I have a ‘fuzzy logic’ rice cooker that a bought on ebay. I’ve always had some sort of rice cooker since they are so idiot proof … set it, and walk away. wait for the ‘ding’. It wasn’t until recently though that I started playing around with other whole grains in the machine.
I’ve believed for some time that, as Americans, we are too dependent on wheat and corn …and to a lesser extent white rice.
It’s just a guess, but I think that giving our bodies a wide variety of grains ( among other foods) helps add essential nutrients and gives us a necessary diversity that our highly processed food culture has taken away.
So I’ve started buying grains such as kamut, spelt, kasha, wild rice, buckwheat, barley and quinoa, then combining them with brown or wild rice, tossing them into the rice cooker using the brown rice setting. The results have been very satisfying and popular with the family.
Essentially, it’s become a breeze to create nice nutty whole grain side dishes and salads. You can add fresh or cooked vegetables to the cooked grains … even things like nuts, cooked lentils and dried cranberries. It’s an easy way to add an important mix of fiber and proteins to your diet, plus when you portion it out to freezer bags and toss into the freezer (sans the additions ) it’s really convenient.
I cook the grains, in any combination, as I said on the ‘brown rice’ setting and usually using low sodium, organic chicken broth instead of water. I might add some parsley at this point but prefer to season after it’s done and when I’ve decided whether or not to freeze part of it, use some as tonights’ side dish or whatever. It even makes a hearty cold weather morning alternative to oatmeal… you could even top the warmed grains with a lucious poached egg and serve with some fresh fruit.
To further simplify, I like to use the pre-cooked and packaged Trader Joe’s black lentils. I just toss those in when the grains are done then work from there with onion, chopped celery, roasted red or yellow bell peppers, olive oil and whatever the creative muse suggests.
The big fat Israeli couscous is a nice addition to, creating a textural difference.
One of the nice parts of all this is that most of these grains are available in the bins at your local market and a really inexpensive way to up the nutrition factor for your family. Take a look at this link from Whole Foods about the nutritional value of quinoa: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=142
The other place to discover the benefits of whole grains is at: http://www.wholegrainscouncil.org/ The Whole Grains Council helps consumers find whole grain foods and understand their health benefits; helps manufacturers create delicious whole grain products; and helps the media write accurate, compelling stories about whole grains.
You can also cook whole grains like these in those convenient, and inexpensive, Black & Decker steamers. But I live at a higher altitude here in Reno, and whole grains will take longer to cook (even in a rice cooker). You have to allow extra time for altitude … unless you decide to use a pressure cooker (another fave of mine) and that’s another post.