Meatless Monday’s – Good Grains to the Rescue

Text Graphic of Whole Grains I am often asked if there are foods that I miss in my quest for healthy.   I remind folks that on the weekend we allow ourselves a ?cheat? on Saturday Nights.  This move to healthy...

Text Graphic of Whole Grains
Text Graphic of Whole Grains

I am often asked if there are foods that I miss in my quest for healthy.   I remind folks that on the weekend we allow ourselves a ?cheat? on Saturday Nights.  This move to healthy is a life-style change, not a diet and we do not want to feel deprived!   This ?cheat? might include meat and potatoes or maybe a pasta, desserts will be permitted this special evening as well as a glass or two of wine.    As a ?foodie? I can promise there are a few foods that I really do miss from this new diet of Greens, Beans, Vegetables, Fruits and Seeds.    Growing up in the Dairy State, I think that cheese should regularly be enjoyed. I miss cheeses served with some fruit and crusty bread and chased by a fabulous glass of wine or two.  Today, there are so many new and wonderful fresh cheeses to also enjoy.    And along with my cheeses, I miss pasta.  Over these past few weeks, I have had the opportunity to enjoy some homemade pastas and these are always a treat.   For me, homemade pasta is a labor of love, but do enjoy the taste and velvety texture of fresh pasta.

I have worked to find healthy alternatives for pasta for a Meatless Monday?s Centerpiece and I have a few options of whole grains to consider.   We are fortunate to have a Trader Joe?s just around the corner and their Harvest Grain Blend of Israeli Style Couscous, Orzo, Baby Garbanzo Beans and Red Quinoa is a favorite in my pantry.   This is a bit of a cheat as there is some Orzo within the blend, but this is a great alternative to pasta.

Other favorites are, Farro, Barley and Wheatberry.  I am sharing three very different recipes for these whole grains for this Week?s Meatless Monday blog.

I see these whole grains as a blank slate, so I will flavor these with homemade stock.  A chef this week noted that my crockpot version was great for chicken and beef.

But he suggested I try his stove top version for my veggies. I did and I was very pleased with the results.    So, here is an update on how to create Homemade Vegetable Stock:

Homemade Vegetable Stock

Ingredients:

Full gallon freezer bag loaded with vegetable discards.  My bag this week included:  ribs of kale, carrot and zucchini ends after a shredding project, onion skins and bruised onion skins, very small garlic cloves, celery leaves, asparagus tips, and mushroom stems.

Directions:

  1. Cover these frozen vegetable discards with 5 cups of water.
  2. Season this with salt and pepper to your taste.
  3. Bring to a simmer on the stove in a Dutch oven for about 35 minutes.
  4. Strain off the golden liquid and use as your homemade stock.
  5. This will yield about 4 cups of vegetable stock.

Farro with Mushrooms, Asparagus and Onions

Farro with Mushrooms, Asparagus and OnionsFarro with Mushrooms, Asparagus and Onions
Farro with Mushrooms, Asparagus and Onions

This dish resembles a traditional Risotto, but this is a bit healthier of a version.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups uncooked farro
  • 3 cups homemade vegetable stock ? see recipe above
  • 1 pound of mushrooms, prepared on the stovetop following this recipe.  BLOG http://cilantrocooks.com/cilantro-blog/mystic-mushrooms
  • 1 pound of asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 ½ inch pieces
  • 1 medium onion, small dice
  • 3 ? 5 cloves of garlic, fine mince
  • Olive oil

Directions:

  1. Prepare the farro in the vegetable stock.
  2. Prepare the mushrooms in a vegetable stock with a tablespoon of butter as directed above.  Finish these mushrooms with sherry and thyme as seasonings.
  3. In a separate sauté pan, sauté the onions in olive oil for about 5 minutes.
  4. Then, add in the garlic, being careful not to burn the garlic.
  5. As the final step, add in the cut asparagus and quickly sauté this spring vegetable.
  6. Assemble this dish by combining the farro, mushrooms and the sautéd vegetables.
  7. Salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Serve immediately.
  9. Can be garnished with Parmesan cheese.

Serve these Roasted Vegetables over a plate of prepared Barley

Serve these Roasted Vegetables over a plate of prepared Barley
Serve these Roasted Vegetables over a plate of prepared Barley

 Roasted Vegetables over Barley

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cup barley
  • 3 ? 4 cups of vegetable stock ? see directions above
  • Roasted Vegetables:  Options include:  zucchini, eggplant, onions, carrots, red, yellow or orange peppers, mushrooms.

Directions:

  1. Prepare the barley in homemade stock.  See recipe above.
  2. Prepare the roasted vegetables in the oven or on the grill.
  3. Top the hot vegetables over a bed of barley.
  4. An optional finish would be to drizzle this platter with some infused olive oil.  Heating about ¼ cup of olive oil on the stovetop adding the herb of choice and infusing the flavors for about 5 ? 7 minutes.  I love the flavors of thyme or rosemary with these vegetables.
  5. Garnish with parsley and chives.
Wheatberries
Wheatberries

Wheatberry Salad ? As a sweet treat  --adapted from Souper Jenny?s in Atlanta

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dried soft wheatberries (hard wheatberries should be soaked overnight)
  • 1 crunchy, firm apple, small dice
  • 1 pear, small dice
  • ¼ cup dried dates, chopped
  • 1 cup Mandarin oranges, drained
  • ¼ cup pecans, toasted and chopped.  Almonds or Walnuts could be substituted. Always toast the nuts for added flavor.
  • 3 tablespoons of maple syrup, honey or Agave nectar
  • ½ cup fresh orange juice
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional -- ½ cup feta cheese, crumbled

Directions:

  1. Rinse the wheatberries.
  2. Boil these wheatberrries to a boil within 5 cups of water.
  3. I have infused this water with some added citrus for added flavor.   Maybe the juice of another orange or a lemon or both.
  4. Lower the heat and simmer for 45 ? 50 minutes or until the wheatberries are cooked, but still are firm.   You are looking for a chewy consistency on this whole grain.
  5. Drain off the simmering water and place in a large mixing bowl.
  6. Add all of the other ingredients and mix while the wheatberries are still warm.
  7. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  8. This can be served warm or it is also very good chilled as a side salad.

These recipes are three very different treatments of whole grains.  The farro and wheatberries have a very nutty flavor and really add great texture to dishes.

What are your favorite whole grains and your favorite preparation idea?