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Grains

A grain is considered whole when all three parts – bran, germ and endosperm – are present. Most people know that fruits and vegetables contain beneficial phytochemicals and antioxidants, but many do not realize that whole grains are often an even better source of these key nutrients. In fact, whole grains are a good source of B vitamins, Vitamin E, magnesium, iron and fiber, as well as other valuable antioxidants not found in some fruits and vegetables. Most of the antioxidants and vitamins are found in the germ and the bran of a grain.

Whole Grains 101

Whole grains have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease by decreasing cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and blood coagulation. Whole grains have also been found to reduce the risks of many types of cancer. They may also help regulate blood glucose in people living with diabetes. Other studies have also shown that people who consume more whole grains consistently weigh less than those who consumed less whole grain products.

· Buying: Look for grains with undamaged kernels. The outer bran layer protects the kernel’s flavor and nutrients from destruction by light and air, so it comes in rather handy.
· Storing: Keep whole grains in airtight containers in a cool, dry place, out of direct light.
· Using: It’s easy to work delicious grains into your day. Start with a bowl of oatmeal or 7-grain cereal and pile millet or quinoa onto your plate at dinner.

Whole Grains: Cooking Tips

1. Rinse: Just prior to cooking, rinse whole grains thoroughly in cold water until the water runs clear then strain them to remove any dirt or debris.
2. Cook: As a general rule, you can cook whole grains by simply boiling the water, then adding the grain, return water to a boil, then simmer, covered, until tender.
3. Test: Just like pasta, always test whole grains for doneness before taking them off of the heat; most whole grains should be slightly chewy when cooked.
4. Fluff: When grains are done cooking, remove them from the heat and gently fluff them with a fork. Then cover them and set aside to let sit for 5 to 10 minutes and serve.

· Amaranth
This slightly sticky grain is high in fiber and nutrient rich, with a high concentration of lysine, an essential amino acid. Excellent as a breakfast cereal.
· Buckwheat
Buckwheat is a distant cousin to rhubarb and actually isn’t related to wheat or other grains at all. Look for toasted and untoasted varieties and use it as you would other grains, to make pilafs, casseroles and stuffings.
· Bulgur wheat
Bulgur is partially cooked cracked wheat. It’s quick cooking and delicious in grain salads such as tabouleh.
· Couscous
This pre-cooked whole-grain or milled wheat is light, flavorful and a cinch to prepare. Serve it with spicy vegetables or stews.
· Farro
Farro belongs to the wheat family and is rich in fiber, magnesium, and vitamins A, B, C and E and is extremely delicious in rissottos and soups.
· Millet
This mild, very digestible grain is a favorite for those on wheat-free diet and has a good balance of essential amino acids.
· Pearled barley
Barley is lightly milled to retain all of the germ and at least two thirds of the bran, which makes it a healthy choice to use for grain salads, soups, stews and chili, or as a stuffing for vegetables.
· Quinoa
This light and chewy high-protein grain has a great nutty flavor. It’s perfect as a stuffing, a risotto or as a component for a salad.
· Rolled oats
Commonly used as breakfast cereal and in desserts. Oats are also an excellent source of B vitamins and minerals, including calcium, phosphorus and iron.
· Rye
This high-protein, low-gluten grain has slowly digesting complex sugars.
· Spelt
Spelt, while similar to wheat, actually has 30% more protein and is much more tolerable to those who are sensitive to wheat.
· Teff
This ancient grain has a sweet and malty flavor; it’s a rich source of calcium, magnesium, boron, copper, phosphorus and zinc, and contains twice as much iron as wheat and barley.

Whole Grain Flour 101
The first thing you should know about buying whole grain flours is that they should always smell fresh. Store them in the refrigerator in moisture-tight containers, where you can expect them to last 2 to 4 months. (Hint for the cook: always let flour come back to room temperature before using for the best results.) For more on the grains that these flours are made from, see above.

When grains are milled to make refined flours, up to 80% of a grain’s nutrients are lost. With nutty, earthy and rich whole grain flours, here’s what you get instead:

· The bran: most important for its B vitamins and fiber, but also adds body, texture, and flavor
· The germ: prized for its minerals, B vitamins, protein, vitamin E, and oils, which are a key element in whole grain flour’s flavor
· The endosperm: consists mostly of starch, with some protein and other nutrients

· Amaranth flour
A strong, sweet, spicy, nutty-flavored flour. Best used as an accent flour in waffles, pancakes, cookies or muffins. Gluten-free.
· Blue cornmeal
Is higher in protein than yellow cornmeal and turns lavender when cooked. Makes beautiful pancakes, muffins and corn tortillas. Gluten-free.
· Buckwheat flour
Commonly used combined with wheat flour for pancakes, waffles, blintzes, and in pastas.
· Gluten flour
Gluten flour is white flour mixed with concentrated wheat protein. Add to bread dough to increase leavening (2 tablespoons per 1 cup flour in whole grain bread; 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon per 1 cup flour in white breads). Increase kneading time to activate extra gluten.
· Graham flour
Hard whole wheat flour with a coarse and flaky outer bran layer and finely ground germ. Though its most famous use is in crackers, it adds texture to all baked goods.
· Oat bran
Contains soluble fiber, which can help lower blood cholesterol levels when eaten as part of a low-cholesterol diet. Add oat bran to muffins or bread, or use it as a coating before frying.
· Rye flour
When added to baked goods, the results are moist and dense. Due to its low gluten content it’s often mixed with whole wheat flour to increase its rising ability.
· Semolina
Durum flour with the bran and germ removed. Used to make high quality “white” pasta. Also adds extra flavor and texture in some bread recipes.
· Soy flour
Like rye flour, this high-protein flour is usually combined with whole wheat flour to increase its rising ability.
· Spelt flour
This ancient grain is used as a wheat substitute. (Note: If substituting for wheat in a recipe, reduce the liquid by 25 %.) Don’t over knead; the gluten here is sensitive.
· Teff flour
Is rich in calcium, protein and iron; sweet malty flavor. Use this gluten-free flour in quick breads, pancakes, and waffles. In leavened breads, use 5 parts wheat flour to 1 part teff flour.
· Unbleached white flour
Refined wheat flour; naturally aged to strengthen its gluten. Excellent for baking breads and cakes. It’s often combined with whole wheat pastry flour for cookies.
· Wheat germ
The vitamin and mineral-rich layer of the wheat berry and an excellent source of vitamin E.
· Whole durum wheat flour
From very high protein wheat, it has less starch than other wheat flours and makes a tough dough that can stretch and expand. Perfect for making whole grain pasta.
· Whole wheat flour
Ground from the entire wheat berry to it has a full-bodied flavor and coarse texture.
· Whole wheat pastry flour
Ground from soft wheat berries and absorbs less liquid in recipes. Use in non-yeast baked goods such as cookies, pancakes, muffins, quick breads and cakes.
· Unprocessed bran flour
The ground outer layer of the wheat berry. Use small amounts at a time to increase your fiber intake.
· Yellow cornmeal
Use yellow cornmeal, which is gluten-free, to make polenta, corn bread, muffins, or Italian Cornmeal Cake.

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