Your mothers day present…a whole grain cheat sheet

more meatless meals matter | vegan recipes from Chef Gretchen Hanson

Whole grains are little bundles of protein and energy. Dig in and don’t be afraid of the carbs!

Rice: There are lots and lots or rice types but the one type you DO NOT want is parboiled, enriched or bleached. You do not want rice with flavor packets but bulk bags with nothing but unprocessed rice. I often tell my students to look for rice with foreign writing on it. Other countries don’t seem to like everything as white as the driven snow. White rice is generally rice where the outside husk (read fiber and good stuff) is removed and brown rice it is left intact. Obviously brown rice is better for you and whenever possible use it. My favorite rice is bamboo which is green and Himilayan which is chocolate. Wild rice is not rice at all but a seed from a grass but still really great tasting and filled with fiber. You can have white rice once every now and then, or as rice noodles for Pho. White rice for sushi is ok too because you are not eating it every day. For every ten times you eat rice, only have white one time.

Quinoa: Quinoa is one of the seven ancient grains that are the building blocks of civilization. It is filled with plant based proteins and is a perfect food source. That is not something I say lightly, so pay attention. Quinoa comes in red (they may call it brown), black and white. The red is nutty, black is not as flavorful and the white is great for desserts and breakfast and absorbs other flavors. Quinoa is easy to cook and is beginning to be available at almost every store. Quinoa is a great breakfast food if you are not a huge oatmeal fan. Quinoa is also a great flour source.


Bulghur: Bulghur is cracked wheat and comes in three types of grind: fine, medium or coarse. What you do with it determines which grind you will use. If a recipe calls for bulgur and you have a wheat intolerance or celiac substitute quinoa instead. What I found with my “wheat intolerance” is that I actually had a “processed food” intolerance. Whole grain wheat was fine for me; it was the white flour sugar smack that was the problem.


Oats: Oats come in quick cooking or traditional. For most purposes, quick cooking is just fine. Oats also are ground into bran which we will use for bulk or fiber in baking. If you can’t find oat bran you can just make your own in the food processor. Oats should be as plain as plain can be. No cute flavors. Sorry. Oats are what’s for breakfast. They are good for your heart health, filling and filled with nutrients to keep you going through the day. Also, oats are cheap.


Barley: Barley is a food your grandparents used to eat a lot of and it fell out of favor because it is so darn good for you. Go for the unprocessed barley that still has all the fiber. Barley has gluten so if you are celiac substitute something else.


Optional grains: Kamut spelt, amaranth, millet, wheat berries, teff, faro, freekah are all grains that can be used in most of the recipes. Look in the “options” section for ideas. A lot of very good cereals use these grains to make unsweetened flakes that are minimally processed grains. Check out the company Kashi if you are looking for breakfast cereals that have minimal sugar and minimal processing.


Minimally processed grains:


Polenta: Polenta is just a fancy name we chefs use for corn meal and like oats it can come as both quick cooking or traditional (read: takes a long time) varieties.  Grits is simply white corn meal and all of these products can be used interchangeably. What you want to make sure of is that they don’t use chemicals to keep it from sticking together. Since this is a processed food we are going to only use very limited quantities every now and then.


Couscous: Couscous is actually a tiny little pasta made out of wheat. So don’t be confused into thinking this is a healthy grain. If you decide you must have couscous as a special treat, do not get the cute little packages with flavor packets; get the kind that is either in a bulk bin or just plain. Look on the ingredient label and all it should say is flour and water (or maybe a vegetable like spinach or tomato for coloring). Since couscous is also a processed food we are only going to use limited quantities every now and then. Any recipe you are used to making with couscous you can use quinoa or fine grind bulghur for instead.


Flour: Flour is one of the huge disasters that FOOD INC has managed to mass market and sell you a bill of goods about the way it should look. Flour is made from wheat that is milled and in its natural form comes out a slightly brown color. However, it has been determined that we (read US consumers) like our bread white and brown flour makes brown bread. With the infinite wisdom Food Inc possesses, all the fiber and outside husk were removed and the remainder was bleached till it is BLINDING WHITE. They basically took out everything in the wheat that is good for you. All that brown stuff is fiber and protein (wheat is loaded with both) so they decided with a master stroke of logic to enrich it with essential eight vitamins. The label should read flour sugar smack but now it reads “fortified with EIGHT essential vitamins.” Wouldn’t it have been better just to leave it in? Flour should be unbleached. Preferably whole wheat and organic but NEVER ever bleached AND enriched. If they are enriching it that means that they already messed it up to begin with. The same rule applies to anything that says low fat or no fat. If they have taken out the naturally occurring fats then they put something else back in to make up for it. The usual switch is fat calories for sugar calories.


Other flours: corn, soy, Besan, quinoa, spelt, amaranth are all flours that are fun to work with and try and give you diversity in your diet but they are essential if you have a gluten intolerance. It is a sad fact that wheat is loaded with gluten and if you have celiac, a wheat allergy or a gluten intolerance you must avoid it at all costs. There is a really great gluten free flour made by Bob’s Red Mill and it will substitute perfectly in any recipe where we use wheat flour.


Breads and Tortillas: These should follow all the rules listed above in flours and not have anything that is bleached or enriched or puffed. There is an old Jewish proverb that says “the whiter the bread the sooner you’ll be dead.” That is a pretty straight forward statement.  After the first 28 day cycle you can eat whole grain breads, sprouted grain breads and bread made with anything but bleached white white white flour. Ezekiel has a good bread in the freezer section. Tortillas should be fresh corn with no preservatives. We are going to avoid bread, pita, and flat breads for the first cycle but after that you can add in some different types. Corn tortillas are left in for the first cycle in limited quantities. It’s only 28 days. You’ll live.


Noodles: So the problem with noodles is that they are mostly made out of that bleached white flour that we have been talking about. You have to find the kind of noodles that are made from whole wheat and even grains other than wheat (spelt, quinoa, corn, garbonzo bean to name a few). There are several new products on the market that use vegetables and minimally processed wheat or sprouted grains to make fun flavors like artichoke and tomato.  You will see rice noodles listed in several of the recipes with an Asian twist. Rice noodles are made from rice flour and have great flavor are resilient to cook with and are gluten free. What you want to see on the label is (unbleached) whole wheat flour and water. Some will have a little olive oil and salt and vegetables but that there should be no words that ends with “ate” or “mine” or “ose.” Ezekiel has a good noodle product but avoid noodles if possible your first 28 day cycle. I put a few recipes in with rice noodles, mostly for entirely selfish reasons. I really don’t think I can live 28 days without Pho. You can also spiralized vegetables to make “pasta.” You will notice that bread and noodles are included in the special treat options. If you choose them make sure they are the good kinds!


Beans: Dried beans such as pinto, black, Garbonzo, northern, white, red, soy, mung or cannellini are an essential part of this cooking adventure. We will use mostly dried beans in bags because they are cheap and very nutritious. Also beans in bags are hard to mess up unless they come with a spice packet. Beans are filled with plant proteins and are an essential part of almost every countries national cuisine for the basic reason that beans are cheap, easy to grow, utilize your land well and they give you what you need to live in a perfect little package. You will learn how to cook the dried beans in the HOW TO section. Dried beans save you money and canned beans save you time. Look in the canned section for what to look for on the ingredients.


Lentils or Pulses: Lentils are another little perfect protein present just waiting to jump start your red blood cells. Lentils come in many different color varieties that are favored according to country and you will find most of them utilized here. Red, green, brown, black…how do I love thee let me count the ways you make my heart pulse (get it?).


Split Peas: Come in yellow or green and both are good. Buy the bag of plain split peas with no seasoning packets.


Bean Cooking Guide

Soak Beans overnight if possible. Drain soaking liquid and replenish with cold clear water to cover in non reactive pot. Bring to a quick boil then turn off heat and let sit for 20 minutes. Drain water again (this is the third time), replenish water to cover by two inches. Bring to a low boil, turn down to simmer till tender. During the second boil you can add several pieces of kombu, a tsp of baking soda, vegetable stock base and seasonings.

Legume Cooking Guide

Lentils – Red, Yellow, Brown, Lentils de Puy, Black Beluga– Rinse thoroughly. Put in pot and cover with water by 2 inches. Bring to a boil let sit for 20 minutes. Drain and rinse. Return to pot with vegetable stock and seasonings to cover. Bring to a high simmer and cook till tender.  Lentils de Puy or French lentils will be much harder to the bite than the other varieties and take longer.

Split peas – Rinse thoroughly. Put in pot and cover with water by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, turn off and let sit for 20 minutes. Drain and rinse. Return to pot with vegetable stock and seasonings to cover. Bring to a simmer and cook till tender.


Grain Cooking Guide:

Quinoa – Comes as white, red, or black micro grains – Rinse thoroughly to remove saponin. Put clean quinoa in pot with water to cover by at least 2 to 4 inches, Bring to a boil, lower to simmer for about 8-10 minutes until “worm” pops out. Drain in fine mesh sieve.

Millet- small round yellow circles. Bring 2 cups water to a boil add 2/3 cup millet reduce to simmer for about 20 minutes. Millet will get mushy and disintegrate so watch it carefully! Taking on flavor of whatever it is paired with.

Farro wheat – 2 ½ cups water to one cup faro wheat – (the whiter the wheat the quicker it cooks) –bring to a boil then lower to simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.

Rye berries – 2 1/2 cup liquid, one cup berries, cook on low simmer for almost an hour. You can soak overnight to reduce cooking time to about 20 minutes.

Spelt, Kamut and Wheat Berries- Rinse thoroughly to remove grit. Bring 2 1/2 cups liquid medium to a boil, add 1 cup grain, reduce to a simmer and cover for about 40 minutes. Depending on how they were dried, they will cook at different times so keep checking! Drain.

Steel cut Oats – bring 3 cups water to a boil sprinkle in one cup oats slowly, stirring constantly, cover and reduce to simmer for 40 minutes to an hour.

Polenta- Yellow granular corn meal – Polenta is really a “feel right” kind of thing. Start with 3- 4 cups boiling veg stock and whisk in up to 1 cup polenta. I always add some earth balance or coconut oil and herbamare and white pepper early on. Leave to cook for about 10 minutes stirring constantly,  it should be thick but creamy and not gritty. There is a lot of testing and tasting involved to get this one just right. Cooking times and quantities vary depending on brand of polenta once you find a brand you like stick with it (I am very fond of Roland) I often add roasted onion and smart balance to polenta as I am cooking for creaminess.

Teff (looks like microscopic brown dots) 2 cups boiling water- 1/2 cup teff on high simmer about 15 minutes. Drain.

Jasmine Rice or Basmati Rice or Green Bamboo Rice-

GET A RICE MAKER! for twenty bucks they are infallible every time! – one cup plus a smidge water to one cup rinsed rice – almost even ratio and sprinkle herbamare, press button, and voila!

STOVETOP 2 cups water plus sprinkle of herbamare to boil on stove, add one cup dry rice, bring to boil again, cover lower to simmer and cover, 15- 20 minutes and fluff

Wild Rice – 1 cup wild rice to 4 cups vegetable stock or water, bring liquid to a boil and add rice  and simmer for 35-40 minutes. Kernels will burst – drain – add seasonings to taste.

Sushi Rice – follow directions for jasmine rice in rice maker and when cooked add 1 TB rice wine vinegar, heavy pinch of sea salt and 2 tsp sugar to 2 cups cooked rice.  Toss till cooled and incorporated

Brown Rice, Black Rice or Red Rice —- follow direction above for stovetop only rinse the rice and do about one cup rice to 1 ¼ – 1 ½  cups water. There are a million different varieties of rice so check ratios on packages.

Pearled Barley – Rinse one cup barley and put in pot with three cups boiling water then cook at high simmer, covered for 40 minutes

Hulless Barley – same as above only cook about 60 minutes and watch liquid levels!

Bulghur types

Fine  – Boil  mixture of  vegetable stock and vegetable juice then measure out equal amount of fine bulghur and pour boiling liquid over fine bulghur. Drizzle with dash of olive oil, stir thoroughly from the bottom and cover with saran wrap. Let steam for 20 minutes.

Medium – 2 cups vegetable  stock to one cup bulghur, boil first then high simmer for at least 15-20 minutes and remove from heat and cover.

Coarse – 4 cups liquid medium, personally I like a combination of vegetable stock and tomato juice add 1 cup of coarse bulghur and bring to boil until liquid mostly absorbed. Stir, remove from heat and cover for 20 minutes then fluff.

Amaranth – Tricky little bugger – Sauté 1 cup amaranth till toasty in dry skillet or with 1 TB olive oil for about two to five minutes then add 2 ½ cups liquid and bring to a boil. Cover and lower heat for 20 – 25 minutes then fluff

Couscous – Boil mixture of vegetable stock and tomato juice. Then measure out equal amount of couscous – this is a one to one ratio.  Pour boiling liquid over couscous, drizzle with olive oil, stir thoroughly cover with saran wrap and let steam for 20 minutes.  Fluff.

Buckwheat Groats or Kasha – You can toast these first on a dry hot pan for a little extra flavor or you can just boil 2 cups water , add 1 cup grain, lower to simmer and cook for 15 minutes.

Millet – 3 cups liquid medium to 1 cup millet, bring to a boil and lower to a simmer for about 25 to 30 minutes. For sweet millet use fruit juice, for savory, vegetable stock.


I will be adding to this document so keep checking back. Lots of the recipes coming soon will be using these techniques!

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