Get Your Grains On!

It’s true that for two years of my life I lived on little more than beans and rice. Pinto beans and long grain brown rice to be specific. Now, they’re still a fall back food. They cook easily on their own and offer up that warm comfort that’s hard to match. So last Sunday, after receiving a lovely batch of homegrown pinto beans from my blogging friend, Linda, and a dozen thick corn tortillas from another friend, I decided to make a pot of brown rice to go along. One problem, there wasn’t any.

Get your grains on!

What I did have in the pantry was an assortment of other grains and legumes; a couple tablespoons of amaranth, some millet, and a bag of locally grown oats and we didn’t let it interfere with our meal.

Amaranth is usually referred to as a grain, but it’s actually a seed. It’s highly nutritious in that it offers a complete form of vegetable protein. Amaranth is gluten free and has eight times more iron than wheat making it a really good food for vegetarians, pregnant women and the general public.

Millet is also a seed and although it’s been used throughout the world for centuries, many people are more familiar with it as a bird seed component. It’s also high in minerals such as magnesium and manganese and a great source of omegas. Eaten regularly, millet has been shown to reduce migraines, heart attacks and type 2 diabetes.

The oats in my pantry are locally grown, raw and non rolled. That means that I have to pick through them a bit but all health benefits remain in tact. I cooked these grains in a single dish accompanied by a handful of pink lentils, some green ones and a fistful of adzuki beans.

If you’re not familiar with adzuki, they’re a little less “bean tasting” than other varieties but like their grain counterparts, they’re a fantastic source of minerals like magnesium, iron, zinc, copper and vitamin B3. Adzuki beans offer high quality protein making them another great alternative to animal products. These are not local and I typically find them in dry bean form at an Asian market.

Prepared as if it was rice with some olive oil, sea salt and water, it worked perfectly in our Mexican meal and the added benefit was using it again, the next evening.

When I arrived home from yoga late, I used this same grain-legume mixture as a base and went through the vegetable drawer. I diced an onion half, minced a couple of bulbs of green garlic, chopped a few carrots, sliced spinach very thin and added the last of the springtime asparagus. First sauteing the vegetables in a bit of olive oil and then ladling in the grains, I allowed the entire dish to warm through by adding a bit of water. This would make a great side dish for any carnivore but we served it as our main dish accompanied by some hummus and pita. One of my sons sprinkled parmesan on his.

This is a convenient way to throw a meal together quickly, to clean out the pantry and fridge and to centerpiece a really healthy family meal. Why don’t we use alternative grains more often rather than falling back on rice? What have you tried lately?

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84 Comments

  1. Nice combination! Thanks for the reminder about amaranth and millet…I always forget them as options. I think this combo would be less inflammatory than if made with brown rice, don’t you think? So healthy…
    eleanor

    Reply
    • Yes and I should have mentioned this. Oats are extremely low on the inflammation scale.

      Reply
  2. What a great post! Thanks for the ideas!

    Reply
  3. I printed your post. Amaranth and Millet are seeds I have not tried. Have you tried the Pomegranate Cafe in Chandler? It is fabulous and absolutely worth the drive. The whole family will love it.

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    • We love that place Sarah! I so wish it was in my neighborhood but it is definitely a destination restaurant.

      Reply
  4. Jane Ward

     /  April 28, 2012

    All that texture too, it sounds just great. Wheat berries are my new favorite grain to cook as a pilaf. I love the chewiness.

    Reply
  5. I need to try more grains and my diet, and this post just gave me some good ideas! Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  6. This looks and sounds wonderful, with the spring vegetables for color and flavor!
    I make a bean and barley soup almost every week, with whichever beans appeal to me at the moment, barley, usually wild rice, and whatever seasonal vegetables I have on hand. You’ve inspired me to try out some different grain combinations. Thank you!

    Reply
  7. This looks and sounds delicious, I really want to get more grains and beans in our diet but I must admit I am really intimidated in how to do it. I feel like everyone says it is so easy and yet, I just don’t know how to begin. When you say you prepared these as if they were rice…does that mean you used ratios of water/oil/salt for the number of cups of grains you had as if you were cooking rice?
    Any special recipes/tips would be helpful. I feel like I need a couple good recipes that I can tweak as I learn how to cook it more. I would really appreciate it.
    What a beautiful healthy meal, YUM.

    Reply
    • That’s exactly what I mean.

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    • Depending on what you’re cooking, you may want different ratios. It’s usually pretty easy to pick up a cheap used “healthfood” cookbook that has a chart with grains and cooking ratios/times. Or go visit your public library– I think Mark Bittman’s cookboo’s probably list them out too– and make of copy of that handy chart to stick on the fridge. (I picked up a paperback copy of Laurel’s Kitchen for $1 many years ago, and that chart is basically all I use of out it.)

      Reply
  8. Lisa H

     /  April 28, 2012

    Those are wonderful substitutions for rice. I like how you used a combination of grains to make such a hardy side dish. Your descriptions of each type of grain is helpful. Thanks for the ideas!

    Reply
    • Have you grown amaranth Lisa? It is supposed to do well here.

      Reply
      • Lisa H

         /  April 29, 2012

        No, I have not tried growing amaranth. I will certainly look into it, as I always like to add something new to my garden. I have purslane growing now, which I munch on while gardening, thanks to you!

        Reply
  9. I make a variation of this with whatever grains and veggies I have on hand and cook it all like fried rice, in a wok, complete with egg. Looks tasty.

    Reply
  10. I totally agree. I get left with a bit here and a but there too. I usually make risotto with barley instead of rice and love bulgur for stretching ground meat.

    A friend gave me a big bag of adzuki beans & I was just trying to figure out what to do with them – I have to admit it’s only recently I’ve tried very hard to work with dried beans. I’m kind of fascinated by some of the pastry uses for them.

    Reply
  11. Yum! I’m a big fan of quinoa and also barley. I have a barley mushroom dish I really enjoy – haven’t paired it with beans and/or other bl veggies though. May have to give that a try. Thanks for a tummy thought-orovoking post!

    Reply
  12. I always, always learn how to eat healthier from you. Thank you!

    Reply
  13. I have a thing for farro…I love how nutty it is πŸ™‚ and of course quinoa!

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  14. What a feast of healthy information, thank you, Tammy! It’s wonderful to learn about new foods from you, and your dish looks delicious. Why am I not surprised to discover that you also practise yoga? πŸ™‚ I returned to power yoga yesterday after many months – love it so much, I can’t believe I let it slide!

    Reply
    • I definitely wouldn’t call what I do power yoga but I do love to stretch and breath!

      Reply
  15. I love millet & amaranth too. Millet four, I use quite often. Millet flakes, I make breakfast from. I love quinoa too, a lot!
    What great & good valuable info you gave us! πŸ™‚

    Reply
  16. nice ‘grain – seed’ education! this looks to be a fe good meals – and i suspect it’ll keep in the fridge for a few days!

    Reply
    • It keeps really well as I finished this off for lunch yesterday.

      Reply
      • by the way – bought Stephanie Bostic’s book “One Bowl” and am looking forward to working through some of it this summer. Farmer’s markets here are just starting to open!

        Reply
    • Daisyfea, thanks for snagging a copy. Do feel free to send me comments, and enjoy your summer bounty!

      Reply
  17. Love this! I’m working on a similar post at the moment . . . after “gleaning” the fridge and pantry yesterday to “evict” a few tenants which had overstayed their welcome. πŸ˜€

    Instead of brown rice . . . Barley, Wheat Berries, Quinoi, Oats, Cracked Wheat.

    Reply
    • I haven’t had cracked wheat in ages but I used to love bread baked from it when I was young.

      Reply
  18. Sally Mom

     /  April 29, 2012

    Wonderful post, Tammy. All my favorite foods and a great idea to mix so many different grains. One thing to note, barley very high in gluten for people that struggle with that.

    Reply
    • Good tip Sally and you’re the inspiration for this post after you made that wonderful oat “risotto” for Easter.

      Reply
  19. Enjoyed your account that models beautifully how to eat healthy and easily! It was all the better because I was eating my steel cut oat and blueberry breakfast per Sally’s inspiration…

    Reply
  20. Eating different types of rice was one of my goals a couple years ago– we tend to get stuck in a rut with our “usual” or maybe what we were brought up eating. I enjoying eating red rice, black rice, and exploring all the differences between short, medium, and long grain rice. Wild rice, although not rice, also fell into favor that year.

    Buckwheat’s my default alternative grain, though. Delish, easy to grind, and bakes wonderfully.

    Reply
  21. Yum, Tammy! And thanks for the insights into the benefit of these alternatives. I usually turn to Quinoa so I noted these added choices in my little notebook that goes shopping with me.

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  22. Thank you for this post! I have an odd assortment of grains in my pantry as well. They are the leftovers from various meals and I don’t have much of any one type. I’m going to try mixing them as you have – great idea! Also, thanks for introducing me to amaranth. As a (mostly) vegan, I’m always looking for new sources of complete protein.

    Reply
  23. Mason

     /  April 30, 2012

    Great ideas. I always try to keep some grains on hand because they’re a simple, healthy way to fill out a meal. Just picked up on locally grown rye berries this weekend to experiment with. I’ve never used amaranth or millet, but I’ll be looking for some when we stock up our pantry next time!

    Reply
    • Locally grown rye sounds fascinating! Don’t they make some type of alcohol from rye?

      Reply
  24. Beans have always been a mainstay at the dinner table when growing up. Here in Texas, we also love blackeyed peas.

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  25. I love azuki beans…and that picture made me instantly hungry! There’s something about stir fry that makes my mouth water.

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  26. Ma’am, you have quite a lot of grains in your pantry. πŸ˜‰
    (still, it made me hungry reading this)

    Reply
  27. That looks yummmy!! I’m so glad they got there! I have more if you run out!!!

    Linda
    http://coloradofarmlife.wordpress.com
    http://deltacountyhistoricalsociety.wordpress.com

    Reply
  28. great recipe and reminder–we always have those odd bits of beans and grains tucked away in the pantry, too small to do anything alone.

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  29. This sounds so wonderful, Tammy. I’m fortunate that my parents loved dried beans so my brother and I grew up eating dried beans regularly as kids. Now, as adults, we still love dried beans. I cook some type of dried bean at least every other week. My brother’s children are also fans, especially my niece, who’s “learned” to cook black beans and pinto beans in her college dorm room.

    Where I fall short is really branching out into the many grains that are now readily available. I eat old-fashioned oatmeal for breakfast several mornings each week (but it isn’t locally-grown) and use quinoa fairly regularly. I love barley, too.

    But I really need to try grains like amaranth and millet, beyond what I get in the cereals I purchase from time to time. (I’m not a big cereal person, but I keep a box of Nature’s Path organic “Heritage Heirloom Whole Grain” cereal on hand for when I need a late meal fast, due to work scheduling. It’s probably far from perfect but better than what most eat for an emergency late-night meal).

    I think I’ll start investigating what I can find that’s at least grown by a small-producer somewhere. The only thing I’m aware of that’s grown locally and available commercially in Alabama is some really great organic cornmeal.

    Reply
    • Great plan. Amaranth grows well in Az and I can buy it from the local seed company.

      Reply
  30. Okay, Im an oats fan. We often have it with cauliflowers and mustard seeds for lunch or as porridge. This looks delicious though…

    Btw, amaranth leaves (called laal saak in India, laal= red) makes excellent lunch too. Just stir fry it with some garlic and black seeds. Simple πŸ™‚

    Reply
  31. You are very creative when it comes to cooking! I am one of those people that I have to have a recipe and I also have to follow it religiously…lol.

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  32. Great post. I like using beans and grains also! We even provide them cooked to our lovebirds daily!

    Reply
  33. Wow, I don’t think I could have lived on rice and beans for so long! But I know that many people all around the world do that right now. I’m previledged I can afford veggies and meat and seafood, otherwise I’d have a (health) problem. πŸ˜• But I spend the major part of my budget on food …

    Adzuki beans are my favorite beans! I’ve also tried other kinds so far, but adzuki are my absolutely favorite ones. πŸ™‚

    Reply
    • It’s not a problem to spend a higher % of income on food. It means you’re eating well.

      Reply
  34. Oh, yum, Tammy! It is 10:30 here but I feel like bolting down to the kitchen and making some of this now….

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  35. my parrots always kick the millet out of their feeders. Maybe I should be keeping it for myself πŸ™‚

    Reply
  36. Great post!

    Reply
  37. Thanks for the shout out!

    Reply
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