Enjoying Whole Grains

Enjoying whole grains is a wonderful way to add flavour and texture to a variety of dishes in your meal planning. Enjoying different foods can help spark up your everyday routine and for many whole grains have been a part of their diet without even realizing. Think back to that tasty beef and barley soup you enjoyed as a kid or those oatmeal buns your grandmother used to make. Looking to whole grains now can be a unique way to try new ways to incorporate these foods into your recipes. 
Quinoa has been around for a long time, and is still a very popular ingredient for many chefs and home cooks alike. It now appears on many restaurant menus regularly but there are some who still have not tasted or tried cooking with it. Yes it makes a delicious salad but what about adding it to soups, stews or even muffins! 
I like thinking outside of the box when it comes to recipes and yes sometimes the ingredients don’t jive well and the recipe doesn’t work but part of the fun is trying and experiencing new things. 
Shopping in bulk or health food stores you will find a variety of whole grains that sound familiar and you may not feel comfortable cooking with, but purchase just a small amount and try something new. You will be adding great value to your meal and healthy ingredients that you may have thought of otherwise. 
Here are some whole grains to look for next time you are shopping: bulgur, millet, quinoa, spelt, barley, whole oats and wild rice.
If you are not going to be using them often, be sure to purchase what you need or store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer if you have room. Because they are whole grains they can do rancid after time and will alter the flavour and you want to enjoy them at their best.
Here are a couple of recipes to try out on your next whole grain adventure.

Barley Asparagus Chicken Salad

Seasonal grilled asparagus is great to have as a sidedish but also incorporated into this unique barley salad it adds colour and texture. Look for pot barley in grocery stores which needs to cook a bit longer than pearl barley, but has a wonderful chewiness that adds a twist to this salad.

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Yield: 8 cups (2 L) or 6 servings

1 cup (250 mL) pot or pearl barley
2 1/2 cups (625 mL) sodium reduced vegetable broth
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp (10 mL) chopped fresh thyme 
2 tsp (10 mL) canola oil
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
2 cups (500 mL) cooked chopped chicken
1/4 cup (60 mL) chopped fresh parsley

In a saucepan, bring barley, broth, garlic and thyme to boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for about 30 minutes or until tender but still slightly chewy. Set aside.

Meanwhile, toss oil with asparagus and place on greased grill over medium high heat for about 8 minutes or until tender crisp. Remove to cutting board and chop into 1 inch (2.5 cm) pieces. Add to barley along with chicken and parsley; stir to combine.

Tip: This is a great place to use leftover roast or grilled chicken, pork or steak. For a new taste combination stir in grilled salmon instead of the chicken.

Oven Roast Asparagus: Spread asparagus on small baking sheet and roast in 400 F (200 C) oven for about 10 minutes or until tender crisp. 

Bulgur and Chickpea Chili

This is a hearty vegetarian chili chock full of vegetables. The bulgur takes the place of meat in a traditional chili. Bulgur is also sold under the name cracked wheat in bulk and health food stores.

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6 

1 tbsp (15 mL) canola oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 tbsp (15 mL) chili powder
1 tbsp (15 mL) dried oregano
1 tsp (5 mL) ground cumin
2 cans (28 oz/796 mL) diced tomatoes
1 cup (250 mL) vegetable stock
2 cans (19 oz/540 mL) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3/4 cup (175 mL) bulgur 
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/4 tsp (1 mL) each salt and pepper

In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Cook onion, garlic, celery, carrot, chili powder, oregano and cumin for about 5 minutes or until softened. Add tomatoes and vegetable stock; bring to boil. Add chickpeas and bulgur; reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes or until bulgur is tender. Add red pepper, salt and pepper and cook for another 10 minutes or until thickened.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Couscous Option: You can use whole grain couscous for the bulgur. You could also use brown basmati or long grain rice and increase cooking time to 30 minutes.

Lentil Millet Burgers

Enjoying a burger not on a bun is very commonplace nowadays. You can pack a punch of protein into veggies burgers and with the combination of millet, these burgers also have a nice nutty texture. Serve these up with a splash of hot pepper sauce for added kick if you like.

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Yields: 5 burgers

2 tsp (10 mL) canola oil
4 green onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp (5 mL) chili powder
1/2 cup (125 mL) millet
1 cup (250 mL) sodium reduced vegetable or chicken broth
1 can (19 oz/540 mL) lentils, drained and rinsed
1 egg white
2 tbsp (30 mL) chopped fresh cilantro
2 large tomatoes, sliced

In a skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Cook onions, garlic and chili powder for 2 minutes. Stir in millet until coated. Add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low; cover and cook for about 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.

Meanwhile, place lentils in a bowl and using potato masher, mash until smooth. Add millet mixture, egg white and cilantro; stir until well combined. Using a 1/2 cup (125 mL) dry measuring cup, divide mixture and form into five 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick burger patties. 

Spray large nonstick skillet with cooking spray and panfry patties, in batches if necessary over medium high heat for about 5 minutes per side or until golden brown. 

Serve with tomato slices.

Tip: Make these up to 2 days ahead, cover and refrigerate. Enjoy them cold or reheated in the microwave. Tuck them into a pit or break them up onto a green salad for a different lunch option.


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