Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Easy Ways to Add Whole Grains

The following are whole grains that can easily be added to your diet.
· Barley
· Brown rice
· Buckwheat
· Bulgar (also called cracked wheat)
· Oatmeal
· Popcorn
· Quinoa
· Whole wheat pasta or cous cous
· Wild rice

Serve brown rice in place of white rice. Because it takes longer to cook, I usually prepare 4 servings at a time in my rice cooker and reserve the extra for another meal or freeze it.

Start your day with a whole grain cereal such as oatmeal. Instant oatmeal usually contains added sugar.

Instead of rice, add barley or wild rice to hearty nourishing soups. Hulled barley is the most nutritious form. Pearled barley has had the husk removed and cooks faster. Barley is high in fiber and adds a chewy texture to soups.

Whole-wheat cous cous is one of my favorites. It’s a whole grain version that is quickly prepared and has a mild nutty flavor. I’ve always used cous cous often because it’s ready in 5 minutes.

When you bake, replace some all-purpose flour with whole-wheat flour. Start with substituting small amounts and gradually increase it. I don’t recommend using more that half whole-wheat flour because the end results will be dry and heavy.

Curried Cous Cous

Whole wheat cous cous has great nutritional value. Depending on the main dish, I often add chopped peanuts and a few raisins if I’m serving this with a simple entree. This is the perfect side dish for grilled chicken or salmon.

Makes 2 servings

1 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup whole wheat cous cous
1/4 cup frozen peas
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Heat the chicken broth to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the cous cous, peas, curry powder and salt. Let stand about 5 minutes or until the broth is absorbed. Add parsley and fluff with a fork.

Healthy Whole Grains

Whole grains are an important part of a healthy diet. In addition to being low in fat and high in fiber, recent studies have shown diets high in whole grains reduced risk of strokes, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Rice, cereal, pasta and flour are grains or made from grain products and make up a large part of our diets. The complex carbohydrates contained in whole grains are digested slowly and adding to satiety. Quickly digested flour and sugar from white bread, pastries and rice don’t provide the same filling satisfaction as whole-wheat bread or brown rice. Whole grains actually contain higher amounts of protective antioxidants than fruits and vegetables.

Because the germ contains some fat, whole grain foods spoil more quickly than refined but you can extend shelf life by storing them in the freezer or refrigerator. Removing the bran and germ gives refined grains a lighter color and texture. Many refined grains such as flour are enriched with B vitamins and iron but are still not as nutritious as the original whole grains.

It’s easy to become confused as to what products are actually contain whole grain. Many “multi-grain” foods don’t actually contain any whole grains at all. The word “whole” should be in front of the first grain, or another word such as oats, brown rice or wild rice should be the first item on the nutritional label. Terms such as “cracked wheat”, “wheat flour” or “stone-ground” do not guarantee whole grain. Try to select whole grain foods that provide at least 3 g of fiber per serving. “Whole grain” is often displayed on the front of the package.

My next posting will suggest ways to add whole grains to your diet and include a whole grain recipe.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Springtime Rhubarb

One of the advantages of living in a northern climate is the ability to grow rhubarb in the garden. I put in a plant last summer but have meager results and now realize that having a lovely shaded lot, also means lack of sun for plants. I'm not much of a gardener, but rhubarb doesn't require much.

Fortunately a friend had rhubarb run amok and brought me a couple of pounds of stalks plus a Fresh Rhubarb Pie. A tart and tangy springtime treat!

I'm making Rhubarb Bread and will freeze any leftover stalks. After cutting off the leaves (they are poisonous!) and cutting the stalks into 1/2 inch pieces, place it in air-tight containers and freeze. When I use it, I can use it still frozen which is why it make sense to cut it up before freezing.

Rhubarb Bread

Although fresh rhubarb is available only in the spring, frozen rhubarb is available year round. Look for fresh rhubarb at farmers’ markets and supermarkets early in the spring. In this quick bread the tart flavor of the fruit contrasts with the spiciness of the nutmeg.

MAKES 1 LOAF (12 to 16 slices)

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh nutmeg, if desired
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup lowfat buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen chopped rhubarb

Heat oven to 350°F with oven rack in middle. Lightly spray bottom of a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.
Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg in a large bowl. Make a well in center of the flour by pushing ingredients out toward sides of bowl.
Combine brown sugar, buttermilk, oil, and eggs in medium bowl, breaking up any small lumps in the brown sugar. Pour buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture, and stir only until the flour is evenly moistened even though batter is not smooth.
Stir rhubarb into the batter, pour into prepared pan, and smooth top. The pan will be about 3/4 full, but it won’t overflow.
Bake 55 to 70 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in center comes out dry. The bread may begin to pull away from pan sides.
Cool on wire cooling rack 10 minutes. Run a spatula around sides of pan to loosen bread. Place rack over the bread and invert so bread falls onto the rack. Remove pan and turn top side up. The bread must cool before it can be sliced.

BAKER’S NOTES: Like any quick bread, this bread is easier to slice the second day. After cooling completely, wrap in plastic wrap and store at room temperature overnight.
As a substitute for buttermilk, you can place 2 teaspoons lemon juice or distilled vinegar in a glass measuring cup and add milk to make 1 cup. Let the mixture stand a couple of minutes.
SECRET TO SUCCESS: Frozen rhubarb doesn’t need to be thawed before baking but does need to be chopped because the pieces are very large. Use a sharp knife, and chop it while it is still frozen. Do not use a food processor because it makes the rhubarb stringy.

From Baking Basics and Beyond by Pat Sinclair, 2006, Surrey Books

Monday, May 17, 2010

Springtime Morels

At the Farmer's Market last week I purchased some morel mushrooms. The farmer told me it was probably the last time she'd have them this year so I was lucky to get them.

I put a lot of thought into the best way to serve and and as a result we had two outstanding dinners. Wednesday night I prepared a recipe from May Ellen Evans cookbook, Bistro Chicken. In typical fashion I made some changes and substituted boneless skinless chicken breasts for chicken parts. After simmering about 8 minutes the chicken was tender and moist and the mushrooms added a woodsy flavor. A silky sauce added to the earthy richness of the dish.

(To buy Mary's book go to www.thewritecook.com )

Saturday night we hosted our Gourmet Group and I took relished the opportunity to use recipes from my "Cooking with Cabernet" class at Sur l'Table in San Francisco. After soaking the morels I combined them with button mushrooms and sauteed both in butter. Rare Fillet Mignon prepared on the grill were with an Onion Marmalade from the class. To make the marmalade, I slowly simmered sweet onions with a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon and 1 cup of port until the juices were thick and syrupy. Roasted new potatoes and steamed broccoli with lemon olive oil and sea salt completed my portion of the meal.

My friend brought Rhubarb Pie made with rhubarb from her garden and also gave me a bunch of rhubarb- stay tuned for my next posting!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Cake Decorating for Fun

Saturday I spent the day at a decorating class sponsored by Wilton School of Decorating Art. Sandy Folsom, school director, shared decorating techniques with a group of Twin Cities professionals.

I'll admit that we were given a bag of Wilton products for practicing. For me, as a baker, it was a special treat because I usually take the simplest road and don't do much decorating. Nancy Siler, Vice President of Consumer Affairs, said her philosophy is "Make it simple and people will want to try it". For me, that was what the day was all about.

We produced the cakes above in about an hour after practicing with a pastry bag. I think you can tell which groups had a food stylist but everyone had fun and all cakes received a prize for something. Our generous judges awarded my team "Best Use of Border", a reach!!!

From now on, I'm going to take a little time to decorate.