Today, as the next post in my Food Is Medicine series, I’m tackling the topic of whole grains, with the aid of an amazing recipe for sandwich wraps that features a wheat berry spread that will knock your socks off!
It’s also the perfect time to mention October Unprocessed, a challenge issued by my friend Andrew, author of Eating Rules, to give up eating processed foods for the entire month of October. Andrew describes the challenge as “an exercise in awareness,” and goes on to say that “[i]f an entire month is too much of a commitment, that’s okay. Maybe it’s only a week? Maybe just a day? Sign the pledge, and indicate your support!” Learning to utilize whole grains in cooking is an important step in reducing the amount of processed foods we consume.
Grains are an important staple in a healthy diet. The American Heart Association explains that whole grains are good sources of dietary fiber, and many other nutrients, such as B vitamins, Folate, Iron, Magnesium, and Selenium. All of these nutrients are important for maintaining or improving health. Actually incorporating something into your diet is a wholly different issue, however, than knowing that you should eat something because it’s good for you. If you ask someone to name some whole grains and a variety of ways that they could incorporate them into their daily diet, whole grains may start to sound a bit boring and difficult to use. Bread is likely to come up, as well as brown rice, or something made with oats, but then the conversation begin to taper off. I think one of the big problems with incorporating whole grains into our diets on a consistent basis is a lack of ideas on how to use them. Call me crazy, but I don’t want to eat something all the time just because it’s good for me. I want to find ways of enjoying the food I put into my body.
Thankfully, my favorite cookbook writing duo recently came to my rescue, breaking down my mental block against grains. Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough’s newest book, GRAIN MAINS: 101 Surprising and Satisfying Whole Grain Recipes for Every Meal of the Day, teaches you how to not only incorporate whole grains into your cooking, but also how to make them the stars of the meal with those you serve coming back for more.
The book is a made up of main courses in three different categories: 1) breakfast fare, 2) salads and dishes that can be made ahead, and 3) hot meals that are best for supper of dinner parties. Bruce and Mark provide incredible amounts of guidance throughout the book, from cooking tips to nutritional information. One of the best parts about this book, for me, was that once I started reading the titles of the recipes in each chapter, I couldn’t stop, and by the time I was done flipping through the book for the first time, I was starving. That’s always a good sign. Breakfast Polenta Cake with Kamut Crunch Topping? Yes please. Spanish-Inspired Black Barley Salad with Chickpeas, Dates, and Toasted Almonds? Pass me a spoon! Moroccan-Inspired Barley Couscous? Swoon!
Since that first flip through I’ve made lots of recipes from the book and am wondering how I could have ever been so bored by whole grains. After reading the book, here are the top 4 reasons why I think you should reconsider whole grains:
- Whole grains help keep you healthy: They can help lower blood cholesterol levels, reduce your risk of coronary disease, can help fight gum disease, and deliver a whole host of nutrients into your system that help your body function, like iron, which is used to carry oxygen in the blood.
- Whole grains are good for weight control: As Bruce and Mark write, because of all of the fiber in whole grains, “you feel full and content—and are thus encouraged to eat less. All that fiber exits your stomach at a crawl, about four calories per minute. You not only feel sated more quickly; you also feel sated longer.”
- Whole grains are affordable.
- Whole grains are delicious! And if you don’t believe me, you should pick up a copy of GRAIN MAINS and learn for yourself just how amazing whole grains can be if you’re armed with the right knowledge. To help you out, I’m giving away two copies of the book! (Giveaway details can be found after the recipe below.)
To give you a taste of why the book is so incredible, I’m sharing the recipe for one of my favorite things I’ve made out of the book yet—sandwich wraps with a wheat berry spread. I love a good sandwich wrap, but these take the cake. The spread is a wheat berry and black-eyed pea hummus that is so good that if you ask me how much of it I ate straight out of the bowl with a spoon, I may have to plead the Fifth rather than incriminating myself by admitting the truth.
In addition to the spread, the wraps are layered with all kinds of delicious, yet “good for you,” ingredients, like tomato and avocado. These wraps are perfect for a packed lunch, a roadtrip, a picnic, or just because.
Sandwich Wrap with Wheat Berry Spread
Recipe from Grain Mains, by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough, reprinted with permission
Makes 4 servings
For the Wheat Berry Spread:
1/2 cup wheat berries, preferably hard red wheat berries
1 can (15 ounces) black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 garlic clove, minced or put through a garlic press
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 large thin flatbreads, lefse, whole wheat tortillas, or other breadish vehicles suitable for a wrap sandwich
About 1 1/2 cups shredded iceberg lettuce
1 large tomato, very thinly sliced
1 large avocado, thinly sliced
Up to 8 pickled jalapeno rings (optional)
Up to 1 cup radish, sunflower, or other sprouts (optional)
1. Cook the wheat berries: Soak the wheat berries in a big bowl of cool water for at least 8 and up to 16 hours. Drain the wheat berries in a fine-mesh sieve or small-holed colander set in the sink. Pour the grains into a large saucepan, cover with water by several inches, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until tender but with a little chew, about 1 hour. Drain thoroughly in that sieve or colander, shaking the sieve or colander to get rid of excess moisture.
2. Make the Wheat Berry Spread: Place the cooked wheat berries in a large food processor. Add the black-eyed peas, lemon juice, tahini, oil, cumin, garlic, salt, and pepper. Process until fairly pasty, scraping down the inside of the bowl once or twice to make sure all the wheat berries take a death spiral. The mixture won’t get as smooth as hummu, but close.
3. To make a wrap: Lay a flatbread or tortilla on your work surface, then spread it with a rounded 1/2 cup of the wheat berry spread. Top with some lettuce, tomatoes, and avocado, as well as jalapeno rings and sprouts (if using). Roll it up and dig in!
GRAIN MAINS Book Giveaway!
Two lucky readers will receive a copy of GRAIN MAINS: 101 Surprising and Satisfying Whole Grain Recipes for Every Meal of the Day, by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough, courtesy of Rodale Books.
To enter: Leave a comment below!
Contest rules: The contest will close Sunday, October 14th, 2012 at 11:00 pm EST. The contest is open to residents of the US. The winners will be chosen randomly via random.org and notified by email. Winners will have 48 hours to respond before another winner is chosen.