time to cook them. With barley, though, you can cook up a big batch - it swells to three times its size so 1 cup uncooked will give you 3 cups cooked - and refrigerate it. I like it hot with a few raisins, cinnamon, a dot of butter and a little milk. Yum. In fact - I will have some for breakfast today. And it's yummy in salads. But we had it with a shrimp stir fry made up of a pound of shrimp, a bag of frozen stir-fry vegetables, sliced mushrooms, some garlic, a pinch of pepper flakes, about 1/2 teaspoon of powdered mustard  and maybe 1/4 cup soy sauce. a little water, a teaspoon of corn starch for thickening .. even my picky eater husband loved it.

I love how long you can chew barley - it makes a half a cup of breakfast cereal last a long time and it lasts a long time in my tummy. Three days now I've had it for breakfast at 8 and wasn't hungry at all even when noon rolled around. That alone is enough to make barley my new favorite grain ... but there are So Many Others out there - and I plan to try them all.

Happy Hump Day

1 comment:

  1. I've never tried quinoa flour, but love it as a whole grain substitute for oatmeal, rice or cous-cous. You do have to rinse it thoroughly though or it is bitter!

    For breakfast cook it with 1/2 water and 1/2 milk, add cinnamon to taste, raisins or another dried fruit, nuts and sweeten with agave syrup. Yum!