Whole Grain Affinity

by Valerie on January 13, 2012 · 14 comments

insalada di riso 004Reinvented Mac and Peas with Mushrooms (12)

Non-Traditional Insalata di Riso and Reinvented Mac and Peas, with Mushrooms

As you might remember from my Breakfast Bias post, I am participating in in the Food Network’s Healthy Eats blog January Healthy Every Week Challenge. The idea is to get started on a healthier 2012, one week at a time. This week’s challenge is to eat more whole grains.

I often get asked how I continuously eat a healthy diet and whether my palate has changed.  To some extent it has –  I do not find traditionally bitter foods (endives, dandelion greens, even kale) as bitter as I used to. I also really like nutritional yeast now, while I was only tepid on it at first. But in other ways my palate is the same – for example, I have always liked chewy hearty whole grains. Since I did not discover gluten and I are not friends until my early 30s, I had three decades of eating chewy whole-grain breaks replete with seeds, 100% spelt bread (and no, spelt is not gluten-free), or things like wheat berries and barley.  Before going gluten-free I had also already discovered delicious gluten-free grains like teff, quinoa and buckwheat (the later two are sometimes called pseudo-grains). 

kale salad and no-barley chewy pilaf 016lunchboxes 027

Quinoa Buckwheat Pilaf & Roasted Onion Quinoa Azuki Salad

Rice and pasta however – that was a different story.  As much as I was all about the whole-grain bread, I loved my white rice – whether it was delicate sushi rice or chewy risotto, I loved it all.  Also, I thought brown rice tasted like pebbles and whole-wheat pasta’s texture just did not work for me (that was not helped by the raging stomach aches such pasta gave me).

Before we fast-forward to today and I tell you all about my favorite gluten-free grains, however, I wanted to share a little story about how I got to liking brown rice.  It all is because of my friend Danielle – we were at a restaurant one day (this was either at the end of law school or right after, so let’s say 2004 to 2006) and she remarked that it had brown rice, and I was kind of meh about it,and she was like “you should try it again, it is not that different” and then I got ranty about how it tasted like pebbles, and she was like “no, really, try it".” So I did, since she is often right about life and food.  And I realized that brown rice is all about cooking it right.  Also, that it was more satiating than white rice, which invariably would leave me hungry.  After I experimented with different ways to cook it, I loved it.  A few years later, I even made Brown Rice Risotto which was risotto-worthy, as well this hearty Azuki Beans and Brown Rice bowl:

 Wednesday lunch 049brown rice bowl

Brown Rice Risotto and Azuki Beans and Brown Rice

Obviously the wheat berries and spelt bread and barley soups had to go when I cut out gluten, but at the time, I also decided that when I ate my (gluten-free) grains, I would eat whole grains,  so I use quinoa, buckwheat, brown rice and teff in whole form as part of my meals, though of course, I also sometimes make sweet or savory baked goods with flours made from these grains, or purchase gluten-free brown rice pasta. Iris also taught me a trick – use soaked quinoa to blend up into crusts, such as Quinoa Pizza and quinoa-based Scallion Pancakes .

lunchbox and pizza 016quinoa scallion pancake 006

  Quinoa Pizza and Scallion Pancakes

A note: when I initially went gluten-free, I did not buy gluten-free-certified gluten-free grains. After reading up on the potential of cross-contamination of gluten-free grains, I have been much more selective in how I purchase my gluten-free grains and buy certified grains only.  I also tried a phase of low-grain, almost grain-free, as I was trying to improve my digestion – I am not sure whether it helped me, or had a placebo effect, or whether increasing nuts and greens in my diet as a result of lowering my grain intake is actually what helped me, through a substitution effect, but I ended up deciding I missed grains too much, and was really craving them when I started ramping up my working out from some yoga to more yoga and adding gym time.  I find grains very grounding to eat though I have noticed that my sweet spot with whole grains is no more than two hearty servings a day, and many days it is more like one serving – so in that sense the grain-free/low-grain phase helped me realize I did not need whole grains at every meal (definitely a crutch I relied on when switching to a gluten-free diet).  I do best with quinoa, which is good because that has become my favorite pseudo-grain, as you can tell from the numerous recipes I have linked to.  Above and below is some recipe inspiration, but sometimes, the simplicity of quinoa with some extra-virgin olive oil and sea salt, as I had as part of dinner tonight, is lovely as well.  

Whole-Grains Inspiration:

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