Whole Grains and Carb Cooking Skills
Smart carbs DIY.
Cooking higher-fiber smart carbs.
Smart carbs includes beans and legumes, or whole grains.
A word about whole grains …
Whole grains are … just that: whole.
The seed of a grass is intact, as nature made it.
Not like this:
And they sure ain’t this:
Don’t be fooled by what the package label says.
Food labels can use the term “whole grain” to describe food that was made from whole grains, and is no longer whole.
Processed whole grains (such as whole grain flour) are not whole grains.
When whole intact seeds are processed into flour, they often lose fiber and nutrients. For higher-quality and more variety nutrients, choose less-processed options as often as possible.
Whole grain cheat sheet
An abbreviated list of foods that qualify as whole grains:
- buckwheat groats (aka kasha)
- corn or hominy kernels (yes! corn is a grain, not a vegetable)
- steel-cut oats or oat groats
- brown, red, or wild rice
- wheat berries (whole wheat grains)
Move along the carb continuum.
If those whole grains aren’t a part of your daily menu yet, or you’re still eating more processed whole grain products, that’s OK.
“Whole grain” flour isn’t bad. It’s one step on a continuum of smart carb choices. To move towards better, find the smart carb switches that work best for you, in your life.
(Be careful with marketing and labels. For example, the first ingredient in those Ritz whole grain crackers is actually white flour, and the crackers also contain soybean oil, sugar, partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil, and high fructose corn syrup. So “whole grain” as a health claim on the label is a bit of a scam here.)
Cooking with whole grains
Once you’re convinced on smarter carbs and whole grains, get familiar with cooking.
The basic instructions for cooking whole grains.
- Rinse and strain dry grains.
- Add enough liquid to cover by about 3 inches. You can also cook grains in stock or vegetable juice.
- Cover and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to low and simmer until cooked.
- Test for doneness. Smaller grains will be faster.
- Drain if necessary.
You can store cooked grains for several days in the fridge, or months in the freezer.
Soak them first (if you want).
Because they’re higher in fiber, whole grains take longer to cook than processed grains such as “minute rice” or “instant oats”.
To speed up the cooking of whole grains (and often make them more digestible), you can soak them beforehand.
While it adds a step, it can still be very simple: dump the dry grains into a bowl or pot of water on the counter and leave them for several hours or overnight before cooking.
(Make sure to give them lots of water — they often expand as they absorb liquid.)
Use your kitchen gadgets.
A rice cooker is a handy kitchen appliance, and you can use it for any grains — oats, brown rice, quinoa, etc.
You can also plop long-cooking grains in a slow cooker.
For a “you win at life” breakfast: Throw some steel-cut oats (or other grains), chopped fruit, cinnamon, and some liquid (almond milk is nice) into the slow cooker. Then let it simmer, covered, on low heat all night.
This will be pretty awesome to wake up to. You’ll be high-fiving yourself all day.
How to cook beans and legumes
To cook dry beans / legumes:
- Soak beans / legumes overnight in salted water. Adding salt will help soften the beans.
- When you’re ready to cook, drain the soaked beans and rinse them with fresh water.
- Add beans to a pot, cover with plenty of water, and simmer.
- Test for doneness.
- Drain and use.
Or, the even easier method:
- Buy can of beans / legumes.
- Open with can opener.
Whatever you choose, keep it simple and easy.
Keep focusing on quality and consistency. Notice how you feel after you eat particular foods. And… have fun.