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Top 8 Organic Grains & Recipes To Use Them

organic grainsOrganic grains are a healthy part of any diet.  No matter how you choose to eat, there are organic grains out there that are perfect for you.  If you’re concerned about gluten in your diet, you’ll be avoiding organic grains like wheat, spelt, farro and rye, but you can have organic grains like quinoa, rice, amaranth, millet and buckwheat.  If you’re eating a raw vegan diet, did you know that quinoa and buckwheat can be eaten raw and sprouted?  Even if you’re on a paleo (no grain) diet, quinoa (actually a seed, not a grain) is often considered acceptable.

Let’s take a look at a list of our favorite organic grains:

Quinoa

This South American grain has been cultivated for as long as 5,000 years in the Andes.  An ancient food, quinoa is technically not a grain, although we think of it as a grain and cook it in a similar way.  This is one of the two organic grains that is a complete protein and is a wonderful substitute for rice or bulgur wheat in pilafs.  Quinoa is cooked like rice, with a ratio of 1 cup of quinoa to 1 1/2 cups of water. Try it in tabbouleh or other cold grain and veggie salads.  Use it as a side dish in place of rice or potatoes.  Quinoa even makes a great breakfast cereal when made with milk or a plant based dairy alternative using a ratio of 1 cup quinoa to 2 cups of liquid.    There are a few different varieties of quinoa, the most common being white quinoa.  White quinoa has a light texture and nutty flavor and is best tasting when it is rinsed in water before cooking.  Red and black quinoa are two other varieties that are a bit more nutty in flavor and a bit denser in texture.  You’ll also find what is called rainbow or tri-color quinoa which is a blend of the white, red and black varieties.

Try this recipe for Quinoa Tabbouleh

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 2 scallions, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp fresh mint, chipped
  • 1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste

In a medium pot, cover quinoa in water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a slow simmer, cover, and allow to cook about 15 minutes, or until quinoa is cooked and most of the liquid has been absorbed.  In a large bowl, combine tomatoes, cucumbers, scallions, garlic, fresh mint and fresh parsley.  Once the quinoa is cooked, use a fork to fluff and cool it down a bit.  Add cooked quinoa, olive oil,lemon juice and salt to the chopped veggies and toss to combine.  Chill for at least one hour before serving, preferably overnight, to allow flavors to meld.

Rice

A staple food in many parts of the world, rice comes in many, many varieties.  You may be most familiar with long grain white rice and short grain brown rice; these are by far the most commonly used varieties in the U.S.  By expanding into more exotic varieties, you’ll experience a great variety of flavor and texture.  Try basmati rice or jasmine rice (brown or white) for a fragrant variety that pairs well with Indian and Thai flavors.   If you haven’t tried Forbidden rice, it is a black rice that when it cooks turns a very dark purple color.  It is chewier in texture than other rices and due to its deep, rich color, contains a high amount of antioxidants.

Try this recipe for Coconut Black Rice Pudding

  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup Forbidden black rice
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

In a medium saucepan, mix water, rice and coconut milk, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 45 minutes or until rice is tender, stirring occasionally. During the last 10 minutes of cooking, make sure to keep a close eye, adding extra water, 1/4 cup at a time, if the rice gets too dry.  While the rice is cooking, toast the coconut. Heat your oven to 350°F.  Place the coconut on a baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes or until golden-brown, stirring once during baking.  When the rice is cooked to tender, add the sugar and salt. Simmer for two minutes, or until pudding is desired texture. Add a little more water for a wetter pudding; let cook longer for a drier pudding. Spoon into individual bowls and top with toasted coconut flakes.

Wheat

Quite possibly the most versatile of the organic grains, wheat was key to enabling civilization to grow into the city-based societies that we now know.  Because it was one of the first crops that could be grown on a large scale in a variety of climates and was able to be stored for long periods of time, wheat is often considered at the core of civilization.  Wheat is a staple food that can be cooked whole or ground into flour for breads, cakes, noodles, pasta, cakes and more.  Its versatility extends to its ability to be fermented to make beer and other alcoholic beverages and even biofuel.  Wheat has come under a lot of criticism in recent years with the increase in celiac disease and gluten sensitivities.  There are many theories as to why those sensitivities are on the rise, from hybridization to increase the gluten content of wheat, to GMO’s causing digestive disorders that make us more sensitive to gluten, to the simple fact that we as a country eat more wheat than ever in a processed state.  Before industrialization made it possible to produce breads at the scale and pace that we do now, bread dough was given the opportunity to rise and ferment for much longer.  That fermentation process seems to be key in transforming the gluten in wheat to a more easily digested substance in the bread product.  That’s why sourdough breads are often more easily digested.  Wheat berries can be used to make pilafs and porridges and can be ground to make homemade breads and pastries.

Try this recipe for Mushroom Wheat Berry Pilaf

  • 2 tsps olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 5 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 lb sliced mushrooms
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked wheat berries
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked rice
  • 1/2 tsp fresh chopped thyme
  • 1 tsp fresh chopped rosemary
  • 1 tsp grated lemon rind
  • salt & pepper to taste
Heat olive oil in large saute pan over low heat. Add onions and salt and sweat until soft, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 5 minutes. Add butter to pan and melt. Add mushrooms and soy sauce, increase heat to medium and continue cooking for 5 to 10 minutes, until mushrooms soften. Add wine and broth and simmer 5 minutes until wine begins to evaporate. Add wheat berries, rice, thyme, rosemary, and lemon to heat through. Adjust seasoning and serve.

Farro

One of the most ancient of the organic grains, Farro is also known as Emmer or Einkorn.   Grown in Italy, Farro is a wild wheat that can be cooked like barley or ground into flour to make breads and pastas.  Farro mwas first domesticated 10,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent and has been found in Egyptian tombs.  As an ancient wheat, it has not been hybridized to increase its gluten content and while still off limits for those with Celiac disease, some people affected by gluten intolerance can actually tolerate Farro.  Try Farro in soups and stews, as a porridge or risotto type dish.

Try this recipe for Farro Vegetable Soup

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup farro
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 quarts water
  • One 15-ounce can pinto or cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 large carrots, sliced in half rounds
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen peas
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a large pan, heat the oil and add the celery and onion. Cook over medium-high heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the farro and tomato paste and cook, stirring, until the grains are coated. Add 1 quart of the water and the beans and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. Add the carrots and the remaining 1 quart of water. Cover and cook over low heat for about 30 minutes until the carrots are tender. Add the peas, cover and cook an additional 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Buckwheat

Another seed that is called a grain, buckwheat is highly nutritious and is the other of the organic grains that is a complete protein.  When roasted and cooked, buckwheat is called kasha, a dish that was brought to America by Polish and Russian immigrants.  Buckwheat can also be sprouted and eaten raw, as many raw vegans do to use buckwheat in dehydrated crackers and breads.  Buckwheat flour is used to make soba noodles and pancakes.  This versatile grain is gluten free and despite having the word ‘wheat’ in its name is not a wheat at all.

Try this recipe for Kasha With Bowtie Pasta

  • 1 cup kasha buckwheat groats, medium
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup pasta bow ties

Place the kasha in a medium frying pan on medium high heat and toast until you smell the aroma of the kasha.  Remove from heat and mix the kasha with the beaten egg.  This should be done quickly to ensure the egg doesn’t cook apart from the grain. Be sure all the grains are covered with egg.  Place the pan back on the stove and using a wooden spoon, flatten it out a bit, stirring and moving it about the pan until the egg dries and the grains have mostly separated. Set aside.  Place a pot of salted water on to boil for the pasta bow ties. In a 4-quart heavy stove-top covered casserole, heat the oil and saute the onions until clear. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Add the salt and pepper and the reserved kasha. Stir and cover. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the kasha is tender, about 10 minutes.  In the meantime, boil the bow tie pasta just until tender. Drain well and stir into the kasha.  Season to taste and serve.

Millet

Yet another of the organic grains that is actually a seed, millet is most known in America as bird seed but it is a highly nutritious food.  Traditionally grown in northern Africa, millet is one of the few organic grains that is alkalizing, making it easier than other grains to digest.  If you’ve eaten Ethiopian food, you’ll be familiar with Injera, the spongy bread that is used to eat.  Injera is made with teff, which is a variety of millet.  Less exotic than Injera, you can use millet just like rice or quinoa.  It is cooked in a ratio of 1 cup millet to 2 1/2 cups of water, using more water if you’d like a softer consistency for a breakfast porridge.

Try this recipe for Millet Chili

  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 large white onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 (15 oz) can of corn kernels
  • 1 (15 oz) can kidney beans
  • 1 (15 oz) can black beans
  • 1 (32 oz) container of vegetable broth
  • 1 cup millet
  • 1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
  • 1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes

Heat the olive oil in large saucepan. Sauté onions, peppers, garlic, salt, and pepper for 4-5 minutes until the onions become translucent. Add in corn, beans, broth, spices, and bring to a low boil. Add millet and stir. Cover, reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 30 minutes. Add diced tomatoes and tomato paste and stir. Adjust seasonings and serve, or simmer longer for even better flavor.

Amaranth

Again, Amaranth is actually a seed and not a grain, but it is used just like a grain.  Although it looks a lot like millet, when cooked, amaranth has a mushier consistency so it makes a great breakfast porridge or mashed potato substitute.  Amaranth can be popped as a snack – just pour some whole amaranth grain into a hot, dry skillet and shake or stir until the seeds pop.  With its thicker consistency, amaranth makes a great addition to soups or stews that you may want to thicken naturally.

Try this recipe for Amaranth Grits With Cinnamon

  • 4 ½ cups water
  • pinch of sea salt
  • ¾ cup amaranth grains
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 small apple, cored and chopped
  • sweetener of choice (optional)
  • milk or plant based milk alternative (optional)

Bring water and salt to a boil.  Meanwhile, heat a dry skillet over medium-high flame. When the pan is hot, add amaranth. Cover and shake the skillet to keep the amaranth moving, so that it toasts and pops but does not burn. When about half of the seeds have popped, add amaranth and cinnamon to boiling water. Stir well and lower heat to a simmer. Cook 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Add apple and cook an additional 10 minutes. Serve plain or with sweetener and milk of choice.

Oats

Until relatively recently oats were one of the least desirous organic grains for human consumption.  Because oats have a low gluten content and couldn’t easily be made into breads, they were overlooked for the more popular and versatile wheat.  In recent years, however, many health conscious individuals have turned to oats instead of wheat specifically because they don’t contain gluten.  Oats come in a number of varieties from whole oat groats, steel cut oats, and various sizes of rolled oats as well as oat flour.  Mainly used to make oatmeal, oats can also be used in baked goods like oatcakes and oatmeal cookies and even oat bread.  It is the main ingredient in muesli as well as granola.

Try this recipe for a homemade Cinnamon & Nut Granola

  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup sunflower oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup dried apples, diced small
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts and almonds.

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Place the oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl and stir to combine. In a separate bowl, add the honey, oil, and vanilla and stir to combine.  Pour over the oat mixture and mix with your hands until the oats are thoroughly coated.  Spread the mixture in a thin, even layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, then stir and continue baking until the granola is very light golden brown, another 5 to 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and allow the granola to cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.  Add the dried fruit and nuts to the baking sheet and toss to combine. Store in an airtight container and enjoy within 2 weeks.

And there you have it, our 8 favorite organic grains and recipes to use them in.  What are your favorite organic grains?

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