Grain Spotlight…Millet!

ImagePhoto credit: Michael Newman

If you’re from the United States, there’s a good chance you may not know what millet is–or if you do, maybe it’s because you’re familiar with its use as birdseed. However, even though it may be underrated in the US, millet is a nutritious cereal grain that actually serves as a staple in many other cultures around the world, and is gaining traction in health food stores and even some conventional grocery stores here.

There are many different types of millet that grow throughout Asia and Africa, with India and Nigeria serving as the biggest producers in the world. The crop does well in dry, hot regions, even in infertile soil, making it valuable in areas where other crops may be suffering from drought. Millet grains have even been found in Asian archaeological sites, with some dating back to 8300 BC!

The most common type of millet today is pearl millet, and many people with gluten sensitivities enjoy it as another gluten-free, alternative grain. The cooked texture is fluffy like rice with a similar flavor that adapts well to any other ingredients it may be cooked with. One cup of the cooked grains provides 23% of the daily value for manganese, 19% for magnesium, 17% for phosphorus, 2.3 grams of fiber, and 6.1 grams of protein!

Millet porridge is a common way to enjoy the grain, made by boiling one part millet grain to about three parts water, then letting the mixture simmer for about 25 minutes. Honey, vanilla, cinnamon, or fruit can then be added as well. To make a millet cereal for babies, use ground millet powder: mix 1/4 cup of ground millet with 1-2 cups of water and whisk thoroughly while heating to avoid clumps. For more flavor, add puréed fruits or veggies!

For older toddlers and the rest of the family, try this recipe for Slow Cooker Millet Cereal!

Ingredients (about 8 servings):

1 cup millet
1 quart water
1 teaspoon salt
1 medium apple, peeled and diced (or 1 cup applesauce)
1 cup raisins or dried cranberries
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Put all ingredients into the slow cooker/crock pot and stir. Cover, set the slow cooker on low heat, and cook overnight or for 8-9 hours.

Have you ever tried millet before? What are some of your favorite recipes?

Written by: Lauren Mesaros

Sources:
Recipe adapted from Mosher Products
Wholesome Baby Food
Food & Agricultural Organization of the United Nations
Progress with Proso, Pearl and Other Millets
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of Americ

Grain Spotlight…Buckwheat!

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Photo credit: Ervins Strauhmanis

As more people have begun adopting gluten-free diets due to allergy, intolerance, or other health-related reasons, alternative grains have experienced a boost in popularity. One of these is buckwheat, which, despite the name, is not related to wheat at all. The “fruit” of the buckwheat plant is actually more like a sunflower seed, with one seed inside a hard outer hull. Buckwheat flour is made from the white, starchy endosperm, and kasha (or buckwheat groat, as it is sometimes called) is the hulled, crushed whole grain most commonly used in cooking. The flowers of the buckwheat plant are also very attractive to bees and are used to make a dark honey.

Like many grains, buckwheat is a good source of protein and fiber, providing about 5.7 grams of protein and 4.5 grams of fiber per cooked cup. Buckwheat is also high in manganese, a micronutrient needed for many chemical reactions throughout the body. Some studies have shown that diets containing buckwheat and other grains are linked to a lower risk of high cholesterol or high blood pressure. These effects are partly due to buckwheat’s supply of flavonoids, which act as antioxidants and also help to prevent excessive clotting of blood platelets.

 If you’re looking for a gluten-free alternative or just want to experiment with another nutritious grain, there are many ways to use buckwheat in cooking and baking. Buckwheat flour can easily be a substitute for regular white or wheat flour in muffins, breads, cookies, or as a thickener for soups and sauces. You can even grind your own at home using whole buckwheat and a spice or coffee grinder (ideally one with at least 200 watts of power, as buckwheat hulls are harder than other grains). The flour should always be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, while the grains can be stored in an airtight container in any cool, dry place. 

 The cooked grains can be used as a plain or seasoned side dish, as a hot breakfast cereal with milk, or as a replacement for rice given the similar texture and cooking methods. They’re an excellent addition to soups, cooked or cold salads, stuffings, stir-fries, or any other dish you would like to add some complex carbohydrates and protein to! 
 
Buckwheat can even be made into baby food: just thoroughly whisk together over low heat 1-2 cups of water for each 1/4 cup of buckwheat flour. For older babies or toddlers who can chew, try a kasha cereal by boiling 2 cups of water, adding 1 cup of kasha and returning to a boil, then reducing the heat to low to let the mixture simmer for about 15 minutes as you stir occasionally. This can be served on its own or easily mixed with fruit, fruit purees, or milk.
 
One of the most common uses of buckwheat around the world is for buckwheat flour pancakes. Here’s an easy, vegan, gluten-free recipe!
 
Vegan Gluten-Free Buckwheat Pancakes
1 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 cup white or brown rice flour
2 tablespoons ground flax
2 tablespoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon date sugar (or other sweetener)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups soy milk (or other non-dairy milk)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
 
1. Sift the buckwheat flour and mix together with all dry ingredients.
2. Add the milk and vanilla and mix well.
3. Let sit for about 10 minutes, then add any fruit or nuts as desired.
4. Pour about 1/4 cup of batter onto a greased griddle or pan and flip the pancake when bubbles form on the surface. Cook until golden brown on each side.
 
 
What’s your favorite way to cook with buckwheat?
 
 
Written by: Lauren Mesaros
 
Sources:
Recipe adapted from Helyn’s Healthy Kitchen

Health Benefits of Quinoa

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I am sure by now, you have all heard of the newest superfood, Quinoa, but do you know what makes it such an amazing addition to your meals?  Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is not a grain; it is actually a seed and related to the spinach family. When cooked, quinoa is light, fluffy, slightly crunchy and subtly flavored similar to brown rice. Since it has a similar texture to most grains, can substitute quinoa in place of a variety of grains in many recipes!

Health Benefits of Quinoa

▪ Complete protein. Quinoa contains all 9 essential amino acids that are required by the body as building blocks for muscles. Each serving of quinoa has 9g of protein!

▪ Magnesium helps relax your muscles and blood vessels and effects blood pressure.

▪ Fiber. Quinoa is an excellent way to ensure that you consume the suggested amount fiber to help with digestion.

▪ Manganese and copper. Quinoa is a good source of these minerals, which act as detoxifying agents in the body.

▪ Quinoa is gluten free so it is an excellent alternative for those who suffer from gluten intolerance or Celiac Disease!

How To Cook With Quinoa

• It is suggested to rinse and soak quinoa prior to cooking in order to ensure maximum nutrient absorption, however some do not require this, so just look on the package!

• Quinoa is a great addition to salads and soups.

• Replace the rice in your stir fry with quinoa

• Add quinoa to baked goods such as muffins for a higher protein intake.