Like many of you, I grew up in a meat and potatoes household.
The closest I got to ancient grains was barley my mom would sneak into beef barley soup. But as they say, everything old is new again, including ancient grains.
According to the Oldways Whole Grains Council, ancient grains generally refer to grains that have remained unchanged from their original form from centuries ago.
The 2015 Whole Grains Consumer Insights Survey showed that nearly two-thirds of Americans say they are heeding the Dietary Guidelines advice to “make at least half your grains whole,” with the majority of Americans eating more whole grains than they did ﬁve years ago.
The most popular whole grains are whole wheat, oats and brown rice. Nine out of 10 people who answered the survey said they have heard of these grains and most have eaten them.
Yet, fewer than one in five has heard of spelt, farro, amaranth, Kamut, or teff.
Ancient grains include the original strains of wheat: einkorn, spelt and emmer, plus non-gluten options like amaranth, teff and quinoa.
Speaking of quinoa (pronounced keen-wah), Jim and I tried it for the first time earlier this month. The verdict? We loved it. It's got a real nutty flavor and serves as a great base for side dishes or a nice Greek salad.
Not technically a grain, quinoa is a pseudo-cereal that is a relative of Swiss chard. Naturally gluten-free, quinoa is high in fiber and minerals and is a complete protein source.
Its origins are in mountainous Andean regions of Peru and Bolivia, and it’s believed to have been domesticated between 3,000 and 5,000 years ago. Quinoa is grown at high altitudes and ranges in color from light brown to red and black.
An added bonus is that quinoa is an excellent addition to a diabetic diet. It's a whole-grain with a low glycemic index to support an even blood sugar. It's packed with protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals.
But, like any other starch, make sure you portion out whole grains.
One cup of cooked quinoa has 222 calories, putting it on par with brown rice (which has around 218 calories per cup).
Asian Grilled Chicken and Rice Salad
3/4 cup brown rice (uncooked)
8 ounces chicken breast, cut into strips, cooked
1 cup red bell pepper diced small
2 cups shredded Romaine lettuce leaves or Napa cabbage
3 tablespoons toasted almonds (sliced/chopped or slivered)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro minced
1/2 cup green onions diced small
1/2 cup Asian dressing — your preference
Prepare brown rice according to package directions (3/4 cup uncooked makes 3 cups cooked rice). While rice is heating, prepare other ingredients. When the rice is ready, combine all ingredients including dressing in a large bowl. Serve immediately or refrigerate.
Black Bean, Edamame, and Wheat Berry Salad
4 cups water
1/2 cup dry wheat berries
1 cup cooked black beans (about half of a 15-ounce can, rinsed and drained)
1 cup frozen, shelled edamame, thawed
1 cup chopped tomato
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Combine the water and wheat berries in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 55 minutes or until the wheat berries are just tender.
Drain well in a fine mesh strainer and combine with the remaining ingredients in a medium bowl. Serve immediately or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to eight hours in advance.
Balsamic Garlic Roasted Mushrooms and Quinoa
1 cup uncooked quinoa
16 ounces crimini (baby bella) mushrooms
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
1/4 cup chopped shallot
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Place quinoa in a fine-mesh sieve and rinse under cool water. Drain and place in a medium pot. Add 2 cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a low simmer, cover and cook for about 15 minutes, until liquid is absorbed.
Remove from heat but keep lid on the pot until the mushrooms are done. While the quinoa is cooking, rinse mushrooms or wipe clean with a damp cloth. Slice mushrooms into halves or quarters, depending on size and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Toss with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Roast mushrooms for 10 minutes. At this point, they won’t be quite done but will finish cooking after you add the shallots, garlic and balsamic vinegar. Add the chopped shallots and garlic to the pan with the mushrooms. Drizzle with the balsamic vinegar and toss gently to combine. Return the pan to the oven and continue cooking for 7-10 minutes, until mushrooms are done to your liking.
Flake quinoa with a fork and transfer to a serving bowl. Add the mushrooms and stir to combine, if desired. Serve.