Whole grains — think: quinoa, rice, barley, oats and farro — are getting plenty of buzz these days. These are the grains in their natural, whole state. They’re the entire seed of a plant encased in an inedible husk, composed of three distinct and edible parts — the bran, the germ and the endosperm. Like all seeds, whole grains contain all of the nutrients a plant needs to germinate and produce — and when we consume them, our bodies reap the benefits of their nutrients.
Below you’ll find three of our favorite (and easiest to prepare) whole grains, and a few ideas for how to cook and enjoy them.
Protein-rich quinoa is a nutrient-dense, nutty whole grain that can be eaten in delicious ways from breakfast through dinner.
To prepare it, rinse the quinoa in a fine mesh sieve until water runs clear, then drain and transfer to a medium pot. Add 2 cups water for every 1 cup of quinoa, and a pinch of salt then bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium low and simmer until water is absorbed, 15–20 minutes. Set aside off the heat for 5 minutes; uncover and fluff with a fork. (Likewise you can prepare it in a rice cooker using the same ratio of water and quinoa.)
Pro tip: Store jars of cooked quinoa in the refrigerator to toss into green salads for lunch and dinner, or use it to make this delicious, satisfying Whole Grain Hot Cereal. Store cooked quinoa in an airtight container in the refrigerator, and use within 3 days.
Whole Grain Hot Cereal
Combine 1/2 cup each cooked quinoa and uncooked whole oats in a small saucepan or in a microwave-safe bowl. Add 3/4 cup water or almond milk, a pinch of sea salt and 1 tablespoon maple syrup. Stir to combine, then cook until the oats are tender and much of the liquid has been absorbed (roughly 2 minutes in a microwave or 10 minutes over medium heat on the stove). Remove from heat. Stir in 1 tablespoon each almond butter and yogurt. Spoon into two bowls and top each bowl with 1/4 cup sliced fresh or 2 tablespoons dried fruit (like peaches or apples), 2 tablespoons chopped nuts, 1 tablespoon honey and any other favorite toppings (we like bee pollen!). Makes 2 servings at 1 bowl each.
Nutrition (per serving): Calories: 383; Total Fat: 17g; Saturated Fat: 2g; Monounsaturated Fat: 2g; Cholesterol: 1mg; Sodium: 91mg; Carbohydrate: 55g; Dietary Fiber: 6g; Sugar: 29g; Protein: 9g
Brown rice, red rice, jasmine rice and even wild rice; pick any one, and you’ll discover a quick-cooking, easy and healthy ingredient to create countless delicious meals.
To prepare any type of rice, use the general ratio of 1 cup rice to 1 1/2–2 cups water (the amount of water you need will depend on the elevation where you live, and how humid your environment is). Add 1/8–1/4 teaspoon salt to the rice and water in a medium pot with a tight-fitting lid and cook until the water has all been absorbed and the rice is tender. Resist peeking or stirring — this can release the steam from the pot that helps the rice cook quickly! Use the rice immediately, seasoning with a dash of lemon juice or vinegar, soy sauce or olive oil as a side dish with meats or vegetables or as a main course in rice bowls as in this fresh and bright Fresh Thai-Style Rice Salad with Peanut Sauce. Store unused cooked rice in an airtight container in the refrigerator, and use within 3 days.
Fresh Thai-Style Rice Salad
First, prepare the peanut sauce. In the bowl of a food processor or powerful blender, combine 1 cup unsalted creamy peanut butter, 1–2 cloves garlic, 3 tablespoons fresh grated ginger, zest and juice of 1 large lime, 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper, 2 tablespoons. honey or maple syrup, 3 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce, 2 teaspoons rice vinegar, 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil and 3 tablespoons full-fat coconut milk, and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust the flavor as you prefer, and add a bit of water if you like your sauce to be thinner. Add 1/4 cup cilantro, give it another few pulses and then transfer to an airtight jar. Keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.
Next, assemble the salad to your liking. Scoop roughly 1 cup cooked rice per serving into the bottom of a bowl, then top with fresh accoutrements such as 1–2 cups fresh, spicy greens, sliced red peppers, carrots, cucumbers or red onions. Finish with a drizzle of the peanut sauce and a sprinkling of chopped cilantro, mint and basil, 2 tablespoons roasted and salted peanuts and lime wedges. Makes 1 serving at 1 bowl each.
Nutrition (per serving): Calories: 435; Total Fat: 13g; Saturated Fat: 1g; Monounsaturated Fat: 0g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 284mg; Carbohydrate: 72g; Dietary Fiber: 6g; Sugar: 14g; Protein: 12g
Versatile, nutty barley can be stirred into soups, tossed into salads or warmed in a favorite bowl of hot cereal.
To prepare it, place in a bowl and cover with 1 inch of water. Allow to soak overnight or for at least 8 hours. When you’re ready to cook it, transfer the barley to a medium pot and add 1 cup of water then bring to boil. Reduce the heat to medium, cover and allow to simmer until all of the water is absorbed and the barley is tender, roughly 15–20 minutes. If you don’t soak the barley before cooking, simply add an extra 1/2 cup water and prepare for a bit more cooking time to absorb. We love this Roasted Mushroom Barley Bowl as a healthy, savory and comforting alternative to macaroni and cheese in the heart of winter.
Roasted Lemon-Thyme Mushroom + Barley Bowl
First, you’ll roast the mushrooms. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking pan with parchment paper. With a damp cloth, wipe clean then roughly chop 2–3 cups crimini or button mushrooms, and transfer them to the prepared baking pan. Drizzle with olive oil, juice and zest from 1 lemon, and the leaves from 2–3 sprigs of thyme. Toss the mixture with a spoon to coat evenly, then bake for 15–20 minutes, until the mushrooms are fragrant and have released their juices.
While the mushrooms are roasting, trim, destem and chop 1 bunch of kale. Then, in a medium bowl, toss the chopped kale with juice of 1 lemon and a sprinkle of flaky sea salt. Set aside. In another medium bowl, combine 2 cups warm, cooked barley with 3/4 cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese, a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Mix to combine well. Remove the mushrooms from the oven and prepare to serve.
Place a large handful of kale in each bowl, top with 1/2 cup gorgonzola barley, 1/2 cup roasted mushrooms, a tablespoon of Greek yogurt and a fried (or poached) egg. Finally, sprinkle with 3 tablespoons of toasted pepitas or walnuts and maybe a drizzle of white truffle oil. Enjoy! Makes 4 servings at 1 bowl each.
Nutrition (per serving): Calories: 423; Total Fat: 23g; Saturated Fat: 7g; Monounsaturated Fat: 6g; Cholesterol: 205mg; Sodium: 391mg; Carbohydrate: 29g; Dietary Fiber: 8g; Sugar: 5g; Protein: 29g