How to Cook with Whole Grains

Whole grains like brown rice, millet, barley, farro, buckwheat and quinoa have a "nice guy" reputation of being a bit boring. Well, you can toss that stereotype away with your side of white rice! We've profiled each grain to show you how versatile and delicious it can be.
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BROWN RICE
great grains brown rice

He's white rice's heartier, more healthful cousin. With a mild, nutty flavor, this guy's a natural choice when introducing your family to whole grains: He's familiar and most of us have met him before, but he also packs three times more fiber than white.

 
MILLET
great grains millet

Okay, he's not the sexiest grain. (He is, after all, found in birdseed.) But we think of him as the strong and silent type. You don't notice him because he's too busy enhancing the great flavors he's cooked with. Slip him into mac 'n' cheese for an antioxidant boost.

 
BARLEY
great grains barley

You've probably had him in the form of beef barley soup, but he's got so much more to offer. (Think risottos, salads and chilis.) His subtle, buttery flavor works in sweet dishes, too -- add cooked barley to rice pudding and muffins for a chewier texture.

 
FARRO
great grains farro

This guy's the whole package: He's lower in calories and packs more fiber and protein than other whole grains. Try him hot (casseroles) or cold (salads). And he's a leftover you'll love -- unlike other starches, he never tastes mushy or dried out the morning after.

 
BUCKWHEAT
great grains buckwheat

Look past his dorky name and you'll find quite a character. If you toast him before cooking, he releases his alter ego, kasha, for an earthy smokiness. Buckwheat cooks quickly and has a soft, hearty texture that naturally thickens soups and works well in stuffings.

 
QUINOA
great grains quinoa

This grain has long been popular with the yoga set: He bends into shape, molding into patties one minute and adding heft to stews the next. Quinoa also wins for ease and speed. With a little S&P and 15 minutes, he's a creamy yet crunchy side that stands in for polenta, couscous or pasta.

Get more Whole Grain Recipes at TasteofHome.com including Top 10 Gluten-Free Recipes!

 

DID YOU KNOW...? THE HEALTHY SIDE OF GRAINS

Whole grains contain more antioxidants than fruits and vegetables.
Regularly eating whole grains can slash the risk of heart disease and diabetes by more than 25 percent.
Fiber-rich foods like whole grains help you burn more calories.
Children who eat whole grains are half as likely to develop inflammatory diseases such as asthma.

MORE WHOLE GRAIN RECIPE IDEAS

Serve millet and buckwheat as a porridge with your favorite oatmeal toppings.
Add cooked grains to quiches and omelets.
Stir cooked barley, farro, millet and buckwheat into cookie, muffin and pancake batters.
Add grains to your favorite soups and stews.
Combine cooked grains with some beaten egg and seasonings, then fry into cakes.
Sprinkle cooked grains across the tops of casseroles and broil for a crust.
Swap in barley, farro or quinoa for rice when making risotto.

THE DO'S AND DON'TS OF GRAINS

Don't overspend! Whole grains tend to be pricier than their more processed, less nutritious counterparts. Look for them at the supermarket in bulk bins, where they're cheaper.

Do store them in the freezer! Whole grains retain some of their natural oils -- giving them a shelf life of about six months -- so freeze them to prevent them from turning rancid.

Do rinse them before cooking! Brown rice and barley only need a quick rinse, but the others need a thorough washing to prevent a bitter aftertaste. don't stir them while cooking! Give the grains a couple of stirs only when adding them to the pot; too much stirring will make them bland and starchy.

Don't overcook! You're going for al dente, not mushy. Try them a few minutes before the end of their cooking time -- there should be slight resistance in the center of the grain.

Do fluff cooked grains! Once they're done cooking, let them sit for 5 minutes before fluffing with a fork to separate.

Do make ahead! Double up on batches of cooked barley, brown rice and farro -- they freeze well and defrost easily in the microwave.

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